Sitting in the EMS station in Plains, Ga., I looked over at the paramedic with whom I was working and asked: “Do you mind if I read you a paragraph?” He was reading some novel that he dutifully suspended in the spirit of mutual respect. I was reading my Bible. He braced himself. “Go ahead.”
“After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked for by occupation they were tentmakers.”(Acts 18:1-3) Paul would get up on the Sabbath and go preach. “And he reasoned in the synagogue ever Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.”(v 4)
I wasn’t trying to preach to the guy. I was just excited to share that here was Paul, THE Paul, on his missionary journeys, getting up to go to work everyday just like everybody else! I said, “Paul had a job just like you and me! He made tents every day!” Back then, you couldn’t file for unemployment. If you didn’t produce, you didn’t consume. Period.
So Paul partnered up with a man named Aquilla and his wife, Priscilla, in what would be a symbiotic relationship which would last for years. My paramedic friend could relate to this because paramedics always have a partner on the ambulance. One will treat the patient on a call and drive on the next call. It’s a shared duty. It’s their trade, if you will. Every day, Aquilla, Priscilla and Paul would take the work orders and go to work. I don’t know about their distribution of labor. I know, however, that in the later writings of the New Testament, Priscilla’s name was mentioned before Aquilla’s name. (Acts 18:18) Those with intuition know.
I was leading Cross Cultural Musique the other night and I asked the audience this question: “How many of you are called into the ministry?” A smattering raised their hands. I said, “You all are if you are a Christian!” I then shared this same passage. I said Priscilla and Aquilla were with Paul in Corinth for a year and six months. Then when Paul moved to Ephesus, so did the tent business. Paul did serve as a traveling evangelist and happened to be gone when Aquilla and Priscilla led a gentleman to the Lord. Apollos would remain as a great help to Paul and the other followers of Christ.
Why would Paul continue to make tents if he didn’t need to? “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; now did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”(2 Thess. 3:7-10)
I got off work one Sunday at 8 a.m. and went down to President and Mrs. Carters’ church. Mrs. Rosalynn invited me to start attending there. I said the only thing that came to my mind. “OK!” I keep meaning to go back.