A New Testament Perspective
by Al Maxey
To "edify" simply means "to build up." Edification is the process of building up someone or something. An "edifice" is the result of a building process. "To edify" and "edification" are the translations of the following two Greek words used in the New Covenant writings:
oikodome --- A noun. This word appears 18 times within the pages
of the New Testament documents, and it is a combination of two Greek words:
"to build" + "a house, a home." It can be translated either of two ways:
Literally: "a building." It is used this way 6 times. Mark 13:1-2 is a good
Figuratively: "edification." It is used this way 12 times. Rom. 15:2 is a good example.
oikodomeo --- A verb. Appears 39 times within the pages of
the New Testament documents. It also can be translated either:
Literally: "to build." It is used this way 31 times. Matt. 7:24, 26 is a
Figuratively: "to edify." It is used this way 8 times. I Cor. 8:1 is a good example.
The Scriptures tell us that individual Christians are building blocks or stones which are being used to build a godly house (the Church). Notice the following passages:
I Peter 2:4-5 --- "And coming to Him as to a Living Stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
I Corinthians 3:9 --- "For you are God's field, God's building."
Ephesians 2:19-22 --- "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit."
I Corinthians 3:10-11, 16 --- "According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.....Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in You?"
As Christians we must each be about the task of "building up" the Lord's Church. We must be part of the "building crew," and not part of the "wrecking crew." We are called to EDIFICATION, not DEMOLITION. God says He will "destroy" anyone who takes part in tearing down this spiritual edifice (I Cor. 3:17). Paul writes, "Do not tear down the work of God.....but pursue the things which build up one another" (Rom. 14:19-20).
In Eph. 4:11-12 Paul writes, "And He gave some to be apostles, and some to be prophets, and some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, unto the building up of the body of Christ." Our "work of service," for which each of us is given some gift of God "for the common good" (I Cor. 12:7), and for which we are equipped by God's spiritual leaders, is the edification of one another. ALL saints are to be actively working toward this goal!
The question many ask, however, is: How do I go about building up my brethren in Christ? What would God specifically have me to be doing in order to achieve this goal? Within the pages of the New Covenant writings we find some very practical, common sense advice on how to achieve the edification of the Lord's church. Following is the New Testament "blueprint" for successfully building up a spiritual edifice unto the Lord God:
#1 -- LOVE ONE ANOTHER. --- "Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies" (I Cor. 8:1). Literally, this phrase reads: "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up!" In Eph. 4:16 Paul, in speaking of the growth of the Body of Christ, encourages "the building up of itself in love." By studying the various characteristics of Christian love, as given in I Cor. 13:4-8a, one can see clearly that these are traits that cannot help but build up one another. Love is the "perfect bond of unity" (Col. 3:14); it unites the living stones together into a spiritual edifice, and promotes CONstruction, rather than DEstruction. "Love does no wrong to a neighbor" (Rom. 13:10). It builds up, rather than tears down!
#2 -- ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER. --- "Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing" (I Thess. 5:11). The Greek word translated "encourage" is parakaleo, a combination of two words which literally means "to call alongside." It conveys the idea of taking someone to your side, placing an arm around them, and comforting, cheering, encouraging them in some way. Edification is promoted when we put our arms around another, rather than pushing them away at arm's length.
Edification is also either promoted or not by what we say to one another during these times. If what I have to say to you when I call you to my side is unwholesome, or not in accordance with your specific needs at the moment, then edification is not accomplished. "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Eph. 4:29). If my words tear down either you or someone else, then I am not speaking wholesome words, and I am not edifying. I am a DIScourager, and part of the enemy's demolition team.
#3 -- BE A POSITIVE EXAMPLE TO ONE ANOTHER. --- Paul likens us to living epistles, "known and read by all men" (II Cor. 3:2). You are observed daily by others, both within and outside of the Body. Your example will impact the lives of others, either positively or negatively. Whether our brothers and sisters in Christ are edified or not may well depend upon the nature of your example before them. By a poor or careless example we may actually "build up" someone to do that which would be harmful to them.
