Helpful Tidbits for Organic Church Life                                    September 15, 2008
What Were They Doing in Those Temple Courts?
My Reflections
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Below is a rather conservative commentary on Acts 5:42. Luke tells us, "Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming One Thing Logothe good news that Jesus is the Christ."
Although Mark Driscoll can be a little rough at times, I must say, I like much of what he has to say. At the same time, as brothers in Christ and in humility, iron should sharpen iron. Watch this video clip, get a good 7-minute education, then read the below on why Acts 5:42 shouldn't be used as a proof text for Sunday gatherings (or house churches for that matter).

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION/TOPIC: But what about the temple?
What Where They Doing in Those Temple Courts? 
Excerpt from Matthew Henry's Commentary
Matthew_HenryWhere they preached - both publicly in the temple, and privately in every house; in promiscuous assemblies, to which all resorted, and in the select assemblies of Christians for special ordinances. They did not think that either one would excuse them from the other, for the word must be preached in season and out of season. Though in the temple they were more exposed, and under the eye of their enemies, yet they did not confine themselves to their little oratories in their own houses, but ventured into the post of danger; and though they had the liberty of the temple, a consecrated place, yet they made no difficulty of preaching in houses, in every house, even the poorest cottage. They visited the families of those that were under their charge, and gave particular instructions to them according as their case required, even to the children and servants.
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

My Reflections
After a "naive" reading of Acts 5:42 (the first step in the exegetical process), one might simply conclude that we Christians should meet in both temples and houses (church on Sunday, small groups during the week). Now, let's set consider the following contextual factors:
  • The temple was a Jewish temple. For these new "believers," they were still Jewish, only their messiah had come.
  • These new Jewish believers went to the temple to both worship Yahweh and testify to the Jews that messiah had come.
  • They met continually, organically; the totality of their lives were dedicated to following Jesus.

Given the above, hopefully you'll be able to connect these dots. When these new believers went to the temple, they were publicly declaring their faith in a volatile environment (the staunch Jews didn't like Christians). Today, we should be doing the same. Here's what it might look like.

  • An organic community might bring the gospel to a conventional church in order to make disciples (today, it is commonly recognized that conventional churches are a mission field). Before doing this, however, it would be wise to have many seasoned "elders" among you (a judgment call on my part). The goal isn't to tear down, but to strengthen.
  • An organic community might bring the gospel to a local Jewish synagogue (just like they were doing in Acts 5:42). Again, the seasoned elder rule applies.
  • An organic community might bring the gospel to third places. "The third place is a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace" (wiki).

What, then, is the "force" behind Acts 5:42? Is it that they met in the temple courts or houses? Certainly not! It's that they continually met together to proclaim and live in the way of Jesus, sometimes in safe settings and sometimes not. As such, they organically, fluidly, moved from setting to setting; some settings were useful for "teaching and...fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (the house, Acts 2:42) and others were useful for proclaiming a gospel that was often followed by the "performing [of] many miraculous signs and wonders among the people" (the temple, Acts 5:12).

Hope this was of some benefit to you.

Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table