The Pastor's Wife
By Susan E. Todd
(Acts 18; Romans 16; 1 Corinthians)

The first time that Priscilla is mentioned in the Bible we find out that she and her husband, Aquila, are Jews. We read this in Acts 18:2, "And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them."

Before we begin our study of the life of Priscilla, let me give you some historical background about some of the places and people mentioned in this verse especially with regard to Pontus, Italy; Claudius and why the Jews were commanded to leave Rome.


Pontus was a large district in the north of Asia Minor, extending along the coast of the Pontus Euxinus, from which the name was derived. It is mentioned three times in the New Testament. All these passages agree in showing that there were many Jewish residents in the district. Under Nero the whole region was made a Roman province, bearing the name of Pontus.

The Italy of the New Testament denotes the whole natural peninsula between the Alps and the Straits of Messina (Sicily). There was a Jewish colony in Italy and as there was much trade between Italy and Asia, Christianity was also spread.

Nero was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. When Nero was twelve years old his mother married her uncle, who adopted her son and gave him the name of Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus.

It was during Nero's reign that the war commenced between the Jews and Romans, which terminated in the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. Nero was the emperor before whom Paul was brought on his first imprisonment at Rome; and in the persecution of the Christians by Nero, Paul and Peter were supposed to have suffered martyrdom. The early Christians thought that Nero would return as Antichrist. (Unger's Bible Dictionary, Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago, c 1957, pp. 544, 788-789.)

Priscilla is always mentioned in connection with her husband, never alone. This tells me that she was a good helpmeet. (Genesis 2:18) "And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." I picture her as always being by her husband's side assisting him in whatever way he needed. They were co-laborers together for Christ. Therefore we are going to consider them as one unit for now and give Aquila the place he deserves, as the head of the home and his wife, and refer to him first.

(Acts 18:1-3) "After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers."

Any study of Aquila and Priscilla would not be complete without mentioning the apostle Paul. He loved them dearly as we shall see. Aquila and Priscilla were living in Corinth, which is in Greece, when they met Paul. It is not clear when they were converted but it must have been before this or I'm quite sure that Paul would have mentioned either leading them to the Lord or at least their conversion to Christ.

Since all three were tentmakers by profession Paul lived with Aquila and Priscilla for a time and together they plied their trade in order to make their living. I imagine they passed the long hours studying the Scriptures and witnessing to anyone who would listen. It was at this time that a life-long friendship and bond was formed amongst the three.

Paul always spoke very highly of Aquila and Priscilla. When he sailed for Syria he took them with him as far as Ephesus. (Acts 18:18-19) "And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow. And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews."

Paul as you know traveled extensively throughout Asia and Europe many times. But he had key people in certain countries and cities that he left in charge of churches to preach and teach and encourage the brethren. Aquila and Priscilla were two of those he trusted and who helped strengthen not only Paul but also other converted Jews and Gentiles.

One such man was Apollos. (Acts 18:24-26) "And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly."

While living in Ephesus Aquila and Priscilla were attracted to a man named Apollos who the Bible says was "instructed in the way of the Lord, was fervent in the spirit and taught diligently the things of the Lord." This man was zealous for the Lord and Aquila and Priscilla took him into their home and helped him to learn more about the things of God. They took what they learned from Paul and taught others. They helped Paul disciple the brethren.

The next mention of this couple is in the book of Romans. (Romans 16:3-5) "Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ."

This is quite a tribute from a great man of God to a very humble couple. Why do I say humble? You never hear of Aquila and Priscilla speaking on behalf of themselves. There is not even a hint in the Scriptures that they themselves thought what they were doing was a great work. They just did what God wanted them to do for Him in winning people to Christ and what Paul asked them to do in the ministry to see some churches started and people going on for God.

Here is the first indication that they had a church in their own home where they preached the Word and received the brethren. Paul speaks very highly of this and I believe puts it forth as an example for us today. From personal experience I can tell you that on a mission field in a communist country where freedom of religion is limited house churches have been the route that we have had to take.

