Prisca and Aquila had returned to Rome by the time Paul wrote this letter about AD 57. We can look at what he said about them. First, he described them as his ‘fellow workers in Christ Jesus’, a description which Calvin calls ‘a singular honour’ for them to have. Paul did not mean that they had the same role as him as a public teacher of God’s truth or as an apostle with divinely-given authority, but he acknowledged that they were engaged in furthering the same project that he was involved in, which was the progress of the kingdom of Jesus.
By attaching the phrase ‘in Christ Jesus’, Paul stresses the unity he enjoyed with them, because as Christians they were united to Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, they also had their common source of power in their tasks for the Lord – sent from Jesus in heaven, the Holy Spirit enabled them to do things for Jesus. Together, they served the living Saviour.
At some stage, it seems either in Ephesus or in Corinth, Prisca and Aquila had risked their lives to help Paul escape from a dangerous situation. Perhaps it was during the riot in Ephesus described in Acts 19, because Luke tells us that some disciples were with Paul during it and prevented him from getting hurt. Or maybe it was an incident not mentioned by Luke. What is obvious is that Prisca and Aquila put themselves into great danger in order to help Paul! This couple did everything together, even when there was possible mortal danger for themselves. It is not surprising that Paul wanted to greet them given that they had been ready to die for him.
Paul probably has that rescue in mind when he says that he and all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks for Prisca and Aquila. It would be easy to say that Paul is using hyperbole here, but I don’t think he is. Instead he seems to say that if Prisca and Aquila had not done what they did, there would be worldwide sorrow in the churches because Paul as an apostle would not be there anymore. Imagine if they had not rescued Paul and he had been killed. What would we have missed? The only letters that he had written by that stage were Galatians and 1 and Thessalonians, and perhaps 1 and 2 Corinthians. Luke would have had to rewrite the second half of the Book of Acts. We would not have Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, 1 Timothy, Titus and 2 Timothy. So we can join the first-century churches and give thanks to God for Prisca and Aquila and their action of daring love.
Then Paul says, ‘Greet also the church in their house.’ Here we see the consistency that marked Prisca and Aquila in that, wherever they were, their home was used as a place for God’s people to meet for worship and fellowship. But there is more than consistency here, there is also courage. Remember that they may have had to leave Rome before because of their Christian testimony. Here they are back in Rome and once again they make it obvious that they serve the Lord.