What Christians Do — EDIFY ONE ANOTHER

The work of the church often is described as three-fold: evangelism, edification, and benevolence. Most understand the meaning of evangelism (reaching out to the lost/erring, seeking to bring them into a right relationship with God) and benevolence (charitably helping those in need, both from a desire to help them to be right with God, but also out of genuine compassion and love for one’s fellow man). Edification, however, is often misunderstood. What is edification? Is it important? How should it be carried out? Answering these questions is the main purpose of this article.

What is edification? The Greek word oikodome indicates the act of building or building up something. It also was sometimes used simply to indicate a building itself (as in Matthew 24:1). The word also was used metaphorically to speak of the action of helping another (or others) to grow in Christian faithfulness. A simple and concise definition often given for edification is, “Keeping those who are saved in a saved condition.” We could also add that edification involves helping Christians to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). When a person becomes a Christian, there needs to be growth and a process of maturing in Christ. Diligent, godly elders—and entire congregations—take this work seriously and spend much time in prayer and planning for the edification of each member of the local body of Christ.

Is edification important? Some congregations get more concerned over the color of carpet, the color of paint, leaves in the church yard, cutting grass, or other things to the point that, like Martha, they need to be reminded, “One thing is needed” (Luke 10:38-42). That one thing is salvation, which is why evangelism and edification are so critical to the work of every local church. Even benevolence should be practiced out of compassion, but also with the ultimate goal of evangelism. Is Jesus concerned with edification? Yes! “And He Himself [Jesus, ccd] gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11- 12). Whatever is important to Jesus had better be important to His disciples; if such is not the case, repentance is in order.

How is the church edified? Knowing what edification is and knowing it is a critically important work of the church, how do we put it into practice? The question centers around how Christians themselves are edified, since the church is made up of people. First, God’s Word is the primary means by which any Christian may be edified. In his departing conversation with the Ephesian elders, Paul told them, “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). Second, Christian worship is also a matter of edification. 1 Corinthians 14 emphasizes the importance of edification in corporate worship. Some of the Corinthian brethren valued certain spiritual gifts above others, often leading to chaos in their corporate worship assemblies. Paul’s overarching instruction in 1 Corinthians 14:26 is, “Let all things be done for edification.” The Hebrews writer encourages Christians, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). Third, Christian fellowship is critical to edification. When God’s people spend time with other saints who are striving to follow God, they are built up in the Lord. When David was discouraged and on the run from King Saul, Jonathan went to him “and strengthened his hand in God” (1 Samuel 23:16). Every Christian needs that kind of fellowship!

Christians edify one another. Such is a command: “Edify one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11), but also simply what Christians do as a spiritual family. When there are group Bible study sessions, such as Bible classes, gospel meetings, and such, Christians who attend and participate will be edified—built up—through the shared experience of studying the Bible together. When Christians make the worship assemblies a priority, they will be strengthened by both the corporate worship and time spent with fellow Christians, and they will also be edifying to their brethren by their presence and participation. And, Christians who spend time with other faithful Christians inevitably edify others and find themselves built up also.

On the contrary, if a Christian does not make Bible study and worship a priority, he will miss much edification, as well as an opportunity to edify others. Furthermore, Christians who spend most of their time with worldly people will find themselves being pulled down instead of built up. Christians edify one another, so, Christians, edify one another!

— Chad Dollahite