Christ In The Home
The Importance of the Homes of the Saints
Let us consider two portions together about homes where Christ and His interests were pre-eminent, the first prior to the Lord's death, resurrection and ascension (John 12:1-3), and the other consequent upon these great events (Romans 16:1-5). That is what I want to speak about tonight, the wonderful privilege that we have as husbands and wives (and children too) to have Christ and His interests pre-eminent in our hearts, in our lives and in our homes. That is a very great subject. I do not think we can minimise the importance of homes because, from the beginning of the Bible to the end, this is emphasised. Whether we think of Abraham with his tent and his altar, or whether we come into the New Testament period and find a home like the one occupied by Aquila and Priscilla, we find that all through the Bible this great emphasis upon homes which support the interests of God or of Christ.
Consider for a moment the Acts of the Apostles. We have the great structure, the temple, representative of Judaistic teaching, interest and ceremony, and over against that, in humble homes, we have places where Christ was honoured and cherished and where the truth was circulated, and also, thank God, souls received blessing. So we find this humble attitude of those who followed Christ and were seeking to represent His interests and all this held very tenaciously in the homes of those who believed in Him. We find, I believe, the descent of the Holy Spirit (2:1-2) taking place in a home. One hundred and twenty people were gathered there so it must have been a large sized room, and the Holy Spirit descended upon them linking them with Christ in glory, forming them into the one body of Christ. What a wonderful event. Thank God that company has continued until the present moment. Then we find homes where the word of God was preached, like Cornelius, where he gathered his friends together that they might listen to the word of God (10:24) and we know the outcome there, souls brought to our Lord Jesus Christ and thoroughly committed to His interests. We find homes where hospitality was performed, we think of how Paul and Silas were entertained by the jailor (16:34), by Lydia (16:15), by Jason (17:5), and by Titus Justus whose house adjoining the synagogue (18:7). These were homes of hospitality and kindness, thus continuing the pattern set by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself where compassion was shown to those who were in need. We find also the home of Philip with his four daughters who were given to prophecy, and we believe making known the mind of God (21:8), and there are other instances (e.g. Mary's house in 12:12), so that throughout the Acts of the Apostles we find this insistence upon homes and their committal to the Lord Jesus.
A careful reading of 1 Corinthians will show that this thought again comes through. Believers in the house of Chloe were so concerned about the abuses in the Corinthian assembly that they took the trouble to write to the apostle and ask for his help (1:11). Stephanas and his house were baptised, thoroughly committed to the interests of the Lord, and that same house was addicted to the service of the saints (16:15). The saints were exhorted to lay by at home as the Lord had prospered them in view of their supporting the interests of the Lord as those interests were required (16:2, J.N.D.). Again we find Aquila and Priscilla mentioned as a devoted couple, husband and wife together, and so concerned about the interests of the Lord that they worked together harmoniously in this way (16:19).
1. The Home at Bethany
"Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment." (John 12:1-3)
i) A Summary of the Home
I believe that what I have to say is complimentary to what our brother brought before us this afternoon, concerning the Lord Jesus with His disciples gathered in the upper room and His discourse about so many precious things which were so needful to them as they embarked upon a life of testimony for the Lord in His absence in glory.