We see from their example that house churches are Scriptural. (1 Corinthians 16:19) "The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house."

I believe that Aquila was the pastor of his house church and that Priscilla as his wife was the pastor's wife. Let's take a look at this unique position.

The Pastor's Wife

I say unique because nowhere in Scripture does it make mention of such a position. There are no women to whom the title of pastor's wife is given. However, I believe that of all the women in the Bible, Priscilla is the model for all pastor's wives.

God makes room for the position of the pastor's wife.
Paul acknowledges this to both Timothy and Titus, two young preacher boys, both converted by Paul, and both traveling companions of the apostle at one time. Paul instructs them in the qualifications of a pastor. He admonishes a pastor to be the husband of one wife. Is Paul saying that pastors should not be polygamists like the Mormons? I don't think that was necessary. God allowed a man to have many wives in the Old Testament but in the New Testament monogamy was expected and practiced. No, Paul was referring to Scriptural marriage.

What do I mean by that? We studied the subject of Scriptural marriage when we talked about Scriptural divorce in our study of the life of Abigail. For those of you who didn't read about her let me briefly sum it up now.

In order for a man to be the husband of one wife according to the Bible he has to stay married to the same woman he married in the first place. If that woman dies then he is considered single and free to remarry. (Romans 7:2-3) "For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man."

This applies to men and their wives as well as to women and their husbands. In this circumstance if the pastor remarries after the death of his first wife he is still the husband of one wife. The first wife ceases to exist and his new wife is his only wife. (refer also to 1 Corinthians 7:39, "The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.")

The second reason that a spouse is free to remarry is because of desertion of their partner. (1 Corinthians 7:15) "But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace."

Why are they unbelieving, because they are unsaved? A pastor of all people shouldn't be married to an unsaved woman in the first place. What ministry he has will be a living nightmare. No, they are unbelieving of the Scriptures. If they believed the Bible they wouldn't desert their spouse in the first place because they would know it is wrong. Then why do they desert their spouse? Because they are in sin and full of the devil. God says that the one who was left behind is no longer under the bond of marriage in that case.

The last reason is very clear and therefore no mistake should be made. However many people do make a mistake on this point. (Matthew 19:9) "And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery."

Most people leave out the phrase, except it be for fornication, which leaves a man no reason whatsoever to divorce his wife thus making him unfit to remarry or for the ministry. NO, NO, NO!!! The Bible says if a man divorces his wife for any other reason than fornication he is wrong. If a husband divorces his wife because she committed adultery or fornication then even though she may still be living he is free to remarry and he is not in sin. This does not disqualify him from the ministry.

(1 Timothy 3:2) "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;"

(Titus 1:5-6) "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly."

According to the Scriptures then a pastor is permitted to marry. In fact while it is not mandatory it is a good thing for a preacher to have a wife.

Many are the temptations of a man in the ministry, both single and married. Some women are attracted to authority and in the church a pastor is in a position of authority. A pastor must be above reproach. One way for the pastor to stay above reproach is to put his wife between himself and that temptation. A wife can be a buffer between her husband and women who are attracted to the office of pastor.

The pastor's wife gets the position from her husband.
The position is a strange one indeed. Being a pastor's wife I can testify to this. There are no qualifications or instructions given for it in the Scriptures. Seeing as the Bible is our final authority this is not very comforting to us at times. Our only guideline is that we are to walk by faith and not by sight. There are no set duties or responsibilities associated with the position. We are left alone, with the help of God, to make the position respectable and honorable. Her job in the church is to do whatever her husband, the pastor, requires her to do, not what you think she should or want her to do.

The pastor's wife has the toughest job in the church.

It is tougher than the job of the Pastor. A pastor's wife can help to make or break her husband's ministry. She must walk a fine line. Her life is always under the microscope and her words, actions and motives are constantly being analyzed. If she doesn't do enough in the church she is criticized for being lazy and thinking herself better than the rest of the ladies in the church. If she does too much she is criticized for being too controlling and power hungry. Everything she does is open for discussion and criticism by everyone in the church.

