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Did Early Christians Preach Door-to-Door?



The Claim

The Problem: An Identity Crisis

How the Witnesses have justified door-to-door evangelism

Watchtower admissions in the 1970s

What about Acts 5:42?

Acts 2:46 -- Why is the Watchtower not consistent?

Does Acts 20 indicate Paul went door-to-door?

The Evidence of Paul's Epistles


The Evidence of Paul's Epistles

In Paul's letters we have first hand evidence of the pastoral emphases of the great apostle himself. In the letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians (thought to be a general letter to the Asian churches), Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians, we have insight into exactly what Paul considered to be "spiritual service of worship" (Rom.12:1, NASB). In addition to these 9 congregational letters, we have 4 pastoral epistles from Paul's hand (Timothy, Titus and Philemon), which flesh out the shepherding emphases we noted in Paul's address to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20.

What do these 13 letters reveal as to the importance of witnessing in Paul's mind? According to the Watchtower Comprehensive Concordance (1973), Paul used the words witness, witnessed, witnesses and witnessing a total of 32 times in his 13 epistles. The concept of "witness" is therefore of some importance to Paul. Yet, of the 32 occurrences, the "witnesses" are God (5 times), Paul (6 times), Christ (once), the Spirit (once), the conscience of Paul or others (3), the Law (1), a Cretan prophet (1), the audience for Timothy's ordination (2). 2 references are to the general principle of the Law regarding the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses. This leaves 9 occasions where the word "witness" is found with we, our or an unspecied subject. Most of these occurrences, if not all, when examined in context, will be found to refer to the apostles. This leaves a single example where Paul undoubtedly refers to the "witness" of the members of the congregations he founded and served. In this single instance (1 Thess. 2:10), the local believers are reminded of how they are witnesses to the blamelessness of the apostles. Not once, amid the myriad instructions Paul gives to the disciples regarding spiritual worship, does Paul ever command or even recommend that those Christians witness.

It is instructive that when the Watchtower goes to Paul's epistles for a prooftext for their public preaching, they usually are left with 2 Timothy 4:2. Here is the only place in Paul or any of the apostolic epistles where we have a command to preach. However, as even the title of the epistle gives away, it is elder Timothy, Paul's deputy in Ephesus, who is receiving the imperative to preach. In verse 5 Paul makes his wish for Timothy explicit, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. We NEVER hear Paul give such an instruction to the members of the congregations.

2 Timothy 4:2 is one of 31 occurrences of the word "preach", "preacher", "preaches" or "preaching" in Paul's letters (according to the NWT Comprehensive Concordance). Of the remaining 30, 12 refer to Paul, and 8 to we or our (as with witness, context almost always indicates the reference is to the apostles). The other 10 occurrences do not specify the subject, but context reveals they refer to either the apostles or Jewish or false teachers (e.g. Rom.2:21, 2 Cor.11:4). We reiterate: Not once does Paul give a congregation instructions to preach or witness. In fact, in his last epistle, the same 2nd letter to Timothy, Paul sums up how he considers the good news was proclaimed in all creation under heaven in that generation (Col.1:23). Speaking of his court case before the Roman magistrate, Paul says:

But the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me, in order that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear ... (2 Tim. 4:17, NASB)

Paul has reached many hundreds of millions more Gentiles through his epistles written from prison than he ever reached by his organized preaching tours. Little could the apostle have realized how the Lord would use even the evil of Paul's imprisonment to praise Him. God, as Paul learned, is NOT dependent on human plans, means and methods to get HIS work done.

APOLOGIA: Home Mission To New Religions Inc.

Were the Apostles Really 'Jehovah's Witnesses'?

As outlandish as that question may seem, Jehovah's Witnesses take pride in the claim that they -- and they only – are imitators of the method of evangelism practised by the early church. But did 1st century believers -- even the apostles -- go door-to-door, or does the book of Acts present a different picture of preaching work of the early church?