Today: [Acts 18:] A One-Woman Powerhouse in the Gospel: In Acts 18 Paul travels to Corinth and makes a connection with Aquila and Priscilla. The mention of this couple together is unique in the New Testament record and indicates the strong bond they shared and the powerful influence that Priscilla was as a woman during a time when women, for the most part, were limited to only subservient roles.
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[Act 18:1-17 KJV] 1 After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; 2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. 3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. 5 And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews [that] Jesus [was] Christ. 6 And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook [his] raiment, and said unto them, Your blood [be] upon your own heads; I [am] clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. 7 And he departed thence, and entered into a certain [man’s] house, named Justus, [one] that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. 8 And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. 9 Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: 10 For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. 11 And he continued [there] a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. 12 And when Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgment seat, 13 Saying, This [fellow] persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the law. 14 And when Paul was now about to open [his] mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O [ye] Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: 15 But if it be a question of words and names, and [of] your law, look ye [to it]; for I will be no judge of such [matters]. 16 And he drave them from the judgment seat. 17 Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat [him] before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things.
In Acts 18 Paul works to establish the church in the city of Corinth and initiates a crucial relationship in his life with a couple named Aquila and Priscilla. The city of Corinth was a major commercial center located in south-central Greece. It was captured and destroyed by the Romans 150 years before Christ and in 44 BC was rebuilt by the empire as an administrative capital Achia. From its most ancient history, it was known as a tough town with a reputation for immorality and vice. In ancient Greek culture, the word “Corinthian” was synonymous with prostitution and loose sexuality. We see from this that Paul did not shrink for going into difficult areas to proclaim the gospel. He no doubt was genuinely concerned for his safety, but an angel appears to him and assures him that the hand of God would protect him in this ungodly town. Because of this and the intervention of angels in Paul’s behalf, he stayed here in Corinth for over a year and a half in spite of fierce Jewish opposition against him.
While in Corinth Paul makes acquaintance with Aquila and Priscilla who were among those banished from Rome at the time. This banishment of all Jews from Rome is recorded in history in 49 AD. The reason ancient historians give for the Emporer Claudius doing this stemmed from riots that broke out between unbelieving Jews and those who believed in Jesus. The city of Rome was in such unrest that both Christian Jews and non-Christian Jews were expelled altogether from the city and Aquila and Priscilla, tentmakers by trade traveled to Corinth arriving sometime before Paul and made his acquaintance in sharing their common profession. Priscilla was an interesting woman because her name indicates that she was descended from one of the most powerful families in the Roman empire. Both Aquila and Priscilla’s names mean “eagle” and as were their names so was their character in ministering alongside Paul and later discipling Apollos in the way of God.
Much is made of the fact that Paul, Priscilla, and Aquila were tentmakers. Many suggest that this is a pattern for all Christian ministers to follow and not to expect the churches to support them in their work. The fact is that Paul later refers to this in his letters to the Corinthians, repenting to them for not taking his living of the gospel because it fostered in the Corinthians a disrespect toward his ministry that harmed them as a church and damaged Paul’s ability to minister later on among them in regard to solving problems of immorality that existed in their midst.
Timothy and Silas came from Macedonia sometime after Paul arrived in Corinth about the time that Paul intensified his insistence to the Jews in their synagogues that Jesus was the Christ. The leaders of the Jews rejected Paul altogether, and as he did in Acts 13, Paul again lays their blasphemy on their own heads declaring that henceforth he would only go to the Gentiles. This is not a promise that he would keep just as he said this before and didn’t stand by his resolve to do this.
Unfortunately for Paul those Acts 13 indicates a clear leading to focus his ministry on the Gentiles he continually went back the synagogue only to garner more scorn and great persecution every time. In each city that Paul traveled to up to his arrival in Corinth his visit was always cut short and he would be on the run to the next community, pursue by Jewish anti-apostles following in his wake to stir up sentiments against him in every new city where he would attempt to preach.
In Corinth, however, Paul makes a shift in his emphasis by joining himself to a man named Justus who was a worshipper of God and whose house physically adjoined the synagogue. This meant that this time he refuses to run and hide but instead establishes his ministry headquarters directly next door to the very people who despise him most. Something about this decision was compelling to the chief ruler of the synagogue, and he comes to faith in Christ which opens the floodgates, and many Corinthians, Jew, and Gentile come to Christ. About this time v. 9 tells us that the Lord speaks to Paul that he need not be afraid or concerned for his physical safety in Corinth for the hand of divine protection is upon him. If many were coming to Christ then why was Paul afraid? Because the leader of another synagogue by the name of Sosthenes is particularly incensed by the conversion of Chrispus, who ruled the synagogue next door to Justus. Why is Sostehenes so angry? Because he knows that the disputation over Jesus as the Christ caused all Jews to be banished from Rome and he doesn’t want to see the same thing happen in Corinth. Sosthenes incites a riot and drags Paul before Galio and the judgment seat in the city. Galio listens to the complaints of the Jews and dismisses them altogether after which the Greeks rise up and beat Sosthenes publically for harassing Paul in the first place.
What is the lesson that we learn from this? When Paul moves in to minister right next door to the synagogue, he was making a chaos decision. I know in our own ministry many times my wife Kitty, and I have moved head on and directly into the path of those who were resisting us and speaking evil against us. They thought we would back down or run and hide, but we did exactly the opposite. Sometimes you must refuse to yield ground and in so doing opportunities will open up and the favor of God will defeat the opposers and increase the fruits of your labor in the Lord.
[Acts 18:18-28 KJV]
18 And Paul [after this] tarried [there] yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn [his] head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow. 19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they desired [him] to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; 21 But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus. 22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch. 23 And after he had spent some time [there], he departed, and went over [all] the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples. 24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, [and] mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. 26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto [them], and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. 27 And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: 28 For he mightily convinced the Jews, [and that] publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
Paul remains for some time in Corinth before taking leave of the growing Christian church there and traveling with Priscilla and Aquila by boat to Syria across the Mediterranean. You will notice that Priscilla’s name is mentioned first ahead of Aquila which was a rare thing for an ancient writer to do and is an indication of the strong personality and leadership character of this bold woman of faith with an aristocratic background she thought nothing of disdaining for the higher call of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla arrive eventually to Ephesus where a church would be formed that would constitute the high water mark of the spiritual character of the Christian churches of the first-century era. At first, Paul does not remain in Ephesus but leaves his companions there to sail on to Jerusalem. He lands at Caesarea and stops first at the Antioch church to commune with them there. Antioch was where Paul began his ministry and where he returned time and again more than any of the other churches that he founded along the way in his missionary journeys.
Meanwhile back in Ephesus, a man named Apollos shows up preaching and teaching with great power and authority. Apollos was very fervent in spirit and diligent to preach the word as far as he knew it but Aquila and Priscilla sensed the need for Apollos to see the way of God more perfectly and begin to minister and mentor him further according to his need. Again you see a woman, Priscilla mentoring and teaching a powerful and strong-willed man in the things of God. Because of the discipling work of Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos’ ministry redoubled in strength, and he became a particularly effective influencer of the Jews wherever he traveled to show them that Jews was indeed the Christ.