Chapter 30: Jesus' Headship in Large Family Gatherings
“And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade.”
CONSIDER now the “more than we can ask or imagine” possibility of hundreds, or thousands, of true Christians (followers and true personal friends of Jesus of Nazareth: resurrected, exalted King) under one local church government. One church in the city, as it was in the first century (and would surely please Him at His Coming) — the church that has “made herself ready for the Return of the Groom.”
Keep in mind that the Church that Jesus is building can only ever be seen if built on the Foundation properly laid (1Cor.3:9-15) by those “master-builders” qualified to lay such a Foundation in a city (unless God chooses to overshadow the “normal” means of bringing such a thing about — Eph.4:11-17). Without this kind of Foundation, we’ll find ourselves trying desperately to mimic something that we don’t even understand. It won’t work. Cry out to the Lord of the Harvest!
What does “Church” look like when multitudes are part of a single church in a city? The evidence is strong from the chronicles of the early Church by Dr. Luke, as well as the letters from Paul to the Corinthians and others, and the excavations of Antioch and other early cities where Jesus manifested Himself (John 14:12-31, 14:19) in His Church. I’ll give you a partial picture based on this evidence.
The church consisted of Believers often living very near each other (though not “communal” — Acts 5:1,4 — their land and possessions still belonged to them, and they gave as they did because of their relationship with God and their love of others). They were totally involved in each other’s lives (in response to the simple teaching and Spirit of Christ in them), daily, from house to house, and in the gathering together of the entire church in the city on a frequent basis. Christians circled around a number of different homes on a daily basis. The entire church was together frequently from all parts of the city. Also, continual public teaching often went on in a neutral place like a rented hall.
A number of different homes became recognized as “the place to be,” the evening’s starting place, the “default” place to begin searching for the adoration of God by gathered saints, or the “equipping for works of service,” or the “sending out” place on any given night. Those who were found there might have all ended up going two by two into the urban jungle to “sustain the weary.” Or they might have wrestled in prayer all night together. They might often find themselves together with an unbeliever who someone had brought over, and spend the evening introducing him or her to our Jesus. If the entire church was not gathering as a whole that day or evening, there was always going to be some action, depending on where you lived. At Acquila and Priscilla’s house. And Philemon’s. Paul’s rented house in Rome. Maybe the homes of Aristobulus and Chloe. The home of Nymphas was an “eye of the storm” of God’s Whirlwind of Power in that city. Peter knew just where to go to find a bunch of Christians, even at a late hour! They gathered continually “from house to house,” and even seemed to purposely live in clusters in a city such as Antioch (population circa 500,000).
What were gatherings like in those times when the one church in Jerusalem gathered in one place? We’ve already spoken of the “from house to house” gatherings in great detail. But what happened when thousands of truly converted disciples of Jesus gathered together daily “publicly” in the Jerusalem city park (a semi-covered promenade area known as Solomon’s Porch, or Solomon’s Colonnade)? You know, from the Life of Jesus, the record of the Bible, and the pure principles of God and the Church of His Son, that it was (and is still) un-programmed communion with the Head of the Church.
One thing that will be a little different in the mega-gatherings is that, unlike most of the action that takes place “from house to house,” a few men will tend to be more visible than the rest. Though no one is ever assigned to be the “leader” of any particular event or gathering, large or small, in the church of the Bible, some gifts do definitely stand out more prominently than others.
“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts (city park). They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
“They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.”
“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and mega-grace was upon them all.”
The apostles, the “sent-from-God-ones,” the emissaries, had a very visible role in the “whole church” gatherings. Was that because they were paid to “preach” and they took turns delivering the “sermons” on Sunday morning? Wrong-ola. There were no men “paid to preach,” that’s absurd. And there were no “sermons” as we have come to know them. And, no, the apostles did not “take turns.” If any of that was the case, it would have flagrantly contradicted the life and the teaching of Jesus. The whole nature of the Church that they were celebrating together would have been debased by any such Ishmaelic practices. They were not going to return to the Old Covenant “basic principles of this world” way of life after rubbing elbows for three years with the Carpenter, “the Eternal Life” (1John 1:1-7).
We know that those who knew Jesus best were those who everyone wanted to be equipped by. Those who could part the Heavens and draw the hands of His Children up to meet the Hands of Jesus were the ones who were most visible in the large gatherings. I’m not speaking of hirelings or “staff members,” but those who were living in “the Power of an Indestructible Life,” “Tasting the Powers of the Coming Age,” “Rivers of Living Water Gushing from their bellies,” with a true current fellowship with “Him Who is from the Beginning” — and could draw and equip them into that same inheritance, meant to be theirs from before time. There was (Acts 2:42-47), and is, a holy Awe when men who know Him, men with an “open Heaven,” pour out the New Wine on God’s People.
