Acts 17:11 Archives

Synagogue Churches?

An email excerpt by Dean VanDruff in response to the claim that the Early Church only met in homes, which is not true.

Rom 1:16 (NAS) For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Eph 2:12-17 (NIV) Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostitily. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.

Rom 2:10b (NAS) the Jew first and also to the Greek.

While this obviously refers to the fact that all of the Apostles, converts at Pentecost, and onwards till around Antioch (Acts 10:25,11:26) were Jews, Paul saw this as part of a larger pattern of God's wisdom. Thus, when he would enter a town he would start with the Synagogue. Often he was thrown out (as most Christians are aware) and in that case he went to the Gentiles, generally in homes. But in many cases (that modern Christians are unaware of) he was received in the Synagogue and it then became a Spirit filled center for ministry.

The main case that can be made, in fact, for a non-home based ekklasia [church] meeting... is from God's use of the Synagogues in the First Century as recorded in Scripture.

While we cheer the movement back to original Christianity in the way of meeting in homes, let us not go into pendulum swing over-reaction by saying that the First Century believers did not meet in buildings as well. For they did. They met in Spirit filled Synagogues as well as Spirit filled homes. In fact, I think they would shake their heads in disbelief that there is even an argument over this issue. Just to meet anywhere is a great bounty. Are we really going to give ourselves spiritual brownie points as to where?

Here are some example texts which prove that Paul's ministry started in the synagogues in cities where there was one, and remained there in some cases.

Acts 9:20 (NAS) Immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God."

Acts 13:4 (NAS) So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. And when they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper.

Acts 13:14-15 (NAS) But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, "Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it."

Acts 13:42-48 (NAS) And as Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God. And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles... And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

Acts 14:1,3 (NAS) And it came about that in Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a great multitude believed, both of Jews and of Greeks... Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands.

Acts 17:1-4 (NAS) Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women.

Acts 17:16-17 (NAS) Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was beholding the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles...

Ac 18:4 (NAS) And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

Ac 18:26 (NAS) And he [Apollos] began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

Ac 19:8 (NAS) And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. And this took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

Note that in few of the above references that there were Gentiles in the Synagogue. How would this be possible without the Holy Spirit taking it over? Even a casual read of the New Testament leaves you with a clear sense of "the wall" of old covenant Judaism mentioned in Eph 2:12-17: a Jew could not be in the same room with a Gentile "under the law" without becoming ceremonially unclean. Obviously, these "synagogues" were ekklasia, or "churches".

Some may need to rethink their revolution to home-only churches. The early church met in Synagogues, in markets, in Schools, in the Temple, on the beach, on rooftops, in homes, in secret, chased from town to town and place to place. I can just imagine them listening to us, 2000 years later, making out as if where made some big difference.. or was some key to deeper spirituality.

Rom 1:16 (NIV) I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: FIRST for the Jew, THEN for the Gentile.

Rom 11:22 (Phi) You must try to appreciate both the kindness and the strict justice of God. Those who fell experienced the justice, while you are experiencing his kindness, and will continue to do so as long as you do not abuse that kindness...

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