Paul worked with congregations like Philippi and congregations like Corinth, some he could work with easily and draw as much encouragement from as he could offer. Others had serious difficulties, both between members of the congregation and scripturally. More often than not, we may find ourselves relating more to Corinth than to Philippi, and, in I Corinthians 12:14, Paul speaks to the need for members to edify, exhort, and comfort each other. Even though he is speaking specifically to members who prophesied at the time, we can all learn from these instructions in how we interact with one another. Our treatment of one another directly influences our spiritual health and how God perceives us.
I Corinthians 12:26, Paul concludes that all things done within a congregation should be done for the purpose of edifying the entire group. This should be one of our primary goals as a group of brothers and sisters in Christ. Am I looking to merely edify myself when we gather, or do I remember to prioritize my brothers and sisters?
In Romans 14:19, Romans 15:2, and Ephesians 4:29 – all these speak to edifying one another, in our actions and in our speech. Our conversation with one another, even in private, should avoid tearing ourselves down. We should not use our time together to create divisions or to push personal agendas. This includes speaking about one another, and this falls into the corrupt speech of Ephesians 4:29.
Emphasizing One Another
In I Corinthians 3:1-3, Paul chastises those in Corinth for their immaturity, for acting worldly when they should be spiritual. Selfish behavior does not build us up spiritually, but we may not always recognize when we are behaving carnally because we define ourselves by our doctrine – sometimes separate from our behaviors.
Our devotion to God and our devotion to one another are both necessary to our spiritual maturity. In John 4:24, Jesus emphasizes the necessity for truly spiritual worship in coming to God. This is in worship that is devoid of worldliness – both in the formal worship setting and in our lives. Both I Peter 2:5 and Hebrews 13:15-16 speak to the quality of our spiritual sacrifices to Him, and Hebrews 6:9-10 tells of the love we show to God when we demonstrate love toward one another. THere is a direct connection between our relationships with one another and our relationship with God.
Corinth is a congregation on the brink of dissolving, and Paul encourages unity among them, emphasizing the role of love in creating unity. Self-justification and arguments lead to a fractured environment, and Paul’s great chapter on love comes right after a chapter discussing the unity we should have in the church. If we are to be spiritual and united, we must love one another.
This edifying love for one another is not always easy. Ephesians 4:1-6 calls us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. In this, humility, meekness, and patience play a role in leading to unity. Colossians 3:12-14 also encourages to wear compassion, patience, forgiveness, and love – the perfect bond of unity. In Philippians 2:1-5, Paul encourages us to be intent on loving unity, building one another up in this goal, and John 13:24 records Jesus telling His disciples to demonstrate love for each other that mirrors the love He demonstrates for them. Finally, Psalm 133 speaks to the beauty of unity among God’s followers.
We can strengthen and edify each other to spiritual maturity, but we must love one another to do so. Our love for one another reflects the love we hold for God, and we cannot hate a brother or sister while claiming to love God. As a congregation, we will have problems and disagreements, but we can emerge from difficulties stronger and more unified if we prioritize our love for each other in dealing with issues.
lesson by Tim Smelser