Who taught? It all depended. “If a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first one speaking should stop and sit down.” (Not the “man of the hour.” Jesus alone held that position — Mat.23:8-10). If we are still the followers of a living Lord, a living Head of the Church, nothing has changed. But it was likely to be one who had demonstrably walked in His Life and His Love. One who had been refined by His Priesthood — Living Stones rubbing against one another to rub off the sharp edges. One who had experienced, and now welcomes His discipline. One whose daily Life had clearly shattered darkness everywhere he had planted his feet, everyday, not on some special event. One who had borne the visible fruit of authority in the unseen world, of “tearing down satan’s strongholds” in every arena of life into which he had ventured. It certainly had nothing whatsoever to do with education, eloquence, payroll, rotation, or even sincerity. It was determined by the Life from Heaven.
It isn’t that the center of attention couldn’t have been a new Christian or an “unknown” at any given time. There was nothing in the bylaws and nothing in the “order of worship” that would disallow the possibility. Anyone could be at the forefront at a public time such as this (and, no doubt, this happened as God did special things), it’s just that it wasn’t usually necessary for anyone else to say a whole lot!
Consider another picture of a New Testament Church gathering:
“Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, reasoned with them and continued his expressions of God’s Truth until midnight. “There were many lamps in the upper room where they were gathered together. And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued the discussion, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, ‘Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.’
“Now when Paul had come up, had broken bread and eaten, and talked a long while, even till daybreak, he departed.”
Did Paul “preach” a multiple-hour “sermon” from behind a “pulpit?” Not a chance. But was Paul the primary voice in the “dialogue” (as was said earlier, this is the Greek word) between the brothers? Definitely. Why did Paul do most of the teaching of God’s Ways? Because he was hired to? No! Paul didn’t “dominate” the brothers and sisters in Troas, or anywhere (2Cor.1:24; 1Thes.2:1-13; Mat.20:25-28). Anyone who had a Word from Heaven could bring it to God’s Saints. It was not that no one else could be the one to supply God’s Truth to the moment at hand. It was just that with a gifted, consecrated servant like Paul in the room, a lot of additional input from others was not usually necessary! This man knew God. Throwing opinions around with this man present would have been a) dangerous; b) a waste of precious time; and c) like fingernails on a chalkboard to everyone else in the room. Yet, if the Father had raised up another man of similar true Stature before God in their midst, or one had happened in from another place, it would have been double fun as these two men together elevated the gathering of the Saints to heights and riches unimaginable.
If we are really earnest and honest in wanting to know whether we are really letting Jesus be Head of the Church of which we are a part, an excellent test would be this:
Suppose Paul or John, or even Jesus Himself were to show up at the assembly (in blue jeans and a T-Shirt) that you are a part of. Would they “get a Word in edgewise?” Or would we so fully dominate the time with spiritual things (that we had prepared in advance to do) that we would entirely miss what God wanted to do? Possibly the entire time was supposed to be taught by the “visitor” that no one had known previously (with the visitor naturally working with any God-sent overseers, as is God’s way). And, if God had His way, the gathering was to go on from 9 A.M. or so until dawn the next day.
Would that even be possible in the group of which you are a part? If not, someone other than Jesus is the head of the organization.
I really don’t want to get into a “cookbook” approach to Jesus’ church and give a recipe for the perfect “large gathering.” That’s really the point: they’ll all be different. Some will be primarily serious teaching, others rowdy and joyous with praise to Y’shua. Practical instruction, prayer for those maimed by the enemy, some confession (usually as it relates to the broad scope of the whole church — the “house to house” times have already served most of these needs on a daily basis), vision and direction from God for the future through His servants, songs offered that were written by the saints, and many other kinds of things are likely to occur. Most of the Glory of what could happen will only be understood from the perspective of experiencing it happen, rather than postulating and analyzing. Better to do our part to see revival in our cities, and to trust God for Wisdom of how to handle it when it comes, than to second guess in advance. The twelve hadn’t any experience with a church of 3000 until the time came, either!
