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Choosing Third Class

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
February 12, 2024 12:00 am

Choosing Third Class

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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February 12, 2024 12:00 am

Listen to the full-length version of this message or the other messages in this series here: https://www.wisdomonline.org/when-the-roll-is-called-up-yonder. Have you ever heard the saying, "No man is an island?" Well the Apostle Paul, spiritual and energetic as he was, would have said the same thing. In Romans 16:3-5, he introduces us to a Godly couple who poured into him as much as he poured into others. Were it not for their persistent ministry, Paul would not have been the Apostle he was.

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Yes, may God give us men like Paul and Timothy and Apollos, but may he give us many, many more Priscillas and Aquillas who make the ministries of Paul and Apollos and Timothy happen by opening their hearts and their homes. People who are willing to mess up their shoes and alter their plans and withdraw from their accounts and clutter up their calendars with the needs of other people for the sake of Jesus Christ. These are the people who get out and push the church along. Most people, if given the choice between serving and being served, would choose to be served. I'm sure you've met people who made you feel like your role was to serve them.

That's an unfortunate part of human nature. But what does God think? What's God's opinion of those who set aside their own comfort and desires for the sake of serving others?

You're going to find out today. Stephen Davey has a lesson for you called Choosing Third Class. Stephen takes you to Romans 16 and looks at the example of Aquila and Priscilla.

That's next here on Wisdom for the Heart. This week I was shown an article by one of our church staff members, a fascinating article about the early days of the stagecoach in the early mid to late 1800s. I conducted a little further research and came up with this fascinating era of travel. If you decided to risk your life and your health by traveling on stagecoach, and thousands of Americans did every year, you needed to know this about your ticket. You had three options. You could buy a first class ticket, a second class ticket, or a third class ticket. Now these tickets did not determine where you sat, but they did determine what was expected of you if the stagecoach got stuck. If you had a first class ticket, you could stay seated when the stagecoach got stuck. If you had a second class ticket, you were expected to get out and walk alongside until it made it past the muddy area. But if you were a third class passenger, you were expected to get out of the stagecoach and push. You can imagine that third class tickets were only for the most poor and unfortunate of the passengers. These would be the people who would pray for drought along the way while the others are praying for rain to settle the dust and cool the coach.

But I thought as I read this, this is analogous to life, isn't it? Success means you get to stay in your seat while others push. It means you get to avoid dirtying your hands and your shoes. You're first class. You let others get splinters in their hands and fingers. No one chooses if they can help it to travel third class. Who would want to make their journey even more difficult and filled with even more annoyance and hardship than that? Well, I am also convinced that the church finds analogy to this illustration for more than ever, we as a church and any church following after Christ need more Christians who are willing to travel third class, those who are willing to do more than sing about making us servants, humble and meek, but people who are willing to get a little mud on their shoes from time to time. Well, it's with delight that I introduce to you a husband and wife from this roll call of divine commendation who fit the mold.

They literally traveled third class through life. I invite you back to Romans 16 and their names appear in verse 3. Of all of the people that Paul will greet, these are the first.

As we work our way through this study and we're going to do a very quick overview and a survey of this couple, you'll find out why they were first in Paul's heart. The apostle Paul writes, greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. The word Paul used for fellow workers is the word sunergos, which gives us our English word synergy.

It's a great word. It refers to different components unable to accomplish separately what they are able to accomplish by working together. Paul is effectively saying this couple and I were able to accomplish so much for the Lord, but only because we worked together. Let's answer some questions. First, who were they? And secondly, when and how and where did they work with the great apostle Paul? In answer to the first, they were a husband and wife who served Christ as in a way that we could call a volunteer ministry team. Whenever they show up in scripture, they are always mentioned together. They're never mentioned separately.

They show up six different times. Luke will mention them three times in the book of Acts and Paul will mention them three times in his epistles. They present a wonderful picture of what it means to be a Christian couple committed to Christ. Two people who not only allowed one another to serve God, but evidently encouraged it. This didn't mean that they did the same thing.

It just meant that they were sort of in the harness together. They were on the journey together. I found it interesting there is never a record that they had any children.

In fact, from the way they seem to so quickly pack up and move from place to place as we'll see, it seems likely that they did not have any. But from the clues we've been given in scripture, they served God throughout their involvement as volunteers in the church. Now Paul says that the woman's name was Prisca, mentioned in verse 3. This is the formal Latin name of a woman who could also be called by her more personal and conversational name Priscilla. It's interesting that even though Paul stayed in her home with her husband for years at a time, he always referred to her with her formal name, as if you might refer to my wife as Mrs. Davy. He referred to her as Prisca rather than the more personal name Priscilla. It seems, at least there's little doubt, that Paul, a single man, was careful in all of his references to his hostess so that he would remain respectful, if not somewhat guarded for her and himself, as he mentions her in his letters with her formal name. Luke always mentioned her with her conversational, more personal name, Priscilla.

