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12. Ministry Women Identified by Service: Priscilla

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Time: 49-62 AD Paul's Second & Third Missionary Journeys

Background

Many of the places Paul visited during his three long journeys were strategic centers of culture, commerce and communication. The Gospel planted in them would spread quickly to surrounding towns and villages, and further afield too, as travelers took the good news home with them. Four of the most important places Paul visited were Athens, Corinth, Ephesus and Rome.

Paul met Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth, the city of shopkeepers, which was Greece's most important trade city. Corinth was two miles inland from the Gulf of Corinth at the foot of a rocky hill rising 1886 feet above sea level on top of which stood the temple of the goddess of love, Aphrodite. Corinth was the connecting link between Rome, the capital of the world, and the East. The city was a melting pot of approximately 500,000 people who relished the lack of standards and freedom that prevailed in the city. Corinth was filled with shops and had two theaters plus an amphitheater that hosted gladiatorial shows and athletics.

In Corinth, Paul joined Aquila and Priscilla as they worked on the same trade together—tentmaking. Tents were made of hand-woven strips of black or dark brown goat's hair about three feet wide sewn together and reinforced. Goat's hair is resistant to both heat and water, and once washed it shrinks and becomes taut. The skill of tentmaking was probably taught to Paul and Aquila in their youth. It was a Jewish tradition to teach young boys a trade. Additionally, Paul's native province of Cilicia was noted for its goat's-hair cloth called cilicium that was largely used in tentmaking.

Paul and his new friends left Corinth and traveled to Ephesus, the City of Artemis. Ephesus was also an important trading center at the junction of the Asiatic caravan route to the east and the sea route to Rome in the west. Paul left Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus and went to Caesarea. It is in Ephesus where Aquila and Priscilla met Apollos (Acts 18).

Some time later we find Priscilla and Aquila back in Rome. They had lived in Rome previously until they were required to leave by Claudius. That is when they went to Corinth and met Paul. Rome was the capital of the empire, top ranking in political importance, geographical position and sheer magnificence. Located on the river Tiber around seven hills approximately 18 miles from the Mediterranean, Rome was full of temples, theaters, palaces, baths and administrative buildings. But in contrast to this lavish splendor, the ordinary people lived in tenements often three or four stories high. Many were so poorly built that they were nearly falling down. Picture the environment Paul, Aquila and Priscilla were in as you do your study and refer to the map to track their journeys.

*Information adapted from Handbook of Life in Bible Times and Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary.

Day One Study

1. Read Acts 18:1-17. What was the political/social/emotional climate of Corinth? How did the Jews in Corinth respond to the Gospel? How did the Gentiles respond to the Gospel?

2. Paul preached the Gospel successfully gaining converts for Jesus. But, then what happened to him? How did God encourage Paul?

3. Describe Priscilla and her life situation using everything that is revealed in this passage.

Historical Insight: Displaced from Rome because of an edict in AD 49 or 50 from Claudius for all the Jews to leave Rome, Aquila and Priscilla had come to Corinth to ply their trade…Suetonius, a biographer of Roman emperors, described what may have been the occasion for such a decree. In his Life of Claudius he referred to the constant riots of the Jews at the instigation of Chrestus. Possibly, the name Chrestus is a reference to Christ. (Walvoord and Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, p. 405)

4. What brought Priscilla and her husband Aquila together with Paul? Approximately how long did Paul stay with them?

5. Describe what it would have been like for Priscilla and Aquila to have Paul as a daily companion, co-worker and influencer.

Think About It: We prepare our children to know certain basics about who they are and their life before we send them to kindergarten—their name, parents’ names, address, phone number, how to obey, how to share, and more. How do we typically assimilate new Christians into their walk with Christ? Usually, we invite a new Christian to church or to a small group and assume those activities will fill in their gaps of understanding. But, unless a class, small group study, or sermon series is designed to give the basics of the faith in easily understandable language, those new believers aren’t going to get established. Out of love for God and for new Christians, those of us who are growing Christians need to be willing to establish new and young believers. Are you willing?

6.  Living Out His Love: Whether or not Priscilla and Aquila were Christians before they met Paul, they were certainly Christians by the time they left Corinth. And, knowing that Paul was willing to leave them in Ephesus to carry on ministry there tells us that Paul felt they were established in their faith. To establish means, “to build a solid foundation, to provide strong roots.” All Christians (new or old) need to be established in some basic information:

  • Who Christ is, what He’s done for us on the cross, what His resurrection means for us, and our identity in Christ.
  • How to read/study a Bible.
  • Who the Holy Spirit is and how He works in our lives
  • Living by the Spirit’s power rather than living by the flesh
  • What prayer is—knowing God the Father’s love
  • Obedience flowing from love and gratitude rather than obligation
  • Being part of the Body of Christ and enjoying its community
  • Telling others about Jesus

When you were a new or young believer, what did someone use to establish you? Did you go to a new believers’ class? Have you been rooted with this basic information? Of the list above, what do you feel that you still need to know?

