House Church Talk - speaking, JL

Bruce Woodford bwood4d at
Sun May 16 22:27:38 EDT 2004

Hi Glenn,

I'm pretty slow, but just in the last couple of days I have realized that 
you were not Glenn Frank!  There are also two Dan's on this list (Dan B and 
Dan G). Could I suggest that for the sake of clarity and to avoid confusion 
that you add your last name or initial to your posts? Thanks!

You wrote:"I've been reflecting upon Phillip's comment concerning sincerity 
today, and thought of asking you whether you have ever been a part of a 
city-wide church gathering in which the females of your family remained 

No brother, as I have mentioned many times here in the past, I doubt if any 
of us have ever experienced a city-wide church gathering such as was common 
in the first century!  Denominationalism, sectarianism and all the 
accompanying baggage which most Christians have inheritted from their 
backgrounds are the chief hindrances to such gatherings today. I have no 
doubt that such conditions were the first ploys of the enemy to mar and 
destroy the scriptural functioning of first century churches! See I 
Cor.1:10-13 and 11:17-20.  However, I pray that I might live to see the day 
when whole church gatherings of the saints in my community will be a 

You also wrote:"Of course I'm glad to hear of your desire for the sisters to 
remain silent in church meetings at all--as so many are strongly resistant 
to this simple form of obedience in ANY context".

Glenn, I know that we share many of the same desires to please the Lord and 
to be obedient to Him and His Word. Regarding the understanding and practice 
of I Cor 14, we are simply not agreedas to the understanding of what 
comprises "the whole church come together into one place" (verse 23).  But 
coming to that understanding will clarify for us whether that "whole church" 
is the sum total of saints which regularly meet in one house, or if it is 
the sum total of  all the saints in a given community.

You continued:"Lord willing, I'll hope to respond at some point to your 
various questions and objections which you have left for me, but at first 
glance the issue seems to be one of your calling certain times that saints 
are together (e.g., Titus 2 feminine discipleship) as being "in church" when 
the word of God does not."

Brother, I value and look forward to hearing your understanding of the 
issues involved as well as your answers to objections that (to my mind) 
hinder me from embracing your point of viewand at this point in time.  I 
also agree with you that coming to a clear understanding of what comprises a 
church, and what constitutes a scriptural church gathering will also affect 
how any of us read and understand scripturally recorded historical 
gatherings of believers in the first century.

You concluded with:"You seem to be a careful student of the word of God, and 
have time to write, and so I might ask you to compose an exhaustive list of 
the "in church" passages of the NT. I find very few which are explicitly 
indicated as such, and it seems that you would identify these passages much 
more loosely. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts, and it might be a 
means by which we begin to "say the same thing" in the Lord."

Brother, I thank you for your kindness and for your suggestion by which to 
work toward "saying the same thing" in the Lord!  I work a full 5 1/2 to 6 
day week for a tree cutting business, but the ministry which is my heart's 
burden is that of teaching the Word of God. Nothing thrills me more than to 
encounter others who love my Lord, who value His Word, are teachable and 
delight to put His Word into practice. Three nights ago, after I'd gone to 
bed, I had a phone call  from a young brother in North Carolina whom I've 
never met. He called to ask some questions about some of my convictions of 
which he'd heard from a mutual friend. We chatted together for nearly 4 
hours. Although that conversation shortened my time of much needed sleep, 
nothing gives me greater joy than to have the opportunity to share the 
scriptures in answer to other's questions and to encourage others to put the 
Word of God into "shoe leather"!

As a first step toward fulfilling your suggested "exhaustive list of in 
church passages",  I have compiled a list of passages in which the word 
"ekklesia" is used in the sense of an actual gathering together of saints. 
As the word "ekklesia" suggests, a church is a group of "called out ones". 
They have been called out of something and they have been called to someone 
or something.  So a Christian church is a group of people whom God has 
called out from  among the nations and placed IN CHRIST to be a people for 
His name. (Acts 15:14)

To be "in church" has two meanings:
(1) to be a member or a constituent part of the church, and
(2) to be present with other saints in a church gathering.

I think it is this latter sense that you have in mind. So I have gathered 
together below all the scriptural references to the word "church" which have 
in view actual gatherings of Christians  (i.e. disciples who are "in 

I would agree with Sean (based on the very first instructions given in 
scripture to guide churches, Matt.18:15-20) that a church gathering may be 
comprised of as few as two Christians.  However, I think it is obvious that 
not every gathering of  2 or more Christians is church gathering!  When 
Ananias and Sapphira planned together to lie about the sale and proceeds of 
their property (Acts 5), this certainly would not be a church gathering!  
Nor would the coming together of a Christian man and woman in an adulterous 
union be a church gathering!  (I Cor 5:1)  Nor would one Christian suing 
another in a court of law be a church gathering! (I Cor.6:1-6)  Nor would 
two Christians going into an idol's temple to participate in idol worship be 
a church gathering! (I Cor.10:20)

Mat thew 18:20 adds a very distinctive phrase by which, I believe, the Lord 
Jesus Himself has defined a church gathering: In Mat thew 18:18-20, the Lord 
Jesus declared the following truths:
18  Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound 
in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
19  Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as 
touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my 
Father which is in heaven.
20  For where two or three are gathered together IN MY NAME, there am I in 
the midst of them.

The phrase by which the Lord Jesus has defined a church gathering is the 
following: "where two or three are gathered together IN MY NAME."

