Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Paul Meets Aquila and Priscilla

“18:1 After this Paul [1] left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 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, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18:1-4 (ESV)
Paul meets Aquila and Priscilla. These two will become close friends and partners in the gospel. It’s really  a  major turning point in the story of the gospel and its spread through the ancient Roman Empire. Paul arrived in Corinth, demoralized, beaten, worn out and anxious. He will later remind the Corinthians of how he came to them. And in Corinth he meets Christians! Aquila and Priscilla take him in to their home, he was at this time traveling alone. He works with Aquila in his trade as a tentmaker to earn his own keep, and he works with Priscilla as an evangelist. Yes, Priscilla will take the fore when it comes to the work of the gospel.
Priscilla and Aquilla are there because they have been expelled from Rome. We know from Suetonius that Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome about 50 AD, because the controversy over Christ was causing too much unrest among them and it seems this was spilling out into everyday life. At the time, Christians were considered little more than a Jewish sect. I always find this interplay between the Bible and secular history to be absolutely fascinating. Today Christians often shy away from confessing the faith because the gospel still has the power to cause unrest, they get discouraged when it isn’t received well and people become argumentative about it, but that is just the gospel at work.  

Paul would meet at the Synagogue on the Sabbath, that would be our Saturday, and there he would work for the gospel. As a trained rabbi he would be invited to speak, or preach. The Greek word that is used here, translated reasoned, means to have a conversation. This was normally the way “sermons” would go in the early church and in the synagogue at the time. They weren’t so much prepared speeches, but topical conversations, perhaps a bit like one experiences in a college classroom today. Personally, I think sermons could do well to take a bit more of this form today. When Paul talks about able to teach in the Pastoral Epistles, he doesn’t mean being able to type our fifteen pages and read it in front of the congregation.  This is probably why  Paul also says his speech wasn’t eloquent, even though  he can write some pretty eloquent things, his sermons would take the form of off the cuff addresses to those within hearing. Speaking on the scriptures and guiding the conversation to the cross. But it was precisely in this “weak” speech that God shamed the strong, because there in Corinth, a city famed for its debauchery, the holy gospel had incredible success through the work of Paul. 

No comments: