The Edifying of the Body

"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another." (Romans 14:19)

As we consider further the purpose of the ecclesia, we refer to the wisdom of Brother Robert Roberts recorded in A Guide to the Formation and Conduct of Christadelphian Ecclesias. Brother Roberts explains that there are two "objects of ecclesial operation". He notes on page 11 that they are:

So we conclude that a very important purpose of any ecclesia is the "edification of the body". We know that the body is spoken here primarily in reference to the individual ecclesia. Although there is a larger sense of the body that could be considered, we will confine our thoughts to the edification of the individual ecclesia. There are many ways to reinforce the edification environment within our ecclesias; however, we want to examine four aspects of edification.

First, the ecclesia should be a "safe haven" and a place of refuge. Not in the sense of protection of our natural lives from danger, but the place we can go to be spiritually protected. This happens when we each practice the work of building up one another in our most Holy Faith. Paul's words in Romans 14:19 are the touchstone of this concept. "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another." God works through His son, Jesus Christ, our Mediator, within the ecclesias to make our meeting healthy and balanced. "But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased Him." (I Corinthians 12:18) So Christ, as our "Head", directs us to "speak the truth in love" and the end result will be the "increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love". (Ephesians 4:15-16) In order for the ecclesia to perform as a refuge, it must have the attendance of its "constituents" - as Bro. Roberts referred to our members. If our members come to the ecclesia in the spirit of love and caring for one another, we can perform the work described by Paul the Apostle in writing to the Hebrews, "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching".
(Hebrews 10:24-25)

Secondly, the ecclesial refuge is a place where we are fed the word of God to strengthen our spiritual bodies. This principle is shown by Jesus in speaking to Peter about his fulfillment in expressing love for his Master. In his discourse with Peter, just prior to his ascension to the right hand of God, Jesus said that if Peter loved him, he should "feed my sheep." (John 21:15-18) The symbol that Jesus was referencing was the provision of pasture for sheep, as a place of comfort and food that the shepherd would provide. So in the ecclesia we must feed each other the word of God as our expression of our love of our Master. We know there is a great responsibility of the elders of the ecclesia to show the proper example and guidance of the feeding process. Likewise, the younger novices should receive the food of the word in the right spirit, realizing that we all serve one another. (1 Peter 5:2-8)

Third, we should look at the importance of love in the ecclesial edification process. There is no question that the "glue" which binds the ecclesia together is love. The nature of sin in all of us will work contrary to the positive aspects of living the truth, and conflict us, as we try to perform unselfish acts one for another. This love is a special commandment of Christ (John 13:34), and we must "prefer one another." (Romans 12:10) This love is manifested in our service one to another: "For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (Galatians 5:13-14)

The apostle Paul does an excellent job in proclaiming the attributes of love in his first letter to the brethren at Corinth. Paul knew, and we should know, that this character trait of our Heavenly Father is so very important to the operations of the children of God. Of all the character traits of his Father that Jesus exhibited, the practice of agape love is the most obvious.

In the "ecclesia" at the time of his first advent (the lost sheep of the house of Israel), Jesus was motivated by his love of his brethren. Even to the extent of loving all his brethren, past and future, in doing the redemptive work of God's logos. He offered himself, as required, giving the greatest expression of love that a man can give. "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:11-13)

So Paul probably was thinking about the example of Jesus in the practice of the attributes of love when the words of the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians were penned. He declares: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) Without charity (love), none of the great talents, none of these wonderful deeds, are of any value.

In understanding the operation of love in the ecclesial edification process, we look at the personification of the attributes of love (charity) as described by Paul in the same thirteenth chapter. Love is "long suffering, kind, envies not, is not proud, does not behave itself unseemly, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil, rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes for all things, endures all things, and it never fails". (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) If we practice love while building up our brethren, we have a powerful tool for the work. Paul concludes the chapter in verse 13 by declaring "And now abideth faith, hope, charity (love), these three; but the greatest of these is charity."

The fourth aspect of ecclesial edification is the atmosphere or environment within the ecclesia. This is the place where Godly attributes need to be practiced. This is one of the reasons the ecclesia is a special place of refuge and comfort for the believer. If this atmosphere is cultivated, there will be a special peace in the meeting. Our beliefs are reinforced and our spiritual health is renewed. Paul conveyed this concept to the brethren at Philippi when he wrote his epistle to them. He proclaimed: "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." (Philippians 4:7-8) So we also must think on these things as we work of building up our brethren in our respective ecclesias today.

It should be abundantly clear that the process of edification or building up our brothers and sisters in the ecclesia is an important purpose of the ecclesia. We should prepare the ecclesia to be a place of refuge for the body, a place where we are fed the word of God, and that it is a place of peace and special love.

Again Paul the Apostle sums the whole matter in his epistle to the Roman brethren in chapter 14, verse 19, "Let therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another."

Mike Cude
Boerne, TX