the weblog of Alan Knox

The Church or Two Churches?

Posted by on Oct 1, 2010 in definition | 3 comments

Four years ago, when this blog was just getting started – back when I only posted a few times each month – I wrote a short post called “The Church or Two Churches?” about the use of the term “church.” I think this is a good question for us to consider.


The Church or Two Churches?

According to Romans 16, within the city of Rome there was a church that met in the home of Priscilla and Aquila (Rom 16:5). There was also a church that met with Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, and Hermas (Rom 16:14). Finally, there was a church that met with Philologus, Julia, Nereus and Olympas (Rom 16:15).

Paul recognized each of these groups as the church.

Based on Paul’s use of ekklesia (“church”), when two of these groups met together, would Paul have recognized the combination as the church, or two churches?

I believe he would have recognized them as the church, not two churches.

If this is true, what are the implications for the church today?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 10-1-2010

    Good question, Alan. While I understand what you’re saying with Paul’s reference to the “church” in each person’s house, I don’t think Paul considered them independent congregations as we might think of them today. In other words, I don’t believe they were two different groups of believers with their own separate life together, administration, ect.

    Things today are just vastly different then they were in those days, and it’s very easy to read our own situations and practices into the first-century record.

    Anyway, I just wanted to make that point. I agree with you entirely: Paul had no thought of “two” churches in any town. The principle of the one Body is consistent all throughout scripture, and the boundary of the local church is not a house but the city in which all the believers in Christ reside. In the words of Watchman Nee, “anything smaller than the city is not the church, and anything larger than the city is not the church” (in its local expression, that is).

  2. 10-2-2010

    I think this point ties in with your discussion of Acts 15.

    In Acts, the Holy Spirit goes to some amazing lengths to preserve the unity of the church. It could easily have become Messianic vs Samaritan vs Gentile vs John the Baptist followers. I think there are four megashifts in Acts securing this unity.

    We have Pentecost which sets the standard–THIS IS GOD’S WORK–including the signs required by the Jews (I Cor 1:22)

    Then in Acts 8, we have a second pentecost-like experience with the Holy Spirit confirming the gospel among the Samaritans through the ministry of Peter and John, confirming they are included in the work of God. Acts 8:14-18

    In Acts 10 (some 10-12 years after Pentecost), we have the episode of the gospel moving into the gentiles through Peter (Acts 10:44-46). The Holy Spirit confirms this work with a third pentecost-like episode, which proved to be critical to the Jews acceptance (Acts 11:15-18) As an aside, it is interesting to note that Peter describes this “as on us AT THE BEGINNING (pentecost was not a normative, frequently repeated experience over the first 10-12 years of the church).

    (Acts 15 clears the air of the stragglers, hold-outs, and wandering dividers among the Jews who are remaining after Acts 10,11. But it does not prevent the “party of the circumcision” from harassing the church throughout Acts, even getting Peter to follow their leanings.)

    In Acts 19:1-6, we have a final knitting together of the disparate followers of Jesus when Paul meets followers of John the Baptist, who are faithfully waiting for the messiah John spoke of to be revealed.

    To me, these are the pivotal chapters in Acts relating to the careful knitting together of the church by God with signs as required by the Jews to confirm His hand.

    (see Eph 2:13-22 and Eph 4:4-6) If God is this concerned about the unity of the church–then it seems this being “of one body” should be very important to us as well.

  3. 10-2-2010

    But you are asking for practical implications TODAY.

    All the one-anothers apply to the people of God in a locality (the church) whether we are connected as neighbors, in the workplace, in school, in transactions (banks, stores, gas stations, etc.) and whether we are “disconnected” by denominational, social, racial, age, sex, or theological differences.

    The church is marked by breaking all of these barriers and showing love to one another in practical ways.

    Love is the key glue and motivator for our response to these truths. There are NO enemy believers, only brothers and sisters all. There is no “they” group against which we can fight/hate. So, we can lay down our arms if we are fighters or open our arms if we are stingy with our affection and time.

    We can reach across the desk, counter, work station, lunch room, break room, fence and “one another” each other: build one another up, greet one another, bear one another’s burden, encourage one another, pray for one another, exhort one another, serve one another, etc.

    Share your stuff. Share your time. Share your talents. Share your home. Share your money. Share your food.

    Rent a bulldozer and break down the front walls of your church (ok, just seeing if you read this far–NO bulldozers!). We don’t need to attack the “traditional” or “attractional” or “denominational” or “emergent” church; we don’t need to attack the clergy or the “lazy laity.” We just need to do what He said. Love them like they was family, ’cause they is. Let them love you back.

    A coworker says, “I need to fix the front door tonight, and I dread it.” What do you do?

    A neighbor has been out of work and you know he can’t make the rent. What do you do?

    A clerk you see frequently mentions their daughter is playing in her first soccer game Saturday. What do you do?

    Another neighbor’s mom is in the hospital. What do you do?

    “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, *especially* unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Gal 6:10)

    “Missional” is to the lost, but it is *especially* to our brothers and sisters across every existing boundary. That demonstration of love across boundaries is critical to “missional” effectiveness (Jn 13:35; Jn 17:21-23)


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