the weblog of Alan Knox

Worship, Jesus Christ, and Gathering with the Church

Posted by on Sep 22, 2011 in books, edification, gathering, worship | 6 comments

Worship, Jesus Christ, and Gathering with the Church

Several years ago, when I was still in the middle of my MDiv studies at Southeastern, two books in particular were very influential on me. The books were not necessarily influential on my thoughts and understanding about God or the church. Instead, these two books and authors helped me realize that it was possible to present what I was learning about the church in an academic or scholarly manner.

Those two books were Paul’s Idea of Community by Robert Banks and Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship by David Peterson. I still count these two books among my favorites. Recently, I was reading through Peterson’s conclusion, and I found these two paragraphs:

The uniqueness and total adequacy of Christ’s work is obscured by any doctrine of human priesthood, charged with some form of sacrificial ministry in the Christian congregation. There are no special buildings where God is especially present in the gospel era. There is no divinely ordained ritual of approach to God for believers under the new covenant. Nevertheless, several texts suggest that God presences himself in a distinctive way in the Christian meeting through his word and the operation of his Spirit.

The purpose of Christian gatherings is the edification or building up of the body of Christ. We minister to one another as we teach and exhort one another on the basis of his word, using the gifts that the Spirit has given us, in the way that Scripture directs. Edification is to be our concern even when we sing or pray to God in the congregation. All this is not a purely human activity, however, for God is at work in the midst of his people as they minister in this way. Edification is first and foremost the responsibility of Christ as the ‘head’, but he achieves his purpose as the various members of the body are motivated and equipped by him to play their part. We meet together to draw on the resources of Christ and to take our part in the edification of his church.

There are several important aspects of these paragraphs. First, remember that Peterson included this in the conclusion of his book on the topic of worship. He covered the topic from both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Second, in that context, we can see that “worshiping God” in the “gospel era” (as Peterson calls it) includes both our private response to God through Jesus Christ and our public response by building up the body of Christ.

Third, God has placed us among his children – our brothers and sisters – because he wants to use EACH ONE of us to build up (edify) his church. Every believer is necessary and important to the work that God is doing to build up the body of Christ.

Fourth, our particular role is NOT passive. While the primary work of edification belongs to Christ, he does his work THROUGH us. If we do not take our part (or “do our share” depending on the particular translation of Ephesians 4:16), then the church is not built up.

Fifth, this work of edification – the work that we do in the Spirit – is worship.

Let me repeat that… Edifying the church is worship.

Refusing to participate in the work of building up the church is the same as refusing to worship.

Inhibiting or preventing others from doing their part in edifying the church is the same as stopping others from worshiping and attempting to block the worship that God is due. (Yes, even unintentionally.)

This is an important topic. The church of God grows when ALL of God’s children take part in the work of edification… and that work is worship to God.


6 Comments

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

  1. 9-22-2011

    All throughout our childhood and adolescence our father always reminded my brother and I to, “keep it E” as we left the house to go to school, to church, or outside to play. Keeping it “E” meant to always be edifying towards others and to focus on edification in all that we do. Edification presumes that others are important and what they do is important. My father wanted to mold us into men who cared for others and built others up.

    Looking back now through the lens of “worship” I see just how important this was and it gives it so much more meaning. I’m beginning to instill this into my young children and it’s now going to give me a new found joy when they worship God this way.

  2. 9-22-2011

    It is fascinating to talk to people about what worship means and looks like and why the church gathers.

  3. 9-22-2011

    Unfortunately, anyone with a mental model of the traditional church as it plays out on Sunday mornings could read this and see their traditional “worship and preaching” service fitting these descriptions perfectly.

  4. 9-22-2011

    Ryan,

    Wow… what a great way to raise children… or help disciples.

    Arthur,

    You’re right. I appreciate your follow-up post.

    Art,

    You’re right too. Hopefully, a post like this will encourage people to think about what edification means.

    -Alan

  5. 9-22-2011

    Thank you Alan. Your thoughts and words are encouraging and a joy to read. I come from an area where Bible studies are based on a book someone has written. And the discussion originates from the participant’s background and experience devoid of message of the scriptural lesson. I truly long to experience the edification of the ecclesia by the word of our Messiah and King. Your words give me hope.

  6. 9-22-2011

    Jim,

    There are many Bible studies around here in which the Bible is the secondary source, at best. May God surround you with some of his children who will seek to build up one another in Jesus Christ.

    -Alan