“Likewise greet the congregation that is in their house.” (Romans 16:5)
“Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord,with the congregation that is in their house.” (1Corinthians 16:19)
“Salute the brothers who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the congregation that is in his house.” (Colossians 4:15)
“And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the congregation in your house.” (Philemon 1:2)
At one point or another, every time we deviate from God’s original plan, we hurt ourselves and others, and we end up having to do things God’s way after all. A prime example of this concerns Abraham’s nephew Lot. When God’s angels rescued Lot and his family from Sodom, they told him to take his family and flee to the mountains. They informed Lot that God was about to destroy the five nearby cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar. But Lot did not want to flee to the mountains, and he begged God’s permission to enter into the city of Zoar instead. This meant that the city of Zoar would be spared the wrath of God that was about to fall on those cities. God mercifully allowed Lot to flee into the little city of Zoar instead of going to the mountains, but after God destroyed those other four cities, Lot and his daughters had to flee to the mountains anyway because the people in Zoar were so very wicked.
If Lot had done it God’s way to begin with, the wicked inhabitants of Zoar would have been destroyed along with the wicked inhabitants of the four other cities, and the whole world would have been a happier and safer place. Lot should have listened to the angels’ first instruction and gone to the mountains for safety.
Judging by the information available in New Testament books (see the verses above), God’s preferred place for His children in this covenant to gather together is in private homes. There are good, sound reasons for this. Three that stand out are the following:
Throughout the Bible, we see God, at times, speak to His people in unusual ways. We read about Ezekiel sitting silent among other Israelites, unable to speak for at least seven years unless the Spirit of God overshadowed him with a prophecy. We read about Jesus spitting on the ground and making mud with which he anointed the eyes of a blind man to heal him. We know that Jesus could have simply touched the man without making mud from his spittle, but for whatever reason, God ordained that Jesus do it with mud. We read about a prophet named Agabus who took off part of the apostle Paul’s clothing and used it to tie up his own hands as a prophetic sign of what would happen to Paul when he went to Jerusalem.
There are many such examples in the Scriptures, far too many to list here. But my point is that if God chooses to speak to His people by some unusual means, it is better for the saints to be gathered in a private home than in a public building because doing so reduces the chances that someone skeptical and unfamiliar with the ways of God will be there to ridicule a holy act of God.
God has spoken to us here in unusual ways during gatherings of the saints in my home. In one instance, a sister, moved by the Spirit, spent several minutes walking forward a few steps and then backward a few steps, saying over and over again, “Forward . . . Backward . . . Forward . . . Backward . . .” It was an unusual scene, but we knew that God was trying to tell us something, which He did. Through that same lady, He emphasized the great difference between the forward thoughts of God and the backward thoughts of man. It was a message that has, since that night several years ago, proved itself repeatedly to have been a message sent from God. The Lord was not speaking to the general public that night when this sister was walking forwards and backwards, and it is far better that we were meeting in my home than meeting in a building open to the public. I am sure that sister whom God was using felt freer to yield to the Spirit without having to be concerned about skeptical gazes of an unbelieving world being directed at her.
A second major reason for God choosing private homes for His people to meet is that in a private setting, God’s children are much more likely to open up their hearts to one another. The Scriptures say to God’s children in this New Testament, “confess your faults to one another”, but what sensible child of God would feel free to confess a fault before the general public? The world neither understands nor loves God’s people, and it would be foolish for God’s people to confess their faults before the world.
It is no exaggeration for me to say that in over thirty years in meeting with God’s children in a home, either mine or someone else’s, I have heard God’s children a thousand times either confess their faults, or discuss personal problems, or ask for prayer for relatives or dear friends concerning private matters. Now you tell me, you who have some experience attending typical religious services in public meeting places, how many times in your life have you seen someone there stand up and talk about personal problems, or confess sensitive, personal faults, or ask for prayers for specific private issues? For most people, the answer will be, “never.”
How can we as a body of believers do things God’s way in public meeting places? It will never happen. And when God’s people, long ago, forsook God’s original plan of meeting in homes, and when they began to meet in abandoned heathen temples and to build churches, they lost the sense of family that God intended for them to share. Meeting in public places, which began in earnest during the time of the Roman emperor Constantine, was the beginning of the end of genuine fellowship among the saints of God.
A third principal reason that God chose private homes for the gathering of His people concerns the government that must be exercised if there is to be a healthy body of Christ. Paul exhorted one young minister to “rebuke before all” anyone in the assembly of saints who sinned. Now, Paul certainly did not mean that transgressors should be rebuked before all the world; Paul knew better than to do that. He was dealing with sin in the presence of the household of faith, the gathered assembly of believers, where there was love enough to “cover a multitude of sin”, with the possibly of restoring a fallen brother (Gal. 6:1).
Even in cases of great wickedness, such as Paul mentioned to the Corinthians (1Cor. 5) and to Timothy (1Tim. 1:19-20) there was a healing purpose for severe chastisement. In the latter case, Paul plainly said his purpose for “turning some over to Satan” was so they “might learn not to blaspheme.” In other words, the punishment was intended to help those foolish men, not to destroy them. Paul did not publicly humiliate those transgressors; at the same time, he made certain that the body of Christ knew what had happened and why. That was Paul’s obligation to the saints, and he fearlessly fulfilled it.
These are three of the reasons for God’s choosing private homes for His family to gather in. This is the only way of serving God I have ever known, my father having been pastor of a home meeting group since before I was born, and I am convinced that for God’s people to meet regularly in public meeting places is contrary to the will of God and works against the development of genuine fellowship among the saints. Those who meet in my home understand these things, and they expect me to fulfill my obligation as their pastor just as Paul fulfilled his. They feel perfectly free to hear from God for themselves, to glorify God and edify one another, and to be filled with the Spirit of God while here.
I encourage every person who reads this who is not part of a home fellowship to pray about returning to God’s way of doing things and abandoning, as your place of gathering with other believers, public meeting places. They work against your growth together as a family in Christ.