As Paul draws ever closer to the end of his first letter to the Corinthians, he makes references to men and women whom the believers in Corinth knew personally. Thus, we have seen him speak of Timothy, Apollos, Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (1 Cor. 16:10–18). In today’s passage, he mentions two significant figures who lived and worked during the Apostolic period but who were not themselves Apostles: Aquila and Prisca (v. 19).
We read in Acts 18:1–3 that Paul first met Aquila and Prisca (that is, Priscilla) during the Apostle’s initial ministry in Corinth. Aquila and Prisca were Jewish Christians from the city of Rome who were forced to leave their home when Emperor Claudius expelled all the Jews in the city because of debates over the identity of Jesus in Rome’s synagogues. The Roman historian Suetonius also tells us of this expulsion, which occurred in AD 49. Aquila and Prisca came to Corinth after leaving Rome, and there they continued their business of tentmaking, the trade in which Paul worked as well. Tentmakers worked with all manner of leather goods, including everything from tents to sandals, and it was easy for Paul and other Christian tentmakers to strike up conversations about the gospel with customers in their shops. Aquila and Prisca hosted Paul in Corinth, and they were instrumental in establishing the Corinthian church (Acts 18:1–3).
Acts 18:24–28 reports that after living in Corinth for a time, Aquila and Prisca ended up in Ephesus, where they were able to disciple Apollos in a more accurate understanding of the Christian faith. Since Paul wrote 1 Corinthians while he was staying in Ephesus, it is no surprise that he would include greetings from Aquila and Prisca and even the “church in their house” (1 Cor. 16:19). The reference here is to the congregation that met in Aquila and Prisca’s house in Ephesus, and we should remember that the earliest Christians met in one another’s homes for worship and fellowship. Paul also conveyed greetings from “the churches of Asia.” Ephesus was in the province of Asia, and churches existed in many of the province’s cities. The book of Revelation, for instance, was written to churches in Asia.
In today’s passage, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to greet one another with a holy kiss. This was a sign of affection between believers, and it is appropriate for us to include culturally appropriate signs of affection in our church meetings as well.