The scene is different in John 12, there we have a home where He was welcome, and a home where He was pre-eminent. He did not require to wash their feet, and I believe there is a reason for this. He was there in the presence of those who had benefited so greatly from His service of love. The "dead man Lazarus" (J.N.D.) was a standing witness to the power and greatness of the Lord Jesus, the evidence of His Sonship by resurrection of dead persons from the dead (Rom.1:4). What a testimony to that glorious Person. All Martha's resentment and all her frustrations were completely removed, and she is there happily serving. I think the context would show that not only were Lazarus, Martha, Mary and the Lord Jesus there, but also the disciples. This would have been an added responsibility in service, but there is certainly no resentment and no frustration, Martha in her true place. Shall we say about Mary that she was in her usual place, happily in the presence of the Lord. We find her in the gospel by Luke sitting at His feet listening to His word, imbibing it freely, drinking it in and getting all the gain from it (Luke 10:39). Here we find her anointing His feet with this precious ointment, gladly sacrificing what was so precious, giving it freely to Him without any reluctance and then wiping His feet with her hair, prepared to sacrifice her own glory (the woman's glory is her hair - 1 Cor.11:15) in order to show the pre-eminence of Christ in her heart. What a wonderful picture! In this house He is in the centre, the object of this company, and they made Him a supper. They were united in showing their appreciation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
ii) The Position of the Home
Now, whatever else we have to say on this topic, this is absolutely essential. Before we can have homes, husbands, wives and children, all united together in connection with the Lord's interests, it is absolutely essential that the pre-eminence of Christ should be in every heart. If it is not there we will certainly fall down in all the other things the word of God indicates to us connected with homes. Oh, dear brethren, what an honour that husbands, wives and children can have Christ in their hearts in a pre-eminent way.
This passage comes in a context of intense hatred and opposition against the Lord of glory. If we read the verses immediately preceding, John 11:47-57, we find there were those who hated Him and they were plotting for His death. There was intrigue and enmity against Him being expressed. The Lord Jesus withdrew Himself from that kind of situation; He could not minister to these people because they had no interest in Him, there was no inlet in their hearts for His teaching, and so He wastes no time with them, but withdraws from them and comes into the atmosphere of love, to this house in Bethany. This was a place where He was desired, where He was wanted, the place where He was honoured and cherished. This house stands in direct contrast to all that Jerusalem represented. What a beautiful picture.
It is no different today. There is a world that hates Christ and His interests and which has no place for Him. Oh, how thankful we are that in our homes there is a place for Christ. I believe our homes can be a tremendous support to the gathering together of the saints; they can affect them in a very helpful way, but unfortunately they can also adversely affect them. How we conduct our lives in our homes greatly affects the gathering of the saints when they gather to His name. Make no mistake about it, this is a very practical matter, a very serious matter, and yet a very privileged matter. I want to show how it can operate today. To do this I want to dwell on this delightful picture of a home where Christ was honoured and cherished, where His interests were maintained and where the glory of His Person was supreme.
A Christian home is one where Christ's Person is honoured, where they speak about Him reverently and affectionately; His word is honoured there, it is read and studied; and it is one where His interests are treasured and sustained. Having said that, I think those of us who have homes, who have husbands and wives, would all say that there could be more affection, more reverence and more practice in maintaining the interests of the Lord. This is why I want to bring this word before you.
iii) The Character of the Home
There was not any doubt about the home at Bethany. It is so obvious that they loved the Lord Jesus, it is so obvious that they were prepared to work for Him, they were prepared to sacrifice for Him, He was the centre of their thoughts and their operations at that particular moment. What a refreshing scene it is when we think of the enmity, the intrigue, the hatred and the corruption that surrounded Him. What a joy it must have been to His heart to retreat from this into the presence of those who loved Him. Is it any different today? We have already said that it is not. I believe it is a joy to the Lord to look down on the homes of the saints and to see there a place where He is honoured, cherished and obeyed. Oh, dear brethren, we want to maintain this. We said that this was prior to His death, resurrection and ascension, and so obviously in this house there is no thought about the church coming in to it, it is Christ pre-eminent. It has been said that 'if you make much of the church you make much of Christ', and we would say that perhaps that is true, but it is a dangerous kind of expression because it is important always to keep Christ first. The Bible says "I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Eph.5:32), Christ is always first. Every heart that loves Him will say 'Amen' to that; Christ first, and then the assembly. This picture I believe would emphasise to us how much we need to be impressed by this pre-eminent place of Christ in the home.
iv) The Occupants of the Home - Lazarus
Again I am going to appeal to each one of us here as to the character of blessing that we have received. In Lazarus, we think of his being raised from the dead, and we can say that we too have listened to the voice of the Son of God and have passed from death unto life. We have the knowledge in our souls that, because of what He has accomplished on the cross, and His power over death in resurrection and where He is at God's right hand, we are no longer dead persons, we are living persons, we have the life, and this life is in the Son (1 John 5:11-13). Oh, glorious Man that He has secured this for us! Should this not produce in our hearts a desire to follow Him? to please Him? to sacrifice for Him? Oh, what a mighty lever in every soul, that Christ has blessed us, taken us out of death into life, and given us an interest in things that are eternal and which are pure and holy.
v) The Occupants of the Home - Martha
When we think of Martha, our minds go back to Luke's gospel where we find her saying "Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me" (10:40). And the Lord very carefully, very quietly replying "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (vv.41-42). Martha was a practical woman, she saw things to be done, and she did them, but perhaps not with that singleness of heart that ought to mark one who is filled with Christ. She was concerned about not getting any help from her sister when apparently her sister was wasting her time, but the Lord indicated to her that there was something just as necessary as serving and that was sitting, listening. So the Lord gave Martha a very practical lesson to be a help for her in future life. It is very good to see that she had now obtained the blessing that comes from listening to and obeying His word.
vi) The Occupants of the Home - Mary
There was nothing to correct in Mary in this instance in Luke 10. She was listening to His word and appropriating it, and in this delightful passage in John she was ready to bestow her cherished treasures on her Lord and Master and show how much she loved Him. I believe she knew that that precious life, so pleasurable to God, so pleasurable to us, was going to be given up, and her actions said in effect 'I am going to anoint His feet now. I know He is going to die, and I know He will rise out from among the dead.' She would not visit His grave, but instead she would anoint His feet. The experience she had with the raising of Lazarus was a very definite proof to her, where the Lord told her "I am the resurrection, and the life" (John 11:25). What a testimony the Lord gave to Martha, and no doubt passed on to Mary, that He was the One who would be victorious over death and so she says 'I am going to anoint His feet now to show my appreciation of that wonderful life. I know that when He does die He will rise out from among the dead. I am not going to embalm His body against death. Why, He is the living One, He will conquer death and I want to express my appreciation of Him now!' Oh, what a wonderful attitude of intelligence and love marked this dear sister Mary.
vii) Is our Home like the Home at Bethany?
These are the features that we see in this house at Bethany, so obviously centred on our Lord Jesus Christ. I hope we are all Christians here, I hope we have all trusted Him as our Saviour and Lord, I hope we are all thoroughly committed to Him in our lives, in our minds and in our affections. If we are, then we can answer to these wonderful examples that we see in this house at Bethany. What a wonderful blessing to be like them, to be out of death, adjusted in connection with features that attach to us naturally, the features of the flesh, and also to be encouraged and expanded in our affections to the Lord Jesus. What a wonderful home this was. Would you like your home to be like that? I would. I would like the Lord Jesus to come into my home at any time and not to have to scurry here and there to hide things that should not be there under the carpet, under the cushion or in the cupboard. I would like to have a settled home where Christ is honoured and esteemed, with nothing to adjust and with the privilege of having Him as the supreme guest in my home with all my interests in Him. What a privilege this is! Yet this is what He has done spiritually in the power of the Holy Spirit today as our thoughts are centred in Him.
2. The Home of Aquila and Priscilla
"Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house. " (Romans 16:3-5a)
i) The Context of Romans 16
It is well to emphasise that this verse comes in Paul's letter of commendation for Phoebe. As she was visiting the Roman assembly Paul took the opportunity to commend others for their service and their love and also to greet the saints. We might say in passing that this is something that is so essential amongst the saints of God today. Dear brethren, do not let it lapse, the principle of giving letters of commendation is so essential with our communications with each other so that we might be able to identify each other as those who desire to walk according to the truth, separate from the confusion that exists in Christendom today. If it was so important in the early days of the church it is equally important today in days of tremendous confusion, and in this letter of commendation, Paul wrote about this devoted couple, Priscilla and Aquila.
ii) The Inhabitants of the Home - Priscilla and Aquila
This couple are mentioned six times in the New Testament, three times Aquila is mentioned first (Acts 18:2,26, 1 Cor.16:19) and three times Priscilla is mentioned first (Acts 18:19, Rom.16:3, 2 Tim.4:19), indicating the balance that was held in this delightful couple, husband and wife, united together in the interests of the Lord. It is not only the Lord personally (thank God for that), but it is "Christ and His church", and as we read this short section about Priscilla and Aquila we find that Paul and all the assemblies were indebted to them for their service. We also learn that in their home the assembly was gathered and performed the various functions associated with it. What a privileged and dignified home! They were thoroughly committed to the glory of Christ and to His interests upon earth.
In Corinth they came into contact with the great vessel who was used by the Holy Spirit to bring out the truth of the church in such a distinctive way - Paul, who was given the truth of the mystery, that saints on earth are united with each other and with Christ in glory forming the body of Christ, something unheard of in Old Testament times (Acts 18:2-3), and Paul took them with him on his journey to Ephesus (vv.18-19). In doing so he placed great confidence in them, in directing them to go to certain assemblies and perform various functions there (e.g. vv.24-26). The apostle, with his discernment and wisdom, was able to see the value of this husband and wife and he used them accordingly.
iii) The Instruction of Apollos in the Interests of Christ in their Home
Apollos knew about the Lord Jesus but only in connection with the baptism of John. He obviously did not understand the truth of Christ glorified and all that was connected with that and so his ministry was defective in this particular point, so Aquila and Priscilla took him to themselves. It seems to me that that would cover the suggestion that they took him home with them, and in the quietness, the privacy, the love and the hospitality of their home they unfolded to him the way of God more perfectly. What a delightful attitude this was! It was an overbearing attitude, but an attitude of love. I think this shows the character of Aquila and Priscilla in their ability to help the saints of God in relation to Christ personally and in relation to His interests.
When we speak about the assembly, there is always a danger of thinking that the truth is only operative in the particular company to which I am connected. This is a very, very bad mistake. I trust that the companies that we are connected with are seeking to maintain the truth of Christ and the assembly as revealed in Scripture, and yet we must not think that this is the only way that we are to think of the assembly. The assembly is so great and glorious and so varied in its expression that we must always have in our minds that it is Christ's assembly. We must hold this in our thoughts more than anything else. I am not seeking to press any sectarian attitude, neither am I seeking to press any particular attitude that would make us feel 'Well it does not matter as long as we are Christians'. That is another danger that we must not fall into. It is the truth concerning Christ and His assembly that must govern our attitude at all times. If not does not we will be liable to fall into error of one kind or another. But Aquila and Priscilla most definitely had the interests of Christ and the assembly in their hearts.
iv) The Assembly in their Home
This attitude was perhaps best exemplified in that the assembly, those who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and gathered to His name, did so in their home. What a wonderful privilege this was. I do not know if they had a large home or a small home, and it is no good speculating, it simply tells us that the church met in their home; but the meetings for the breaking of bread, for prayer, for prophesying or the ministry of the word, or the administration and discipline in connection with the name of the Lord, were all maintained in their home. What a responsibility this was! There would be nothing in that home to divert the minds of the gathered saints away from the particular purpose, they would not be looking round on things that might be there that would occupy their hearts and minds. I am sure the home would have been of such a character, and the attitude of the believers would be of such a kind that their thoughts would be focused on the reason to be gathered together, either for the breaking of bread, prayer in relation to the interests of God and of Christ, or the unfolding of the word of God and also the care that is connected with the practical outworking of the truth of the church. All these things occurred in that home.
