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Edification and the Church Gathering 3…

Posted by on Dec 9, 2006 in edification, gathering, scripture | Comments Off

This series is an excerpt from a paper that I am writing. In the introduction, I argue that in order for the church to edify itself, at least three things are required: 1) the source and result of this edification must be found in the person of Jesus Christ, 2) the focus of edification should be placed on others and not on the self, and 3) the opportunity should be given to all believers to use their spiritual gifts to edify others.

In Part 2 of this series, I argued for the first requirement: the source and result of this edification must be found in the person of Jesus Christ. In this post, I present my argument for the second requirement: the focus of edification should be placed on others and not on the self.

In order for the church to edify itself, the focus of edification should be placed on others and not on the self. In Eph. 4:1-16, Paul demonstrates that the members of the church are dependent upon Jesus Christ, but he also demonstrates that the members of the church are interdependent upon one another. The interdependence between believers is not for the sake of interdependence only, but for interdependence that leads to the growth of the body.[1] Furthermore, in 1 Cor. 12—14, Paul teaches that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to all believers in order that they may use them to benefit others, not primarily to benefit themselves (1 Cor. 12:7).[2] Paul then demonstrates how believers should use those gifts during the gathering of the church in 1 Cor. 14. Commenting on this idea of mutual edification (or “upbuilding”), Barth states,

In the sense in which we are here using it on the model of the New Testament, the unequivocal reference of the term “upbuilding” is to the Christian community. It is not the Christian individual as such, but the community which, in its individual members and through their reciprocal ministry, is edified, and lets itself be edified, and edifies itself.[3]

When believers forget the corporate aspect of their gatherings, the resulting “epidemic of individualism quite simply leads to spiritual death by isolation”[4] in spite of any extant individual devotion to God. Therefore, in order for the church to accomplish its purpose of edification during the gathering, the believers in the church must focus on others and not on themselves.

Series:
1) Introduction
2) Edification found in the person of Jesus Christ
3) Focus of edification is on others
4) Opportunity for others to participate

Notes:

[1] Andrew T. Lincoln, “The Theology of Ephesians,” New Testament Theology: The Theology of the Later Pauline Letters, ed. Andrew T. Lincoln and A.J.M. Wedderburn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 99.

[2] While in general, the term συμφέρω simply means “benefit,” in the context of 1 Corinthians, it takes on a more narrow meaning of “benefit for others.” For example, in 1 Cor. 10:23 Paul states, “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful (συμφέρει). ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.” This is further explained: “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Cor. 10:24). Therefore, Paul uses the verb συμφέρω to indicate benefiting others, which means that in the context of 1 Cor. 12—14 (the gathering of the church) the Spirit gives gifts for the benefit of other believers, not for the benefit of the one exercising that gift. Furthermore, from the parallel structure of 1 Cor. 10:23, Paul is linking “benefit” with “edification.”

[3] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV.2. Trans. G.W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1958), 627.

[4] Curtis Freeman, “Where Two or Three are Gathered: Communion Ecclesiology in the Free Church,” Perspectives in Religious Studies, 31, 3 (Fall 2004), 261-62.