Expediency and Edification — William Hester

Paul states in his first letter to the church at Corinth, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful.  All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any…All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.  Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23-24).

Expediency is a broad term that, in short, means “convenient or to bring together.”  Roy Deaver, author of Ascertaining Bible Authority, defines the word as something “which expedites.”  No matter the definition, we must understand that expediency is different than obligation.  We must also understand that expediency can help the local church.  What do we mean?

Some may ask, “What are some examples of expediency? Do they edify the congregation?” These are wonderful questions because they help get to the root of our topic. A prime example are songbooks and PowerPoint in the facilitation of the congregational singing. Singing is one of the most important acts of our worship, and praise, to God. The facilitation of that act falls on the elders to choose songbooks that are used, the PowerPoint program for the computer, and the list of song leaders that lead the congregation. Edification, as discussed in biblical terms, carries the idea of “building up the house or uplifting the house.” So does the use of song leaders, PowerPoint, and songbooks edify? Well, they help facilitate the action that edifies.

Facilitation of the action that edifies” might sound strange, but let’s unpack that idea. There are commands throughout the New Testament that we must follow. We are commanded to meet with the saints of God (Heb. 10:21-25), but we are not told where to meet with the saints. Does the building edify, or the act of meeting edify? We are commanded to sing (Eph. 5:15-21, Col. 3:14-17), but we are not told about songbooks or PowerPoint. Does the PowerPoint or the use of songbooks edify, or does the act of singing edify? Our purpose should always be to build each other up. The facilitation of God-ordained commands should be left up to the elders of the local, autonomous congregations.

We could easily end this article here. What more can be said? Well, I do want to make sure we understand a major point to this discussion. Although the expediencies themselves do not edify, they can most certainly hinder edification. As Paul expressly states, “…not all things edify.” The worst thing that can happen to a church is when opinion and expediency are force-fed to a congregation.

What do we mean by force-fed? If there is significant distress within the congregation about something being introduced, then the elders should most definitely take this into account. Why force an incidental or expedient to the detriment of the unity of the body? It should be noted that most elderships do not force something when they see that it will not facilitate edification within the local body.

Within scripture, we find multiple examples of God’s people being given a command and given no such command in the implementation. Within the context of our assigned topic, we find a very important example in the assembly of the saints and the evangelism we must conduct to bring people to Christ. F. Furman Kearley stated in his 1998 speech, “Establishing Bible Authority,” at the Faulkner University Lectureship: “Without understanding and applying the principle of silence and the law of inclusion, exclusion, and expedients, the obeying of God’s command to assemble would be impossible.”

We can necessarily infer, through the reading of the New Testament, that we are commanded to assemble on the first day of the week (Heb. 10:21-25). We can also see that this assembling cultivates love, edification, and thankfulness (Eph. 5:15-2; Col. 3:12-17). Does the command include how to facilitate the command that edifies? If we look at the scripture, then the answer is no. Brother Kearley would state in the same speech, “The Lord has left the place completely in the realm of expediency and incidentals. It may be a public place, a borrowed place, a rented place, or a bought and built place.” As has been previously stated in this article, the edification does not come from the place. The edification comes from the assembling of the saints and the building just facilitates that edification.

Through the reading of the New Testament, we can also see that we are commanded to evangelize. Notice the words of Jesus, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). Does the text dictate how we are to facilitate edification through evangelism? No. What we find is that, even in the New Testament, the facilitation was left up to the people of the church. Even today we have many avenues to evangelize the world. The advent of the internet, television, and phones has been very helpful for churches to facilitate the command of Scripture.

The facilitation of edification must not interfere with Scripture. If elders and Christians in the pews know that we cannot use silence as means to push an agenda, then it stands to reason that we can use what we have to facilitate edification. We must always honor the will of God and the essentials of Scripture; however, the facilitation is left up to our discretion. The beauty of the Lords’ church is that each body of Christians is autonomous, and that each eldership has the discretion to choose the facilitators of edification for the specific body. May we stand firm in the commands of God and facilitate edification of the saints through wise discretion.

Will is the minister at the Parkway congregation in Fulton, KY.

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