17 April, 2024

March 31 Lesson | Edification

by | 25 March, 2024 | 0 comments

Unit: 1 Corinthians (Part 1) 
Theme: The Living Church 
Lesson Text: 1 Corinthians 12:12-26; 14:1-12 
Supplemental Texts: Romans 14; Ephesians 2:21; 4:11-16, 29; 1 Thessalonians 5:11 
Aim: Weigh your church’s ministries and practices by the standard of edifying one another. 

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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the study by Mark Scott, the Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions): LOOKOUT_Mar31_2024

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By Mark Scott

What constitutes success in the church? The number of seats occupied on Sunday mornings? The number of baptisms per year? Collecting offerings that exceed budgeted expenses? Preaching that really connects? Music that stirs the soul of the worshiper? A leadership that runs like a well-oiled machine?  

For the apostle Paul, one litmus test for church success surely was edification. Is the body of Christ at large being built up in a most holy faith (Jude 20)? A form of the word edify occurs in our lesson text in 1 Corinthians 14:4 (twice), 5, and 12 (when it is translated as build up); it means to build or construct something. The root word in edify comes from the word for “house.” The church is God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9). The house needs constant attention and care to remain strong. 

The Church Is Edified When All Parts Work 
1 Corinthians 12:12-26 

In First Corinthians 12–14, Paul addresses a third “disorder” within the church at Corinth (see the March 17 lesson for a discussion of the first two disorders). The English Standard Version uses the rhetorical device “now concerning” in 12:1 (and also in 1 Corinthians 7:1 and 8:1). Paul had to correct fallacious thinking about the use of spiritual gifts. If the church had truly confessed Jesus as Lord, they would be equipped by the Holy Spirit to use their gifts in ministry to edify the church (12:1-6). These gifts (nine are mentioned in 12:8-10) are given for the common good, and God gives them as he chooses (12:7, 11).  

Paul used the metaphor of a body (though some scholars think it might be more than metaphor) to illustrate his point about all parts working together. He specifically mentioned the following body parts: foot, hand, ear, eye, and head. The body is one. The parts are many. The church is one. The members are many. All the church had the same incorporation into this body. Baptism and the Holy Spirit are responsible for helping the people come into the church.  

We assume the Corinthians suffered from both inferiority and superiority. Paul addressed the inferiority complex first (1 Corinthians 12:15-20). A foot might not be as glamorous as a hand, but it is needed, nonetheless. An ear does not have quite the appeal as the eye, but Paul humorously said, “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?” He wrote similarly of the ear (“If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

Paul also addressed the superiority complex (1 Corinthians 12:21-26). No part can say that it has no need of the other parts of the body. That posture would be arrogant. The seemingly weaker parts (a different concept than the weaker believer in chapter 8) have special honor (think liver, kidneys, etc.). The seemingly unpresentable parts (perhaps meaning private parts) are treated with special modesty. Division in the church is kept at bay when each member does their part to edify others. The church lives by the motto of the Three Musketeers, “All for one and one for all.”  

The Church Is Edified When Everyone Understands 
1 Corinthians 14:1-12 

This is one of the stickiest chapters in 1 Corinthians. Paul teaches about two of the spiritual gifts he had mentioned in chapter 12, namely speaking in tongues and prophecy. When it comes to edifying the church, he clearly prefers prophecy.  

Richard Oster (The College Press NIV Commentary: 1 Corinthians, 288) contends any effort to read back into this chapter any modern-day pro-Pentecostal or anti-Pentecostal thinking is to misread the text and fail to account for the pagan background from which the Corinthians had come. The pagan practices from Delphi (north of Corinth) which dealt with prophetic oracles and ecstatic utterances are more what Paul was arguing against than anything in the early 20th century of the United States. Is the miraculous speaking of known human languages, as we witnessed in Acts 2, 10, and 19, what was going on in Corinth? Perhaps not. But it does not matter. Speaking a known language or some kind of ecstatic utterance, if people do not understand it, will not edify the church.  

Paul did not denigrate speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:1, 5, 18). But he insisted that people needed to be edified when tongues were used. In fact, he laid down rules when tongues were part of the worship assembly (14:27-28). If a person speaks in tongues and no one can understand them, then they are speaking only to God (he has no trouble understanding) or edifying themselves.  

Everyone is to bring something to contribute to the church (v. 6), but whatever is brought must be properly understood. Paul illustrated his point with the clarity (or lack thereof) of musical instruments (vv. 7-8). All spiritual gifts are from God. All spiritual gifts are to be used to build up the church. But in some circumstances, certain gifts are preferred over others. 


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