“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they [began] selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47, NASB).
What Was Church Like In Those Early Days?
These verses describe what it was like to be a member of the church soon after the day of Pentecost when the church was born. Since these initial believers were all Jewish, they continued to gather in the temple, for that was a matter of habit for them. The temple was where the Jewish people worshipped God. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father”,,,”But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:21, 23-24, NASB).
As the church grew, the believers discontinued temple worship and began gathering in their houses where the manifestation of their new identity was defined as a devotion to biblical teaching, caring community, sharing meals together and praying together. It was a daily way of life to worship in spirit and truth rather than in a weekly visit to the temple.
The significant focus in the New Testament church, is functioning as the family of God, as demonstrated in the passage above. The church of Jesus Christ is to demonstrate to the world that we love one another. That love is manifested in the “one another” passages in the epistles, of which there are at least 22. A brief summary of these exhortations includes, “you are members of one another“, be devoted to one another”, “honor one another”, “be of the same mind with one another”, “accept one another”, “admonish one another”, “greet one another”, “serve one another”, “carry one another’s burdens”, “bear with one another”, “submit to one another”, and “encourage one another”. As you read these one another passages, you realize that they are observable expressions of loving relationships between believers. Jesus said, “by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, NASB).
In order to live out those commands, members of the church have to have physical gatherings which will facilitate those kinds of action. Realistically, a once a week meeting will not foster “one another” relationships except for perhaps, “greet one another”. The New Testament church met together in houses and sharing with one another throughout the week. Functionally healthy families spent time together and basically performed the one another functions listed above. There were occasions where the house churches met together in order to celebrate and to hear a letter read to them from one of the Apostles. These house churches established a way of life, “body life”, where the family of God lived out the “one another” passages. Not only are we a family, we are the “body of Christ”, each of us a necessary part. Therefore, when we exercise our giftedness in the calling the Lord has revealed to us, we manifest “body life”. When that occurs, it is the evidence that we are truly disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we are exemplifying body life as disciples, we are fulfilling the Great Commission by making disciples (Matt. 28:19).
What Is House Church?
In house churches, devoted believers develop community where trust is developed between one another. Love gradually manifests itself as the individual members devote themselves, first to the Lord and then to one other. The church in Acts 2:42 devoted themselves to spiritual disciplines as they frequently met together. That term “devoted” is expressed in the following definitions, depending upon the context:
1. to adhere to one, be his adherent, to be devoted or constant to one
2. to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting care to a thing
3. to continue all the time in a place
4. to persevere and not to faint
5. to be in constant readiness for one, wait on constantly
As I envision the future of Belmont Church, I dream of devoted individuals, manifesting love in body life, where all the world will see that we are His disciples. Will you dream with me? I pray that you will.
Bill Olsen, Elder