That is a wonderful kind of home to have. In many parts of the world, where they cannot come together as we do this evening, the so called 'underground church' gathers like this. Oh, how resolute, how energetic and how continuous we should be in our prayers for our brethren who are being persecuted. I am sure, without any kind of embellishment, that these dear brethren meet together in their homes in quietness and simplicity to do the things that we have been speaking of. What a wonderful privilege on their part, and so the interests of Christ are very much kept alive, perhaps in a greater way than in countries where there is freedom and liberty to meet together.
So these dear brethren in Rome met together in the home of Priscilla and Aquila. Could I invite the brethren along to my home to remember the Lord? Would there be conditions in my home which would detract from this great event? Could the brethren pray freely in my home without being in any way occupied with things around them? or could they minister the word? or administer care or discipline? I trust it would be a home where these things could be carried on. Would it be in yours? I trust it would be so. What a privilege it is to have our homes available for the interests of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now you say 'What about the gospel?' Well, I am perfectly sure that every person who formed that company would be concerned about other persons accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour, and then in turn enjoying the privileges that belong to those who gather to the name of the Lord Jesus. So out from that home would flow a stream of evangelical messages, messages that would reach the unconverted and be a blessing to them.
This would be perfectly in accord with the truth of Ephesians 4. The apostles and prophets laid the foundation in their ministry concerning Christ, then the activity of the pastors/teachers would be to teach those that the evangelists brought in. Oh, how successful the enemy has been in divorcing the truth of the assembly from the preaching of the gospel! The Scriptures do not divorce them, they have them together. Ephesians 4 clearly indicates this, that the evangelist is working hand in hand with the apostles, prophets and pastor/teachers, all with a view, until we reach the finality that the Scripture indicates, leading us to Christ and to His glory. They all work together harmoniously. So we believe that that company, in the home of Priscilla and Aquila, would certainly be of that character.
v) The Place of Husband and Wife in the Home
We have said already that three times Priscilla is mentioned first and three times Aquila is mentioned first, indicating the proper balance between husband and wife. Where Scripture speaks about the husband being the head, it does not mean that he is a tyrant, that he is overbearing, not at all, he is responsible for direction and control in his home, a very, very responsible position indeed. The wife has her place of honour in being subject to her husband, and being under his control and guidance, so contributing to what Scripture indicates is a Christian home set up in order for the glory of Christ and of God.
To help us in this I would say in Psalm 128 we see an ideal brother, and the qualifications for being an ideal husband would be that he fears the Lord (v.1,4), and because he fears the Lord his home is ordered, he is blessed in his home with his wife and his children, he is blessed in his occupation, he is blessed amongst the people of God, and he is blessed by God Himself. So there is the responsibility for every head of every home to fear the Lord. That means, I believe, obedience to the Lord, reverence for the Lord and subjection to His will. Then we read the last chapter of the book of Proverbs if we want to see a pattern sister, the virtuous woman, the woman of worth who also fears the Lord. The same qualities are necessary in the wife as in the husband, and so Scripture would teach us that the ideal home is when husband and wife fear the Lord and unitedly seek to represent Him.
Now I say as a husband, have I failed? What do I do if I have failed as a husband? Obviously the first thing to do is to get on my knees and confess my failure to the Lord in exactly the same way as I would confess any other failure. There is no difference. Let us be preserved from thinking that any failure in the home can be glossed over lightly because it does not reach the public eye. God sees us. We are under the eye of God. Any failure in the home must be confessed in exactly the same way as any public failure. And if the wife fails in any of her responsibilities she has exactly the same recourse for help and for blessing, to confess it. Then we must do something that we are not always prone to do, to confess it to each other that we might not fall into the same snare again and so avoid anything that would hinder the interests of the Lord. I believe with all my heart that Aquila and Priscilla would be such a couple, so concerned about doing what was right for the Lord that they would be harmoniously knitted together, united in the interests of the Lord. This is the attitude that governed their lives. What a delightful couple indeed.