Build Your House
Lord, Your house lies desolate
I’m here on my knees
Please show mercy once more to us
See Your peoples’ suffering
Give grace to Your servant
Forgive all our sins
Remember Your promise
Unite us again
Lord, Your hand is upon me
You’ve made a way through my Red Sea
Turned the heart of a King and
Brought us to Your city
But Your enemies mock us
Give strength to these hands
We hold on to Your promise
You’ll unite us again
So we build Your House — strengthen Your wall
Use my hands to see Your enemies fall
And I will praise Your Name, Your People proclaim
You are Lord, You have always been, as we fall on our knees
We will not neglect the Temple of our God
A sword and a trowel
One in each hand
Building Your Kingdom
We’ll protect and defend
Praising Your faithfulness
Obeying Your Word
The only thought of my heart is
Your House, oh, my Lord
Teach us to love what You love
Teach us to hate what You hate
Drive Your word into our hearts
We will never forsake what You’ve given us
Purifying all that’s unclean
Casting down the idols that we see
Enter our hearts, yes, bless Your house
So that the world may see
You are Lord, You are Lord
88 Hebrews 13:17 — everyone called Christian should know “who has the rule over them,” who “watches over them,” and who “must give an account” for them. If you do not, then you are almost certainly outside of God’s Will for your life. I know that many have abused this and every other Truth imaginable. Nevertheless, only a rebel or a fool would throw out Scripture because someone somewhere abused it and started a movement around their abuse. You do what you need to do! Know who the men of God are who “have the rule over you” in the context of the local church that you must be a part of to find God’s highest favor. “The hand cannot say to the eye: ‘I have no need of you.’” Back
89 Due to the immense confusion that the enemy has created in trying to prejudice God’s Saints from the Truth by perverting the Word of God, I need to say this again. I am not referring to a manmade organization (mistakenly called “church”) that has created a social utopia. Rather, as demonstrated in the Spirit as the “Suffering Servant,” I am crying out for the Church of Jesus that walks in the true Power and Love and Holiness of God — totally obscured to the carnal eye by the “no beauty or majesty” garments of their Lord. Back
90 Apostolic Foundations and Apostolic Patterns. Back
91 In addition to the Biblical, historical, and archaeological findings, we can have some idea of what happened then by what is happening now. “By its fruit ye shall know it.” Quite a lot of what we see journaled in the Bible can only be understood from the “inside looking out.” Jesus said, “If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the teaching, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” And, John wrote, “The LIFE becomes the Light of men.” It is only in doing that we can know what the Bible is talking about. If our religious groups are totally foreign to the church of the Bible in commitment and practice, those involved can never “study” hard enough to understand what “Church” is really all about. The modern “definitions” given to the teachings of the Bible will obscure and dilute what really happened and what God really meant to have as a Bride, an equal yoke, for His Son. Back
92 Acts 19:8; Acts 19:9-10; Acts 18:19; Acts 18:26-28; Acts 17:16-17; This public location was not “the church,” but a place where men and women from all over the city and the world were taught about the church. The church is people. If you can “attend” it, it absolutely is not the Church that Jesus started. Back
93 Acts 12:1-17. Were James and others gathering elsewhere? Back
94 We know that, at times, they did meet as a whole Church, daily (Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-35; Heb.3:13; Mark 8:34-9:1). What does that say, for starters, about the focus of their lives? Did they “have to” meet every day? In what Scripture would “daily gatherings” have been mandated? They wanted to! Even as “baby Christians” their lives belonged fully to Him. That was (and is) the very nature of becoming a Christian, “confessing Him as Lord” (Rom.10:9-10)! Do you want to be where Jesus is “in the midst” — where His Saints are “gathered,” or are you looking for a loophole and getting upset or defensive? This is a good test of who your Lord really is. How’d you do?! (Sometimes a real church in a city may not meet, as a whole, every day. That’s certainly OK. But what if it is meeting that often? What is your attitude? And if the entire church isn’t together every night, what do you long to do with your evening instead? Are you “seeking first the Kingdom” every night anyway? As I said, this is a good test of who you really are. “What we treasure is where our hearts are.”) Back
95 Do you want to know how the day of Pentecost could have been thoroughly ruined and robbed of the Life-giving power that was poured out? One sure-fire way to have grieved the Spirit of God right out of the city would have been to have distributed flyers around the city that said: “Come Hear Peter Expound on Joel, Chapter Two!”
As ridiculous as that may sound to you (hopefully), today we do such things regularly, and expect that God will endorse these activities. Back
96 Servants of God who were bearing the fruit of the Anointed One were responded to organically (Gal.6:6), not in some salaried, white-collar way as a “peddler of the Word of God.” The response materially to those that emanated the Life and Power of their Lord was definitely there, but apparently not much like today’s typical situation. Back
97 Carrying out “God’s Purposes”…by man mating God’s Intention with a world-system “practicality” and “good ideas,” rather than cleaving to the Spirit of God. A book entitled Ishmael’s Fading Glory or Isaac’s Ever-Increasing Glory may be available in the future, as time and other resources allow. Back
98 If you’ve never witnessed or experienced such life, which most Sunday morning attenders admittedly have not, then this will seem impossible and impractical to you. It’s not! Your part?
Matthew 13:44-45 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Back