The pastor's wife has no pastor of her own.
She has burdens she cannot share with anyone in the church. She may have burdens that she cannot share with her husband because he is the pastor of the church. Sometimes she needs a spiritual advisor. She must take all her cares to the Lord and leave them in His Hands. The Lord is her one true and constant companion. My verse for comfort is Isaiah 41:10, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."

The pastor's wife must maintain confidentiality.
She knows her husband's faults and shortcomings but has to hold him in high regard before the people. She may be privy to some of the problems with the people in the church due to her involvement in counseling but she must maintain the highest degree of confidentiality in order to earn and keep their trust.

She is expected to work with and love everyone's children when her own may have been called home by the Lord. She is expected to have talent in all areas and put those talents to use without offending others and be able to do things at the last minute when someone else fails to fulfill their obligations. When something goes wrong she is the first person people look for to find fault with.

The pastor's wife has to maintain the highest standards in the church.
She must always maintain the highest standards in dress and personal appearance as well as spiritually. Her children must be the best behaved for if they are not surely it is her fault. She has been given the same guidelines for all Christian women but she must excel at them whereas others can falter and fail and not be criticized. She must stay in her Bible and on her knees in prayer. It must be evident that she puts God first even above her husband and her children. She must be submissive, to her husband and a good helpmeet as an example to others. She must have on the whole armor of God at all times. She must be ever mindful that the devil will target her to get to her husband. The pastor's wife shoulders great responsibility.

The pastor's wife is human.
She is very vulnerable to attack not only by the devil but also by those in the church who are jealous of her position and would want her to fail. Pray for her.

She is often left out of fellowship with others and left on the outside looking in because of her relationship to her husband as the pastor. She is often only looked upon as a source for information. Don't abuse her and don't use her. Love her.

Don't always assume that things to be done in the church are her responsibility. My husband would prefer me to be in the service in case he needs me to do something for him. Since I play the piano I am often needed for the invitation and for counseling after the service and many times I am elsewhere doing something that someone else could be doing instead. Help her.

Don't put pressure on her to change things that she has no control over. Take your problems to the pastor. She cannot change when the services start or end, who the revival speaker is going to be, the order of the service, the hymns that are sung, when the offering is collected or the date of the church picnic. Take those "complaints" to the pastor yourself. Don't use the pastor's wife as your shield. Respect her.

Remember that she has feelings too. Don't talk behind her back. Don't gossip about her on the phone. Don't pity her for what she doesn't have or criticize her for what she does. Don't idolize or worship her either.

Respect the fact that she is not just the pastor's wife but her husband's wife and she needs time alone with him and her children.

While not much is said about Priscilla and the work that she did as a pastor's wife I believe what was not said about her is as important as what little Paul did say.

The name Priscilla means "little old woman" and Prisca means "ancient." Somehow I always pictured Priscilla and her husband as young, maybe in their late twenties or early thirties. Now I am not so sure. Maybe they were an elderly couple. After all Paul was not that young when he was converted and started his ministry. He referred to Timothy as his son. Maybe he was not only referring to the fact that Timothy was his spiritual son but that he might have been old enough to be Timothy's father.

We have already discussed some of the things we do know about Priscilla from reading the Scriptures but what do we know about her from the things that are not mentioned.

I believe she was a tremendous help to the women that she knew. I'm sure she led many to the Lord and helped disciple and counsel those she did besides those in the church. We know that she taught the Scriptures (Acts 18:24-26) and I believe that on her own she taught the women.

She had a servant's heart, which every Christian needs to have, not just a pastor's wife. She was given to hospitality and was greatly loved by Paul and those in the churches during that time. I believe she was submissive to her husband, obedient to her Lord, reserved in her demeanor, godly in her dress and manner, and the model for all future pastor's wives and Christian women everywhere.