The Early Church Compared To The Reformed Church

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Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
This thought has been on my mind and I would love to hear your perspective. Over the past year I have had some friends from sound reformed churches, leave them and start regularly attending home churches. Their reasoning is that they want to be the church in the most biblical way. For example, when we read 1st Corinthians, it is very clear that when the church met up they did things differently than reformed churches do today. Rather than 1 minister leading a service, it appeared that each member was able to bring something to the gathering to edify the church. Also, certain spiritual gifts were regular in the life of the church that are not present in reformed churches today. Then throughout the book of Acts and the letters to the churches, we see home churches as the norm.

I think I already know how to answer this from a reformed perspective, but I would just like to see your thoughts, because reformed people really like to speak of being regulative and adhering as closely to the Bible as possible, but certain Calvinists who I know now who are a part of the home church movement would say that does not look like biblical worship when examining the Bible.
 
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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Almost all of these "home churches" were huge and owned by rich people, which allowed for a focused gathering. Many would have been bigger than some "country churches" today.
 

hammondjones

Puritan Board Sophomore
Ignatius:
As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do ye anything without the bishop and presbyters.

Clement:
You therefore, who laid the foundation of this sedition, submit yourselves to the presbyters, and receive correction so as to repent, bending the knees of your hearts.


I'm no Early Church Fathers expert, and perhaps I'm sticking my foot in my mouth, but I have read Ignatius, Irenaeus, and the like, and I think it would be hard to read them and come up with something like the modern home church movement.
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
I've heard of many leave otherwise sound churches in recent years and head in one of two directions -- either towards traditions that are high church and liturgical or towards independent house churches that are a free for all.
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
Ignatius:


Clement:



I'm no Early Church Fathers expert, and perhaps I'm sticking my foot in my mouth, but I have read Ignatius, Irenaeus, and the like, and I think it would be hard to read them and come up with something like the modern home church movement.
I'm sorry, maybe the title should be "Biblical Church instead of Early Church."

I just mean by examining only what the Bible says about the Church.
 

Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member
I think the apostolic church was in a time of transition, and the Reformation extrapolated principles from the teaching re: public worship in the epistles. For instance, in the apostles’ time there was still leniency given to those Jewish converts whose consciences bound them to continue observing the ceremonial sabbaths and feasts. But the time came that the church grew out of that remnant of infancy. And so on.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
What constitutes a home church? If you mean worship is being held in a home with the biblical elements required, including a local session and a lawfully called minister, then that is acceptable. I suspect though this is not what you mean. In that case, God is the one who regulates His worship. We are not free to choose our own options for how we conduct worship services. To compare the church in the first century to present day is apples and oranges in many circumstances, but the elements of worship would be the same.
 

chuckd

Puritan Board Sophomore
Meeting in a home was not "regulative", but circumstantial. If a church doesn't have the money to rent or buy a meeting place, and a certain religion/government is threatening to imprison you for preaching publicly, then by all means meet in a house if you can fit.

As for certain spiritual gifts, I'd ask your friends to demonstrate them.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Rather than 1 minister leading a service, it appeared that each member was able to bring something to the gathering to edify the church. Also, certain spiritual gifts were regular in the life of the church that are not present in reformed churches today. Then throughout the book of Acts and the letters to the churches, we see home churches as the norm.

1. It is biblical for churches to have a plurality of elders.
2. Each member should be bringing something to corporate worship that edifies the church: Prayers, praises, hearing hearts, joy, encouragement, etc.
3. Supernatural gifts overflowed in the Corinthian church, but they are hardly the model of an ideal church.
4. Throughout the book of Acts, the norm was this: Paul would preach in the synagogue first, if possible, and only when they kicked him out would he find homes to gather the flock. This habit of Paul's demonstrates that public worship should be 'synagogue-ish'.
5. In the Hellenized world, homes were much more public places than in 21st century America. Cities were tightly packed, and gatherings were commonly held in a 'courtyard' along the street in public view. The problem with meeting in modern American homes is there is no way to make it public, because our homes are built for privacy. Our culture makes it impossible to have a truly public meeting in someone's home.
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
Thanks for the replies so far. Here is a specific question: 1 Cor 14:26 says
"What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up."

I would say this is a description of the church and not a prescription we have to follow, but my friend would say this is what we should follow because it's what the apostles did and is laid out for us in the Bible.

