Fellowlaborers – a tribute to a genuine Christian couple

Today, our church bid farewell to a dear family.  Darin and Charissa Kennelly have been exemplary Christian servants in the years that they have been here.  Darin has been a friend and Deacon, a teacher, and one of our financial officers.  Charissa has helped with nursery coordination, cleaning, and hospitality.  Their spiritual influence has gone even further.  Their five children have been a constant joy to young and old alike.

As I’ve thought of them over the last several weeks, the study that I did on Paul’s Helpers several years ago returned to my mind.  I went back through my notes on the husband and wife team, Aquila and Priscilla, and was moved by the comparisons.  The things written below are in regard to Aquila and Priscilla, but if you know the Kennellys, you will see the similarities; perhaps you know other couples who are like this.  Praise the Lord for people whose lives are devoted to being disciples of Christ.

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Fourteen people are called either a “fellowhelper” or “fellowlaborer” by the apostle Paul.  Both come from the same Greek word.  The word is “sunergon” which is a combination of the preposition “with” and the word “work” or “worker” – worker together.  This indicates companions in labor; it indicates camaraderie or union.  It is not just an encourager in labor, but one who participates in the labor.

In referencing all these individuals, Paul’s commendation is that they have participated in the work.  Basically, they have been in the trenches, or in the yoke with Paul – whatever the job may have been, these individuals have “worked” with Paul.

There is actually a husband and wife team which Paul called fellowlaborers, Aquila and Priscilla.

This couple is mentioned in several different places in the N.T.; three of those times are in Acts chapter 18, but each of those times represents a different time frame.

This couple labored with Paul over a period of more than 10 years.  Meeting probably in 55 A.D. and then mentioned just a few verses from the end of his last book around 66 A.D.

1.  Acts 18:1-6:

            – Their initial meeting.

            – They were Jews forced to leave Rome by Claudius.

            – They were tentmakers and so worked and lived together.

2.  Acts 18:7-18:

            – The uproar in Corinth.

         – Paul stayed a little while longer and then left Corinth with Priscilla and Aquila accompanying him.

3.  Acts 18:19-21: After arriving in Ephesus, Paul apparently decides to leave this couple in Ephesus.  His decision seems to have good results as verses 24-28 shows.

They wanted him to stay with them a while longer (not the Jews) for whatever reason, but he was determined to go on to Jerusalem.

4.  Acts 18:24-28: These verses show how they were fellowlaborers.  When they had been left in Ephesus by the Apostle Paul, and the man Apollos came to Ephesus, this couple had a great impact on not only the man Apollos, but by default the church in Ephesus.  Consider the problems that would have resulted in the church in Ephesus had Paul not left these two helpers there – Apollos would have continued teaching the baptism of John and the book of Ephesians may have been of a totally different nature.

5.  1st Corinthians 16:19: This is about 4 years after the initial meeting.  Remember that having met in Corinth and planted the church there together in Acts 18, when Paul left, he took Aquila and Priscilla with him and then left them in Ephesus when he went on to Jerusalem.

The church in Corinth would have remembered them as those who had helped Paul start this church several years before.  Paul, when writing the book of 1st Corinthians, sent the abundant greetings to the church in Corinth.  To them, the ministry in Corinth represented their introduction to Paul and possibly even to Christianity.  Acts 18:1-3 only states that they were Jews, so it is possible that it was during their early days in Corinth that Paul may have led them to Christ.  Their tie to Corinth would have been strong and so the words “salute you much in the Lord” is certainly understandable.

A further note is that the church is in their house.  Paul does not say exactly where they are, but we find them shortly back in Rome with the church in their house, but that was in Rome, which was not in Asia as 1st Corinthians 16:19 indicates.  The mention in 1st Corinthians 16:19 seems to show that they were somewhere in Asia and that the church in which they were ministering was meeting in their house – possibly Ephesus.

6.  Romans 16:3-5a: Another year further into their relationship.  As Paul is writing to the Roman believers, having never been there but preparing them for his coming, we find that Aquila and Priscilla have preceded him there.

They have somehow returned to Rome after having been forced to leave 5 years earlier.  Not only are they back in Rome, but the house in which some of the Roman believers meet is the home of this beloved couple.

It is in this passage that we see them called “helpers.”  Even though the English word is only helpers, the Greek word has the preposition on the front which makes it “fellow helpers.”  Following the history this far, we can see that appellation is well deserved by them:

They housed Paul and labored with him to help start the church in Corinth.

They traveled with him when he left Corinth and then at stayed in Ephesus when he traveled on back to Jerusalem.  After Paul left Ephesus, they were able to disciple Apollos when he came there.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he sent greetings from this couple which we find was hosting a church in their house.

As Paul continued on with his journeys, Aquila and Priscilla preceded him back to Rome where they had some roots – once there, their home was again the meeting place of the church in Rome.

However, in this letter to the Romans, Paul expresses to these people how much Aquila and Priscilla mean to him and all the churches.

They have “for my life laid down their own necks.”

They have also sacrificed on behalf of all the churches of the Gentiles.  Tracing the history of this couple through the N.T. shows that their influence has been broad.  At a minimum, we see their affect on the Corinthian church and the Ephesian church, and now the Roman church.

7.  2nd Timothy 4:19 is the final mention of this couple.  It seems that Aquila and Priscilla are back in Ephesus.  Timothy was in Ephesus when he received this final letter from the Apostle Paul and Aquila and Priscilla are back there.

We can’t discern how or why they were so ubiquitous – but somehow they were driven to just be workers in the ministry.   They are ministering in Corinth, then in Ephesus, then in Rome, then back in Ephesus . . . and evidently in all of the churches of the Gentiles and in Asia in between all the dots.

Conclusion:  There are many things that we can learn about Aquila and Priscilla based on the things that we find in these different references.  There are many things we don’t know about them – there is no mention of any family, or the point of their salvation, they seem to have had wealth . . .  However, here are a few things that are hard facts:

1.  They used their resources for the LORD.

            – They housed Paul in Corinth

            – They housed one of the churches of Asia

            – They housed a church in Rome

            – They labored with the Apostle in the gospel

2.  They hazarded their lives for the LORD.

            – They laid down their own necks . . . we don’t know how or when, but Paul was clear that their lives were in danger on his behalf.

3.  They were tremendously influential.

            – Apollos was an orator and debater, yet they were able to direct and disciple him in the truth.  A little bit of assumption here, but this speaks of their knowledge of the Scriptures and it is a testament to their demeanor and influence.  It doesn’t seem likely that Apollos was an easy man to influence – Paul was not able to get him to return to Corinth later, yet this couple was able to help correct his doctrine.

It is no wonder that Paul held them in such high regard!

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Darin and Charissa, we love you and we hold you and your family in high regard!  May the Lord bless your continued service to Him in your new locations.  We look forward to our paths crossing in this life and in eternity!

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