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.