Updated: Mar 28, 2020
Jesus said: “Whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. As you enter the house, give it your greeting. If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace.” (Matthew 10:11-13)
What is this “house” that Jesus spoke about? In context He was giving practical instruction into the “going out” on evangelism that He expected from the Twelve. Initially they were to confine themselves to the Jews only.
“These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt 10:5-6).
Christ’s ministry was the culmination of a long time of testing of the Jewish people; and now that the Messiah had come, God gave a wonderful opportunity to the lost sheep of the house of Israel to repent. Of all earth’s nations, only the Jews were the visible people of God, but were “lost sheep” because they had been abandoned by “faithless shepherds” (Jer 50:6 and 17) and left to wander from the ways of righteousness (Ezek 34:6).
It was only fitting that the House of Israel should be given the first opportunity to respond to the coming of their Messiah.
So this was the context of finding a “house of worthiness” as the Twelve set out on their first outreach. Interestingly, this “worthiness” was not necessarily about the piety of the members of the household they were to stay at while travelling. It was about finding people of hospitality who would treat the Apostles kindly and care for them. They were to find out who were Jews of character and generosity, who had a charitable nature, supportive of the poor, and kind to strangers.
Perhaps we could even say they had to be people who were hungry for the coming of the Kingdom, just like Zacharias and Elizabeth (Luke 1:6) and Simeon (Luke 2:25).
“In the days of Herod king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.”
“There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”
Are we like them, eagerly looking for the coming of the Kingdom in all its fulness?
“Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Christ Jesus.” (Titus 2:13)
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philp 3:20)
For us today, we can expand this notion of “worthiness” and apply it spiritually. Jesus was talking about a literal “house” or household but look what happens when we make that “house” into a “company of believers” – an assembly of saints, an ecclesia, the church, the Body of Christ.
In the perspective of the End Times and what will come, this might give us a valuable insight about finding and belonging to a congregation that is “worthy” because it wants to do one thing above all: please the Father and remain true to the proclamation “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
This was the message of John the Baptist, and also the very first message of Jesus. Both proclaimed it, with the result that it shook Galilee and caused a great act of repentance. This same message and its result are needed again today!
So, what does such a House look like, inside and out? What distinguishes it from all other "houses" (churches, denominations, etc) and makes it worthy of belonging to the Lord? One is its holiness factor. Another is what rooms the House has within it, and what they are used for.
Just as a literal house is an assembly of different rooms, so the present-day House of the Lord, the Body of Christ, is also an assembly of different individual "rooms", i.e. believers. A house isn't complete unless each separate room is connected and used for its designated purpose.
The House of the Lord won't be complete until each believer is connected to the rest and uses their gifting for a designated purpose. We are members one of another (1 Cor 12:14-27). Each person needs to recognise their need for the others, and also to be recognised.
The rooms of this House need to be cleansed (the holiness factor) and be made ready for their set purpose (the discipling factor). In part this has to do with our character; we have to make ready our individual "rooms" (= lives). But it also has to do with the makeup, the "fabric" of the House in general. In other words, it's both character (= rooms) and ministry (= fabric) together that will build the House of the Lord ready for the End Times.
This "fabric" consists of the joint materials used to construct the House. These are the various ministries of the House, such as Biblical oversight from righteous Elders, having a Biblical understanding of why and how we meet, meaningful celebrations of the Lord's Supper, discovering a local (and perhaps unique) expression of life in Christ, declaring and aiming for the grand vision of God's End Time purpose, mentoring others, church planting, equipping and sending out the saints, caring for the poor and needy, etc.
Together, this fabric enables the House to be correctly built on God's pattern, not man's. In the Lord's timing this House will become the most prominent House in all the earth (Micah 4:1-2).
The House of the Lord is to be a lighthouse that will keep believers from being shipwrecked. It will also be a House of Light that nations will stream to (Micah 4:1). Consequently, leaders will be needed who will bring forth the inspired Word of the Lord (= light) to others.
The House (= Church/ Body of Christ) is not an organisation handing out knowledge about the Light. It is the Light because it's part of Jesus who is the Light. The House, Church, Body of Christ is a living organism that must know, understand and then apply one over-riding foundational truth: The Primacy of Jesus flowing through all we do! (Rms 11:36 and Col 1:17-19).
To those who build the House of the Lord and who are His Body, it's His will that must be the most essential truth which compels us onward. This foundational truth must somehow be translated from theory and teaching into reality and practice. A rather hard and disciplined way, but achievable because of the Holy Spirit.
To do this in a Biblical fashion we will need to put aside many (some would say "most") of our preconceived ideas of educating and training the saints. We must move from theological training to ministry-doing, from information-only to information-with-impartation, from telling the saints "how to", to participating with them in discipling and mentoring. The oversight of the saints must likewise move from hierarchal management to servant eldership.
Jesus told His disciples to seek out a "worthy man and his house" from which to preach the Good News. (Matt 10:11-13). The proclamation of the Gospel was to be directly associated with this godly man and his worthy household. Today the Lord is still seeking for worthy houses (churches). Above all, the building of God's House must be found to be "of worth".
A worthy House will be a local congregation or gathering, that becomes a place of preparation and equipping. In time the local church will be a centre for ministry, a base from which many are sent out. It's interesting to note that the Greek word for "worthy" is "axios" from which the word "axle" is derived. A worthy person or worthy house is like an axle in a vehicle - if it's not in good condition or in the right place, nothing moves forward!
There is a major shift needed in our thinking about the local gathering of believers. For too long the overriding emphasis in most churches has been "pastoral" – understandable and with good reason. We have even called the leader of the flock "pastor" and most programmes and issues in local churches deal heavily with "the pastoral".
However the New Testament emphasis is quite different - the early church was not primarily Pastoral, but Apostolic. It wasn't focussed simply on caring for the saints but on sending them out with a specific message – the Kingdom is close at hand!
So equipping the saints to go out must be a vital part of making this House "worthy". Alongside of that we must also strive to make the local assembly a worthy place for newly saved people to come into. To use some agricultural imagery: we must train up the sowers and reapers, but we must also prepare the barns to gather in the harvest they reap.
Today many believers are looking at teachings like these, thinking that having "correct doctrine" and "right government" will bring revival and new life to the Church. But it's not having the correct structure or introducing radical changes that will produce life - rather it's His life that produces the structure and initiates the necessary changes!
May that special day soon come!
Blessings in Messiah,