Third, Paul's pattern and emphasis of "the church in thy house" stood in harmony with the doctrine that he taught concerning our relationship to each other. Our relationship within the body of Christ is likened unto that of a family.

In the book of I Thessalonians Paul describes his relationship with the saints as that of a gentle mother (I Thessalonians 2:7-8), a concerned father (I Thessalonians 2:9,16), and a loving brother (I Thessalonians 2:1,9,14,17).

To Paul, the saints were not "social acquaintances." They were not "parishioners." Paul did NOT view his relationship with them as a religious one. He regarded them as members of his family! He had a special and tender relationship with them (c.f. Acts 20:36-38; Ephesians 4:32; Titus 3:2; II Corinthians 2:4; 10:1; Galatians 5:22).

Paul calls us:

". . . the house of God" (I Timothy 3:15).

" . . . the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10).

". . . the household of God" (Ephesians 2:19).

Paul spoke of individual saints, at times as:

". . . his mother, and mine" (Romans 16:13).

"My little children . . ." (Galatians 4:19).

"With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother . . ." (Colossians 4:9).

". . . Phebe our sister . . ." (Romans 16:1).

"Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith. . ." (I Timothy 1:2).

These are all family terms. Indeed, family terms are Paul's greatest form of speaking of our relationship to one another. This subject does not get the attention that is should. This is probably because of its very familiarity (brother and brethren are used over 130 times by Paul in his epistles.)

To Paul, "brother" was not a formal description or title. It was an attitude of relationship, of personal commitment to genuine family ties (I Corinthians 8:11,13).

Paul not only taught this, he lived it by example. And one of the ways in which he manifested this great truth was through "the church in thy house." After all, where is the natural place for families to gather?

And thus, in this family setting they were more naturally able to do family things (such as embracing each other with a holy kiss [Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 16:20; II Corinthians 13;12; I Thessalonians 5:26], eating together [Acts 20:11; I Corinthians 5:11] etc.).

The Pauline pattern of "the church in thy house" is even at the root of the bishop's qualifications. These home gatherings make it clear why a bishop is to be "given to hospitality" (I Timothy 3:2), after all, he is hosting the church!

The standard meeting place for families is the home. It is the primary place that family life is conducted. Is it not then the natural place for the body of Christ? Now, granted, on occasion there are family reunions. We get the extended family together at some rented location. These can be wonderful times of family fellowship. But this is the exception, not the rule of family life and activity!

So, it is with the church, which is His body. There are times when "the whole church be come together into one place" (I Corinthians 14:23). These could be wonderful functions of family reunion (with special instructions from Paul on how to behave orderly), but they could not take prescience over the primary gathering of "the church in thy house."

Paul's manner of life with the saints stood as a testimony that the body of Christ was a family. "The church in thy house" was in clear support this truth.

Thank the Lord for "the simplicity that is in Christ" (II Corinthians 11:3).

Clyde Pilkington

Gladstone, VA

Visit Clyde's web site at http://www.pilkingtonandsons.com

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