To Him Be Glory in the Church


During our recent trip to Italy, we had the opportunity to visit one of the prominent basilicas in the city of Rome. Like so many ancient and medieval church buildings in Rome and throughout Europe, this basilica was beautiful and rich in its history. The original basilica dates to the fourth century, and was rebuilt several times in later times. The present structure was built in the ninth century.

We were surprised to learn that the remains of a house have been unearthed adjacent to, and now some twenty-five feet below, the basilica. Some scholars believe the house may have served as a meeting place for Christians as early as the third century, although that possibility is not certain. Our tour included descending the steps and visiting the ancient house.

Visiting those remains led me to think about the Christians who may have met there, especially during such challenging times. The third century was a time when Christians faced persecution by the Roman authorities.

Did the house belong to one of the Christians? Were they in danger? Were they forced to meet in secret? Did some of them experience persecution, even death? Were they few or many in number? How many other Christians throughout the world were meeting in similarly humble circumstances? What kind of impact would such circumstances have on their faith?

The New Testament confirms that the earliest saints sometimes met together in the houses of fellow believers. Notably, Paul sent greetings to Prisca and Aquila and to “the church in their house” (Rom. 16:3-5; cf. 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15).

It served as a vivid reminder to me that the church of the Lord is something far greater and more majestic than any physical building. And as impressive as was the beautiful basilica. presumably built by men for the glory of God, how much more glorious is the thought of those courageous believers who faithfully met in much humbler circumstances!

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents” (Phil. 1:27-28).

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:19-22).

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).

Dan Petty