Day Two Study

7. Read Acts 18:1-17. What kind of pressure do you think may have been brought to bear on Priscilla and Aquila because of their association with Paul? Consider the effect this could have had on their business and the choices they needed to make.

8. Living Out His Love: Have you ever had to take your stand for an unpopular cause that was right? What was the cost to you? What did you gain? Reflect on Acts 18:9-10 and let God speak to you through His Word. Share your insights with the group.

9. Read Acts 18:18-28. Priscilla and Aquila accompanied Paul as he sailed for Syria. Ephesus was a stop on the way. What happened when they arrived in Ephesus? In what ways would staying in Ephesus be a step of faith for Priscilla?

10. Describe Apollos. Discuss his encounter with Priscilla and Aquila, including their attitude and approach. What is the significance of the word "they" in verse 26?

11. Deeper Discoveries (optional): To see the importance of how Priscilla and Aquila established Apollos in his faith, read 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:5-6,22; 4:6; 16:12 and Titus 3:13. Briefly describe what became of Apollos.

12. Living Out His Love: Where are the new and undiscipled believers besides anyone you bring to Christ yourself? Most likely, they are where you are presently connected—Bible studies, mothers’ groups, where you work or live, and in your church. Don’t assume that woman sitting next to you knows her identity in Christ. She may not be a believer yet. She may be a new believer. She may be a long-time believer who has never been discipled and feels ignorant compared to others. Are you willing to be a “Priscilla” to her?

  • Pay Attention—listen well to what she is saying; consider why she might be leaving questions unanswered and how you can help her.
  • Come Alongside—for someone new to Bible study or doesn’t know much, invite her somewhere to talk. You don’t have to be the group leader to do this. Find out what she already knows and what she wants to know. If she is interested in meeting with you to get more established in her faith, agree on a time to get together.

Are you willing to trust Jesus to give you both willingness and opportunity to be a “Priscilla” to another woman? Who is Jesus leading you to disciple to move further along in her faith? Trust Him and invite her to get together with you this week and talk about it. Read “Alison’s Story” below to see what this looked like in the lives of three women.

Focus on the Meaning: Does “pay attention” and come alongside her” sound like mentoring? Yes, it does. Mentoring is someone older in the Lord helping someone younger in the Lord understand and apply biblical truth to everyday life. It is the “how” of discipling.

Day Three Study

13. Read 1 Corinthians 16:19. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus. He mentions Priscilla and Aquila in 16:19. What are they doing? How is their home being used?

14. Read Romans 16:3-4. What does Paul call Priscilla and Aquila in these verses? Based on what you know about them already, what were they likely doing in Rome?

From the Greek: "Priscilla" had another name, Prisca (Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19), the latter being more formal. Luke normally used the colloquial, diminutive form of names (e.g., Silas, Sopatros, Priscilla, Apollos), but Paul preferred their formal names in his writings (e.g., Silvanus, Sosipatros, Prisca, Epaphroditus). Nevertheless he sometimes used the more popular form of a name (e.g., Apollos, Epaphras). (Dr. Constable’s Notes on Acts, p. 261)

15. What might have Paul been referring to when he said "they risked their lives for me?" Refer back to previous questions.

16. Why should all the Gentile churches be grateful to them?

17. Read 2 Timothy 4:19. This is Paul's last letter. What does his mention of Priscilla and Aquila tell us about his friendship with them?

Day Four Study

18. Aquila and Priscilla, as a married couple, worked together in their trade and in their ministry. Describe what you think their relationship must have been like. What joys and risks did they share?

Historical Insight: Priscilla's name frequently appears before her husband's—"Aquila"—in the New Testament (e.g., 18:18-19, 26; Rom. 16:3; 2 Tim. 4:19). This may indicate that she came from a higher social class than Aquila, or that others regarded her as superior to him in some respect. However, when first introduced in Acts 18:2, Luke mentioned Aquila first. (Dr. Constable’s Notes on Acts, p. 261)

19. Make a list of adjectives describing Priscilla and Aquila individually and as a couple.

20. What was the overall scope of their influence together?

21. Living Out His Love: Read 1 Peter 3:1-16; John 14:15 and 15:9-12 to answer one of the following sections:

  • If you are married, do you and your husband have common goals for ministry as a couple? If so, what are they? If not, how does the Lord want us to respond to each other and to Him?
  • If you are not married, do you have a ministry partner in the church, workplace, community, women’s group, or other? How are you at working together as a team with your ministry partner(s)? If you do not have a ministry partner, where do you get encouragement to do your ministry?

Recap of “Jesus, Lover of a Woman’s Soul” Study

22. Which account of women in the New Testament was your favorite? Why?

23. In what ways has this study increased your confidence that Jesus truly does care for women?

24. What choices have you made as a result of this study?

Allison’s Story: Coming Alongside Monica

My story is your story. It is a telling of making yourself available to God in the ordinary. However, when we make ourselves available to God and His agenda, what seems common becomes extraordinary. We serve a humble God who partakes in the “small” of our lives and writes the most beautiful stories.

