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Mutual Edification and the Church: Conclusion

Posted by on Jan 7, 2011 in edification, gathering | 5 comments

Mutual Edification and the Church: Conclusion

This is the conclusion of a week-long series examining what Scripture says about the purpose of believers gathering together. In short, I believe that Scripture shows through example, principle, and command that Jesus’ disciples should seek to build up (“edify”) one another (“mutual”) whenever they get together (“church”).

I began with an “introduction” to this series. Next I showed several “examples” from the Book of Acts of believers getting together in which several people took part in encouraging or strengthening the church. These examples are primarily in narrative form. In the next post in the series, I looked for “principles” in Scripture that would help us understand our mutual responsibility of building up one another. These principles were usually given in command form (not narrative), but they are not specifically given in the context of believers gathering together. In the fourth post, I discussed two “commands” in Scripture related to mutual edification that are specifically given in the context of believers gathering together.

These examples, principles, and commands cover almost the entire time period of the New Testament, from not long after Jesus’ ascension until the end of Paul’s third missionary journey. They either describe or are written to different groups of believers in different places at different times with different backgrounds. While most of the passages I examined come from Luke or Paul, there are similar passages by other authors.

For a quick example, consider the teaching about spiritual gifts from Peter. He writes:

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. (1 Peter 4:10-11 ESV)

While Peter does not say specifically when, where, and how these gifts are to be used, it is in a context of caring for other believers (“keep loving one another” in 1 Peter 4:8 and “show hospitality to one another” in 1 Peter 4:9). If Peter agrees with Paul (which seems likely), the he would also conclude that God gives spiritual gifts for the benefit of others (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

When Christians talk about the church meeting – “worship service” if you prefer – the assumption is usually that believers should gather together to worship. Recognizing that Christians are to worship God always in all aspects of life, the reason for coming together is sometimes termed “corporate worship.”

Unfortunately, I think this leads to misunderstandings and confusion. Yes, believers are to worship when the meet with other believers, simply because every aspect of their life is to be lived as worship to God.

Instead of asking “should we worship?” when we gather together, we should be asking “how do we worship when we gather together?” We demonstrate our worship to God when we obey him and give ourselves to him. According to Scripture, when the church meets together (that is, whenever two or more disciples of Jesus are together), we worship (that is, we obey God) when they mutually edify one another.

Both parts of the term “mutual edification” are important. The whole church should be involved in the meeting, and whatever happens should serve to “build up” the church.

Unfortunately, the meaning and extent of the term “edify” or “build up” is too big for the final part of this blog post. Suffice it to say (for now) that edification (at least) means helping our brothers and sisters live in way that honors God or helping our brothers and sisters live more like Jesus Christ. While this might include teaching or singing, it goes far beyond teaching or singing.

There are many “commands” accepted by Christians today that are only found in examples, principles, or commands. However, the concept of meeting together for the purpose of mutual edification is found in all three: examples, principles, and commands. What else do we need before we start following these examples, principles, and commands when we meet together?

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Mutual Edification and the Church Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Example
  3. Principle
  4. Command
  5. Conclusion

5 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 1-7-2011

    Who would think it would be revolutionary and unthinkable to obey scripture rather than man in the church? Well, anyone who followed the path of Israel and how they reacted when confronted with the truth by Jesus.

    Rod asked the other day about what anyone thought about the ultimate success of the church. I think that just like Israel, we will end in befuddled failure.

    But hopefully not all. Hopefully some of us will see what Alan has set forth and will obey God rather than men, whatever the cost (and there is a cost).

  2. 1-7-2011

    Alan

    Great post. I thought this summary was right on, really bringing things together. Your explanation of “worship” was well put. I think many people misunderstand what you described.

    Really clears up what I’ve been trying to put into thoughts and words, and especially my own understanding. This is probably my favorite post of yours yet.

    Much needed, thanks.

    Now to figure out my gifts and practice using them to serve others…

  3. 1-7-2011

    Art,

    While there are certainly some safe-guards (particular when the entire church is working together) to help us follow Jesus, we should not be surprised when we find that we’ve drifted. For me, this means that we should constantly be comparing ourselves to Jesus Christ, and always willing to change our way of life – not to justify our way of life.

    Sol,

    I’m glad you liked this post. From my own experience, if you want to figure out your gifts,” start speaking with and serving others motivated by love with a desire to help others (and to be helped) live more maturely and more like Jesus Christ. The Spirit will use your speaking/service as he desires.

    -Alan

  4. 1-18-2011

    so good- just in adult class this week, covering I Cor. 14- we talked about what gifts are shown in our worship together- and above all. love, for one another, must be first, above prophecy and others. seeing more of that each week here, Praise God! and through major problems each of us have, particulary this year. Jesus’ name is lifted high here, and we sense that His return could be at any time. Encourage each other daily- Heb.10- as you see the day approaching..

  5. 1-18-2011

    Pat,

    Thank you for the comment. Can you share more about how you are seeing more love for one another each week?

    -Alan

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