Does the "house of God" refer to those under the influence of the church?

THE HOUSE OF GOD

Do you think that the House of God is regarded in Scripture as “the place of profession,” as is sometimes taught?  That is, the "profession" of one who is not saved, but is a part of church culture.

A good deal is taught on this subject, which we do well to test by the Word of God. It is sometime erroneously taught that the House of God is the place of Christian profession, and that God recognises this as a “third something” between the true Church and the world. What is known as Household-Baptism, for instance, thus seeks to justify the baptism of children and unconverted household servants. These are brought, they assert, into the House of God—they are “in the ambit of the Church of God,” as the strange expression goes. They are there on the ground of profession; but what profession can infants make? And if unconverted persons make any, it can only be false. That man has made a mixed thing of it by carelessness in reception, or by neglect of Scriptural discipline, is sadly true; but to make out that God is responsible for, or connives at such a state of things is indeed serious.

Now, the expression “House of God” refers in the Old Testament, if we except Genesus 28:17, 22, where Jacob uses the expression in a figurative sense, to the Tabernacle or to the Temple, and though uncleanness and even idols (2 Chronicles 33: 7) might invade that House, they never formed part of it, and at every revival were drastically removed and cleansed away (e.g., 2 Chronicles 24:13; 2 Chronicles 29:16; 2 Chronicles 33:15).

Paul in writing to Timothy speaks of his knowing “how to behave himself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” This is the local aspect—the Church of God, viewed as the place of responsibility. Undesirable elements did incorporate themselves, alas too easily, in the local “house” (see Jude), but though the condition was detected, it was not approved of. Ecciesiastics justify the sad lack of discipline in their organisations by the parable of the tares and the wheat—”Let both grow together until the harvest”—but they seem to forget that “the field is the world,” not the church. Undesirable visitors, thieves, and such-like, may find entrance into a house, but it is contrary to the desire of the head of the house, and they form no part of the household and must be removed as soon as detected. In Hebrews we read, “But Christ as a Son over His own house: whose house are we, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end” (Hebrews 3:6), that is, those who continue in the way prove themselves to be the House of God, the rest have no part in it.

It is indeed a blessed privilege of the people of God no longer to be “strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). And this is His purpose in gathering saints to Christ —“To whom coming as unto a Living Stone. . . chosen of God and precious; Ye also as living stones are built up a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:4, ). “Ye are God’s building.. . ye are the temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:9, 16). When the apostle speaks of the “House of God,” does he then view it as possibly or even probably including “false brethren crept in unawares,” or ideally? I believe the latter, for whatever is not God’s building is an extraneous element to be purged out. For instance, in Hebrews 10:21, Christ is presented as “High Priest over the house of God”—surely He is not the High Priest of false worshippers—trespassers in that house. Again, Peter reminds us that “judgment must first begin at the house of God.” Has he in view the heterogeneous company, that some seem to see almost exclusively, in the place of profession—a mixture of believers and unbelievers, because they all profess and call themselves Christians? I think the context shows rather that the true House of God is in view—contrasted with those that “obey not the gospel of God,” and paralleled in the following verse with the righteous—”If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1 Peter 4:17, 18). Where is there room in this verse for a third something, neither righteous nor ungodly, but “professors.” The original from which this quotation is taken bears this out: “Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth; much more the wicked and the sinner” (Proverbs 2:31).

These latter, including false professors, will be recompensed not now, but in the future. But someone will say, “Does not Paul speak of ‘the great house of Christendom’ in his Second Epistle to Timothy?” Certainly not in so many words, though such a form of words has been dogmatically attributed to his writings. What he does say, I believe parenthetically, is, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour and some to dishonour” (chap. 2. 20). This passage and the ‘parable of the tares seem to be the sheet anchors of ecclesiastics to justify their mixed systems. To them “the great house” is “the Church” in their broad sense of a great ecclesiastical, christened organisation, reciting the apostles’ creed and practising “the sacraments.”

Others, as we have seen, understand Paul to mean “the great house of Christendom,” though I believe such an idea springs from a misreading of the passage. I submit again that verse zo is in the nature of a parenthesis, explaining the use the apostle is about to make of the term, “vessel unto honour” in verse 21. “In a great house” (that is in any great house in Rome, where he was in prison, or in Ephesus, where Timothy is supposed to have been), there are vessels of various materials and of varied uses. At this point the apostle resumes his exhortation, “If a man purge himself from these”—the evil things and men above referred to—he shall be something corresponding to the literal material vessels of gold and silver of any great house, namely a spiritual vessel unto honour in the House of God, “sanctified and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”

One does not wish to dogmatise, but I would ask my readers, who desire to be still subject to the Word of God, apart from the glamour of great names, carefully to weigh above with the Scriptures.

W.H.