Aquila, also a Latin name, means eagle. He was a generous and successful businessman who, along with his wife, built a prosperous business in tent-making. The homes that they lived in were large.

They were evidently wealthy or well-to-do with their business. Customarily built around a large courtyard, theirs would have been large enough to house the church, as you're going to see they will so do in Ephesus and later in Rome. Though we're not told how Paul first met Aquila, we do know that it was customary in the synagogue for men and women to sit on separate sides, and it was also customary for men to sit alongside those other men from their own profession or trade. Since Paul was a tent-maker and Aquila a tent-making businessman, they had met in the synagogue probably by sitting next to one another. Perhaps it was when they stood and shook hands while the choir and orchestra left the platform. We're not told. Whenever it was, this chance encounter was not by chance.

No way. It was God's design. I want to take you very quickly to several scenes, and you'll have to move quickly as I need to talk quickly. Acts chapter 18 is the first scene where we're first introduced to this remarkable couple. We're also told what brought them to the same city, which in this chapter happens to be Corinth.

Luke writes in verse 1 of Acts chapter 18, after these things, he, that is Paul, 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. This must have been terribly upsetting as you can imagine, certainly to Priscilla and Aquila, to now be banished from their home and their business. But God would mean it for good and ultimately use it to connect them with the Apostle Paul. And one author put it this way, when Claudius threw them out of Rome, he threw them into intimate fellowship with the Apostle Paul, nothing less than divine providence. Now, as you read about the introduction of Priscilla and Aquila with Paul, because of their invitation to Paul, they ended up living in the same home. Paul evidently didn't have anywhere to live and Priscilla and Aquila had been exiled sometime earlier, perhaps months. So they boarded him and he worked for them, earning his keep.

And then he would reason in the synagogue with his ministry, trying to convert people to faith in Jesus Christ. But we do know that when Paul left Corinth to travel to Ephesus, guess who came with him? He did not travel alone. When he put out to sea, Priscilla and Aquila came with him.

That leads us to scene two, a little later in the chapter. We'll discover that Paul will leave them in Ephesus after a while and they will help begin a new work there and he'll travel on. But once again, Priscilla and Aquila are in the synagogue, only this special guest who comes to preach is not someone who will deliver the gospel to them, they will deliver the gospel to him. His name is Apollos, chapter 18, verse 25. Now 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.

And he began to speak out 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. Now evidently, he only knew about the baptism of John.

That's where the tape stopped. That's all he knew about. In other words, he knew that Jesus was the Messiah. He probably knew that Jesus had been baptized by John, the prophet. He probably knew that Christ's claim as the Lamb of God was validated by John. But he didn't know about the descent of the Holy Spirit. He didn't know about the creation of the church at Pentecost. He didn't really understand the finished work of the cross. He didn't understand the ministry of the Spirit, certainly the exercising of spiritual gifts for the formation and edification of the very fabric of the church and a set of volumes more. In many ways, Apollos was still living in the Old Testament even though the New Testament era had begun. The text says in verse 26 that 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.

You could translate that more adequately. That is, they filled in the gaps. They told him the rest of the story. Listen, Apollos, what you're saying about Jesus is true, but you don't know half of it yet.

We've got to fill you in. And so this kind but persistent couple took him aside, speaks highly of them. They didn't embarrass him publicly. They didn't say anything in the assembly. They didn't yell at him in the vestibule after the service. Maybe Priscilla and Aquila were talking after the meeting was over and they said, we've got to help this man.

He doesn't know the rest of what's happened. Well, what are we going to do? Well, maybe Priscilla said, well, let's invite him to our home. Aquila said, that sounds like a great idea.

Let's invite him to dinner. Here's this kind couple inviting to their homes the visiting rabbi who, by the way, had every reason not to listen to them. He knew the scriptures. Luke said he was mighty in them. He knew the Old Testament texts.

He could recall many of them from memory. He knew how to to apply, to expound, to illustrate. He preached with great power. He spoke in verse twenty five with eloquence and with fervency of spirit. The word means burning.

The word means boiling hot. He exemplified Lloyd-Jones definition of preaching as logic on fire. And after his sermon, everybody slapping him on the back for the good job he's done expounding that Old Testament text. And they're waiting in the lobby to invite him home. He accepted their invitation.

