By Melissa Jackson
“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.”
Prisca (also known by the diminutive name Priscilla) and her husband Aquila were special to the Apostle Paul. Tentmakers who had been forced to leave Rome when the Jews were exiled by Claudius, the couple first met Paul in Corinth. They took him into their home and allowed him to work alongside them in their trade while he proclaimed the gospel there (see Acts 18:1-3). After remaining with them for 18 months, Paul departed for Syria and took the couple with him (vv. 11, 18). He later left them in Ephesus to establish the church there (v. 19). In his letter to the Romans, Paul doesn’t elaborate on how Priscilla and Aquila “risked their necks” for him, but it may have been during his stay in Ephesus (see Acts 19:23-41; 1 Cor. 15:32; 2 Cor. 1:8-11).
The mentions of the couple in Scripture are brief, but one verse in Acts 18 tells us much about them. Hearing Apollos preaching in the synagogue in Ephesus, the couple realized that he did not have a complete understanding of the gospel, so “they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” (v. 26). There is much we can glean from this verse, regarding both women’s roles in the church and the best way to handle conflict.
First, after realizing Apollos was in error, they went to him privately. The didn’t berate or accuse him publicly, but took him aside to explain (Gk. “ektithemi”: explain, elaborate, expound) his error. Acts 18:26 “provides positive support for the idea that men and women can explain God’s Word to each other in private and informal settings (such as personal conversation or a small group Bible study) without violating the prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 against women teaching an assembled group of men.” (ESV Study Bible, p. 2125)
How is this so? In Acts (Reformed Expository Commentary), author Derek Thomas explains that Ephesians 5:22,24 requires a woman to be subject to her own husband, but not to every man.
“Priscilla could teach Apollos, and she did this within the confines of her own home and not in public. Even so, she must do it without crushing the role that Aquila must play in this instruction, even if he was less able than she was.” (p. 533)
Given the fact that Acts 18:26 tells us both Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos aside, we can conclude that Priscilla had her husband’s blessing to be part of this interaction with Apollos.
Acts 18:26 not only sets a precedence of women instructing men privately (as long as their husbands are present and approving), the verse also gives us a biblical example of how handle conflict. My pastor is preaching through the Book of Acts and he used this verse to bring out some points of consideration when differences arise among believers.
First, is it a disagreement or a matter of miscommunication? Priscilla and Aquila knew that Apollos had limited knowledge, even though he “had been instructed in the way of the Lord.“ (v. 25) They didn’t want to discourage him, but they understood that he was miscommunicating the gospel. Thomas says, “[T]his is an example of what a godly couple can do for a young man who shows promise of future usefulness...Their generous hospitality and encouragement ensured that the church was better served.” (pp. 532, 533)
Second, is this necessary for salvation? Apollos was a genuine believer who had the Spirit (v. 25). As believers, we will likely find ourselves in arguments over matters that are necessary for salvation. In those times, we must stand firm and speak the truth in love. (see Ephesians 4:10-16)
Third, do believers have a history of disagreement on this? There are non-salvific matters some believers will never agree upon (e.g. the millennium, election, alcohol). In these situations, we must ask ourselves if continual debate is beneficial to those involved and those witnessing it.
Fourth, have I prayed about my position and searched the Scriptures? In other words, have I merely assumed my position because it’s what I’ve been taught, or someone I respect holds the same belief?
Fifth, have I sought the counsel of others? Priscilla and Aquila had spent quite a bit of time under the Apostle Paul’s tutelage. They knew their theology was correct.
And last, have I counted the cost if I adopt the alternative position? Will changing my position make me a better Christian or will my theology suffer? We don’t know for certain, but we can assume that Apollos was affected by his encounter with Priscilla and Aquila. His ministry thrived. Verses 27 -28 tell us that “...he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”
In one of my favorite lines from Anne of Avonlea, Mr. Harrison describes Rachel Lynde, “She can put a whole sermon, text, comment, and application, into six words, and throw it at you like a brick.” Christian women may be tempted to do that more often than we care to admit when we run into someone who disagrees with us. Priscilla gives us a Scriptural example of how to behave otherwise.
About the Author: Melissa Jackson is a working mother, living a quiet and simple life in rural Virginia with her husband and teenage daughter. She enjoys reading, writing, coffee, and chocolate. She is passionate about the Word of God, her family, and discipling teenage girls. She blogs at One Quiet Life.