Aquila and Priscilla: The Roles We Play
In what ways do you and your spouse demonstrate partnership and teamwork? How can you improve?
We grow up with different models of marriage, which means we come into marriage with differing ideas of the roles of ‘wife’ and ‘husband’. There is no perfect model–what’s important is that you agree on the direction for your marriage. Aquila and Priscilla’s unique model of marriage teaches us to work together to bring our unique gifts, talents, abilities, and strengths into the union.
About This Journey
God says that it is not good for man to be alone. Life is better with the buddy system—in the Military and especially in marriage. It gives us a greater reward for our work, someone to help us when we fall, and a shoulder to rest on. In “Devoted to My Husband”, we journey with six women through intimacy, trust, communication, healthy boundaries, generosity, and teamwork.
This Week's Readings
Aquila and Priscilla: The Roles We Play
After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.-Acts 18:1-3
We come into marriage with certain ideas of what a wife does in a marriage and what a husband does. What models of marriage have you observed? A traditional model has the wife taking care of the home and the husband taking care of financial support. A common model in the military is the dual-military couple where both husband and wife have an equal level of responsibility at work and share responsibilities at home. We can think of a variety of other models.
The New Testament introduces us to a couple who modeled marriage differently from the culture around them. Aquila and Priscilla were a married couple who owned and operated a tentmaking business. The apostle Paul met them on a ministry journey to Corinth. He was also a tentmaker and this couple became significant to him and to the early church. All six New Testament references to Aquila and Priscilla mention them together. They model marriage partnership at its best.
There is no perfect marriage model. No matter which you follow, you and your husband need to agree on the direction for your marriage. Every marriage requires you both to work together to bring your unique gifts, talents, abilities, and strengths into the union. Operating in your respective strengths will enhance your life as a couple.
The challenge for the military marriage is maintaining flexibility regarding roles. During times of deployment and extended duty, more responsibility falls on the spouse who remains home. But this challenge can serve to further strengthen a couple as they work together to remain close and keep their partnership active.
You do not have to work side by side with your spouse like Aquila and Priscilla to have a good marriage. In what ways do you and your spouse demonstrate partnership and teamwork? What is one thing you can do to improve your partnership and teamwork?
Lord, help my husband and me to function as a team. Show us how to serve one another and teach us how to operate in our respective strengths. Help us work together to strengthen our marriage. Amen.
A Woman’s Work?
After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow.-Acts 18:18
What expectations did you have about the roles of husband and wife when you entered your marriage? Was one to care for everything inside the house and another to care for everything outside? Perhaps you entered marriage expecting a fifty-fifty deal where you and your husband would share responsibilities both at home and monetarily through your own vocations. Our expectations vary according to our family of origin, beliefs, cultural influences, and other personal experiences.
Consider one couple that walked into the chaplain’s office. The husband asked the chaplain to “fix” his wife. What was the problem? She could not iron his uniforms in a way that met his specifications. The scenario seems humorous, but there was nothing funny about the animosity this couple felt toward each other because her ironing fell short of his standards!
Another couple went through what they ended up calling the “Underwear Saga.” The first night home after their honeymoon, the husband threw his underwear on the floor. He continued to do this, and after a few days a pile of underwear gathered. They made their way to the chaplain’s office practically ready for a divorce. Angry because his wife would not pick up his underwear, he said she was lazy. Angry because her husband threw his underwear on the floor, she said he was a slob. The chaplain asked him if he would be willing to throw his underwear in a hamper. He asked her if she would be willing to throw the dirty clothes in the washing machine. They agreed to the plan and their marriage got a fresh start—and clean clothes!
They sound ridiculous, but these are true stories! Unspoken assumptions about roles can mark a turn toward marriage disaster. You may expect he will take out the garbage and he may expect you will pick up his underwear—or iron his uniform.
As mentioned, Priscilla and Aquila were a unique couple for their time. When we meet them in Acts, they already seem to have resolved the role issues couples often face. But I imagine Priscilla and Aquila never expected to fill the roles of “missionary team members” and sail to a foreign land alongside a preacher named Paul to help establish a church. This task must have been accompanied by some personal doubts and struggles. But they navigated the expectations of their new roles through mutual respect and shared purpose. With patience, communication, and God’s help you and your husband can do the same.
Gary Chapman suggests doing an exercise with your husband to clarify role expectations. Make a list of all the things your parents did around your house. What did your father do? What did your mother do? Share your lists and discuss why you think your parents fulfilled those roles in their marriages. Discuss how you would like roles and responsibilities to work in your marriage. Decide your next steps together and be willing to compromise on some expectations in order to move forward with a strong and unified marriage.
Lord, help my husband and me to mutually support one another. Remind us of our shared purpose as a couple. Give us patience and clear communication to navigate the expectations we have of one another. May our expectations be realistic and protect us from disappointment that would damage our marriage. Amen.
Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.-Acts 18:24-26
Happily ever after is not a natural outcome of a wedding. This may burst someone’s fantasy marriage bubble, but there is no such thing as a perfect couple—nor a perfect marriage. You can, however, have a good and healthy marriage. The goal is not perfection but a healthy and growing relationship. Often you need other people to help you stay on the road to healthy. In my own marriage, I think of the example of Sandra and Al, who mentored us in serving God in the military. I think of Pat and Sue who mentored us in the art of hospitality—and taught me how to make gravy. Bruce and Karen have mentored us in the area of generosity and service to family and community. None of these couples sat down and taught us a specific how to lesson. They mentored us through moments spent in their presence and through our observation of their lives.
