Acts 5:42 ESV
And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
I was reading and meditating my way through Acts as I have wrestled with what it means to be the Church in our city. And this verse kept coming to me over and over again.
I remembered that Jesus and the disciples spent regular time both in the temple (the corporate place) and the house (the intimate place). And it got me to really thinking about God’s desire to meet us in both places. The Scriptures are filled with moments where God met His people in the temple (the Solomon’s dedication of the temple, the father of John the Baptist receiving a message from an angel in the holy place). They are also filled with moments where God met His people in the house (the Lord appearing to Abraham in his tent, Jesus saying “Zacchaeus, I’m coming to your house today”).
So, what does that mean for us today as a church?
The temple was the place that the Lord designated for his people to worship, as that would be where His glory rested (before the temple, it was the tabernacle). If there was a word I would use to describe God’s temple worship, it would be “Holiness.” It revolved on the total “otherness” and holiness of God. The worship happened as God prescribed it to be. Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and then only once a year. And when he went in, they would tie a rope around his waist. If he would go in without being purged of sin and uncleanliness through purification and sacrifice, he would die and have to be pulled out by the rope around his waist. Because God is totally Holy. So temple worship should reverence God’s holiness.
It was also a place of corporate worship. People from all over Israel would come to worship and have the priests offer sacrifice for their sin. The high priest would offer sacrifice for the corporate sins of the nation as well. So temple worship should be corporate with other faithful.
The house was the place that all the worship of the Lord would truly take hold. When the Israelites had the law handed down to them, they told to make it the most important thing in their homes.
6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
This was the place where God would intimately meet his people. If there was a word I would use to describe God’s house worship, it would be “Accessibility” or even “Practically.” Like the woman who poured out her expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus as an act of worship while he was sitting at a table in a house, God meets us practically and accessibly in homes. And even with our families, children see God’s character and fall in love with Him first through the example of their parents. The house is powerful.
What does this mean practically for us?
We need find a regular rhythm of the holy, corporate meeting of God and the accessible meeting of God. Obviously, both are needed and both are used by the Lord to meet them “face to face.”
So as we dwell on this, we need to pray through how to make our Neighborhood Churches in our homes accessible for people to meet the Lord while continuing to practice the corporate liturgy and holy communion.
It is much easier to ask people to come Into your home than directly to the temple. It’s hospitable and welcoming and accessible. The temple to is a place where those who don’t know Christ need to come. However, let’s start like Jesus and the disciples who met people where they were at and inviting them into a powerful yet simple encounter with God.
And if you were wondering where house churches fit Biblically, here is a few verses you’ll find helpful:
And Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.
How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,
Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.