Self Edification (No. 2)
We are studying a lesson from Eph. 4:8-16, and are establishing the proposition that the church is fully and completely adequate to edify its own members for all purposes of spiritual exercise and development. In addition to safeguarding the church against worldliness and doctrinal error, this work of self-edification can thoroughly prepare any membership for efficient and effective work in evangelism and benevolence. Any church should include in its program of edification the necessary training to qualify its members in all these endeavors the Lord requires of his church. Yes, this is a tremendous undertaking indeed, and after reconciling ourselves to the relatively low level of individual effort within local churches, may seem impossible. We have so long swelled with pride over "our" colleges, orphan homes, papers, and elaborate buildings, that we have forgotten that true spiritual growth is measured not by these, but by personal service to God and to others. So long as there remains a difference between what local churches are doing and what they can do, there exists a marvelous potential, when developed into reality, that can extend the borders of God's kingdom beyond our greatest hopes, and with a corresponding spiritual strength. In the development and function of the local church lies our only hope for the fulfillment of God's eternal purpose among men and for men, according to the divine plan.
We usually think of the work of the evangelist as that of preaching the gospel to the lost world, but the Bible teaches that he has duties on a continuing basis in the local church also. While in Ephesus, Paul taught both publicly and from house to house, Acts 20:20. This verse shows that his public teaching included the elders. But how can a preacher stay busy in this work unless those to whom he goes are willing to be taught? It is distressing to me that very little of the preacher's time that he spends with those whom he visits today is consumed in actual study of God's word. We want the preacher to visit us, not to teach us the Bible and our duty to God, but to give us the satisfaction of his attention. When Paul visited people, he taught them.
Paul admonished Titus to keep the brethren reminded of their duty to be ready to every good work, Titus 3:1. Titus was to so instruct them continuously that they would maintain good works, Titus 3:8 - not only do them, but keep them up. He was to train and develop them that they might learn to maintain good works, Titus 3:14. This calls for a heavy program on the part of both preacher and members, but it is what God requires and will bear fruit. Similar instruction was given to Timothy, I Tim. 4:6.
It is the work of the evangelist in the local church to teach and train teachers for their work, 2 Tim. 2:2. He should earnestlv strive to develop them so they are equal to himself, Luke 6:40. With all this adequate provision bv divine wisdom, why do we continue starving spiritually for the lack of enough good teachers? Is it because preachers are neglecting to train them, or can it be that so few Christians are willing to be trained? We not only need more teachers, but also the willingness of the teachers we have to become better teachers by accepting the necessary training.
The work of teaching God's word is common to apostles, prophets, pastors, and evangelists, Eph. 4:11, but it is also a work of those distinguished simply as teachers. We have them mentioned early in the church, even before Paul's journeys, Acts 13:1. They were "set" in the church, I Cor. 12:28 hence were a part of the original order. These did a more general work of spiritual instruction than was possible by apostles, prophets, pastors, and evangelists. It is a work any member of the church can learn to do well, if he has the will to do so. Early Christians were even rebuked for their neglect to grow into teachers, Heb. 5:12. There can be no more wonderful work in the world than that of teaching God's word to others, and it would be a most worthy desire for each member of the body of Christ to become a teacher of the scriptures. If this desire could become more general and intensified among Christians, with adequate training provided, we would have a program of self- edification continuing in each local church that would excel that offered by any one anywhere else, and thus each local church would be preparing itself adequately and efficiently for the added works of evangelism and benevolence.
There is a sense, of course, in which all members of the church are teachers, and certainly each of us has a definite responsibility to God as one of his children. Our place in the church, generally, is determined by our ability and opportunity, but more specifically, by the work all the church does together, and the particular assignment we have been given in performing our part of that work.
We have a duty to continually admonish one another regarding our service to God, Heb. 10:25; Rom. 15:14. This fellowship and mutual interest in the spiritual welfare of one another is a sustaining and constructive influence for good. How much of it is being practiced in local churches today? So long as we are forced to admit a sad neglect in any of these duties and activities we have introduced from the scriptures, we should be able to see that hindrances to growth of the cause of Christ and the salvation of souls are among us, in our own attitude toward spiritual service, and not in our insufficient use and support of other institutions that are apart from the church.
We must restore any overtaken in a fault, Gal. 6:1; 2 Thess. 3:15. This is a general responsibility that falls on any of us, not an official duty that falls on a select few. If the erring Christian had the attention of his brethren the Lord requires, few would fall away from duty, Jas. 5:19, 20.
These two articles are not designed to oppose or reflect on any institution brethren might choose to build and maintain for worthy purposes, in their own field, but to take issue with prevailing views which at least indirectly declare they are essential to the proper growth of the church, it is dependent on them and obligated to them, and also to show that the church has all the equipment necessary to do all God wants done, and could grow and progress acceptably to him even without other organizations.
Truth Magazine II:2, pp. 22-23