A few years ago, I became very interested in the church and ecclesiology (i.e., the study of the church). While there were many different ways to study the church (historically or theologically, for example), I wanted to study the church as presented by the authors of the New Testament.
As I read through those writings carefully and as I looked into what they said about the people of God, I learned something extremely important. While we love to categorize and systematize – theology, Christology, soteriology, pneumatology, ecclesiology, etc. – the authors of the New Testament did not separate their writings into those categories. Instead, it was all meshed and merged and smashed together.
For example, a couple of years ago, while studying a particular use of the term “edify” in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, I wrote the following:
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. (See “Salvation as the motivation for mutual edification.”)
In that one passage (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11), you’ll find aspects of theology proper, Christology, soteriology, anthropology, ecclesiology, and perhaps eschatology. In other words, it’s all connected! You can’t have one without the other. If your ecclesiology does not resemble what the authors of the New Testament described, then neither does your theology, Christology, pneumatology, soteriology, etc.
To put this a different way, the way that we respond to one another indicates what we really believe about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, etc. For example, in a related post, I wrote this:
When we find that we are “at odds” with brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul is saying that we have two choices: 1) we can require that the other(s) yield to our understanding which may lead us to separate ourselves from one another, or 2) we can submit to them and seek their good and their maturity even at our own expense. Paul exhorts us to the second option, which is also the example that we have been given in Jesus Christ. (See “Acceptance and Edification.”)
The way that we interact with other believers with whom we disagree or with whom we are “at odds” is a demonstration of what we really believe about Jesus Christ and our salvation and state in him.
The same could be said for pneumatology (the study of the Holy Spirit). We can say that we believe that the Holy Spirit indwells all of God’s children and the Spirit can work through any and all of his people, but if we refuse them the right to speak and/or interact with one another while they are gathered together – if we teach and act as if only certain people have the right to speak while the church gathers – then we really believe that the Spirit is limited in whom he uses.
We really can’t have it both ways.
So, ecclesiology (including “mutual edification”) is not a separate issue. It’s completely related to our understanding of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, justification, etc.