Mentoring is a principle seen in the lives of Aquila and Priscilla. Paul mentored them and they in turn mentored Apollos. Even though he was a good speaker and knew the Old Testament Scriptures and the teaching of John the Baptist, Apollos did not know the full story about Jesus. Aquila and Priscilla listened to him teach and perceived his need for the rest of the gospel story. They took him aside privately and filled in the gaps—that Jesus was the Messiah, that he had been crucified and resurrected, that he had ascended to heaven, that the Holy Spirit had come, and much more.
Together, Priscilla and Aquila invested their lives in building relationships. Their hospitality and mentoring had a powerful influence on the church in Corinth and beyond. Just like the couples who had an impact on my husband and me, Priscilla and Aquila were willing to take the time to help others become better.
Look around for couples you admire, people who are strong in their faith and have qualities you would like to develop in your own marriage. Invite them for coffee or a meal and ask their input on issues that concern you. You do not—and should not—have to make this journey alone. God has placed people and resources to help you grow in your faith and in your relationships. You and your husband also have stories, skills, and lessons learned that you can share with others.
Who might you consider as marriage mentors? What questions would you want to ask a marriage mentor?
Lord, give my husband and me teachable spirits. Open our eyes to people who will encourage us and help our relationship grow stronger. Help us be willing to share what we have learned with others also. Amen.
Who’s on First?
Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.-Romans 16:3-4
The other night my husband and I watched a snippet of the famous Abbott and Costello comedy routine, “Who’s on First?” The attempt to explain the lineup of a baseball team and the confusion that follows is both hilarious and frustrating. It reminded me of the confusion and frustration that can come in marriage as we navigate and negotiate “who’s on first?”
Have you noticed as you read the Scripture references for Priscilla (or Prisca) and Aquila that sometimes an author lists Priscilla first, and other times Aquila is first? A woman’s name preceding a man was unusual for New Testament times. Scholars have suggested several reasons for this unconventional listing. Perhaps Priscilla’s social standing or family wealth was greater than that of her husband. Perhaps she became a Christian before her husband. Perhaps she was the more intellectual of the two, or the more energetic in ministry and service. The explanations are speculative, but scholars agree the alternate listings are not an accident. Whatever the reason, the alternating order indicates their teamwork. Based on the way this couple operated, we can surmise that sometimes Priscilla took the lead and sometimes Aquila took the lead in their work and ministry.
It is common to hear about military wives lamenting their lack of independence, status, and identity. Priscilla was not a military wife, but her society expected her to find status and identity through her husband. Yet the Bible references her first in four of the six listings of their names. How significant! I venture to guess she did not lobby for first listing. She and her husband worked as a team. She did not allow cultural expectations to keep her from fulfilling her call as a wife, career woman, and leader in the church. And Aquila was clearly on board with that line of thinking.
Sisters, do not listen to naysayers who downplay your contribution because you are a military wife. Priscilla did not let any expectations or criticism stop her from fulfilling her God-ordained roles. She worked hard running a business with her husband. She actively labored to establish the early church. She taught and mentored others in their faith. She and her husband launched a church in their home. Along with her husband, she risked her life to protect the apostle Paul when enemies threatened his life. This woman did not let being a woman stop her from living her life fully. It did not matter who was on first; it mattered that she and Aquila knew they were on the same team.
What roles are you fulfilling at this time in your life (wife, mother, daughter, employee, volunteer, teacher, other)? Are any of your roles taking away from partnership and teamwork with your husband? If so, what do you need to do to realign your roles to strengthen your marriage?
Lord, help me to fulfill the roles you have for me as a woman. Help me to understand my value to you and to my husband. Help me do my part to make my marriage a testimony of your grace. Amen.
The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.-1 Corinthians 16:19
We do not know many details about Aquila and Priscilla’s marriage. The details we learn from Scripture allow us to piece together a picture of a committed couple. Acts 18:1–3 tells us they fled from Rome to a foreign country after the emperor forced all the Jews to leave. Later, they traveled by ship to Ephesus where they helped Paul evangelize. They seem to have eventually returned to Rome and continued building the early church.
Like military families who move from place to place, Aquila and Priscilla moved many times, committed to fulfill God’s purpose for them in each new place. They worked together to serve Christ wherever their journey took them. Their moves most likely were to enhance their service to God than to enhance their tentmaking business. When you see the names of this couple, you read only positive remarks. They saw themselves as a team, and others did as well.
1 Corinthians 16:19 refers to the church in “their” house. This reference does not impress the modern reader, but first-century society, with its male-dominated rights, leadership, and ownership, would have considered this a radical reference. Paul and the early church fully accepted this couple and the way they operated as a team. Paul wrote of his gratitude for Aquila and Priscilla—and not only his gratitude, but the gratitude of all the churches.
Priscilla and Aquila, both individually and together made a difference in their sphere of influence. They established marriage roles that worked for them, were pleasing to God, and helpful for others. If you want your own experiences “until death do us part” to be both long and fulfilling, then strive to have mutually understood and agreed-upon roles. As your life journey progresses, changing circumstances may require new roles, but defining expectations and allowing for flexibility will keep you moving forward together.
How can you and your husband serve others together? How could you use your home in service to God?
Lord, show my husband and me ways we can serve others in our community. Give us something we can do together as an act of service. Give us hearts that beat in unison in our desire to share you.
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