3. Other Homes in Scripture
Now I want to speak about a few homes of a positive character so that we might get help from them, and then very briefly, because it is necessary, I want to speak on the negative side.
i)The Pilgrim Character and Worship in the Home of Abraham
"And he removed from there unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he built an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord." (Gen.12:8)
"Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and he built there an altar unto the Lord." (Gen.13:18)
We referred at the start to Abraham and to his altar. What a delightful picture this gives of this man. What kind of home had he been brought up in? The Bible tells us that the father of Abraham was an idolater (Josh.24:2), this was the kind of home that Abraham was reared in. He would have been accustomed to idolatry with all its wicked, evil ways that were practised in those days, and are still practised today. The God of glory appeared to him and called him out, and that call, when obeyed, completely set him free from every other tie, and he went on his way as a pilgrim. We find that he had a tent, indicating his pilgrim character, and he had an altar, indicating his worship of God. I am sure that every time Abraham looked at that altar it reminded him of the God of glory. Every time he looked at it it reminded him that he could only approach that God on the basis of sacrifice, and it would remind him also of a character of life that was consistent with that sacrifice, this approach in worship.
Now, if we can transfer that to our own homes, oh, what a wonder, as we have been singing together, to be a pilgrim in this world. We are not here forever; who indeed would want to be here forever in a world like this? Surely our desires are set on brighter things above. The Lord prepared His own in view of His absence, but also reminded them that He was coming back. He was not going to leave them, He was coming back to conduct them into the Father's house Himself. What a precious promise He gave, and we are all waiting for Him, but until He comes, how precious to be here in this pilgrim character, turning aside from the things that would hinder us and be found here with homes where Christ is honoured and glorified.
So Abraham with His tent would remind us of this, the pilgrim on his way to the place God had promised him, but in the meantime, as he journeyed, he worshipped God. Oh, how seldom this takes place in our homes! I should not say this really because I do not know all the homes here. Perhaps there are homes here that are greatly given to the worship of God and pray God that it may continue to be so with added incentive and force. Generally speaking we are more accustomed to pray for our varied needs that we have, or for those that are suffering, that may often be the character of our prayers, rather than the worship of our great and glorious God. But what a wonderful thing it is to sometimes forget our needs and the needs of others and be occupied with the greatness of God and the way He has made Himself known to us in Christ and that on the basis of His death, resurrection, and the place that He now occupies in glory. Oh, how wonderful that we can worship God in our homes! This is a positive feature to cultivate and to follow in our homes more and more. Perhaps there is the joyous occasion when a few come along and we gather round and we sing the song of praise, spiritual songs that raise our hearts above this weary world and occupies us with Christ in glory and all the precious things that He is the centre of. There, perhaps, we reach worship, and oh, that it might be more so in these last days. We find it often said, we do not gather together and sing so much as we used to do. Why is that? We have still got plenty to sing about!
ii) Prayer in the Home of Daniel
"Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did previously" (Dan.6:10)
Then we find a man whose home was very definitely marked by prayer. There were those who united themselves together with a very definite intent to destroy Daniel, and when that man of God knew that the thing was now definite and he was subjected to danger, the law having been passed, he went into his house and opened his window as he always did and prayed. This was not an unusual thing, it was not a crisis in his life that drove him to his knees, it was his usual custom. So he opened his window and prayed as he did afore time. We speak about bad habits, and of course we want to get rid of them whatever they might be, but there are good habits, and this was one that Daniel had, and he carried it out faithfully day by day praying to God three times. Now, that does not necessarily guide us, we can pray thirty three times if we wish, and what a wonderful thing it is if we can pray as often as we can. There was a house of prayer, not the assembly, not the temple, but the house that was devoted to this activity. He was in captivity, not much chance of things progressing there in Babylon, but Daniel never forgot that the name of God was centred in Jerusalem. God said He would place His name there and He did and, in that wonderful prayer of Solomon in the day of dedication, there was provision made for those in captivity to look towards the place where God had placed His name, and those who prayed towards that place knew that their prayers would be heard, would be answered, and would be blessed. So Daniel took account of that to put it into practice, and we know the result. All those enemies were destroyed and the man of God was preserved and he carried on his work for God's glory. His house was a house of prayer.