So they would ask why our meetings wouldn't look like this if we follow the Bible and trust it as our guide.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
The people who scorn "traditional" churches to then start their own house churches ("because that's what I read in the Bible") are not merely ignorant, but contemptuous of the Bride of Christ.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I think its important to take issue with the assumptions present in the OP, that is, in the (presumed) assumptions at work within the representation of the views of those enamored with this movement.

To begin with, let's note that the general notion of "getting back" to the church in a more apostolic-original frame is the very essence of the Reformation (and more narrowly, the Reformed) movement of the 16th-17th centuries. So, what these folk seem to be claiming is actually: "We're so much wiser at the task of conforming our religious practice to God's will than the dedicated and well-trained masters of theology, biblical languages, and church history who couldn't sufficiently reform the church in their time, and so bequeathed to us a church nearly as messed up as the one they inherited."

In other words, these people are leaving churches--that may be more, or less, connected to the work of the Reformation--because these moderns believe those men failed at that enterprise. The biblicist-mind of these folk is, fundamentally, closer to that of the radicals (e.g. anabaptists) of the earlier era, and to later errorists like Socinus, than to the reformers. If these people read something on the Scripture page, the first meaning of the words that pop in their minds--led as they are by the Spirit--doubtless is the true meaning. Anyone who disagrees must be of some other spirit.

The reason why the churches typically met in houses in the NT (and for some time after) has already been elaborated by others in this thread. The church originally met (in the pages of the NT!) in the synagogues. Why? Because that's where God's people had gathered socially for local gathered worship for centuries. Only after they lost their ability to so meet, first one case at a time and then wholesale, did they start using available alternatives. Surely, the Jews had followed the exact same pattern in their communities, first of (possibly) using a commodious dwelling of one of its members, before finding or erecting a dedicated space for religious purpose.

I would not give one inch of ground on the matter of biblical interpretation of the text itself. I would not grant "normative status" to any-old impression Paul's, Luke's, or any other NT writer's words leave on a reader. Is anyone else (besides me) amazed that Corinth--a church where one of Paul's primary purposes in writing is to correct numerous errors including major problems in their worship practices--is the church to whom these moderns more often than not look for to find examples of what to do?

1Cor.14:26. Yes, absolutely it is a description, NOT a prescription! Paul is rehearsing what has been reported to him of the disorderly conduct begun to mar the worship scene at Corinth. Every sort of person, possessed (maybe according to nothing more general than his private insight) of a "spiritual gift," clamoring for space and time to be the center of attention. When the principle is supposed to be: "Let all things be done for building up." That is the true principle, not "I've got this gift or revelation: ergo, I must be allowed to present it as the Spirit moves me."

Moreover, the requirement for an effective building project highlights the duty of recognizing officials to oversee the whole business. These have the duty not only of making sure the work is done to spec, safely, with a reliable product at the end; but also "decently, and in order." Buildings don't just "happen," spontaneously, as all the little workers are just "led" to lay their bricks just ideally, nail their boards without measures, and read blueprints (do we really need them?) with no training, only instinct. The whole book of 1Corinthians, and especially chs. 11-14, actually argues the exact opposite.

Much, much more can and ought to be said. The egalitarian impulse is not biblical, any more than the hierarchical tendency of some. Home-churches of the modern variety are not more likely to be sanctified gatherings than the company that meets for worship in settled congregations. And, given the absence of oversight and accountability that organization provides, it is more likely that false doctrine, abuse of power, and other aberrations will flourish.
 

alexmacarie

Puritan Board Freshman
1 Cor 14 is speaking of ministers. This view is developed by many judicious interpreters and can be found beautifully defended in the treatise, “The Divine Right of Presbyterial Church Government”. This is an excerpt from one of the appendices:

“It is also supposed and much insisted on by some, that both precept and example for the preaching of the gospel, by what they call every gifted brother, may be found in 1 Cor. xiv. 31, which is particularly urged in support of their opinion: "For ye may all prophesy, one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted." But universal terms, such as are here used, are limited or extended according to the subject; and that even in the same verse, as in chap. xv. 22. In like manner here, the all that may prophesy are not the same all that may learn and be comforted. The latter may extend to all the members of the church, and even to strangers who might come into their assemblies; the former could apply only to a few. Some members of the church are expressly prohibited from public teaching, ver. 34. Besides, all were not prophets, chap. xii. 29, and therefore all could neither prophesy, nor could warrantably attempt it. The state of matters referred to in that chapter seems to have been this: The church at Corinth was numerous, and had many ministers, of whom the most, if not all, were endowed with some miraculous power, such as that of prophecy, of speaking strange languages, and the like; they were proud of these gifts, and forward to show them, ver. 26, which occasioned disorder in their assemblies for worship; those that had the gift of tongues prevented the prophets, and did not modestly give place to one another. These disorders the apostle reproves, and exhorts them to exercise their gifts in a more regular and decent manner, for the edification of the church. This being the case, it is strange to plead this passage as a warrant for the preaching of the gospel by those who are in no office, and who neither have any miraculous power to prove their immediate call by Christ to the work of the ministry, nor are admitted thereto by the call of the church.”

source: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/13941
 

alexmacarie

Puritan Board Freshman
Also, since they’re on about the church at Corinth, they should be taking what’s right from it and bear in mind to establish presbyterial church government as there was in Corinth where multiple congregations were under one common church government:

 

Jeri Tanner

Moderator
Staff member
1 Cor 14 is speaking of ministers. This view is developed by many judicious interpreters and can be found beautifully defended in the treatise, “The Divine Right of Presbyterial Church Government”. This is an excerpt from one of the appendices:

“It is also supposed and much insisted on by some, that both precept and example for the preaching of the gospel, by what they call every gifted brother, may be found in 1 Cor. xiv. 31, which is particularly urged in support of their opinion: "For ye may all prophesy, one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted." But universal terms, such as are here used, are limited or extended according to the subject; and that even in the same verse, as in chap. xv. 22. In like manner here, the all that may prophesy are not the same all that may learn and be comforted. The latter may extend to all the members of the church, and even to strangers who might come into their assemblies; the former could apply only to a few. Some members of the church are expressly prohibited from public teaching, ver. 34. Besides, all were not prophets, chap. xii. 29, and therefore all could neither prophesy, nor could warrantably attempt it. The state of matters referred to in that chapter seems to have been this: The church at Corinth was numerous, and had many ministers, of whom the most, if not all, were endowed with some miraculous power, such as that of prophecy, of speaking strange languages, and the like; they were proud of these gifts, and forward to show them, ver. 26, which occasioned disorder in their assemblies for worship; those that had the gift of tongues prevented the prophets, and did not modestly give place to one another. These disorders the apostle reproves, and exhorts them to exercise their gifts in a more regular and decent manner, for the edification of the church. This being the case, it is strange to plead this passage as a warrant for the preaching of the gospel by those who are in no office, and who neither have any miraculous power to prove their immediate call by Christ to the work of the ministry, nor are admitted thereto by the call of the church.”

source: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/13941
This is excellent, thanks.
 

alexmacarie

Puritan Board Freshman
Here’s another text that sheds light on what it meant for them to gather together in one place, and shows it’s not just a casual meeting in a house. The church is also elsewhere described as a kingdom, with order and government.


“What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭11:22‬ ‭
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
The people who scorn "traditional" churches to then start their own house churches ("because that's what I read in the Bible") are not merely ignorant, but contemptuous of the Bride of Christ.

I think this is too broad a brush. The American church must shoulder some of the blame. When the flock needs meat, and all the church provides is yogurt, the hungry flock will look elsewhere for sustenance. When the flock is abused by sophomoric and paranoid pastors, of course they are going be suspicious of all churches. When the church-growth robots refer to them as 'blessed subtractions' the flock is obviously going to hold 'the bride of Christ' in contempt. They have been taught that the church is contemptible.

Sooner or later, the Spirit leads the true flock back to the church.
 

Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Freshman
If Jews en masse were receptive of their Savior in the NT, I have no biblical reason to think the synagogue wouldn’t have been the church meeting place.

As to 1 Co 14:26, I’m not convinced that’s a commendation as much as a rebuke.
 

Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Junior
Thank you to everybody who replied on this thread. That is really great information that solidifies my understanding.
 

Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
As someone who attended house churches for a number of years -- by necessity -- I am very thankful for a common building intentionally designed to facilitate the worship and fellowship of the saints, and the organization that typically accompanies the same.

I've never understood the attraction to "disorganized religion."
 
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