But what's more, he listened. Priscilla and Aquila had been discipled well by the apostle Paul over that year and a half together in Corinth. And now they discipled Apollos.

By the way, this is a lot about Apollos. Gifted, educated, eloquent, persuasive, zealous, who knew the scriptures. But here, the most important quality of his life that would literally change his life was humility. His host and his hostess were tentmakers. He could have no doubt spent an afternoon with the chief rabbi or some other dignitary.

Instead, you picture him at the table of a man and his wife who give him the next chapter in the gospel of grace. And I am convinced that Apollos was forever grateful. He was willing to listen to this couple because they were dead on.

They knew the truth. And he would listen and he would learn well. In fact, we don't have time, but the text will tell us he will go on to a KI. He will have a wonderful ministry in Corinth where his ministry will become somewhat legendary. He will be greatly used in the church. In fact, Paul will later write to the Corinthians and say, listen, I sowed the seed of the gospel, but this Apollos watered it. And then God gave this abundant harvest of fruit.

Interesting. Priscilla and Aquila weren't finished in Ephesus. We know that Paul later returned and he would write to the Corinthian believers. And he just so happened to write these words, Aquila and Prisca, greet you heartily in the Lord with the church that is in their house. Now it's expanded, starting with Paul, perhaps coming to faith, wealthy enough to have a home with a large enough courtyard. And now you find them opening their doors to the church here. Several second century documents add that Paul was also lodging in their home a second time. So here they are hosting the church in their home. It's obvious from scripture that their home belonged to God. Their lives belonged to God. And for Paul, his friendship with Priscilla and Aquila was so critical in the support of his ministry and work after learning even now what we have learned thus far about this couple, it's hard for me to imagine Paul without Priscilla and Aquila. It's hard for me to imagine the possibility of Paul serving the way he did in Corinth and Ephesus and later encouraged by them in Rome without their financial assistance, their physical assistance, and I'm sure their prayer support as well. One author suggested that God has several different kinds of people in your lives and they're all useful in a way. Some shape, some encourage, some even discourage but they are used. Perhaps you have an idea for some ministry. Maybe you like Paul bubbled over with new ideas. You always wanted to travel somewhere and do something different and you ran into and perhaps even now you are surrounded by people that fit one of these categories.

There are several, I'll just give you three. He wrote that there are people who sap vision. You say to them, what about this idea or what about that ministry or what about this thing? And their first words will be, it will never work. They just sort of suck the vitality and vision right out of you. There are those who appreciate your ideas, your vision. They cheer from the sidelines but they don't personally get involved. You're pushing the stagecoach and they're walking alongside and saying, keep at it, you're doing a great job.

Watch out for that rock, that stump. And that's wonderful that there are those who will say how much they appreciate what you're doing. But then there are those who share your vision. They speak the same ministry language. They have the same heartbeat for God's work. They are willing to make the same sacrifices as you.

They would never think of remaining in the coach while you got out and pushed. No, they want to get just as dirty as you do. They are grateful to come alongside and push with you.

In fact, nothing would make them happier than being ankle deep in mud alongside of you. This was Priscilla and Aquila. The third scene where we find this godly couple is back in Romans chapter 16. I wanted you to be able to appreciate this simple greeting by knowing something more of their lives.

Let's briefly look at this one again. They are evidently in Rome now as Paul writes from Corinth and he says to them, or he says to the church, greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. Now notice verse four, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. In other words, all of the believers are grateful that they risked their necks for Paul and Paul is grateful as well. Now I wish Paul had added a verse by saying, well, you know, you remember the time in or when and he doesn't tell us. He doesn't tell us about that heroic moment when they risked their necks.

The word used is who put it literally means they put their necks under the acts of the executioner. There was some moment when they when they put their lives on the line for the Apostle Paul. We don't know when it happened. Maybe it was during the riots in Ephesus with the infuriated mob over those who were delivering the gospel. Maybe they came to the home of Priscilla and Aquila looking for Paul, the one who was sort of behind it all. And maybe they covered for him so he could escape.

We don't know. Maybe it's embedded in that reference of Paul to the plots of the Jews against me, as he wrote to the Corinthian believers. What we do know is that they risked their lives for him and he never forgot that and remained grateful to them for the rest of his life. When Paul left Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila left for Rome, evidently perhaps for their own safety or maybe they had heard Paul talk about his plans. And so they went ahead of him to prepare the way to get a home ready, to get the tent making business ready, and to help the church in any way they could. Did they?

Well, look further. He says, also greet verse five, greet the church that is in their house. Here they are now in a different city, their home open again to the believers, this time in Rome. Greet the church that is in their house.