I trust, dear brethren, that our homes are marked by prayer, whether we do it as husband and wife, whether we do it individually or whether we do it when there is a company gathered together. How important it is to pray. I believe heaven looks upon such homes with the greatest possible favour. Children, do not let it be irksome to you when your parents ask you to kneel down in prayer, consider it a privilege to be with them. We have a wonderful example at the end of Acts 20 where they all kneeled down. I believe there were husbands, wives and children, all kneeling down together with the great apostle before he departed from them for the last time. So children, if your parents do ask you to pray, pray heartily with them, listen to the prayers. Perhaps you are privileged to join your prayers to theirs. Heaven looks with favour upon a praying home.
iii)The Word of God in the Home of Deuteronomy 6 and 11
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates." (Deut.6:4-9)
There is not a specific house mentioned in these chapters, but there are instructions there for the very important truth of the word of God being in the home in a very prominent way. Without going into the detail of all these expressions, it is perfectly obvious that the word of God is to have a foremost place in our homes. Mr. C.H.Mackintosh in one of his books has a very solemn statement to make, he says, 'What means the well thumbed newspaper, and the dust covered Bible upon the shelf?' This is a very solemn expression. I hope that our homes are not like that, that our Bibles are relegated to a place of very little, if any, importance and other things have a greater importance. Oh, how necessary it is for the word of God to have an important place in our homes, husband and wife reading it together when they have opportunity, and with the children too, as opportunity occurs, the private reading of the word of God; and not only reading it, but letting the word have an effect upon our lives.
Deuteronomy says, "bind them for a sign upon thine hand"; your service is to be governed by what you read in the word of God. "Bind them...... be as frontlets between thine eyes"; what you look upon is to be governed by the word of God. "And shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up"; your whole day it to be governed by the word of God. "And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates"; there is to a testimony to those outside, that the people in this home love the word of God, they are governed by it, they follow it, they believe that this is the most important instruction that they can have. So you can see from Deuteronomy 6, and emphasised again in chapter 11, that the word of God is to have a pre-eminent place in the home. I ought to have said that verses 4 and 5 are so necessary for the fulfilment of this, that you "love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might", and all that follows is complimentary; God first, and then His word. That reminds us of what Paul said to the Ephesian elders "I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32).
iv) The Devotion to the Lord's Interests in the Home of Stephanas
"And I [Paul] baptised also the household of Stephanas" (1 Cor.1:16)
"Ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted (or, 'devoted') themselves to the ministry of the saints" (1 Cor.16:15).
The last home that we want to refer to is a home where everything is ordered according to the mind of the Lord. It was a baptised house, that is that each member in that home was baptised to the name of the Lord Jesus, not simply the technical means, but really indicating that they wanted to be connected with the One who was rejected here upon earth, and they wanted to be identified with His interests in the fullest possible manner. Every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ ought to be baptised, that is perfectly clear in Scripture. Then we find that not only was the house baptised, but they "addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints". There was a house completely given over to the interests of the Lord Jesus. So all His interests were carefully followed and protected by the house of Stephanas.
These are four positive homes, and oh, let us take our cue from them, a house where there is worship (Abraham), a house where there is prayer (Daniel), a house where the word of God is maintained (Deut.6:11), and a house where the Lord's interests are very carefully guarded (Stephanas).
v) The Adverse Affect Homes can have on the Gatherings
I want to go back to my original statement that what we have in our homes affects the gathering together of the saints. If we have homes where the Lord's interests are not cherished, how can we expect the gathering of the saints to be profitable, to be living, to be powerful? If we come from our homes into the gatherings of those gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus, then we find that there is an atmosphere of love and power that is conducive to free worship and the free expression of the mind of the Lord. I say without hesitation, not only from observation, but from experience, that what is in the home affects the assembly and we all need to pay attention to this. We do not come together in a congregational way where things are organised, we come together to be subject to the leading of the Spirit and the guidance of the Lord. If we are not right in our homes how can we expect the free activity of the Spirit and the help of the Lord as we gather to His name? So, in a practical sense, if husband and wife are quarrelling at home before they come together gathering to the name of the Lord, how can they possibly be right. How can they possibly be subject to the Lord and to the Spirit? If there is collusion in evil in the home such as we have in Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), how is it possible to have blessing in the assembly? These are very, very important things, and for a few minutes I want to show from Scripture that what goes on in our homes can adversely affect the gathering.
