Part 5 of 12

House Church Meetings Vs Church Buildings

The practice of liturgy and ceremony in much of the church today is a conglomeration of aspects derived from the Old and New Testaments mixed with practices carried over from Constantine ’s “state church of the Roman Empire .” The church today on the whole maintains some form of a hierarchical, mediatorial, clergy system, with a collection of humanly devised traditions in church form, practice, liturgy, and manmade precepts and laws. They maintain little if any fidelity to Paul’s simple “gospel of the grace of God” and the absolute truths recovered by Reformers.

Constantine ’s Christianity was impressive with its external displays of spectacle, pomp, and ceremony in ornate grandiose “church buildings.” No such “church buildings” as Constantine ’s, or as today’s meg-church buildings with their grandiose “Christian performances and entertainment” are found in Paul’s epistles. After offering his gospel to the Jew first in the synagogues, Paul preached his gospel message publicly and he went from house to house with the grace gospel message; there were no grand church buildings.

And how I (Paul) kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house” (Acts 20:20).

Note here below how Paul consistently acknowledged and greeted the members of “the church… in the house of…” in his epistles.

Romans 16:5 - Likewise [greet] the CHURCH THAT IS… IN THEIR HOUSE

1 Corinthians 16:19 The churches of Asia salute you… with the CHURCH THAT IS… IN THEIR HOUSE.

Col 4:15the brethren which are in Laodicea , and Nymphas, and the CHURCH WHICH IS… IN HIS HOUSE.

Philem. 1:2 …to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to THE CHURCH… IN THY HOUSE

There was a change that came with Constantine . Instead of meetings of the believers in homes, as had been the custom in previous years, Christians under Constantine ’s “state church of the Roman Empire then congregated in large ornate buildings erroneously called “churches.” The church is not a building or religious organization, it is “the church, which is the body of Christ.” The construction of grand church buildings that resembled Rome ’s State buildings indicates the close relationship that the Church and State had now attained. These weren’t like pagan temples, but like the government’s civic auditoriums.

Even a cursory reading of Paul’s epistles shows us that we, the believers, are “the church, which is His body” (Eph 1:22b-23a). Instead of the simplicity of the early church that met in homes, there came pride and pomp. The “reproach (disgrace)” of the cross (Heb 13:13) had turned into royal fame and glory. The Bishop’s who ruled over cities did so in the same way the pagan governors had; they set examples of luxury which stood in opposition with Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings. Their grand living stood contrary to the message they were originally tasked to spread. Constantine ’s Roman church, by its outward display and pomp, was promoted to attract and allure people. These externals then and still today may affect some people because “man looketh on the outward appearance” while “the Lord looketh on the heart” (1Sam 16:7).

Some might ask; “How could Constantine ’s grandiose church buildings, with their ceremony and liturgy be a problem?” Or; “How could today’s neo-evangelical mega-church buildings and displays of showiness be a problem so long as it’s unto the glory of God?”

These things become a problem because by adding and substituting their manmade grandeur, tradition and practice, most of the church, both Roman and Protestant, has obstructed and stifled the genuine living, breathing, functioning “headship” of Jesus Christ (Eph 1:22, 4:15) over “the church, which is HIS body”in their meetings. The gospel itself and the great bulk of the Pauline Christian teaching that nurtured the life of “the body of Christ” had and have been compromised. The church today has largely forsaken the simple truth of the grace gospel in favor of Roman and Protestant tradition, grandiosity, showiness and practice.

“It is harmful to dilute the authority of God’s Word by either addition or subtraction. We break the Scripture just as much by burying it under a mountain of human tradition as by ignoring its principles” (Taken from “Pagan Christianity” by Frank Viola and George Barna, Published by Tyndale.)

Now consider the negative impact of Constantine with regard to church buildings. Sadly, in these institutionalized church edifices the people look at the back of the heads of one another, while being mere attendees and observers of “the mass,” liturgy, rituals, and ceremonies. They then are docile crowds attending to watch the performance and perhaps add a memorized prayer or two (though Jesus spoke against such prayer as “vain repetition” (Matt 6:7) and a song or two. This is not a functioning “body of Christ.”

The problem is the organized formal liturgy of Constantine’s time and even today has replaced the genuine living household gatherings of perhaps up to 30-35 members of “the church, which is body of Christ” who in Paul’s day met in the round, face to face. They thrived by every believing member functioning. Paul below prescribed the order of the meetings of the members of “the body of Christ.”

… brethren? when ye come together, EVERY ONE OF YOU hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying (building up). 26For ye may all prophesy (speak forth) one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. (1 Cor 14:26, 31)

Paul said “every one of you” can function. There was no “one man show” behind an elevated podium.  Note that the Biblical “church, which is His body” consists of individual members. All members of the “body” are equally needed, feet, hands, toes and fingers, etc. – only Christ is “the head” ( Col 1:18, Eph 1:22, 4:15).

“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (1 Corinthians 12:27)But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body. (1 Corinthians 12:18-20.

The equality and need of each and every individual functioning member of “the body of Christ” is unique to the true church in this age of grace. This distinction in man’s relationship with God is in contrast to “time past,” when God dealt with Israel as a Nation through the intermediary Priestly tribe of the Levites.

Each member of “the body of Christ” has “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” living within their own human spirit (1Cor 6:17). Each member simply has a different function within the “one body.” God has set in “the body of Christ” today some members who function as “Apostles (Gk., apostolos, meaning “sent ones”), prophets (prophetes, inspired speakers), evangelist, pastors (poimne, shepherds or elders), and teachers” (Eph 4:11). These members of “the church which is the body of Christ” are NOT set above any other member of “the body of Christ.” These are not mediators set between God and man. We should note that in “the body of Christ” there is no Pope, Cardinal or Priest.

The Priesthood of Israel has past with the Israel ’s “fall” (Rom 11:11-12), then being set aside during “the times of the Gentiles” (Rom 11:25) in this age of grace. After Jesus death, burial, and resurrection, and after Paul’s beheading in AD68, the Lord saw to it that in AD70 the one acceptable place to worship, the Temple at Jerusalem , was destroyed by the Roman General Titus. This is why Jews today meet at a “synagogue,” simply a place of teaching. With no Temple there is no place for sacrifice and thus no need of the Priesthood to make sacrificial offerings. This is because Christ’s one offering of His own blood and life has fully satisfied God’s righteous demand for justice (Heb 7:27, 9:14, 26). Paul in Hebrews writes of Jesus who Himself is our “High Priest” (Heb 5:1); and in 1Tim 2:5, the “ONE mediator” between God and man.

For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 but now ONCE in the end of the world hath he (Christ) appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:24-26)

Christ entered the Holiest of all with the One all-sufficient sacrifice of His own blood and life to pay for and “take away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).