Aquila’s name is Latin for “eagle,” a bird that migrates from one place to another as demanded by its circumstances. His wife was Prisca, meaning “ancient” in the sense of old age (short for Priscilla, “little old lady”). Naming a baby as such could have hopes for a long life. These two ideas seem to characterize this couple as we find them in the New Testament. We see them moving from nest to nest, and there is longevity in their service for the Lord. We will briefly study their lives in the NT and see seven lessons from their example for us today.
Nest 1 – Corinth: The Tentmaker’s Trade and the Apostle Who Stayed (Acts 18:1–17)
Aquila and Priscilla (A&P hereafter) moved from Rome to Corinth thanks to the Roman Claudius’ edict in AD 49 (Acts 18:2). During their stay of 2–3 years (AD 49–52), Paul “found” Aquila in Corinth (Acts 18:2), and the couple helped Paul as tentmakers (Acts 18:2–3) for “a year and six months” (18:11; AD 50–52) and then “many days longer” (18:18).
Though we know some details about their lives at this time, it is not clear how they became believers. Maybe Roman visitors at Pentecost may have spread the gospel (cf. Acts 2:10). However their conversion came about, their help to Paul allowed him to teach and preach in the synagogue and the city (Acts 18:5), winning many converts to Christ (Acts 18:8).
Nest 2 – Ephesus: Edifying in Ephesus and Apollos the Apologist (Acts 18:18–26)
Claudius died in AD 54, but A&P did not return home to Rome right away. A&P stayed with Paul in his travels to Ephesus in AD 52 (Acts 18:18–19). Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in AD 55 and sent a hearty greeting to the Corinthians from A&P “with the church that is in their house” (1 Cor 16:19). This means would have been serving in Ephesus for a minimum of 3 years. By the time Paul wrote Romans in AD 57, they were back in Rome, which means they maximum they stayed in Ephesus was roughly 5 years (AD 52–55 or 57; cf. Rom 16:3–5).
The couple would have been well-versed in theology after having worked with Paul for 1.5 years. They stayed in Ephesus after Paul left (Acts 18:18–19) and taught the mighty preacher Apollos “the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26). Apollos knew of John’s baptism, but he did not know of Christian baptism (Acts 18:25; cf. 19:1–6). Due to the recent nature of the events, It seems he may not have known the full details of the life, death, or resurrection of Jesus Christ, or that the Spirit had been given at Pentecost (cf. Acts 19:1–6). Whatever the hang-up, as a result of A&P’s teaching, Apollos’ ministry as an apologist for the gospel was all the more effective in Achaia (Acts 18:27–28).
Nest 3 – Rome: An Open Home to the Church in Rome (Romans 16:3–5a)
At some point, A&P moved from Ephesus back to Rome. If they moved from Ephesus to Rome sometime between AD 55 and 57 (cf. Rom 16:3–5; 1 Cor 16:19) and returned to Ephesus by AD 65/66 (cf. 2 Tim 4:19), they could have been back in Rome for 1 to 10 years (AD 55/57–65/66). While in Rome, A&P used their home to host one of the three to five churches in Rome (Rom 16:5; cf. 16:10, 11, 14, 15). Paul’s summary of their ministry is that they were “fellow workers” (Rom 16:3) who risked their lives for Paul (Rom 16:4; cf. Acts 19:23–41?). Paul gave thanks to them from himself and from “all the churches of the Gentiles” (Rom 16:5).
Nest 4 – Ephesus: Serving Again with Ephesian Friends (2 Tim 4:19)
Whenever they returned to Ephesus, A&P moved from Rome to Ephesus at least by AD 65/66 (2 Tim 4:19). Perhaps they went to Rome to be with the loved ones they so abruptly left at the edict of Claudius but then came back to where they could be better used in Ephesus. Whatever the case, Paul first met A&P around AD 50. Here they are still serving 15years later.
Seven Lessons to Learn from the Lives of Aquila and Priscilla
First, sometimes God moves people from one church to another in order to bless multiple congregations. Move 1: God used Claudius to move A&P to help Paul as tentmakers in Corinth (Acts 18:2–3). Move 2: Paul took A&P to Ephesus (Acts 18:18–19). Move 3: A&P went back to Rome (Rom 16:3–5). Move 4: A&P returned to Ephesus (2 Tim 4:19).
Second, ask godly couples to be involved in ministry. Paul “found . . . Aquila” and “came to them” (Acts 18:2). Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome all knew the blessing of having this faithful couple come to their churches and using a home to help the churches.
Third, find a church with a good pastor. A&P had the apostle Paul for a pastor in Corinth and then in Ephesus. From this point on, we see them faithfully serving and discipling others. An effective shepherd leaves others serving faithfully after the time they have spent with him.
Fourth, serve your church with your whole heart, mind, and soul. Everywhere we see A&P, they are involved in a local church, even when forcibly moved away from Rome to Corinth. They made it a priority to be involved in the ministry of their local churches. A&P personally discipled others, used their business for the sake of missions, and opened their homes to the churches. These activities were not necessarily public ministries that were as noticeable as those of Paul or Apollos. They had servants’ hearts to give their time, energy, and resources to serve the needs of the churches. Their ministries allowed Paul and Apollos to win and strengthen many for the Lord.
Fifth, remember the good times. Paul mentioned the risk A&P took in his greetings to Rome (Rom 16:4). He remembered the highlights of their service together, not the pain of breaking apart.
Seventh, keep on keeping on. The NT has A&P serving for at least 15 years. They likely served much longer than that.
Aquila and Priscilla were a blessing to multiple congregations during the early days of the church. May we and couples especially follow their example and serve our own churches just the same today.