From the perspective of this writer, the arrangement described above is scriptural and should be practiced by Christians everywhere. In Acts 20.20, the apostle Paul summarized his work with the congregation at Ephesus in these words: “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house….” In verse 31 he adds that this work was ongoing for “three years.”
A word is in order about the meaning of Acts 20.20. In recent years there have been a few efforts to re-construct the meaning of this passage from the historic, commonly accepted understanding, especially regarding the phrase “house to house.” Some suggest that this refers to worship services in house churches and is contrasted to preaching in an open square. Others say that the word house should be read as “household” or “family” and thus conclude that Paul is limiting the scriptural parameters of a private study to people who are biologically related, or in some way, members of the same family. Neither of these interpretations enjoy logical or scholarly support.
J. B. Rotherham translated the verse, “publicly and in your homes.” Today’s Christian New Testament says, “teaching you both in public and in private.” Beck says, “in meetings and in homes.” The contrast is simply this: Paul taught in public gatherings (assemblies of the congregation, gatherings in the open square, etc.) and in private gatherings (intimate meetings in the homes of Christians that were apparently confined to a closed group).
If Paul continued this practice for three and one-half years, it was clearly “regularly recurring,” and as Paul was very familiar with the attribute of God, that He desires things to be done decently and in order, in a way that avoids chaos and confusion, it is only reasonable that they would have been pre-planned. Therefore, the scripture authorizes pre-planned, regularly recurring, invitation-only Bible studies. If apostolic examples are a pattern, as this writer believes they are, Christians should learn from this example that much good comes from gathering for private studies outside the regular assembly. In places where no such studies occur, bible knowledge is generally lacking among the members.
[Note: We should point out the major differences between the arrangement defended above and the popular Sunday School or Bible Class system of modern religion. In churches that use Bible classes, the gatherings are open to the public, advertised on the marque, and arranged by the elders or leadership of the church. Leslie Thomas called “the Bible school… the church at work” (What the Bible Teaches, p. 150-151). The Sunday School or Bible Class is unscriptural. Private bible studies, like the ones described in Acts 20.20 must be individually arranged, and reasonable efforts must be taken to ensure they fit the description of “private.”]