Priscilla was an influential woman in early Christian history who worked alongside the apostle Paul to spread the gospel. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to what we can learn from her: Priscilla teaches us the importance of partnership in ministry, discipling new believers, handling theological disagreement, and the vital role women can play in the church.
In this comprehensive article, we will explore Priscilla’s story in depth to uncover the many valuable lessons it holds for Christians today.
Priscilla’s Background and Conversion to Christianity
Priscilla’s background before meeting Paul
Little is known about Priscilla’s background before she met Paul. Based on her name, we can deduce she was from a Roman family of some means and education. Her original name was Prisca, the feminine form of the Roman family name Priscus, meaning “ancient” or “venerable.”
It was common for Jews living in the Roman Empire to take Roman names. Priscilla likely came from a wealthy family and received an education as she later proved herself smart and capable in business and theology.
In the ancient world, women were expected to marry and have children. Priscilla probably married at a young age as was the custom. Her husband was named Aquila. According to Acts 18, Aquila and Priscilla lived in Rome until Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews around 49-50 AD.
The couple then relocated to Corinth in Greece where they met Paul.
How Priscilla became a Christian and partnered with Paul
Priscilla and Aquila converted to Christianity sometime after meeting Paul in Corinth around 50-51 AD. Acts 18 relates how Paul met the couple shortly after arriving in Corinth from Athens. Priscilla and Aquila had recently been expelled from Rome by Emperor Claudius along with the other Jews.
Paul stayed and worked with them because they shared the same trade of tentmaking.
As Christian missionaries, one of Paul’s common practices was to work with artisans or tradesmen and use their shared profession to bond. While working together, Paul explained the gospel message of Jesus Christ to Priscilla and Aquila and they became believers.
The couple then accompanied Paul to Ephesus in 54 AD to help spread the ministry in Asia Minor.
Priscilla and Aquila went on to become instrumental partners in Paul’s missionary work. They hosted a house church in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:19) and later in Rome again (Romans 16:3-5). The couple risked their lives for Paul according to his letters.
Their valiant partnership with Paul shows how the gospel can cross gender and social lines.
Lessons on Partnership in Ministry
How Priscilla and Aquila worked together in ministry
The Bible describes Priscilla and her husband Aquila as a power couple who worked together effectively in Christian ministry. Though little is known about them, their story offers great lessons on partnership.
After meeting Paul, this dynamic duo traveled with him to Ephesus to continue their exceptional tandem ministry (Acts 18:18-19). When the eloquent Apollos began teaching about Jesus, Priscilla and Aquila invited him home and explained the faith more adequately, partnering to build up this teacher (Acts 18:24-28).
It’s inspiring how Priscilla and Aquila shared talents and resources to serve God’s purposes. Priscilla seems to have been particularly gifted in teaching, since her name is mentioned first multiple times. Yet there is no hint of competition or struggle for control. Each empowered the other!
Valuing both marriage and ministry partnerships
Priscilla and Aquila’s story also speaks volumes on balancing marriage and ministry. Their life mission did not undermine their life partnership. In fact, their flourishing vocation arose from their thriving relationship.
Having met in Rome as young tentmakers, they built rapport through craft and conversation (Acts 18:2-3). Shared trade and worldview laid an excellent foundation for growing intimacy and trust. Their marriage partnership enabled their ministry partnership!
This exemplary couple teaches us that both work and home connections matter. Nurturing our closest human bonds grants energy for outward service. Priscilla and Aquila found the sweet spot – blending marriage and ministry in beautiful balance.
An Example in Discipling New Believers
Priscilla and Aquila disciple Apollos in correct theology
In Acts 18, we meet Priscilla and Aquila, a married couple who had left Rome due to persecution of the church. They met the eloquent Apollos in Ephesus, who was teaching about Jesus but only knew of the baptism of John.
Recognizing his zeal but lack of full understanding, Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and “explained the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26). This gentle correction allowed Apollos to continue preaching, but now with the full gospel of Jesus Christ.
Priscilla and Aquila provide an excellent model of how mature believers can come alongside new followers of Jesus to build them up in sound doctrine. Their quiet discipleship shows wisdom and humility, avoiding public rebuke but instead personally investing in Apollos’ growth.
Through relationship and explanation, they equipped him to even more effectively spread the good news.