In legal matters, to do something "in the name of" another is to have "power 
of attorney".  The dictionary defines "power of attorney" in this way:   "a 
written statement legally authorizing a person to act for another."

Such a written statement by which Christ gave to his disciples "power of 
attorney" to act for Him is found in Mat thew 28:18-20:
18  And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me 
in heaven and in earth.
19  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of 
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: 
and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Therefore, I believe that we have scriptural ground to say that a church 
simplest terms in which I can express this is as follows: "a plurality of 
saints obeying Christ together."

The minimum number of Christians gathered to comprise a church is just two!
No church officers or leaders are required by scripture to be present to 
comprise a church gathering.
No sacred building is required to be the venue of a church gathering.
Meeting on a special day of the week is not required by scripture as a 
pre-requisite to having a church gathering.
A formulated "church charter", a legally recognized church organization, a 
bank account, the regularity or frequency  of gatherings, nor a host of 
other features normally associated with a "local church", are ever 
associated with God's ekklesias in scripture.

Now included in the following list of scriptures are various kinds of church 
gatherings: (1)The gathering of the church which is Christ's Body or the 
general assembly and church of the firstborn, (2) Gatherings of the church 
of God or the whole church in a city, and (3) gatherings of churches in 

Can I ask you brother,  in these or any other scriptures, are you aware of 
any other defining characteristics of church gatherings than those which I 
have noted above?   If you are aware of any other necessary features, I 
would deeply appreciate it if you would bring such to my attention. 
Certainly there are features of gatherings of the church which is Christ's 
Body, gatherings of the whole church in a city and gatherings of churches in 
houses which distinguish them from each othe. But I'm asking for features, 
the lack of which would mean the gathering was NOT a church gathering at 

Your brother in Christ,

Here is the list with the actual word "church" in the text.  My next step 
will be to compile a list of actual historical events in which believers 
gathered to obey the Lord, but in which the word "ekklesia" is not found. 
I'd ask you to evaluate that list to see if you would disqualify any of 
those from being classified as "church gatherings".

Mat thew 18:17  And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church 
<1577>: but if he neglect to hear the church  <1577>, let him be unto thee 
as an heathen man and a publican.  (the following verses show that such a 
church could be composed of as few as two people.)
Acts 11:22  Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church 
<1577> which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should 
go as far as Antioch. (This city church numbered in the thousands.)
Acts 11:26  And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it 
came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church 
<1577> , and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians 
first in Antioch. (We don't know how many composed this church at the 
commencement of the hear or at it's close, but it WAS a church at the very 
Acts 14:23  And when they had ordained them elders in every church <1577>, 
and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they 
believed. (the churches in the context were the city churches of Derbe, 
Lystra, Iconium and Antioch. Elders were to be appointed in every city. 
Titus 1:5)
Acts 14:27  And when they were come, and had gathered the church <1577> 
together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had 
opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. (The city church at Antioch.)
Acts 15:4  And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the 
church <1577>, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things 
that God had done with them. (The city church in Jerusalem.)
Acts 15:22  Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church 
<1577>, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and 
Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the 
brethren: (The whole church at Jerusalem.)
Romans 16:5  Likewise greet the church <1577> that is in their house. Salute 
my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.  
(The church in the house of  Priscilla and Aquila.)
1 Corinthians 11:18  For first of all, when ye come together in the church 
<1577>, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. 
(The church of God in Corinth comprised of those who were sanctified in 
Christ Jesus  as well as similar churches in every place 1:2 and 11:22;  
they were come together into one place , not many 11:20; this coming 
together was not to eat the Lord's supper 11:20; eating the Lord's supper is 
to be done in homes 11:22,34.)
1 Corinthians 14:19  Yet in the church <1577> I had rather speak five words 
with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten 
thousand words in an unknown tongue.  (The church addressed in this epistle 
is the city church at Corinth and similar churches in other places. Nothing 
in the context indicates that any other church is being referred to.)
1 Corinthians 14:23  If therefore the whole church <1577> be come together 
into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are 
unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? (as above.)
1 Corinthians 14:28  But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in 
the church <1577>; and let him speak to himself, and to God. (as above)
1 Corinthians 14:33  For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, 
as in all churches <1577> of the saints.  (The Body, the city church and the 
house church are all composed of saints.)
1 Corinthians 14:34  Let your women keep silence in the churches <1577>: for 
it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded  to be under 
obedience, as also saith the law. (this regulation as well as all the rest 
in the passage are addressed to whole churches in cities come together into 
one place.)
1 Corinthians 14:35  And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their 
husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church <1577>. 
(as above.)
1 Corinthians 16:19  The churches <1577> of Asia salute you. Aquila and 
Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church  <1577> that is in 
their house.  ( A house church.)
Colossians 4:16  And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be 
read also in the church <1577> of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read 
the epistle from Laodicea.  (A city wide church.)
2 Thessalonians 1:4  So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches 
<1577> of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and 
tribulations that ye endure:  (The term "church of God" is always used of a 
city church as there are never "churches of God"  plural in one city.)
Hebrews 2:12  Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst 
of the church <1577> will I sing praise unto thee. (the only other reference 
to "church" in Hebrews is "the general assembly and church of the firstborn" 
3 John 1:10  Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, 
prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither 
doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and 
casteth them out of the church <1577>.  (The only church out of which one 
could possibly cast another believer would be the church which gathered in 
his own home.)

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