I am a member of a newly planted church. At the time of my story, our church was on a tight budget. At one of our meetings, the pastor presented the budget and said that our church did not have the funds to pay a housekeeper. The meeting was held right after our church service that day, and many members and non-members were there. I raised my hand and said I would be willing to clean and try to set up a team to take care of this job once a week.

The next Sunday, two beautiful young ladies came up to me and asked if they could help me with the weekly cleaning. I had never laid eyes on either Monica or Ronda before and teased them about being ministering angels.

The following week, we met and talked a bit before we cleaned. I began to learn that neither of them had been attending a church for a while and that they lived together along with Monica’s boyfriend Mark. I shared my testimony with them and asked them about their faith journey and a bit about their background. That day as I was driving home I realized this was about more than cleaning. The Lord had just laid into my hands the opportunity to disciple.

The pastor met with both Monica and her boyfriend Mark to encourage them to move out of their living arrangement. Mark attended our church alongside Monica and had come from a different church background.

Monica and I met after our cleaning time one week for coffee, and she asked me some questions about the Lord and her life. When I counseled her, she became agitated and said, “You sound just like my mother!” I told her I was a mother and tried to express to her how I cared. I wondered if this would change our relationship, but God had plans for Monica and me.

Ronda, the other young lady, leaned into our relationship a little more than Monica, and I thought maybe she was the one that God intended for me to spend more time in discipling. I did at first, but as time went on, circumstances took her to a job that made it hard to meet because of distance.

After about a year, our church budget was able to support a housekeeper, and we no longer needed to clean. By this time, Monica and I had become good friends. She was originally from another state, and I believe she eventually enjoyed the fact that I was like her mother. I saw her make great leaps by moving closer to her job and living with another roommate.

One Sunday, I noticed on Facebook that Monica had gone for a walk earlier that morning and expressed gratitude to God for her life. This was a new attitude for her. I had just been to a disciplemaking training event a few months earlier, and I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to ask her if she would be willing to meet for a Bible study. As I walked out of the prayer room that Sunday morning, Monica was standing right there! I knew what that meant, so I asked her what she thought of meeting, and she said excitedly, “Yes!” She said she had wanted to do a study.

After praying and asking the Lord about this, during my first meeting with Monica, I asked her what she would enjoy doing during our meetings. She replied that she wanted to learn more about cooking. So, the first time we met, we roasted a chicken together!

We also chose a Bible study to do together that would give her a good foundation for her faith. I did my best to make the time and place easy for Monica because she lived forty minutes away. It was such a joy to meet with her. At first, I could tell that she was developing a new habit of being in the Word of God, and it was not always easy for her to make the time or feel confident about the study. I was humbled when she would ask me questions. Sometimes I did not know the answers, and I would tell her that I would do my best to find it out. We prayed about her job, her family, and her boyfriend and thanked the Lord for putting us together. She really wanted to get married, and I encouraged her to wait on the Lord and trust that He had His best in mind for her.

The trials would continue to come, and she would find herself seeking the Lord more. It was so beautiful to watch. Mark, while visiting family, was taken to jail for an offense. He began to ask us to pray about the outcome of this situation and the court case. The Lord had given my husband and I a real heart for this young couple. The men at church prayed with Mark and graciously guided him to a deeper dependence on God.

As months went by, Mark and Monica became like a new couple. They altered their time together to be more productive instead of wasting time partying. They both were changing right before our eyes. Monica began building relationships with several of the women at church and found support through their examples and friendship. She even led an exercise program one night a week as an outreach ministry.

We sometimes would just talk when we met. It wasn’t a forced or restricted time together. I felt pressed to allow the Lord to work through our time for what He saw to be most important. Sometimes we would walk her dog afterwards and just laugh and share.

Mark was put on probation, and he was concerned that he would have to serve it out in another state where the offense was made. However, through prayer he received the good news that he could stay at his job and home during the probation.

Soon after, he proposed to Monica! We continued to meet a few times, but job and wedding plans took the front stage. My husband and I felt like surrogate parents at their wedding. It was so special to be a part of this beautiful story!

Now that Monica is married, we don’t spend as much time together. She now works and lives a good distance away. But I know that regardless of this, we will always be close at heart.

Monica has expressed that she feels a calling to reach out to young women and guide them in the Lord. She is now beginning to be a leader and disciple others. Multiplication is the fruit of discipling.

Monica and I met just a few days ago. She still has questions, dreams and hopes in which she asks for guidance. I am humbled. God does use the ordinary.

As a side note, I do not hear from Ronda. I pray for her. I know God did not introduce me to her in vain. Sometimes, we disciple, and the person moves out of our lives; sometimes they stay. Sometimes our discipling seems disappointing and does not seem as successful as Monica’s story. We have to trust that it is all in God’s hands and just remain available.

Related Topics: Character Study, Love, Women

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