There are many things which are neither right nor wrong in and of themselves, but which may, because of the weakness of another, be a cause of stumbling for them. "All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor" (I Cor. 10:23-24). "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened (literally: "built up, edified") to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge (example). When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall" (I Cor. 8:9-13). See also: Rom. 14:13-23. If our goal is to edify one another, we will look carefully to our example before one another!
This principle of bearing with the weaknesses of our fellow brethren for the purpose of edification is seen clearly in Rom. 15:1-2....."Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification." Let us be more aware of the fact that our example is observed, and many times imitated, by our brethren, and let us set the type of example that will build up their faith and commitment, rather than undermine it.
#4 -- WHEN NEEDED, BE FIRM WITH ONE ANOTHER. --- Paul spoke of the fact that his letters were often called "weighty and strong," and although he did not desire to "terrify" his readers by his letters, nevertheless he spoke in firmness and with authority, "which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you" (II Cor. 10:8-10). In II Cor. 13:10 he again points out that authority to "use severity" has a place in the church, as long as it is used "for building up and not for tearing down." If a brother or sister is engaged in an act, or is displaying an attitude, that is sinful and destructive to them and to others, it is essential that they be approached in love so that their destructive behavior may be altered. At times our approach may have to be firm; punishment may even be called for; but these can all be acts of edification if entered into with the proper spirit. If our "severity" is generated from a spirit of anger, frustration, hatred, spite, or desire for vengeance, then we are "tearing down;" but if our "severity" is generated from a spirit of love, concern, and a desire for repentance and continued fellowship, then we are "building up." "For though I cause you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it.....for you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance.....in order that you might not suffer loss" (II Cor. 7:8-9).
#5 -- USE YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS FOR ONE ANOTHER. --- Paul told the Corinthian brethren, "Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, seek to abound in them for the edification of the church" (I Cor. 14:12). In vs. 26 of this chapter, after listing some of the gifts being exercised in the congregation in Corinth, he wrote, "let all things be done for edification." The Corinthians did not always come together for the better, but oftentimes for the worse (I Cor. 11:17), therefore Paul cautioned them that all their actions needed to be with the goal of edification in mind. EVERY Christian has been given a spiritual ability from God for the purpose of building up the Body. "But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (I Cor. 12:7). Our gifts are not the same (I Cor. 12:4-6), but "to each one of us grace has been given according to the measure of Christ's gift" (Eph. 4:7), and God Himself "has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired" (I Cor. 12:18). It is "with the proper working of each individual part" of the Body of Christ that the "building up of itself in love" occurs (Eph. 4:16). You have a place in the Church that no one else can fill; you are unique, and you are valuable to the Body. Therefore, perform your work of service for which God gifted you and placed you within the Body, for the edification of your brethren. "And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly!" (Rom. 12:6).
#6 -- SPEAK GOD'S WORD TO ONE ANOTHER. --- After encouraging the Corinthians to "pursue love" and to "desire earnestly spiritual gifts," Paul says that he would really like to see them engaging in prophecy (I Cor. 14:1). This simply means to function as a "mouth-piece of God," to be a medium through which His message is proclaimed. It is a FORTH-telling far more than a FORE-telling. "One who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church" (I Cor. 14:3-4). Paul points out the danger of doing anything within the Body, even though it may be good in and of itself, if in so doing "the other man is not edified" (I Cor. 14:17). In II Cor. 12:19 Paul points out that he spent his time "speaking in Christ: and all for your upbuilding, beloved." By speaking forth the Good News to one another, we cannot help but build up one another!
#7 -- PROMOTE PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER. --- "So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another" (Rom. 14:19). The apostle Paul, in Rom. 12:9-17, gives some good practical advice on how to pursue peaceful relations with others, and then concludes with this charge: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men" (vs. 19). When an atmosphere of peace reigns within a congregation, one finds an atmosphere conducive to spiritual and numerical growth. "But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another" (Gal. 5:15). When we pursue the things which make for peace, we will at the same time be pursuing edification! Once Saul of Tarsus stopped breathing his murderous threats against the disciples of Christ, and aligned himself with the Word of God, "the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up (edified); and, going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase" (Acts 9:31).