House Churches in the New Testament

The first house church is actually the Garden of Eden, where you have Adam, Eve, and the Lord (where 2-3 are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them).

Genesis 18:17-19 the Lord reveals His plans to Abraham based on the quality of his family (home) spiritual life, showing us as in the Garden of Eden, revelation from the Lord flows first and best in the home: “Shall I hide from Abraham that which I do…for I know him, that he will command his household and children after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord…”

Much of Jesus’ miracles and ministry were done in a home, from his first miracle changing water into wine, to meeting with the disciples gathered in a home behind locked doors on the day of his resurrection, to the day of Pentecost taking place in a home.

“And they continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house.” (Acts 2:46)

This is the only reference to Christians meeting in the temple after Pentecost. The temple area had ‘porches’ that could hold 20-50 people, which Jesus used to teach in the temple in the gospels. Going to the temple to learn of Christ in them lasted about 18 months, for Acts 18:1 tells us persecution was so intense from Saul of Tarsus that all the disciples moved out of Jerusalem except the apostles.

After that 18 month ‘transition time’ from temple to homes, we never again see believers going back to the temple for instruction. Today we often see people taking 18-24 months to transition from a temple mentality to home based context of the New Testament, just as they did here in Acts 2:46.

“And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared to you in the way as you came, has sent me that you might receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:17

And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting…and I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing…” Acts 10:30

“And when he considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying.” Acts 12:12

Here is a listing of house churches in the epistles. When you read the letters of the New Testament, remember those letters were delivered to the homes of these people and then read and copied and sent to other home churches in those cities, and that’s how we have them recorded for us today.

Philippi (Philippians)

“And when she (Lydia) was baptized, and her household, she urged us saying, if you have judged me faithful, come into my house and stay with me, and she persuaded us…And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, and your house (to the jailer). And they spoke to him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house…and when he had brought them to his house he gave them food…and they went out of the prison and entered into the house of Lydia…” Acts 16:15.31-32, 34, 40

Thessalonica (I & II Thessalonians)

“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica…And some of them believed and joined Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. But the Jews which believed not…attacked the house of Jason…” Acts 17:1, 4-5

Corinth (I & II Corinthians)

“After these things Paul departed from Athens and came to Corinth…and entered into a certain man’s house named Justus (Gaius Justus), who worshipped God, whose house was joined hard to the synagogue. And Crispus the ruler of the synagogue believed on the Lord with all his house…” Acts 18:1, 7-8

Ephesus (Ephesians)

“…and separated the disciples, teaching daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years, so that all they who lived in (the province of) Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” Acts 19: 9-10

“…and I have taught you publicly and from house to house…” Acts 20:20, speaking to leaders in Ephesus

“The churches of Asia greet you, especially Aquila and Priscilla greet you much in the Lord, along with the church that is in their house.” I Cor 16:19 – Paul says he wrote to the Ephesians from Corinth in I Cor 16:8

Rome (Romans)

“And Paul lived two whole years in his own rented house, and received all that came to him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.” (in Rome) Acts 28:30-31

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus…Likewise greet the church that is in their house.” Romans 16:3, 5

Colossae (Colossians) and nearby Laodicea

“…whom I have sent with you…Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you..” Col 4:9

“Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon…and to the church in your house..”

(Philemon v1-2; The subject of Philemon is Onesimus’ return to him in Colossae, thus we know Paul’s letter to the Colossians included the house church of Philemon)

“Greet the brethren in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in her house.” Col 4:15

Letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippian’s, Colossians, Thessalonians, Philemon (and Laodicea) were all written initially (in part) to the people mentioned above. Additionally, Paul’s 2 letters to Timothy were to him in Ephesus, where he remained until his death in the year 97.

Historically we know for the first nearly 300 years believers met in homes until Constantine legalized the faith and called people out of homes and into (former) pagan temples and the auditorium style ‘church’ we have today.

The context therefore of the gifts of the Spirit, the 5-fold ministry gifts, and our whole New Testament is in the home – that is where they were designed to operate and flow.

John Fenn

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