So writes P.T. O’Brien in his thought-provoking article on ‘Church’ in the Dictionary of Paul and his Letters. O’Brien concludes that it cannot therefore be worship alone that brings us to church (cf. 1 Cor 14:25). The language the Paul frequently uses is that of upbulding, or ‘edification‘:-
Although it is almost universally claimed that Christians meet together in church “to worship God,” Paul’s revolutionary teaching is that they are meant to worship him in every sphere of life (Rom 12:1). Worship terminology is transformed by the apostle and applied to the work of Christ (Rom 3:24-25; cf. Eph 5:2), the preaching of the gospel (Rom 1:9; 15:16; Phil 2:17), and the new lifestyle of believers (Rom 6:13, 16; 12:1; Phil 2:17; 1 Thess 1:9-10).
Instead of the language of worship, Paul regularly uses the terminology of upbuilding, or edification, to indicate the purpose and function of Christian gatherings (1 Cor 14:3-5, 12, 17, 26; 1 Thess 5:11; Eph 4:11-16). “Edification”, which refers to the growth and progress of believers, is not to be interpreted individualistically. There is a corporate as well as a personal dimension in the apostle’s teaching on edification. According to Ephesians 4:7 the Messiah builds his church (cf. the OT promises of God preparing a people for himself: Jer 24:6; 31:4; 33:7) through the people he gives as apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers. The focus of attention here is on the ministries of the word (cf. Eph 2:20-22) which are to “equip the saints for works of service for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12). The ultimate goal of this ministry, and therefore the purpose of the gathering, is to prepare believers for full maturity when they meet their Lord (Eph 4:13). Edification occurs through prophecy (1 Cor 14:3) and other verbal ministries of exhortation, comfort and admonition by congregational members (Eph 4:26; cf. 1 Thess 4:18; 5:11, 14; Eph 4:15). Of primary importance in the process of building up God’s people is the regular and systematic exposition of Scripture, together with the teaching of “sound doctrine” by those equipped and appointed for the task (cf. 1 Tim 4:6, 11, 13; 5:17; 2 Tim 2:1-2, 14-15; 4:1-5; Tit 1:9). “When Christians gather together to minister to one another the truth of God in love, the church is manifested, maintained and advanced in God’s way” (Peterson, 214). The well-being and strengthening of the congregation is a fundamental aim of the members gathering together.