the weblog of Alan Knox

Edification and the Church Gathering 1…

Posted by on Dec 7, 2006 in edification, gathering | 4 comments

I am very interested in the church’s purpose when it gathers. I have previously posted a long (50 page) paper on this topic. However, I’m currently working on another paper for school. There is a short – 5 page – section in this latest paper describing edification during the gathering of the church. I thought I would post this section in four different blog posts. I would appreciate feedback as I finish working on the paper. This post is the introduction to edification during the church gathering:

According to several New Testament passages, the church gathered often, sometimes daily. In 1 Cor. 14:26, Paul instructed the church in Corinth that whenever they came together, everything they do should edify the church. The term edification, or building up, [1] arises from the New Testament authors’ use of the οικοδομέω / οικοδομή word groups. Furthermore, in several passages, the biblical writers associate edification with exhortation (παράκλησις—1 Cor. 14:3), comfort (παραμυθία—1 Cor 14:3), and benefit to others (συμφέρω—1 Cor. 10:23). Among the authors of the New Testament, Paul particularly used the language of edification to describe the goal of believers toward one another, either during the gathering, or not; and his exhortation toward edification continued throughout his apostolic career from his earliest extant letter, until his latest.[2] Similarly, Luke and Jude call believers to edify one another (Acts 9:31; 20:32; Jude 1:20), and the author of Hebrews reminds his readers that they should continue to gather together in order to encourage one another toward love and good works (Heb. 10:24-25).

David Peterson suggests that edification is the primary (or possibly sole) purpose for those early Christian gatherings.[3] While others disagree that edification is the sole purpose of the church gathering, most agree that edification is at least one of the purposes.[4] Therefore, when a church gathers together, they must examine their actions and their words to determine if they are edifying one another, otherwise they may not accomplish this scriptural purpose. According to Scripture, there are several requirements that a church must meet in order to ensure that those gathering together edify one another. Among these requirements are the following: 1) the source and result of this edification must be found in the person of Jesus Christ, 2) the focus of edification should be placed on others and not on the self, and 3) the opportunity should be given to all believers to use their spiritual gifts to edify others.

1) Introduction
2) Edification found in the person of Jesus Christ
3) Focus of edification is on others
4) Opportunity for others to participate


[1] Unless specified otherwise, all definitions of Greek words come from Walter Bauer, Walter F. Arndt, F.W. Danker, and F.W. Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature 3rd ed. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000).

[2] James L. Benedict, “The Language of Edification in 1 Corinthians and End-of-Life Decision Making,” Brethren Life and Thought, 41 (Spr-Sum 1996), 20.

[3] David Peterson, Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1992).

[4] For example, see John S. Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005), 239-40, D.A. Carson, Worship by the Book (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 45-46, and Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 244-46.


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

  1. 12-8-2006

    Hi Alan. I’d like to ask a question that you don’t even have to post to your blog, but something I’ve been wondering.

    We often look to the early church as a model for the way to “do” church. My question is, did they necessarily have a handle on the way God intended things to be? I’m not talking about the directives given in Scripture for the church, because I know those are from God. I’m talking about the trends and actions of the church in the early days/years after Christ. Just because they were closest to the days of Christ, does that mean that they were the most correct in the way they did things?

  2. 12-8-2006

    Thank you for your question. It is certainly a question that we should consider. As a quick answer, I would say, “No, we do not ‘do’ church a certain way because the early church did.” Now, the difficulty comes in determining which parts are “directives given in Scripture.” I try to gather scriptural support from passages that deal with what the church should look like/do.

    For example, in 1 Cor 12-14, Paul is teaching the church in Corinth about spiritual gifts, what should motivate their use of spiritual gifts, and how gifts should be used when they come together. While these are specific instructions given to a specific group of believers at a specific time for specific reasons, there are general instructions within the passages that we can learn from.

    Similarly, some passages in Acts appear to be very specific. The early church met in homes and in the temple. The temple does not exist today, so how can we meet there? Perhaps the general instructions is to meet wherever the people are.

    Then, in Acts 20, Paul gives instructions to the elders from Ephesus – again a specific group of people at a specific time. However, they also appear to include some general instructions that can be used to teach all believers.

    I hope this helps.

    – Alan

  3. 12-9-2006

    Are you familiar with “Assembling Together” by Watchman Nee? It may provide some good information for your study.

  4. 12-9-2006

    I am familiar with Watchman Nee, but I have not read much of his writings – mainly just a few excerpts. I have never heard of “Assembling Together,” but I will look for it.
    – Alan