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I.H. Marshall on the Gathering of the Church

Posted by on Dec 21, 2006 in books, edification, gathering | Comments Off

In his New Testament Theology, I.H. Marshall discusses the major themes of each book of the New Testament. For the book of 1 Corinthians, he states:

The common life of the congregation is the main theme of this letter… [I]n 1 Corinthians 12 the Spirit is the source of various gifts. These are placed in parallelism with “services” and “sources of power” in a way that suggests that the three terms refer to essentially the same things from different aspects… The gifts described are related to apprehension of God’s words and powers so as to act as his agents. They equip people to act on behalf of God, thus serving his and acting as agents… Congregational meetings accordingly are occasions on which God may communicate in word and deed with his people through the agency of any of their number according as they are given his gifts to enable them to function on his behalf with spiritual insight and power. This has crucial importance for our understanding of the function of congregational meetings. Little is said in the New Testament about their function being a Godward action of worship. Rather they are primarily occasions when God communicates with his people in such a way that he is truly present with them through his Spirit who is in his people individually and so collectively. The outsider who comes in rightly concludes that God is among them. Clearly this realization should lead to a sense of awe and worship; praise and prayer are offered to the Lord, but these are responses to the presence and activity of God.

In this passage, Marshall suggests several things that I have argued as well:

  1. All believers are gifted by the Spirit to participate in the “congregational meeting.”
  2. Edification is the purpose of the meeting.
  3. Worship is right response to God, not activities within the meeting.
  4. We respond rightly toward God (worship him) during the meeting by edifying one another.