Following their model of gentle correction
Like Priscilla and Aquila, mature believers today can seek opportunities to guide new Christians towards theological maturity. This requires humility, patience, and care, not overcorrecting but graciously filling in gaps of knowledge.
We should pray for discernment to know when a gentle word or clarifying conversation may help a fellow believer avoid potential pitfalls and grow in understanding of biblical truth.
Here are some practical tips on how to follow Priscilla and Aquila’s example when discipling new believers today:
- Look for those who are eager to serve God but may lack theological training, like Apollos.
- Develop relationship and earn trust before moving to correct doctrinal gaps.
- When needed, speak truth in love, avoiding harsh rebuke or causing public shame.
- Focus conversations on key doctrines like the gospel, nature of God, salvation, and the Bible.
- Provide instruction patiently and graciously, allowing time and repetition as needed.
- Remain humble, recognizing that we all still have room to grow in understanding.
- Use discretion, correcting major gaps but allowing freedom in minor issues.
- Aim to fully equip others to effectively teach and model the faith.
What a difference gentle discipleship makes in enabling new believers to powerfully spread the gospel! By following Priscilla and Aquila’s selfless example, we can greatly strengthen the church for generations to come.
Navigating Theological Disagreement
Context of the conflict between Paul and Barnabas
The dispute between Paul and Barnabas arose over whether to include John Mark on their second missionary journey after he had deserted them on their first journey (Acts 15:36-41). Though the Scripture does not give explicit reasons for Mark’s initial departure, tensions likely arose from the difficulties and dangers of early missionary work.
Paul saw Mark’s desertion as a lack of commitment, while Barnabas wanted to give his cousin a second chance. This theological disagreement centered more on prudential issues of managing team dynamics rather than core doctrinal truths.
Priscilla’s approach to theological dispute
Though the Bible gives only a few details about Priscilla, it highlights her theological discernment in correcting Apollos’ incomplete understanding of baptism (Acts 18:24-28). She exemplifies several wise approaches we can apply to theological conflict:
- Gentleness – Priscilla corrected Apollos privately and respectfully, avoiding public rebuke.
- Humility – She did not view herself as superior, but came alongside Apollos to provide fuller understanding.
- Discernment – Priscilla focused on essentials of the faith rather than peripheral issues.
- Deferrence – She helped Apollos grasp truth more fully so he could teach accurately, not to bolster her own status.
Like Priscilla, we can disagree agreeably on theological issues by uplifting truth in a spirit of grace and wisdom. The early church did not allow peripheral disputes to disrupt gospel partnership. May we go and do likewise!
The Vital Role of Women in Ministry
Priscilla’s prominence in early church history
Priscilla was a first-century Christian woman who, along with her husband Aquila, played a vital role in the early church. Here are some key facts about her prominence:
- Priscilla and Aquila were close associates of the apostle Paul. They are mentioned six times in the New Testament, always together as a couple.
- They traveled extensively with Paul during his missionary journeys and helped establish churches in Corinth and Ephesus.
- In Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila met the eloquent speaker Apollos and “explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26). They helped train this influential leader.
- Priscilla’s name is mentioned before Aquila’s four times, indicating she likely took the lead in their ministries.
- Paul refers to Priscilla and Aquila as his “co-workers in Christ Jesus” (Romans 16:3), showing they had prominent ministry roles.
Implications for women in ministry today
Priscilla’s story has significant implications for the role of women in church ministry today. Here are two key lessons we can learn:
- Women can serve in leadership roles, including teaching and training men. Priscilla helped instruct the learned Apollos, demonstrating that women can teach and lead both men and women.
- Husband-wife teams can minister together powerfully. Priscilla and Aquila show that couples can be united in service for God’s kingdom.
In light of these lessons, many churches are expanding the role of women in leadership. According to a Barna report, 41% of US senior pastors are women – up from 9% in 2009. Respected seminary professor Dr. Karen Swallow Prior says, “There is no office in the church that is off limits for women.”
She notes that 1 Timothy 3:11 likely refers to female deacons, showing some early church leaders were women.
Throughout her story, Priscilla provides an inspirational model of what it means to humbly serve God wherever He calls. Let us learn from her devotion to the gospel and apply these lessons of partnership, discipleship, wisdom, and calling in our own walk of faith today.