Build up the church!
So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.” 1 Corinthians 14:2
It is ironic and unfortunate that the very passage that calls us to prioritize building up the church has been used by Spiritual Gift Nazis to divide and damage the church. Paul would have much to condemn about this I am sure.
Before you think to yourselves, I don’t speak in tongues and I don’t prophecy so there’s nothing here for me. Think again.
What should be the goal of every Christian in every local church? Strive to excel in building up the church. The verb “strive” is in the imperative. It is an apostolic command. Like Paul standing right here in front of us saying, People, get rid of the selfish attitude and build up the church!
This confronts us with the question, Is my attitude dragging this place down or building her up? Am I more interested in using my gift for my personal edification or the edification of the body of Christ? The context is public worship, so even today, as I join with God’s people through song and prayer, fellowship before and after, am I really here to see what I can get out of this or am I here to build up the church?
Why should we care? Because the church is sacred and precious. The church was redeemed by the infinitely precious blood of Christ. We have no record of Jesus ever speaking in tongues but can anyone question that his goal was to edify and build up the church? He gave his life for the church.
How can you look at Jesus’ sacrifice and not highly value the church? What are you doing to build her up? How are you using your time, talents, and treasure to upbuild, encourage, and bring to the church consolation? The warnings of Scripture are that there are always wolves among the sheep. The wolves blend in and they are hard to identify but you can tell easily after they have left because there is carnage everywhere. Wolves tear the church apart.
Love builds up (1 Cor. 8:1). Love bears, believes, endures all things for the sake of church and the glory of our Savior.
Whatever your position on what tongues and prophecy means here, there is no debating that Christians must love the church more than their gifts and even their views on them. Pursue love and spiritual gifts (1:1). Too often we forget the former as we pursue the latter.
I love the story from centuries ago in Europe, in one of these towns they were building a church for their town. If you go there, you see these tall spirals and steeples to this day. One day during construction, the priest came through to check on the progress. He went to one worker who was doing the woodwork and said, What are you building? He said, I am building a doorway. He went to another area and asked a worker, What are you doing? I am building an archway. He went to another part of the structure and asked a third man who was working on a window, What are you doing? This worker said, I am building a great cathedral.
When each of us can see our gifting and callings in light of the big picture and priority, we can take joy in our privileged role and embrace Paul’s admonition in 1 Cor. 14:12, to strive to excel in building up the church.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
© 2011 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s web site address (http://www.bethelweb.org/) on the copied resource.