Should Christians preach the Gospel from door to door like the Jehovah's Witnesses'?
by Peter Salemi
The Jehovah's Witness everyone knows, go door to door spreading their faith throughout Canada the USA etc... They believe that this is what the disciples did in the New Testament, and this is why they do this today. There are a few scriptures they used to justify this practice like Acts 20:20; 2:46; Matthew 10:14. Should Christians go door to door and preach the Gospel in this way?
Fellow Christians NOT Strangers
From a quick reading of Acts 20:20, one might assume that the apostle Paul went from house to house to preach the Gospel to the unconverted. But when we read the entire passage, beginning with verse 17, we can understand the intended meaning.
Paul "sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church" (verse 17). He said to them, "I ... taught you publicly and from house to house" (verse 20). Paul was teaching the leaders of the Church in their own homes. He was not going from house to house trying to teach whoever opened the door.
The other misunderstood scripture is Acts 2:46: "So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they [the 12 apostles and other disciples] ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart." Notice that these people continued daily "with one accord." They were all of the same belief. 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.
Paul also kept his own rented home at Rome where he "received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God" (Acts 28:30-31). Paul did not go from house to house preaching to disinterested sinners and unconverted people. Paul never pestered people this way because he knew the principle of John 6:44: It is God Himself, who calls people to the truth by opening up their minds when they hear the Gospel in a public forum (see below).
Certainly, Paul did visit the homes of those who sought counsel and information about God's truth. But it was by request of the people concerned.
What of Matthew 10?
Notice what Jesus said, "And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence." (v.11). When a Christian comes into town, he or she is to "enquire" who is "worthy" and stay with in that persons home. Who are the ones "worthy"?
Jesus said, "Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat." (vv.9-10). He is speaking to his disciples, the people working in the harvest of the world, fellow Christians.
Another scripture says, "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy." (Rev 3:4). Again fellow Christians! So when a Christian goes into a city, he or she "enquires" who is a fellow Christian and stay with that person. So still there is no instruction here about going to unconverted strangers homes.
Then Jesus says, "And when ye come into an house, salute it.
"And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.
"And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet." (vv.12-14)
Here there is no enquiry about a persons home, its just a house that one goes to; maybe an acquaintance of a friend, because it's obvious from verse 13 where it says "but if it be not worthy" If one enquired, one would already know if it was worthy or not, so the situation is different here than in verse 11. So there is nothing here about going house to house to the unconverted preaching the Gospel!
So if you were to go to a house and you find out that they are "worthy" meaning fellow believers give them the blessing of the peace of Christ (John 14:27). If they are "not worthy" Now how does that happen? How do you find out that they are not worthy? By conversation! They probably ask you questions about who you are etc...The question of religion comes up and they tell you that they are not Christians. If that be the case, and they reject your message as Jesus says in verse 14, "whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words," Jesus said, "let your peace return to you." Now the Goodspeed New Testament translates this, "your blessing will come back upon yourselves."
Barnes's Notes, writes, "This is a Hebrew mode of saying that your peace shall not come upon it, Psalm 35:13...If rejected and persecuted, the blessings which they sought for others would come upon themselves. they [the Christian preaching the Gospel] would reap the benefit of being cast out and persecuted for their Masterís sake, Matthew 5:10." (emphasis added). So the blessing would be withheld and given to the Christian who is tossed out of the home instead.
So there is nothing here about going from house to house to the unconverted and preaching the Gospel. In fact Jesus specifically said, "Go not from house to house." (Luke 10:7). Jehovah's Witnesses are actually doing the exact opposite of what Christ instructed his disciples! And Christ was speaking to his disciples directly, notice the first half of that verse, it says, "And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire." These are his disciples; he is speaking to the laborers of the Gospel, and they are NOT to go from "house to house"!
What of Acts 5:42? "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." Were they preaching from house to house to strangers?
First, they would directly disobey Jesus when he said "Go not from house to house." The Apostles would not do that at all!
Second, one must look at all the scriptures and put them together to see what the Apostles did during that time going from "house to house;" and what they did was preach and teach to fellow believers not strangers.
They preached to the general public as it says in this scripture that they preached "in the Temple" a public place. What about the houses? "and in every house"? This is better translated "at home: in their place" (Ellicott Commentary, emphasis his; see also Pulpit Commentary).
When one looks at other translations, they correctly put it, "And every day, in the temple and at home, they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus as the Christ." (ASV)
"not for a single day did they cease to teach and preach the gospel of Jesus the Christ in the temple and at home" (Moffatt) (See Also Murdock; RV; WEB; WEBA)
The Worell New Testament translates it, "and at their homes." Like the Apostle Paul in Rome people heard the Gospel in public, and then they came to the Apostles homes enquiring about the message they heard.
Even if it did mean "house to house," all authorities recognize the way the disciples preached the Gospel from house to house and it was to fellow believers, not strangers,
"Undismayed by any punishment in the past, undeterred by any fear for the future, they did their Masterís bidding daily without rest or repose, in public, in the courts of His ancient and beautiful temple.
"And in every house they ceased not to teach. In private assemblies, too, held in the now many homes of the faithful, they taught the doctrines of their Crucified and Risen Lord.
"Here, in one word, the special purpose of their public and private teaching is told us. They proclaimed to all in the crowded Temple courts, as in the little earnest home gatherings of the believers, that Jesus the Crucified was no other than the Christóthe Messiah." (Popular New Testament, emphasis added).
In private assemblies, too, held in the now many homes of the faithful" (Schaff Popular Commentary NT emphasis added)
How to Preach the Gospel
How should the church of God spread the Gospel?
Jesus gave a Parable of the Sower. He said, "A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed," (Luke 8:5). Jesus said, "The seed is the word of God." (v.11). Jesus also said, "the field IS the World" (Matthew 13:38). When a person sows the seed, the seed goes everywhere, "... as applied to the preachers of the word, may be explained of their commission, of their being sent, and of their going forth into the field of the world, preaching the Gospel every where" (Gill's Commentary, emphasis added).
"Those by the way side are they that hear;" (v.12). Those that hear the preaching of the Gospel is the actual seed that goes to the whole world in general to the general public as Jesus said, "the field is the world" (Matthew 13:38).
Jesus said, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15)-To the general public.
At Pentecost Peter preached to the public in a public forum. (see Acts 2) As noted earlier, people came to the Apostles and enquired about the Gospel; because most likely the heard one of them preaching in public and wanted to know more. God was calling them and opening up their minds to reveal to them the truth by his spirit (John 6:44; Luke 10:21)
Today, the Gospel is proclaimed on the internet, social platforms, T.V. Radio-our public forums today; anyone is at liberty to listen or not to listen on his or her T.V. set, phone or computer. The Gospel is also being published and sent free of charge to all who request it or downloaded off the internet. Also, as in the New Testament examples, we go into the homes of people who specifically invite us to counsel them. We do not go uninvited into the homes of people to try to persuade them of the truth or to try to get them to join anything.
Who Do we Invite into our Homes?
We might turn the question around and ask, "Should we invite into our homes just anyone who is going from house to house trying to get us to accept his or her form of doctrine?" Here is God's instruction: "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine [the truth of God's Word by a fellow Christian], receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed" (II John 10, King James Version). We are not to go preaching from house to house. Neither are we to accept into our homes any peddlers of religion who might show up at our door. This is the example of Jesus Christ and the early Church of God.