‘Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
The world is a tough and unfriendly place. It is easy to be hurt and become dispirited by events around us. But God desires his church to be a society of mutual support. Paul says so in this verse. Satan would be happier if we were all islands, doing our own thing without reference to others.
The Lord says to the church, particularly the local church, ‘Be a community of love one for another. Bring comfort and encouragement to each other and build each other up.’
Caring, supporting, encouraging, and comforting are ministries which belong to all members of the church. The church, we recall, is Christ’s body, and when one part of the body suffers, the remainder is affected.
In Thessalonica these comforting gifts were already being exercised. Paul had acknowledged this in chapter 4: ‘But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another … we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more’ (vv. 9–10).
One commentator wrote, ‘No community could call itself Christian if it is not characterised by reciprocal love. Yet no community is such a paradise of love that its members do not need to hear Paul urging them “to increase more and more”.’
What was the Thessalonians’ trouble? It concerned their doubts and fears about the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ – they dreaded being unprepared.
But from what Paul has written there was no need to fear being unprepared. He had given them accurate information from the revelation of Christ himself. Paul had encouraged them with his letter, and it would have strengthened them.
However, we see here that Paul applies this even further – he charges the Thessalonians to build each other up through what they have learned.
Spiritual growth is the best antidote to anxiety. The Thessalonian Christians could not rely on their teachers and apostles to do this for them. They were capable of encouraging each other. This was how they were to wait for the Lord.
The lesson for the church today is that we too are to wait patiently for the coming of the Lord. We are to stay alert and self-controlled. And we are to edify one another – to strengthen one another through teaching and example. The word literally means ‘build up’.
So also the whole church needs to be built up in maturity, stature, and the beauty of holiness. In so doing she becomes an increasingly fit spiritual Temple for the Lord Jesus Christ to live in.
How can we build each other up? First, by our prayers for one another. To edify others takes thought and genuine interest. It means listening to each other. It means sharing with one another the things on our hearts and minds. It does not mean ignoring error, but speaking the truth in love.
Second, we build up others by our constant love and concern. There is a verse in 1 Corinthians 16 that is truly astonishing. In verse 15, reference is made to the household of Stephanus, who have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints. We usually see addictions as bad things, but here we have believers who are addicted to the ministry of the saints – of building up and helping others in the fellowship. Are we addicted to building up fellow believers? Are we addicted to the intense desire to see our church built up to the glory of our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ?
Third, we edify by speaking well of the church whenever there is opportunity. It is a great sadness to hear unkind things said about fellow believers or other assemblies. What do we do when we hear such things? The right thing is not to add to it at all. That way we are in danger of demolition – pulling down the building rather than building it up.
May the Lord give us the desire to be builders – to be edifiers: ‘Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.’