In #1 of this series (2 weeks ago, before my Thanksgiving message) I shared how the writers of the New Testament were consumed with the reality that Christ lives in people, making us walking, talking, temples of God, each of us a priest to God. (I Cor 3:16, 6:19, Col 1:27)
The temple building has therefore been rendered obsolete. The reason for church in the home goes far beyond that God invented the first home and met with Adam & Eve there, or that on the other end of the scale Jesus prepared a place for us in our Father’s house where we’ll spend eternity, or that He’s always been focused on the home in between Adam and future heaven throughout the Bible.
The main reason for meeting in homes instead of a temple building, is that we have each become a temple of God. Therefore we meet in homes since God invented the home, with other living temples. In the first of this series I made comparisons between the way the New Testament teaches versus the temple mentality of the institutional church.
Temple Thinking – Secular vs Sacred
In the Old Testament the temple was sacred, holy ground. Every other building in the world was secular. The temple was sacred because that is where God lived, where His presence was manifest.
In the Old Testament the priests were sacred people, everyone else was secular. This carries over today in the idea the pastor, apostle, prophet or bishop are sacred or anointed, but everyone else is secular and not anointed, working at secular jobs.
New Testament Reality
We are all sacred because we are all temples of God. Christ lives in me the same as He does for someone earning a living in ministry. We carry Him wherever we go, thus our homes, where we work, and all we own are sacred. WE are to be that safe place for people to find refuge. My car is as sacred as the pastor’s car. My home as sacred as the pastor’s home. I am as sacred as the pastor. We all got saved by the same blood of Jesus, and the same Christ lives in all believers. And that leads me to the next comparison:
Temple Thinking – ‘Offices’ of Pastor, Apostle, Prophet
The temple by its very nature, has a priesthood tending to ‘sacred things’. The priesthood and the spiritual ones were elites, lifted up, served, and exalted above everyone else. The priest’s home, even his favorite chair and desk were all sacred and a regular person couldn’t touch that which was sacred.
New Testament Reality
Because Christ lives in us we are all equal in Christ and that reality means the only differences between us is the grace in which we live and function. (Gal 3:28, Romans 12:3)
We function differently according to the grace given each, but we are all equal. The word ‘office’ in the KJV, used only 4 times, is actually the word ‘servant’. Paul did not say in Romans 11:13 that he was the apostle to the Gentiles and he glories in his ‘office’, as the KJV states it. He literally said ‘I am one sent to the Gentiles, and I glory in my service (servanthood) to you’.
So the fact that someone serves as a seamstress making wonderful things for the body of Christ as did Dorcas in Acts 9, and someone else moves regularly in prophecy, and yet another is gifted in hosting and hospitality, and I’m an apostle and prophet, means absolutely nothing for each of us, for it is the same Christ in us making us equal, just functioning differently. This is why humility should be the hallmark of the body of Christ – we are all equal just functioning differently in life by His grace.
Temple Thinking: Pastor is the Single Leader
The temple had priests and of those priests was a council, and of that council a single high priest was elected, serving a set term. He directed the temple worship and activities and others obeyed. Today the single pastor serves as leader, whether directing his church as a CEO of a family run corporation, or leading with approval from a board; the single pastor is boss in the pattern of the Old Testament temple.
New Testament Reality
We know they met in homes. Many of the hosts and hostesses of those home based churches are named in the NT. We know when they outgrew a home some would multiply out to start meeting in other homes.
We also know that in each home or related house churches were several men and women called ‘elders’. Elders could also be apostles, for Peter called himself an apostle and elder, but they were also men and women of all walks of life; tent makers like Priscilla and Aquila, husband and wife apostles Andronicus and Junia, (deaconess) Phoebe, and the apostle Paul – elders were experienced in life, upright morally, had their homes in order, mature. Literally in the Greek, the word ‘elder’ means ‘old men’. It is the word ‘presbuteros’ from which we get ‘presbytery’. (I Peter 5:1, Acts 18:1-3, Romans 16:1, 3-5, 7)
The word is used in Acts 20:17, 28 Paul met with the elders of Ephesus. To these he said “…the Holy Spirit has made you ‘overseers’, ‘feed’ the church of God.”
The elders are graced by the Holy Spirit to ‘oversee’, or ‘bishop’ (Gk: episkopos) the body of Christ. They oversee from the bottom as Jesus taught in Mark 10:42-45 his leaders to be; they are the servants of all.
New Testament Pastor
The word ‘feed’ means ‘to act as a shepherd’, or ‘tend a flock’. It is the word ‘poimaino’, translated ‘pastor’.
In each home based church of the New Testament, as well as a Biblically based home church today, there is no single ‘Pastor’. As in Paul’s day, there is a group of couples and individuals graced by God to tend the flock. Within that group of elders their various graces are brought forth – one is gifted with organizing, another with teaching, maybe another with a heart of mercy and another with a heart for righteousness and repentance, but it all adds up to those graced with tending the flock together.
The make up of this group will vary from home based church to home based church, but Paul tells us what they have in common: “Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock.” (Acts 20:28)
These people naturally rise up in this grace, and are serious about their spiritual walk. They ‘take heed to themselves.’ The Greek word ‘take heed’ is ‘prosecho’ and means ‘to give one’s full attention to in earnest’.
These elders who are graced by God to oversee the tending of the flock, give full attention to their own walk with God. I know this may come as a shock but many who call themselves Christians do not give full attention and care to their walk with God. These elders have the grace to deal with them.
Secondly, they are not only serious about their own growth in Christ, but they naturally take up the tending of the church. They aren’t focused inward, but outward. Because that grace is in them, they naturally are concerned about others.
These people can’t help but to host, to pray for others, to give their time and resources to others to help others grow in the Lord through life’s difficulties. They are this way naturally, organically, it just flows out of them as it is grace. They don’t wear labels or titles, they just move in their grace.
A home church patterned after the New Testament, does not have a single pastor who make all decisions alone. Among the elders decisions are made with the other elders and people of the house church. When done as in the NT, you get leaders who work with people and the Holy Spirit as in Acts 15:28: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”
YOU are sacred, YOU are equal to any apostle, prophet, bishop and pastor, and all the 5-fold and all gifts are taught in your Bible as being home based, equal to everyone else in the living room, but all with different graces in life. More comparisons next week, blessings,