They simply refused to slow down. I would have loved to have met this couple. I believe I've met them in a way here many times over. Energy, enthusiasm, they would rather serve Christ and the church than do anything else. What a remarkable couple.

Humble, available, sacrificial servants for the cause of Christ. Now for the sake of time, we won't turn to the final scene. It's just a brief mention in Paul's last letter, his letter to Timothy. We discover that Priscilla and Aquila have left Rome and moved back to Ephesus.

And you think, oh my goodness, you know, they're doing this again. Why would they leave? Well, we discover that they left to work with a young pastor named Timothy, a young man who had been the disciple of Paul and he was now pastoring the Ephesian believers.

But this would fit, wouldn't it? It doesn't surprise me at all that since Paul can no longer use Priscilla and Aquila in ministry since he's under house arrest and he will soon die in Rome, that he sends them to help Timothy, his son in the faith and leading pastor so they will, as they help Paul, now help Timothy. And Paul writes to Timothy his final letter. And at the end of the letter, the first people Paul says hello to, and he finally says hello to three people. And the first two are, would you greet Prisca and Aquila? That is the last mention of this remarkable couple in the Bible. Is this all there is from Priscilla and Aquila?

Oh no. Their sons and daughters in the faith have been pushing the church forward now for 2,000 years. They advanced the church in places like Ephesus and Corinth and now they advance the church in places like Cary and beyond. They never make the spotlight.

You will not see them up here under these spotlights in public. They are behind the scenes where they open their hearts and they open their homes. They are willing to travel through life, third class. They are in effect willing to get out of the pew and push. As I thought about their lives, I thought of three different characteristics of Priscilla's and Aquila's which have traveled down through the centuries from Corinth to Cary from their church to ours.

Let me give them to you quickly. These are characteristics of Christians who willingly choose to travel third class. First, they are willing to sacrifice personal safety.

Let's just start with the most dramatic thing first. They were willing to die. They were willing to put their neck under the ax and like Priscilla and Aquila, these Christians today are willing to lay their lives on the line. They are all around the world and most of our world is suffering and most of our Christian community is suffering persecution. There will be people who will die today because they refuse to deny that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior. Thousands are killed every year even in our modern world. These people like Priscilla and Aquila are willing to advance the cause and name their allegiance to that name of Christ and die because of it. For most of us here today, we don't experience that and never will and we don't even understand that characteristic so let's move from the dramatic to the realistic. Number two, Christians who choose third class are willing to sacrifice personal profit. Let's just speak realistically. They viewed their occupation as a means to an end.

Never the end. Whether it was the church or Christians at large or the Christian community or some parachurch whatever, Priscilla's and Aquila's today are more interested in their standard of giving than they are their standard of living as one author wrote. To put it in even more crass and understandable terms, these are people who are willing to give away their stuff. They are willing to let you use their stuff. They're willing to have their carpet permanently stained by a middle school Bible study. They are willing to have their food eaten by guests. They are willing to give their advice or the skill of their hands for free. These are Christians who seem to give away more than they ever receive and yet you wonder why they're the ones smiling the most.

These are the sons and daughters of Priscilla and Aquila. One more, Christians who travel third class are willing to sacrifice personal convenience. They were willing to sacrifice their personal convenience for the sake of Christ and I agree with one author who put it this way. The future of the church, as he wrote this particular article on the Stage Coach, he said the future of the church is always in the hands of ordinary Christians who are not afraid of mud puddles.

And I agree. Yes, may God give us men like Paul and Timothy and Apollos, but may he give us many, many more Priscillas and Aquillas who make the ministries of Paul and Apollos and Timothy happen by opening their hearts and their homes. People who are willing to mess up their shoes and alter their plans and withdraw from their accounts and clutter up their calendars with the needs of other people for the sake of Jesus Christ. These are the people who get out and push the church along.

Christians who willingly choose third class. Ladies and gentlemen, all I can say is may the sons and daughters of Priscilla and Aquila multiply here and around the world for the sake of the Gospel and the sake of the glory of God. We can't all have a ministry like the apostle Paul, but we can all serve others and move the ministry forward.

This is Wisdom for the Heart, a production of Wisdom International. There are practical ways that you can partner with us. Pray for us and for Stephen in particular.

He seeks to proclaim God's word faithfully and that requires prayer. You can also partner with us through your support. If God leads you to send a gift in support of this ministry, you can do that at wisdomonline.org or by calling 866-48-BIBLE. I hope we hear from you today. Stephen will continue through this series next time, here on Wisdom for the Heart. Pray for us and for Stephen in particular.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-12 00:31:13 / 2024-02-12 00:41:36 / 10

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