Luke and Acts
The Gospel of Luke opens with a scene in the temple of Jerusalem (Luke 1:5-23) and it ends with a scene in that same temple (Luke 24:53).
The Book of Acts begins in a house in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4, 13) and ends in a house in Rome (Acts 28:30).
"Please give my greetings to the church that meets in their home. Greet my dear friend Epenetus. He was the very first person to become a Christian in the province of Asia." ~ New Living Translation
"Gaius says hello to you. I am his guest, and the church meets here in his home. Erastus, the city treasurer, sends you his greetings, and so does Quartus, a Christian brother." ~ New Living Translation
1 Corinthians 16:19
"The churches here in the province of Asia greet you heartily in the Lord, along with Aquila and Priscilla and all the others who gather in their home for church meetings." ~ New Living Translation
"Please give my greetings to our Christian brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and those who meet in her house." ~ New Living Translation
"This letter is from Paul, … I am also writing to the church that meets in your house. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace." ~ New Living Translation
"On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we supposed that some people met for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had come together." ~ New Living Translation
A short history lesson
It is worth noting that Paul, whose background would have given him every reason to build public places of worship, chooses instead to leave, as his legacy of missionary work, a network of house churches throughout the Roman Empire.
Between 100 AD and 300 AD, Christianity grew from 25,000 to 20 million people in the Roman Empire where there were no seminaries, settled pastors, or Christian public places of worship. In fact much of our New Testament was written to people who met in house churches.
One common misunderstanding
Since history records that persecution has often led to house church development, it is tempting to think that New Testament house churches were the result of persecution. This is a misunderstanding.
Early Christian house churches were patterned after house synagogues which were numerous. Christians took a low-cost and easy-to-multiply model and adapted it to their new Christian context - and Christian house churches were born.
Also, the Communion service, sometime called the Lord's Supper, was uniquely Christian. It did not apply to Jews and therefore did not fit in the Jewish synagogues. So this special meal, which originally happened in a home and as part of a full meal has to be celebrated somewhere else. House churches were the natural place for communion to be shared.
As time goes on, Christians are banned from Jewish synagogues as persecution intensifies.
Although house churches flourish in times of persecution, they were well established before the persecution of Christians.
When did formal church buildings begin to replace home churches?
History tells us that Constantine's contributions to Christianity were many, including the following:
- Changing the informal home to formal church building.
- Changing the seventh day Sabbath to first day Sunday worship.
- Changing the lay-leadership to professionalized priests and clergy.
Wolfgang Simpson, in this video, says we should "come back to the Book . . . come back to original Christianity".
Simple Church takes the Bible seriously and is going back to this early expression of Christianity: lay-leadership, in homes, and on the seventh-day Sabbath.
Hal Holbrook, in his documentary The 7th Day Sabbath chronicles the history of Sabbath and how church traditions, politics, and persecution has attempted to stamp out the Biblical Sabbath. This is an amazing documentary that will open your eyes, both historically and Biblically.