Rachel Green Miller would like us to consider this question: “Where is the place for Priscilla in our churches?”
This is a very good question for every church to consider because the answer may actually help Christians get back to the much-neglected work of soul winning. “He that winneth souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30)
It is unfortunate that Mrs. Miller isolates Priscilla from her dear husband, because she is never mentioned in Scripture without him.
Priscilla is mentioned by name in apostolic salutations (1 Corinthians 16:19, 2 Timothy 4:19), she is called a “helper” in Romans 16:3, and her effectiveness as a soul winner is reported in Acts 18:24-28.
In Mrs. Miller’s article, she focuses only on the episode in Acts 18 and so shall we; but let us first take note a minor translational difference in Romans 16:3.
The Greek word translated there as “helpers” [KJV] is sunergos; a compound word that consists of the prefix sun (with) and ergon (work). The modern translations’ rendering of “co-workers” [NIV] or “fellow workers” [ESV] is accurate and helpful.
Ordained ministers of the word need all the help they can get when it comes to spreading the good news of the gospel and they should be grateful whenever men or women are willing to sunergos with them. An example of such cooperation is clearly seen in Acts 18:24-28.
The main theme of Acts 18 is the evangelization of unconverted Jews. The Apostle Paul was engaged in his second missionary journey and apparently arrived at Corinth with nowhere to stay. There he met Aquila and Priscilla, lodged with them, and also worked with them in their shared trade of tent-making (18:2-3).
After several verses which record the “official” ministerial activity of Paul, Silas, and Timothy (18:5-23), we are introduced to an individual named Apollos. The scriptures speak openly about his natural giftings: “And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.” (18:24)
As gifted as Apollos was, he was yet unconverted: “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.” (18:25)
Remember, John the Baptist was the last of the Old Covenant prophets and his baptism was not Christian baptism. Another example of people being chronologically caught between the covenants (as it were) is seen in the very next chapter (Acts 19) where some of John’s disciples were converted, baptized, and received the Holy Spirit.
One day, as Apollos “began to speak boldly in the synagogue” he met the two soul winners who would lead him to Christ: Aquila and Priscilla. How they evangelized Apollos is recorded in vs. 26: “they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”
With the word “expounded” being used, we might imagine that Aquila and Priscilla stood up, opened the scriptures, and preached a sermon in the synagogue that day. That is not, however, what they did. All they did was take Apollos aside so they could have a private evangelical conversation with him.
The phrase “they took him unto them” in vs. 26 is translated from the Greek word proslambanó; another compound word that consists of the directional prefix pros (towards) and lambanó (to lay hold). The word picture is that of Aquila and Priscilla gently taking Apollos by the arm and drawing him aside or even out of the synagogue and back to their home.
Once they separated Apollos from his public speaking engagement, they “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” (18:26); that is, they showed this Jewish brother of theirs how the scriptures he knew so well actually pointed to Jesus Christ.
That conversation changed Apollos’ life forever. He was converted, presumably baptized, and subsequently examined and approved for public gospel ministry by the apostolic company. Verse 27 confirms this, noting that “the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him.”
Verse 28 then demonstrates one of the most beautiful things about conversion: That Apollos’ natural giftings were sanctified unto the service of Christ and his gospel. “For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.”
Apollos was mighty before his conversion. He apparently never shied away from public discourse with his Jewish brethren. He knew the scriptures well prior to salvation, but now he was using all these gifts to convince others that Jesus was Christ.
So back to the question which prompted this brief Bible study: “Where is the place for Priscilla in our churches?” Here is my answer:
The place for Priscilla in our churches is the same as it was in Acts 18.
The church still needs married couples who work with their hands to provide for their families and, when able, even to offer employment to those who need it.
The church still needs married couples who are given to hospitality and always willing to open their homes to those who need a place to stay.
The church still needs married couples who share a strong evangelical desire to see their countrymen saved.
The church still needs married couples who are courageous enough to interrupt a bold unbeliever and say, “Sir, would you please join us for afternoon tea? We would like to speak with you about the scriptures.”
The church still needs married couples who are able to lead unbelievers to Christ through the scriptures.
The church still needs married couples who are content to watch converts enter “official ministry” while they themselves continue to make tents, offer hospitality, and keep their eyes open for the next soul that needs winning.
Let us therefore pray that the Lord of the harvest would raise up ten thousand such couples, so that the forgotten lay-ministry of soul winning might be revived in our modern day.
Pastor Christian McShaffrey