WAS the method of preaching the saving gospel from house to house among people of diverse beliefs enjoined by Jesus Christ on his disciples? This is a question often asked by people. The correct answer is NO! And the method did not originate from his apostles. For anyone to teach or air the view that such a system was the example set by our Saviour or his early disciples is, to say the least, very misleading.
One of the doctrinal issues on which the God's Kingdom Society (GKS) differs from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (W.B.T.S.) for whose sake people ask the foregoing question, is the matter of preaching from house to house. The witnesses regard all other Christians who do not go from house to house or door to door preaching the Bible as either indolent or not understanding the will of God. They always make references to certain portions of the Bible to justify their manner of preaching and to show that others who do not adopt that system are not keeping to the theocratic rule.
Owing to the questions arising from this issue from time to time and in the interest of honest seekers-after-truth: it has become necessary to treat the subject in this Sermon in a really intelligible language of the Bible.
In their book This Means Everlasting Life, pages 142-143, they do not add anything new. And in repeating themselves over again, they asserted in their work Thing.\' In Which It Is Impossible For God To Lie (page 405) that their system of preaching is the "apostolic fashion... that is to say, 'publicly and from house to house' (Acts 20: 20; 5: 40-42)".
Now, having scrutinised all the textual references made in the publications of the Watchtower Society on this topic which the witnesses have always employed as tools to defend their faith, no doubt remains in our minds that they have become victims of misconceptions. They cite texts that do not lend support to their claims or have relevance to their arguments.
In all the references they made there is not a single one showing that Jesus Christ preached from house to house in Jerusalem, and we make bold to say that nobody can cite any authority of the Scriptures to substantiate that view because it is not true. Matthew 11: 1 and Mark 1: 38, which they referred to have nothing relative to house-to-house preaching. In the interest of those who have not their Bibles by their side, here is Matthew's account: "And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities." And that of Mark reads: "And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for there- fore came I forth." Where in these texts is it shown that he preached from house to house?
Their third reference is Acts 20: 20,21. This, too, has no connection with the person of Jesus Christ whatsoever. It only relates to the work of St. Paul which the Watchtower members themselves do not understand as we shall show later on in this Sermon.
The Holy Bible abounds with instances of how Jesus Christ preached in the open from city to city, and in the villages. He preached in the synagogues or temple of the Jews, at sea coasts, on the top of mountains, and so on, but NEVER from house to house. (Mark 4: I; 5: 1-19; Matthew, 9: 35; Mark 10: I, etc.) However, there were occasions on which he lodged in private houses and did preach to those who came to him; and in any of such cases, we could see that the house belonged to one of his followers or believers, and where it was not so, then he went to do spiritual good as moved b:,' the Spirit or he was invited.
In Mark 2: 1,2, it is recorded: "And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. And .straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them." We can see that in this case the house in which he put up was thronged beyond capacity by those who desired to hear him and he preached to them. HE DID NOT GO FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE, RATHER, THE PEOPLE CAME TO HIM.
There is also the record of Christ's visit to the house of Martha where Mary, her sister, sat at his feet to hear God's word while Martha cumbered about material things of no spiritual profit. (Luke 10: 38-42) But the visit of Jesus Christ to the house of Simon, who was a Pharisee, was on invitation. As it is writ- ten: "And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat." (Luke 7: 36) And the circumstances surrounding his going into the house of Zacchaeus are quite clear. He was not preaching from house to house. It was when he had discerned the heart-condition of Zacchaeus that he called him out and decided to visit his house.-Luke 19: 1-10.
Jesus Christ was never inclined to private or secret interpretation of his doc- trine. He himself said that it is those whose works are evil that go into dark places or hide their activities but "he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God". (John 3: 20,21) When he was under arrest, and the high priest of the Jews wanted to know of his doctrine, Jesus gave an answer that should serve as an eye- opener to the Watchtower Society. As it is written: "Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing."-John 18: 20.
Turning to the days of the apostles i1fter the Pentecost there is no ground to believe that they preached from house to house among unbelievers. All the texts offered by the Watchtower Society are misconstrued and wrongly interpreted -maybe because of their over-zealousness to preach. They referred to Acts 5: 40- 42 where it is reported that after the apostles had been beaten up they went out of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer indignity for Christ's sake. "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."
The Watchtower men rest their opinion on the phrase "in every house". But the question that has always beaten them flat is whether the phrase is with reference to "every house" of the Christians ..1r "every house" of non-Christians. In actual fact, those houses where the apostles taught and preached belonged to the Christian believers. It was customary with the early Christians to be gathering in their houses, and .they engaged, apart from hearing God's word, in eating together or "breaking bread from house to house". (Acts 2: 46; 20: 7).
It must be realised that at that time when the Christians were II n d e r severe persecution, it would be unwise and unsafe for them to preach "in every house" of unbelievers or go around from house to house visiting their persecutors who were even bunting for them! The persecution reached a stage that Saul, who later became Paul the apostle, entered the homes of the Christians, took them and sent them to prison. The record states: "As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house and haling men and women committed them to prison."-Acts 8: 3.
Finally, let us now consider the popular text of the witnesses at Acts 20: 20. It reads: "And how I kept back no- thing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house."
By the way, whom was St, Paul addressing? If he was talking to non-believers the Watchtower Society will be right to cite it as a precedent for them to go into people's houses as they are doing, But if the apostle was addressing the Converts, then the Watchtower Society is hopelessly wrong in preaching from house to house among those who are not of their faith, The truth is that St. Paul was addressing not just ordinary converts but the elders or local leaders of the Ephesians Church. This is clear if we read from verse 17 of the very chapter. It runs thus: "And from Millets he (Paul) sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I ] back nothing that was profitable \ you, but have shewed you, and havoc 1aught you publicly and from house to house."-Acts 20: 17-20.
We have now seen vividly that this text is never a command by Jesus Christ nor an order by St. Paul that Christians should preach' from house to house or door to door among people who do not share their beliefs. And if we are to go, as we should, by the standard of St. Paul's action, the President, Secretary, Legal adviser. elected elders, circuit servants, or pioneers of the Watchtower Society can go from house to house among Watch- tower members in any place they visit to exhort them. But it is NOT an instruction or a precedent for them to preach from house to house to others where they are not invited.