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Friday, April 2, 2010

From House-to-house (Acts 5:42)

The Apostolic Method

Jesus Christ gave his followers this meaningful commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) The principal way in which that work would be done became evident immediately after the day of Pentecost 33 C.E. “Every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” (Acts 5:42) Some 20 years later, the apostle Paul was engaging in the house-to-house ministry, for he reminded Christian elders from the city of Ephesus: “I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house.”—Acts 20:20.

At Acts 5:42 the words “from house to house” are translated from kat’ oi′kon. Here ka‧ta′ is used in a “distributive” sense. Hence, the preaching of the disciples was distributed from one house to another. Commenting on Acts 20:20, Randolph O. Yeager wrote that Paul taught “both in public assemblies [de‧mo‧si′a] and from house to house (distributive [ka‧ta′] with the accusative). Paul had spent three years in Ephesus. He visited every house, or at least he preached to all of the people (verse 26). Here is scriptural warrant for house to house evangelism as well as that carried on in public meetings.”

A similar use of ka‧ta′ appears at Luke 8:1, which speaks of Jesus preaching “from city to city and from village to village.” Paul used the plural form kat’ oi′kous at Acts 20:20. Here some Bible translations read “in your homes.” But the apostle was not referring solely to social calls upon elders or to shepherding visits in the homes of fellow believers. His next words show that he was speaking about a house-to-house ministry among unbelievers, for he said: “But I thoroughly bore witness both to Jews and to Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20:21) Fellow believers had already repented and exercised faith in Jesus. Hence, both Acts 5:42 and Acts 20:20 have to do with preaching to unbelievers “from house to house,” or from door to door.

No Substitute for It

Commenting on Paul’s words at Acts 20:20, in 1844 Abiel Abbot Livermore wrote: “He was not content merely to deliver discourses in the public assembly, and dispense with other instrumentalities, but zealously pursued his great work in private, from house to house, and literally carried home the truth of heaven to the hearths and hearts of the Ephesians.” More recently, it has been observed: “House to house dissemination of the gospel characterized the first-century Christians from the beginning (cf. Acts 2:46; 5:42). . . . [Paul] had thoroughly discharged his responsibility both to Jews and Gentiles at Ephesus, and they were left without excuse if they perished in their sins.”—The Wesleyan Bible Commentary, Volume 4, pages 642-3.

Though public speaking has its place in declaring the good news, it is no substitute for personal contact at the door. In this regard, scholar Joseph Addison Alexander said: “The church has yet invented nothing to supply the place or rival the effect of church and household preaching.” As scholar O. A. Hills put it: “Public teaching and house-to-house teaching must go hand in hand.” Jehovah’s Witnesses provide instruction through discourses at their weekly Public Meetings. They also have clear evidence that the apostolic method of spreading Bible truth from house to house is effective. And Jehovah surely approves of it, for as a result of such ministry, he is causing thousands to stream to his exalted worship each year.—Isaiah 2:1-4; 60:8, 22.

Another authority has said: “People find it easier to remember teaching at their doorstep than at the church step.” Well, Paul was at doorsteps regularly, setting a fine example as a minister. “He was not content with teaching and discoursing in the synagogue and the market,” wrote Bible scholar Edwin W. Rice. “He was ever diligently ‘teaching’ ‘from house to house.’ It was a house-to-house, hand-to-hand, face-to-face contest with evil, and to win men to Christ, that he waged in Ephesus.” Jehovah’s Witnesses realize that person-to-person discussions on the doorstep are effective. Moreover, they make return visits and are happy to talk even with opposers if these individuals will allow reasonable discussions to take place. How like Paul! Concerning him, F. N. Peloubet wrote: “Paul’s work was not all in meetings. No doubt he visited many people personally at their homes wherever he learned of one who was inquiring, or so interested or even opposed as to be willing to converse on religion.”

- January 15, 1991 Watchtower, WTB&TS


Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses preach from house to house?

Jesus foretold for our day this work: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” He also instructed his followers: “Go . . . and make disciples of people of all the nations.”—Matt. 24:14; 28:19.

When Jesus sent out his early disciples, he directed them to go to the homes of the people. (Matt. 10:7, 11-13) The apostle Paul said regarding his ministry: “I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house.”—Acts 20:20, 21; see also Acts 5:42.

The message that the Witnesses proclaim involves the lives of people; they want to be careful to miss no one. (Zeph. 2:2, 3) Their calls are motivated by love—first for God, also for their neighbor.

A conference of religious leaders in Spain noted this: “Perhaps [the churches] are excessively neglectful about that which precisely constitutes the greatest preoccupation of the Witnesses—the home visit, which comes within the apostolic methodology of the primitive church. While the churches, on not a few occasions, limit themselves to constructing their temples, ringing their bells to attract the people and to preaching inside their places of worship, [the Witnesses] follow the apostolic tactic of going from house to house and of taking advantage of every occasion to witness.”—El Catolicismo, Bogotá, Colombia, September 14, 1975, p. 14.

But why do the Witnesses call repeatedly even at homes of people who do not share their faith?

They do not force their message on others. But they know that people move to new residences and that the circumstances of people change. Today a person may be too busy to listen; another time he may gladly take the time. One member of a household may not be interested, but others may be. People themselves change; serious problems in life may stimulate an awareness of spiritual need.—See also Isaiah 6:8, 11, 12.

- Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1989, WTB&TS

Also See:



We answer all who receive of the anointing spirit and are thus recognized as members of the body of Christ (the anointed.) Of each member it is true as of the head—"He hath anointed me to preach the gospel." We have each gifts and talents differing from the other and none of us are like our head, perfect, but each is responsible for such and so much preaching as he can do. Some can preach to multitudes; others to the twos and threes; others from house to house; others can drop a word in season; others can distribute tracts; others can give of the consecrated money entrusted to their stewardship to help others preach. Some can do several of these things, and some can do all of them, and all can and should preach by their life and customs the power of the good news to transform, for we are all living epistles, known and read of all men.

Are you preaching? We believe that none will be of the little flock except preachers. Are you preaching with all your talents and all your might? If so, you will by-and-by hear the words: "Well done good and faithful!" If not, begin now; remember that you consecrated your all before you were anointed, and now you cannot be an overcomer and keep back part of the price. (Acts 5:4.) Paul says: "Ye know your calling, brethren." Yes, we were called to suffer with him and to proclaim the good news now, that in due time we might be glorified and perform the things now preached. We were not called, nor anointed to receive honor and amass wealth, but to spend and be spent, and to preach the good news. Let us give all diligence to make our calling sure and to perform that for which we were anointed.

- ZWT - 1881 - R0175 thru R0310 / R0239 (001) - July And August, 1881