Aquila and Pricilla: The Practice of Hospitality
LESSONS FROM THE BENCH: AQUILA AND PRICILLA AND THE PRACTICE OF HOSPITALITY Spring Valley Mennonite; June 30, 2019; Acts 18:1-4, Romans 16:3-4, 1 Corinthians 16:19, 2 Timothy 4:19 Last week I shared the story about our disappointment over the cancellation of a mission trip to India. Many of our disappointing situations have silver linings, and one of the blessings we experienced during our two weeks in Washington D.C. was the hospitality we enjoyed with Vernon and Gladys Staples, the host family with which we stayed. If you remember our story about waiting for visas to minister in India, as our hosts they had signed up for one or two nights at the most until we were to leave, but that time extended to over two weeks! But they were among the most understanding and supportive people we had ever met, providing meals and transportation far beyond what they had anticipated—and they did it with joy and thankfulness at being able to serve the Lord’s work. They blessed us with their loving hospitality. As we continue looking into some of the lesser known of God’s servants found in the Bible, this morning our focus will be on two of the most flexible and strategic people of the New Testament. We can judge them strategic, as they had a crucial role in the ministry of Paul, as well as Apollos and believers in Rome, Corinth and Ephesus. Yet their influence is often overlooked, as is the importance of the topic of hospitality. You can’t study this couple without noticing how open they were with the use of their home if it could aid in the furtherance of the gospel. Today we will focus on a married couple named Aquila and Pricilla. We first encounter them in the book of Acts, in chapter 18. Turn there with me and follow along as I read: (Read Acts 18:1-4. I. EXILED FROM ROME, UPROOTED TO CORINTH At this time in the history of the early church, Paul has just come from Athens where he spent time debating with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. We never hear of any church in Athens and speculation is that the intellectual atmosphere of the city hindered the people from believing. Many sneered when Paul spoke on the resurrection of the dead, and only a few believed. Perhaps Paul was a bit discouraged upon arriving in Corinth, but the Lord had a reception awaiting him from a Jew named Aquila and his wife Pricilla. They were newcomers to Corinth, having been expelled with Rome by the Roman Emperor Claudius. They were tentmakers, of the same trade as Paul. It was the Jewish practice of the Pharisees to learn a trade, although their main focus in life was living in strict conformance to their interpretation of the Jewish Law. Paul’s trade was tentmaking. We still use the term “tentmaking” for missionaries who go to restricted countries under with the goal of practicing a trade or conducting some sort of business. Their gospel work is done quietly as they attempt to stay “under the radar” of the authorities. Mark Penner would be an example of a tentmaker. So, Paul comes to Corinth and makes the acquaintance of Aquila and Pricilla, who extend an invitation to stay with them. This is the first example of hospitality we see from this couple. One important application can be drawn from the experience of this couple’s expulsion from Rome: Often unexpected circumstances come into our lives which seem negative, but God often uses them to move us to a place of blessing. Being uprooted from their home in Rome and having to make a new start in Corinth may have appeared to Aquila and Pricilla as negative, but God placed them where they would make the acquaintance of Paul and through him, to come to know the Lord Jesus. God may be using the apparent setbacks in your life to place you where He can bless you greatly. This certainly was true of Aquila and Pricilla. Paul worked alongside this couple for 18 months in Corinth, and their lives were transformed. When God moved Paul’s ministry to Ephesus, Aquila and Pricilla went with him, as we read in Acts 18. Then when Paul moved on from Ephesus, having spent only a short time there, this couple stayed behind. God had a very strategic encounter awaiting them. Read Acts 18:24-26. Apollos was a follower of John the Baptist; he was a powerful preacher, but he needed further instruction; he needed to learn about how Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah about whom John preached, and how Jesus fulfilled the promise John made of a coming Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. God used Pricilla and Aquila to explain the way of God “more accurately.” Apollos went on to play a strategic role in spreading the Gospel. On Paul’s third Missionary Journey, he came again to Ephesus. This time he spent an extended time, over two years there. It was during this time that he wrote his letters to the church in Corinth, and he included the words we find in 1 Corinthians 16:19: “The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.” (Prisca is the formal form of Pricilla, which is the more common name used.) Note this couple is exercising hospitality in hosting a church in their home. II. BACK IN ROME, AGAIN HOSTING A HOUSE CHURCH Our next encounter with this couple is found in Romans 16:3-4: (Turn and Read). Paul writes the letter to the Romans from Corinth, as he was there collecting their donations for the church at Jerusalem. After his visit to Corinth, he proceeded to Ephesus, then to Jerusalem where he was arrested. As he had not yet visited Rome, in chapter 16 