Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Abnormal Aquila and Priscilla

Since I started this blog a couple of weeks ago, I've been trying to give you a taste of marriage lived for the advance of the gospel rather than for your temporary comfort. Comfort fades while the Kingdom of God will remain forever. There can be no greater argument for a Christ-centered perspective of marriage than the weight of eternity (see 2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Over the next several weeks, we'll look at some marriages from the Bible through the lens of eternity's weight and see what attitudes come to light.

In the New Testament, we read of a married couple named Aquila and Priscilla. They are first mentioned in Acts 18 during the account of Paul's missionary activity. Paul went from Athens to Corinth. When he got there, he found a Jewish couple, Aquila and Priscilla. They were living in Italy, but fled when the emperor, Claudius, ordered all Jews to leave Rome. (Of course Claudius wanted the Jews to leave Rome - because God wanted Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth when Paul arrived!) Paul carried on the same trade as this couple (tentmaking), so he stayed with them while in Corinth. Paul stayed in Corinth a year and a half. That's a long time to entertain a house-guest! Notice the hospitality of Aquila and Priscilla, opening up their home to the apostle.

Opening up your home to a stranger can be a taxing situation. It's difficult to function in your normal routine. You have to be aware of how you dress, how the house looks, what you say, what you schedule, what you make for dinner. You don't want to be rude to your guest, and you don't want to give a bad impression. This discomfort at entertaining guests may explain the increase of motels that dot even rural landscapes.

We are tempted to read through the Bible without letting the weight of what it says settle upon us. When Luke tells us in Acts that Paul stayed with Aquila and Priscilla, he doesn't give the daily details. However, there were daily details - probably uncomfortable ones. The words of Ben Franklin come to mind: "Fish and visitors smell after three days." Compound the small irritation that comes with having to rearrange your household with the fact that your guest is running around all over town making enemies, and we can really see the cost of gospel-centered hospitality! From the day Paul arrived in Corinth, we can see that they were partnering with Paul in his gospel-mission.

When it came time for Paul to leave Corinth for Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla packed up and moved with him. Once again, we have to take time to register what the Bible is saying. Oh, Paul's moving on, so they just go with him. You, like me, probably know of friends or family who have packed up and moved away for a better job. What is more rare is for someone to pack up and leave for the sake of the gospel. I'm guessing the conversation went something like this: "Well guys, the church is planted here in Corinth. I'm moving on to Ephesus. Thanks for all your labor and love." "Ah, Paul, can we go with you and be your core group in Ephesus?" "Sure." So they went.

Aquila and Priscilla stayed for some time in Ephesus. They must have had a respected position in the church there. When Apollos began speaking in the synagogue at Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla explained the Bible to him so that he would be a more accurate preacher. After his lessons, Apollos moved to Achaia. We read in Acts 18:28 that Apollos, "powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus."

Again, we must feel the weight of the narrative. Aquila and Priscilla were tentmakers - just trying to make a living and build a life together. They began as just an average Jewish couple living in the Roman empire in the early days of Christianity. They became central players in the gospel's spread throughout the empire. Not only did they move with Paul to plant a church, they knew their redemptive history and biblical theology well enough to shape Apollos into an effective force for Christ. That's not normal! But it should be. It's difficult in America today to find a couple that knows the books of the Bible, let alone how they fit together. It's even more difficult to find a couple that cares enough about the Bible to risk confronting a preacher about his doctrine. Knowing Scripture takes study. Study takes time. Making time requires adjusting priorities. Just the fact that Aquila and Priscilla could correct Apollos displays their priorities.

We find that Aquila and Priscilla opened up their house in Ephesus to the church there. We read in 1 Corinthians 16:19: "Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord." We can picture the household of this dear couple - an intermingling of Christ-centered doctrine and practical hospitality. They showed hospitality in Corinth by opening up their home to Paul and his missionary activity. They showed hospitality in Ephesus by opening up their home for the church to meet there. But there's more.

The gospel-narrative moves on, and so did the apostle Paul. He continued his travels throughout the Roman empire. Aquila and Priscilla apparently moved on from Ephesus as well. When Paul wrote his letter to the church in Rome, he sent greetings to his old friends, Aquila and Prisca, who had moved back there. Why did they leave Ephesus? Did business dry up? I think a better explanation can be found in Romans 16:5. They moved to Rome and opened up their house for the church to meet there. This married couple moved all over the Roman empire, setting up their house as a base of operations for the advance of the gospel. That isn't normal. But oh, that it would be!

One last thing I want us to notice about this dear couple comes from Romans 16 as well. "Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well" (Rom. 16:3-4). Aquila and Priscilla understood the weight of eternity compared with the comfort of today. When it came time to lay their everything on the line for Paul's mission - they did it. We're not sure exactly what Paul was referring to, but Paul obviously credits his life to them. God didn't require their lives at that time, but they put their lives on the line. They so devoted their lives - their everything - to the gospel that all the churches of the empire knew of them, and were thankful for them. That's not normal. But won't you pray with me that it will be?

1 comment:

Antonio Romano said...

I found this post extremely encouraging as well as challenging. Kristie and I will pray for the perspective of Priscilla and Aquila. I believe that a Gospel-driven, Christ-exalting, God-centered perspective would change all our actions. It is always only a question of perspective. If Christ is my treasure, heaven my home, eternity my priority....moving, inconveniences, rearranged schedules become what they are: nothing. Oh that Christ would so shine in our hearts as to be seen. The more I read the Bible the more impossible it is to settle. May Christ reign in my wicked world-loving heart.