Romans 16:3-5a, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house.”
“I’d like to be involved in gospel ministry, but I’m just a simple Christian.”
My friend’s words prompted a fruitful conversation about the gifts God has given her and the many ways she uses them to serve our church family. I think she went home encouraged, but I was left wondering about her assumption that gospel ministry is for paid ministry leaders or those who have been theologically trained—that the most effective way to serve Christ is in a “professional” capacity.
In Romans 16, Paul discredits the idea that only ordained church leaders can have a significant ministry or influence in the church. As he sends his greetings to those in Rome’s churches with whom he has a particular connection or relationship, we see how significant these people have been—in his life and ministry. It’s unlikely that many of them were paid ministry leaders, but all were gospel workers. All worked hard to advance the gospel of Jesus.
Priscilla and Aquilla were Jewish believers who had left their home in Italy and moved to Corinth when Emperor Claudius ordered all Jews to leave Rome (Acts 18:2). They were not Apostles or full-time ministry leaders, they weren’t city officials, and they didn’t hold significant roles in the community. They were tentmakers.
But Paul describes them as “fellow workers in Christ Jesus.” They worked alongside Paul—making tents and making disciples. They found opportunities in their ordinary, everyday lives to tell people about Jesus. They moved around—from Pontus to Italy, from Italy to Corinth, from Corinth to Ephesus, and from Ephesus to Rome (later, they returned from Rome to Ephesus). And wherever they went, they sought to share the good news about Jesus and serve his church. In Ephesus, they discipled Apollos and equipped him to strengthen the church in Achaia. In Rome, they opened their home so the church could meet together there. They were wholehearted in their commitment to Jesus and his people.
And that’s why Paul mentions them in Romans 16. He is not simply showing off how many friends he has, and he is not trying to elevate them above other members of their church. But he is shining a spotlight on God’s grace in their lives. He shows how the gospel has transformed them—and others through them—so glory goes to God alone.
We don’t know precisely how Priscila and Aquila risked their lives to save Paul’s—perhaps Paul refers to the riot in Ephesus recorded in Acts 19. But clearly, their commitment to him was greater than their commitment to comfort and safety. And we can learn from them. Gospel work is hard. It involves discomfort and self-sacrifice. But the sacrifices are worthwhile. Priscilla and Aquilla risked their lives to save Paul. As a result, his ministry continued to flourish, and all the churches of the Gentiles were thankful for their sacrifice. They are examples of faith, courage, hospitality, and love—to the churches in Rome and us.
Most of us probably won’t have such a far-reaching impact on the broader church. But we can impact our local church families and communities as we look for opportunities to advance the gospel. Perhaps your day-to-day work feels tedious. Maybe you think it lacks significance. How might seeing yourself as a “worker in Christ Jesus” impact the way you approach your work? Are there people you are uniquely placed to share Jesus within your workplace, community, or even your home?
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:28 about the pressure of his concern for all the churches that he faces each day. How encouraging for him to recall friends who have worked alongside him, sacrificed with him, and shared some of that burden. What a comfort to know they continue to show the same commitment they always have—serving and hosting their local church in Rome. Priscilla and Aquila continue to encourage Paul by their commitment to Christ and his church.
What about you and me? Are our church leaders thankful for our partnership with them in gospel work? Does our local church have reasons to be grateful to God for us? How can we express love for our church leaders and our partnership in gospel work with them? Here are three ideas:
- Commit to pray regularly for them
Thank God regularly for your leaders—for his work in their lives and for the way they serve the church. Tell them you are thanking God for them and ask if there are specific challenges or concerns you can be praying for. They may not be able to share some details of their ministry with you, but they will be encouraged and spurred on by your partnership with them through prayer.
- Show up ready to serve
Don’t go to church as a consumer seeking to have your needs met. Rather, aim to be a contributor. Serve in whatever ways you are able—setting up, stacking chairs, making coffee, greeting guests. Sing loudly. Listen attentively. Look around for people to encourage and help—welcome newcomers (if you struggle to hold a conversation, introduce them to others who can). Be willing to arrive early and stay late. Cultivate a sacrificial, servant-hearted spirit.
- Be willing to share their discomfort
Look for opportunities in your day-to-day life to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Be unashamed of the Bible’s teaching. Speak out against injustice; defend the weak and vulnerable. Don’t fear rejection or loss of reputation in your workplace or community. When church leaders face unfair criticism or slander, speak up for them. Offer to help with discipling younger Christians or caring for church members who need a lot of time and energy.
Let’s give our leaders a reason to praise God for his grace in our lives as we partner with them in sharing the gospel of Christ and seeking to strengthen his church.Ex