he mentions several mutual friends, including Aquila and Pricilla. Notice two things here, the first being that they risked their lives for Paul. There is no record of how this happened, although there are several passages where Paul records his life being threatened. How all the churches were indebted to this couple is also left to speculation. It may be because of their influence on Apollo, or the impact their discipling house church members had on the spread of the Gospel. Or it may relate to the hospitality and support they gave to the great Apostle himself, or how they saved his life. The second thing I would point out is that they were again hosting a house church in their home. They had the gift of hospitality. What lessons can we glean from looking at this gifted couple? III. LESSONS FROM THIS GIFTED COUPLE • First, we see an example of a husband and wife working together in ministry. They are always mentioned together; they worked as a team. In several places, Priscilla is mentioned first, perhaps signifying she was more influential in the situation than was her husband. It is a wise husband who recognizes the gifts of his wife and allows her to take the lead in that area. • We also can learn from the incredible flexibility shown in their ministry. We observe this in Corinth, Ephesus and Rome; they were willing to do what ever needed to be done, and to go wherever there was a need. The expansion of the Christian Church depends upon believers being willing to be flexible in their service. We saw this principle firsthand in our years with Campus Crusade. Each of the staff in this organization had pledged themselves to flexibility as to their placement in ministry, to be willing to move to wherever the need was greatest. Every year the ministry could expand to new places because of this flexibility. We experienced this personally; my mom once complained that she had totally exhausted the page in her address book as we moved so often! In our six years as a married couple with Campus Crusade we lived in four different states and changed addresses seven times! • Aquila and Pricilla were willing to risk their lives for Paul, demonstrating how they lived in a sacrificial manner. • And lastly, the practice of hospitality was a way of life to them—to Paul in Corinth, then later hosted churches in their homes in Ephesus and Rome. We can infer that they were a warm and loving couple who were willing to share whatever they had. IV. CAMPING ON THE PRINCIPLE OF HOSPITALITY If I may camp on this idea for a while, let’s explore the idea and practice of hospitality as we see it from Aquila and Priscilla. While we primarily think of entertaining friends when we think of hospitality, the Greek word is “Philoxenia”. Xenia means stranger; Philo is brotherly love. So, the Greek word means “a love of strangers.” This is a Biblical value, first seen in the account of Abraham entertaining the three strangers in Genesis 18. He welcomed them, washed their feet and provided a lavish meal, waiting on them while they ate. This was an oriental custom, arising from the Nomadic origin of the people. In such a nomadic culture, hospitality became a highly esteemed virtue. The custom provided rest, food, shelter and protection for the traveler. It was supported by the fact that the host himself might someday be a stranger in need of food and shelter, and also by the possibility that the stranger was sent from God. This was the case of Abraham in Genesis 18 and reinforced by the words of Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” This extends to the church, as 1 Peter 4:9 states: “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” We should practice hospitality not only when it is convenient, but even when it might be an imposition—and do so without murmuring or complaining. There are other verses which list hospitality as a virtue true of godly men and women. There are any number of benefits of being hospitable: It is an opportunity to be generous without expecting anything in return. Jesus spoke of this blessing in Luke 14:12-14: “And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’” Hospitality provides an excellent opportunity for ministry. As we meet the needs of the lonely, it may give a chance to share the gospel. The wife of Bill Bright, Vonett once said, “Hospitality offers a unique opportunity for people to observe Christ in action. By coming into our homes people are able to experience love and observe practical application of Christian principles.” Hospitality extends the blessing of God to others and is a demonstration of godliness. By way of contrast, consider what the opposite spirit of stinginess communicates: “I want to keep it all for myself, if I share there won’t be enough for me…” Some suggestions for hospitality: • Never let a stranger or a visitor leave the church without an invitation to lunch. • Perhaps God would have you be a host family to a student at one of the local colleges, perhaps an international student far from home. (I believe Hesston College has such a program for host families to “adopt” an international student.) • Perhaps you have acquaintances at work that you could invite for a meal in your home. Perhaps you might even take someone into your home for an extended time, like Aquila and Pricilla did with Paul. • Perhaps you might even consider being a foster parent and provide a temporary home for a child in need. Hospitality takes some sacrifice and effort, but it is a function of godliness. And God promises to bless abundantly.