I believe that Scripture clearly points out that the church should assemble (whenever believers get together) for the purpose of “mutual edification.” Scripture does not tell us exactly what actions should be taken when the church meets. But, in this series, I am attempting to show that Scripture demonstrates the purpose of the gathering of the church through example, principle, and command. So far, I have “introduced” this series, and I’ve presented some “examples.” In this post, I examine examples in Scripture of the church gathering together for the purpose of “mutual edification.”
While many of these “principles” are actually “commands,” I’m separating them for one particular reason. The passages that I list as “commands” are specifically given in the context of believers gathering together, while the passages I list as “principles” are not given in that particular context.
When it comes to finding principles relates to believers gathering together, the main problem is deciding where to start and where to stop. It is almost impossible to read one paragraph of the New Testament without finding some principle or instruction related to the relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ.
Consider, for example, and as a starting point, the “one another” commands of Scripture. These are always given within the context of two or more disciples of Jesus being together. How can you have a “one another” without having more than one, and thus a meeting of believers, and thus, the church. Here a few that specifically seem to apply to “building up” one another (although all of the do):
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV)
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13 ESV)
I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. (Romans 15:14 ESV)
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13 ESV)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16 ESV)
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of Godâ€™s varied grace… (1 Peter 4:10 ESV)
In would be difficult to understand how these commands could be carried out when believers are not meeting together. And, if some want to suggest a special type of meeting of brothers and sisters (“Sunday worship service”) – a differentiation which is not found in Scripture – it would still seem that these principles would apply.
There are a few passages that specifically show principles of interrelationships between believers that lead to mutual edification.
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you [who lead you] in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15 ESV)
In this passage, Paul does not specifically state that these things should happen when the church is gathered together. But, the instructions here cannot be carried out without more than one disciple of Jesus being together. It would even seem that the instructions for all the “brothers (and sisters)” would be in the same context as “those who labor among you.”
Here is another one that shows even more clearly that the church must work together (“mutual”) in order to build one another up (“edification”):
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV)
In this passage, Paul clearly shows the important principle of mutual edification – that the whole church must work together in order to build themselves up in Christ.
Through the “one another” passages and many others, it seems that mutual edification is a consistent principle throughout Scripture. The authors of Scripture expected the church to work together in order to help one another in their life in Christ.