In the year 52 A.D. the Roman emperor Claudius issued an edict expelling all Jews from the city of Rome. It seems, from what the Roman historian Suetonius says, that they were persecuting their Christian neighbors and causing considerable disturbance in the city. Claudius cared little about the reason for the trouble, and even less about who the guilty parties were. He knew they were Jews, and that was enough; so all Jews were uprooted from their homes and banished from Rome, the innocent along with the guilty.
That was when a Jew named Aquila, who had migrated to Rome from the province of Pontus on the Black Sea, packed his belongings, bid farewell to his friends, and embarked for the city of Corinth. By his side was his faithful wife, Priscilla. We do not know for certain whether she was Jewish or Roman, nor are we sure whether or not they were both Christians at the time. But one thing we do know—they were together. In fact, they were always together. One’s name never occurs without the other.
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For one thing, they made their living together. “For by trade they were tent-makers” (Acts 18:3). Every Jewish boy in New Testament times was taught some kind of trade. Since tents were such a prominent part of Hebrew life, Aquila’s parents chose to have their son learn this practical means of earning his livelihood. Their tents were made of rough goat’s hair fabric which took great skill to cut and sew properly. Aquila had acquired that skill and later taught it to his wife, and she happily assisted him in his business.
Not every husband and wife can work together like this. It takes a mature relationship to work closely under the kind of pressure a job sometimes generates. But that is evidently the kind of relationship Aquila and Priscilla had. They were not only mates and lovers, they must have been good friends and companions. They had to be willing to give to each other more than they tried to take. They had to be able to accept suggestions as readily as they offered them. They enjoyed being together and working together. They were inseparable, and they were equals.
So when they arrived in Corinth, they scoured the marketplace together for a small open-air shop to rent, and proceeded to set up their tent-making business. The timing was obviously of God, for no sooner had they gotten settled down in their shop than another Jewish tentmaker arrived in town fresh from an evangelistic crusade in Athens, the Apostle Paul. Whenever he entered a new city, he would stroll through the marketplace looking for opportunities to talk about Jesus, looking for indications of God’s direction for future ministry, and, of course, looking for work to sustain him as he ministered. It was inevitable that he would amble into the tent-making shop of Aquila and Priscilla. Scripture tells the story like this: “After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working; for by trade they were tent-makers” (Acts 18:1-3).
Their affinity for each other was instantaneous, and a deep and lasting friendship was born that day. Paul came to work with them in their shop, and even lived with them in their home during his stay in Corinth. If they had not known Christ before this, they certainly met him now, for no one could spend time in Paul’s presence and not be infected by his contagious and enthusiastic love for his Savior. These two who lived together, worked together, and suffered exile together, came to know and love Jesus Christ together, and it made their marriage complete. Now they were one in Christ, and His love made a good marriage even better. That may be just the thing your marriage needs. If either one of you has never placed your faith in the sacrifice which Christ made for your sins, your marriage cannot be complete. True oneness can only be found in Christ.
From the day Aquila and Priscilla met the Savior, they grew in the Word together. No doubt they went with Paul to the synagogue each Sabbath day as he reasoned with the Jews and Greeks and encouraged them to place their trust in Christ for salvation (Acts 18:4). Not everyone received his testimony. Some resisted and blasphemed. So he withdrew from the synagogue and began teaching in the house of Titus Justus next door. And God blessed his ministry. Even the chief ruler of the synagogue came to know Christ. “And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:11). Think of it, eighteen months of intensive Bible study under the greatest Bible teacher in the early church. How Aquila and Priscilla must have grown!
And after the lessons were over, the three of them probably went home together and sat up into the early hours of the morning talking about the Lord and His Word.
They grew to love God’s Word. And although they worked long and hard running their shop, making and repairing tents, maintaining a home and caring for their distinguished guest, they always found time for serious Bible study. Sharing the Word together strengthened their love for each other and their spirit of togetherness.
This is exactly what many Christian marriages lack. Husbands and wives need to open the Word together. That is not difficult to do in a pastor’s home. When I am preparing a message, I often talk to my wife about it and get her thoughts on the passage I am studying. If she is preparing a lesson, she may come to get my help in understanding a particular verse, and we find ourselves sharing the Word together. But it may be more difficult at your house, especially if you have never done it. Teaching a Sunday school class and sharing the preparation with each other might be a comfortable way to begin. Reading and discussing a Bible-centered devotional guide would be profitable. Reading through a book of the Bible together will allow God to speak to our lives. However we make use of it, God’s Word is one necessary ingredient for enriching our relationship with each other.
The events that follow in the account of the Acts reveal how thoroughly Aquila and Priscilla learned God’s Word. When Paul left Corinth for Ephesus, they accompanied him, and he left them there when he embarked for his home church in Antioch (Acts 18:18-22). The move was providential, for while Paul was gone “a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue” (Acts 18:24-26).