We realise that some groups approach the preaching of the gospel by going from door to door. But this is not in accordance with Scripture, and it can do more harm than good.
First of all, we have to realise that this is not the only day of salvation. In 2 Corinthians 6:2, it states the following: “For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you..’.” We have long understood that this verse is a mistranslation of Isaiah 49:8 where it states that this is “a day of salvation” (Authorized Version). If today was the only day of salvation, then Satan, who has the world in the palm of his hand, would be winning the battle outright. Of course, that is not the case.
Many Christian denominations have this idea that if we are not “saved” now, we will be lost for all eternity. They do not realise that God does the calling and in His own good time. John 6:44 gives Christ’s answer to this mystery: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” This critical truth is repeated again in John 6:65.
It is important to understand the principles that today–this present day and age–is not the only day of salvation, and that God has to do the calling. However, those who do not have this biblical understanding have an urgency to convert the world. Whilst we should want as many as possible at this time to come to a knowledge of the truth, we have to realise that God is in charge, and His timing as to our calling is perfect.
Nevertheless, those comments should in no way stop us from setting the very best example we can and to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…..” (1 Peter 3:15).
But Scripture tells us that going from door to door is not what we should be doing. In Acts 20:20 which many use as their reason for conducting themselves in this way, we read Paul’s words: “…and how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly AND from house to house…”
Paul’s next words in Acts 20:21 show that he was speaking about a ministry to non-believers, for he states: “… testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is surely because Christianity was fairly new and so many would be enquiring about it – both Jews and Greeks. This would be by invitation, not by an ad hoc door knocking exercise. He was not going from door to door of just about everyone in town, trying to convert those who happened to open their door to him. If we look to the example of Jesus Christ, He didn’t try and convert people and force His will on others. Shouldn’t we follow His way by not causing the offence that can happen when someone calls unannounced with a religious message?
We also need to understand that many times, the church brethren met in private homes for Sabbath services (compare Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19). One commentator stated that “Paul’s ministry from house to house is contrasted with his public ministry and probably refers to house churches. If so, each elder was possibly the overseer of a house church. Paul both preached and taught.”
Another commentator wrote: “Paul’s statement that he has proclaimed the gospel in public and in houses refers to his open… proclamation before kings and in public spaces, and to his ‘private’ ministry in synagogues (considered as private spaces) and in house churches.”
And a further comment was made as follows: “The private home was a centre of intellectual activity and the customary place for many types of speakers and teachers to do their work. Occasional lectures, declamations and readings of various sorts of philosophical, rhetorical and literary works often took place in homes. Such sessions might be continued for two or three days. The speaker might use his own house or be invited to speak or teach in another home. These were private affairs and audiences came by invitation.”
One large group who do go from door to door, use Acts 5:42 as their biblical reasoning to do so. This verse reads as follows: “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” This was after the apostles had been beaten and “commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus…” (verse 40).
A commentator observed as follows: “In Acts 5:42, it shows that first the Apostle Peter taught publicly at the temple. Communities of Christians were formed. Possessions were sold and equally distributed to all, every day they went to the temple and met in private homes to break bread and pray and build each other up in Christ as a community, a close knit family in Christ. In the temple more persons would be converted and baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and would be invited to meet in private homes to further bond and become a part of the Christian brotherhood. These private homes acted as small house churches of communities of love and fine works towards one another to build each other up in the Christ. They met in small groups, as close knit families, in private homes. No door to door activity was even remotely involved or part of the daily routine of the early Christian brotherhood.”
Acts 2:46 is another passage that can be misunderstood. It states: “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart…”
In a Church of God publication some years ago it said: “This is simply talking about people who ate together as one might have close friends to his home. It says nothing about preaching to strangers. In this instance, many had come to Jerusalem from many nations to attend one of God’s annual festivals, Pentecost. Because they had no home in Jerusalem, the people who lived there invited them to come to their homes and eat.”
We know that Paul had his own rented home and received all who came to him, “preaching the Kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him” (Acts 28:30-31). There is no mention of him going from house to house to call unexpectedly on those who were not interested and who could show resentment to someone trying to convert them. Of course, like today, if he would have had opportunity, he would have visited those who requested him to do so, much like ministers at this time who are invited to visit, in their own homes, those who are interested in the truth.
Luke 10:7 follows on from the story of when the seventy were sent out. Here Christ states: “And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house.” There are those that think that you can eat anything that is put before you. But we know that the food laws are still in full force and effect. It also says “do not go from house to house” but again, there are those who will try and explain this away, saying that this phrase should be translated as, “you shall not move.” However, Christ was not talking about moving to another place, when circumstances dictate or warrant, but He was addressing the manner of preaching the gospel.
The apostles taught in the synagogue; they taught in members’ houses; they went into houses when they were invited; and “Paul stood in the midst of the Aeropagus (Mars Hill)…” where he preached the truth of God, “…and said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious…'” (Acts 17:22) There were many ways at that time where the truth could be preached without going from door to door as indeed there are many different ways of preaching the truth in the 21st century.
We are to set the very best example possible (compare Matthew 5:16) and not be hypocritical in any way. There is an old saying that we must never forget: “What You Do Speaks So Loudly I Cannot Hear What You Say.” We are to be ready to give an answer when sincerely questioned about our faith–and not, when we are just asked for the purpose of engaging us in contentious arguments and debate. We are to be fully supportive of the Church of God in all of its activities, which will assist all those who are being called at this time.
Those who do go from door to door often get a reputation for being a nuisance and to be avoided. Let us realise that this is not the best approach and not supported by Scripture.
In a letter that was used by the Worldwide Church of God in 1988 about this question, it was stated: “The apostle Paul had his own hired house at Rome where he ‘received ALL that CAME IN UNTO HIM, preaching the kingdom of God’ which Jesus had commanded His true servant to preach (Acts 28:30-31). The apostle Paul was taught the Gospel personally by Jesus Christ Himself (I Cor. 15:8; Gal. 1:11-2:2). One of the teachings of Jesus was that we should not force the Gospel upon anyone (Matt. 7:6). Therefore, it is evident that Paul did not go from house to house trying to convert people. When Paul preached publicly, it was primarily in the synagogues of his day.”
Finally, let us remember that those who do come to our door and do “not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him, for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 10-11).
Lead Writer: Brian Gale (Great Britain)