This week, I read through 1 Thessalonians. The following passage jumped out at me:
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 ESV)
Paul begins by reminding the Christians in Thessaloniki that they (and Paul and his friends and us) have been destined for salvation through Jesus Christ. He says that Jesus died “on our behalf” so that we can live with him both now and after we die. (Eternal life begins now, not after we die.)
This should give them hope and peace because they are not “destined for wrath.” Of course, Paul has already told them some of the implications of their salvation and their new life in Christ (see 1 Thessalonians 5:1-8 for example).
Next, Paul gives a command that follows from his previous statement. You could almost say it like this, “Because God has destined us for salvation, we should encourage one another and build up one another.” Thus, mutual encouragement and mutual edification are motivated by our mutual salvation.
If Paul is correct, then our salvation in Jesus Christ should urge us toward caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ with a desire to see them grow in maturity both in their relationship with Jesus Christ and in their common identity and unity with one another (Ephesians 4:13).
This passage alone is a good indication that we can’t separation our understanding of soteriology (our understanding of salvation) from our ecclesiology (our understanding of the church). In fact, if we continued to study various passages of Scripture like this, we would find that we cannot separate our understanding of the church from our theology proper (understanding of God), our Christology (understanding of Jesus Christ), our eschatology (understanding of the last days), and any other doctrine. They are all interrelated and interconnected.
Paul does not simply tell the Thessalonians to encourage and edify one another, he gives specific examples. He starts by reminding the people to respect those who labor tirelessly among them, who lead them, and who admonish them. They are to hold them in high esteem, love them, and live in peace with them (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
But, Paul doesn’t stop there, and encouragement and edification doesn’t stop with the work of their leaders. Instead, Paul tells the Thessalonians that they themselves are responsible to “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, [and] be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14 ESV). And, the commands continue from there.
These commands are not just good ideas. They are not just the instructions of a mature believer and an apostle.
We are to encourage and edify one another in this manner as a response to our mutual salvation through Jesus Christ.
Some Thoughts on Mutual Edification:
- Salvation as the motivation for mutual edification
- Acceptance and edification
- What is edification?
- Who edifies whom?
- How do we edify others?