the weblog of Alan Knox

Peterson on Edification

Posted by on Nov 8, 2008 in books, edification, gathering | 7 comments

One of my favorite books is David Peterson’s Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1992). In this book, Peterson traces the concept of worship through the Old and New Testaments.

In one chapter (“Serving God in the Assembly of His People”), he discusses the connection between worship and the meeting of the church. This section is called “Edification and the gathering of the church”. Primarily, Peterson finds that worship terminology is not used in connection with the church meeting. What does he find?

Paul regularly uses the terminology of upbuilding or edification, rather than the language of worship, to indicate the purpose and function of Christian gatherings (e.g. 1 Cor. 14:3, 4, 5, 12, 17, 26; 1 Thes. 5:11; Eph. 4:11-16). ‘Building’ terminology is closely connected with the idea of the church as the temple of God, but it can also be applied without any specifically cultic allusions to the work of God in establishing believing communities (e.g. 1 Cor. 3:9-10; Rom. 15:20). Indeed, the concept of the church as the body of Christ sometimes flows together with that of the house or the dwelling of God, so that the language of construction is linked to that of a living organism. (pg. 206)

As I study the meeting of the church, I find scholars primarily agree with Peterson on this point: the purpose of the church meeting in the New Testament is upbuilding or edification. I wonder why the church at large fails to recognize this?


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  1. 11-8-2008

    Could it be in the process of edifying the saints, the church may have to tell the saints where they are falling short?

    We are all works in progress, but in today’s culture none of us want to hear that very much if it means we are viewed with needing to come up to the mark.

  2. 11-8-2008


    Could be. In fact, I’ve found that most sermons – even the ones considered great – simply speak about what we all already believe. We need to be willing to speak into one anothers’ lives – in specifics – in order to build up one another.


  3. 11-8-2008

    In today’s cultural church it seems becoming more knowlegable is more important. In turn the edification and building up is left to the individual believers during the week. Which in all that I have been involved in lacks very severely. Most of the pastors seem to ignore the building up scriptures and focus more on the teaching scriptures.

  4. 11-8-2008

    Edification involves bearing one another’s burdens. It is building the house of God with different shaped stones. If we don’t care about or love one another enough to get to know each other and then be able to bear those burdens, or meet those spiritual needs through the differing gifts available to the church, then we have to revert to building with uniform, one size fits all blocks. We then have to make an assumption of what it is the body needs.”Well everybody needs food, so lets supply some milk, or some creamed carrots, or some steak.” Because it involves things which don’t come naturally to us, like patience, humility, or transparency, building the church up and meeting together can easily be reduced to just preaching, or just feeding the poor, or just whatever. We want the easiest, most efficient way to “do” church. Most of us know full well the quality of our fellowship together on Sunday, will in large part, be determined during the week, by our obedience to the Holy Spirit in living not just for ourselves, but for the local body of believers He has placed us in. We must move from adhering to an outward form of Christian principles which will benefit our “personal growth” and reputation, to a life abandoned to building and edifying God’s kingdom, house and table, i.e. the people of God! His glorious body! Do we really want more of Christ? If so, then we don’t need to search very far, because we are surrounded by his body. “As you have done to the least of these…..

  5. 11-8-2008


    You’re right. We’ve mainly reduced the church meeting to sharing knowledge.


    What you wrote is too good to leave in the comments. I’m going to copy it into a blog post.


  6. 11-8-2008


    It seems to me that the models par excellence,on whom we shape (and are encouraged to shape) our ministries, naturally (1 Cor. 2:14) lead to totally unbiblical, and often, almost useless ministry.

    There is an highly acclaimed, older, evangelical “pastor” in the N.E. of USA, who preaches, via a very good audio system, to a large congregation, as if every one present is deaf, his gyrating up and down, arm flailing, would do justice to any albatross.

    There is a young evangelical “pastor” in Eastern Australia, who preaches in a tiny church building, to a congregation the size of your community of believers. Guess what?

    If the energy companies in Australia put him to work we would never have greenhouse gas problems from our power facilities.

    The younger man listens to recorded messages from the older man, has travelled to USA for the last seven years,to learn from the older man.

    Guess whose name is evident in many of his sermons?

    Where is Jesus in all of this? Where is the Holy Spirit, when subjects such as “The Art of Oratory”, is taught?

    Discipling is modelling!

  7. 11-8-2008

    Aussie John,

    You asked, “Where is Jesus in all of this? Where is the Holy Spirit…?” When the key “function” of the church can be taught and mimicked, then I think we should definitely ask those questions.