v) Covetedness in the Home of Achan
"And Achan answered Joshua and said...... When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it" (Josh 7:20-21)
We have spoken about the positive side. God gave instructions for the destruction of Jericho and that all the valuable things were to be gathered together and dedicated to the Lord. There was one man who disobeyed, Achan. He saw the wedge of gold, the silver and the Babylonish garment, he coveted them, he took them and he hid those things in his tent, (this is in great contrast to the beloved servant of God that we read of in Acts 20 when he says "I have coveted no man's silver or gold or apparel").
The Lord spoke to Joshua and He did not say 'Achan has sinned', He said "Israel has sinned" (7:11), and when Israel went out to fight the enemies of the Lord they were defeated. And why were they defeated? Because in the tent, in the home of Achan, there was a wedge of gold, and some silver and a Babylonish garment that ought not to have been there, and that failure affected the saints of God to such an extent that they were defeated in battle, and not only so, but when God's discipline came upon the company, many, many people lost their lives. I think that portion indisputably shows that what is in our homes of a wrong character can adversely affect the saints of God when they are together. The positive side in answer to that is the tents of the children of Israel were gathered round the tabernacle and were in full support of it.
vi) Selfishness in the Homes of the Remnant in Haggai's Day, and in the Home of Ananias and Sapphira
" Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your panelled houses, and this house (the temple) to lie waste?" (Hagg.1:4)
"But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira, his wife, sold a possession, and kept part of the price, his wife also being privy of it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land?" (Acts 5:1-3)
The saints were recovered from Babylon to rebuild the wall and the temple. Haggai's prophecy has particularly to do with the temple, and he has to say to them, 'Why are you so concerned about the well being of your own homes and the house of God lies waste?' This shows clearly that over occupation with the things of our own homes can lead to apathy and even weakness and spiritual death in the gatherings of the saints.
In the New Testament we have two instances. First of all the case of Ananias and Sapphira that we have already mentioned. When they kept back part of the proceeds to themselves, they were robbing what belonged to God, they were also setting a bad example and their lives were taken from them and so the assembly suffered in that respect. There was collusion in evil, husband and wife both knew perfectly well what they were doing, that it was wrong, but they were prepared to do what was wrong and so judgment came upon them. Oh, what a sad thing to find such a home.
vii) A Well Governed Home a Qualification for Church Offices
"A bishop must be...... one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)" (1 Tim.3:2,4-5)
Finally, if there is a man who desires to work amongst the saints of God as one who cares for them, an overseer, a bishop, an elder, whatever name you like to give him, he is disqualified from performing that service if he cannot control his own home. If a man cannot control his own children, his own home, and lead it correctly, he is not qualified to lead or guide or care for the things of God, a solemn responsibility.
An Appeal for Worthy Homes
So, dear friends, we have not dwelt much on the negative side, but sufficient has been said to indicate the seriousness of not being over zealous, over attentive as to home conditions. I have it laid upon my heart, and I trust the Lord lays it upon yours, of the need to pay attention to our homes that the proper conditions prevail there in honesty, in righteousness, in devotion to the Lord, that the atmosphere that is found there might be carried over into the gathering of the saints when they gather to His name.
Just one word in closing; the Lord said to the disciples in Matthew 10, "Into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and there abide till ye go from there" (v.11). Let us end on that note, that we all want to have worthy homes. I think the best way to do that would be to adopt the saying of Joshua at the end of his life "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh.24:15).