Issue #177 -------
March 7, 2005
God builds His temple in the heart
on the ruins of churches and religions.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
To "edify" simply means "to build up." Edification, therefore, is simply the process of building up someone or something. Another word in this family is "edifice," which is the result of a building process. This concept is found many times within the pages of the New Testament writings, and we have all heard these words used repeatedly in classes and sermons. Let's consider these two familiar expressions -- "To edify" and "edification" -- a bit more carefully. They are the common translations of the following two Greek words:
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: (1) A Building. It is used this way 6 times. Mark 13:1-2 is a good example. "And as He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, 'Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!' And Jesus said to him, 'Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another which will not be torn down." (2) Edification. It is used this way 12 times. Rom. 15:2 is a good example. "Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification." Actually, that last part reads, in the original text, "to a building."
Oikodomeo --- A verb. This word appears 39 times within the pages of the New Covenant documents. It also can be translated one of two ways: (1) To Build. It is used in this manner 31 times. Matt. 7:24, 26 is a good example of this usage. "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. ... And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand." (2) To Edify. It is used this way 8 times. 1 Cor. 8:1 is a good example. "Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies."
The Scriptures tell us that individual Christians are building blocks or stones which are being used to build a godly house or dwelling of the Spirit. Notice the following passages:
As Christians we must each be about the task of "building up" the Lord's church. We must be part of the "building crew," not part of the "wrecking crew." We are called unto Edification, not unto Demolition. God says He will "destroy" anyone who takes part in tearing down this spiritual edifice (1 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" (1 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," if you will, for successfully building up a spiritual edifice unto the Lord God.
LOVE ONE ANOTHER --- "Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies" (1 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 1 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.
ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER --- "Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing" (1 Thess. 5:11). The Greek word translated "encourage" is parakaleo, a combination of two words which literally mean "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 promoted (or not promoted) by what we say to one another during these times. If what I say to you, when I call you to my side, is unwholesome, or not in accordance with your specific needs at the moment, then true edification is not really 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.
BE A POSITIVE EXAMPLE TO ONE ANOTHER --- Paul likens us to living epistles, "known and read by all men" (2 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" (1 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 (or: 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" (1 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, realizing the power of our influence upon others!
This biblical principle of bearing patiently 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." We must be more aware of the fact that our example is observed, and many times imitated, by our brethren. Thus, let us set the type of example that will build up their faith and commitment, rather than undermine it.
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" (2 Cor. 10:8-10). In 2 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" (2 Cor. 7:8-9).
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" (1 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 (1 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" (1 Cor. 12:7). Our gifts are not the same (1 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" (1 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).
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 (1 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" (1 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" (1 Cor. 14:17). In 2 Cor. 12:19 Paul points out that he spent his time "speaking in Christ: and all for your upbuilding, beloved." By speaking forth glad tidings to one another, we cannot help but build up one another!
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. 18). 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).
The Sounds of Glory
Lanier Stevens, a dear friend, brother and fellow minister, as well as a long-time subscriber to these Reflections, and a staunch supporter of my ministry, has an a cappella singing group that has produced several fabulous albums, and is in great demand for performances and concerts. They are known as "The Sounds of Glory." Their web site is listed above. Just recently, their group has been joined by Rodney Britt, who sang bass a number of years ago with Keith Lancaster in the well-known group Acappella. Their latest album (which Lanier graciously sent me a few days ago), titled "This Little Light of Mine," is one of their best. These songs will send chills down your spine, and will have you longing for heaven! If you want to hear some super gospel music, sung by some of your fellow Reflections subscribers, go to the above URL and order their albums, especially their new one. You will not be disappointed!!
From a Reader in Alaska:
Al, you have been given many gifts, and you are a gift to us all! Please send me your two Reflections CD's -- Volume 1 (2003) and Volume 2 (2004). Thank you!
From a Minister in California:
Brother Al, When I first started to tackle your latest article -- Not Inclined To Immerse -- I thought that it was a bit too "hair-splitting" for my taste. My initial reaction was, "What's the big deal about this doctrine-gospel discussion?" After further thought and meditation (you always do this to me!!), I realized that there was a deep spiritual principle at stake here that can make us miss the grace of God if we're not careful. Hopefully, one of these days I'll learn that you don't take on these topics for pure argument's sake!! When we confuse gospel and doctrine, we confuse God's precious gift for us and our response to it. If we're not careful, we can begin to think that we actually had some part in bringing about God's grace! I can easily see how someone might start to think, "I'm saved because I'm baptized," instead of, "I'm saved because God cared enough about me to send His Son Jesus Christ to die for me and make it possible for my sins to be removed. Therefore, I'm baptized." That is a HUGE distinction. In light of this, one can easily understand how Paul could be totally disgusted with the idea that somehow WHO baptized you is more important than WHO you are baptized INTO. This idea puts 1 Cor. 1:17 in perspective. Thank you so much for taking deep spiritual truths and making them relatable to our every day walk with God. I always feel like I've had an intense spiritual workout after studying one of your Reflections.
From a Reader in Texas:
Al, I have just read your Reflections #176 in the morning's mail. As usual, it was right to the point. Along the same line, I have often thought about the following in this light. "Believe" is that part about the Gospel, and, separated by the one word "AND," baptism is the resulting action. Without both, salvation is not possible. Or, another way of thinking, if you believe the Gospel, then it follows you will want to be baptized. They are different, but one without the other will not get you saved. The computer age being upon us, we have gotten used to the term "link." Baptism is linked to the Gospel, but it is not the same. Just because it is not the Gospel, however, does not mean that it is not just as important --- it is! As I said, one without the other nullifies both. Hope all is well with you and yours. Keep the Word flowing! It is so great to know you are on the side of the Lord.
From a Minister/Elder in New Jersey:
Al, Excellent article .... again. We in the Churches of Christ have too long preached a "Gospel of Baptism," complete with Doctrines involving how soon, what formula, moving water, and who knows how many other traditions. When will "baptism" be translated instead of transliterated? Would it not be helpful to substitute "immerse" each time "baptize" appears? Further, it seems to me that "immerse" is often made clearer by defining what we are to be "immersed into." Often immersion is spoken of as being into His death, into His name, and into Him. When we grasp the Gospel of Jesus, and our need for what that Gospel brings, it is a much more logical response to be immersed in His Spirit, His name, His death. Even Peter says that the immersion in water is given significance in the resurrection of Jesus. Far too many have been immersed in "water only."
From a Minister in Texas:
Al, as I read the reader's responses after today's Reflections I never cease to marvel at your being God's man for this time. It must be humbling, gratifying, and a tremendous burden all at the same time. You and Shelly are in my prayers daily, thanking God for, and praying for, your continued boldness in addressing the problems caused by the "sacred cows" of our tradition-bound legalistic movement! Thank you for the powerful impact you're having at this point in our history. I appreciate you more than words could ever say! My love and respect to you in our Lord.
From a Reader in Texas:
Bro. Maxey, Thank you for addressing the issue of dealing with the disgruntled in your article "Murmuring Members." Your psychological profile of an antagonist hit the nail right on the head. God's blessing of wisdom is evident in your writings. Your encouragement, along with that of other brethren, has given me a will to continue on, rather than retreat. Thank you again, and may God continue to bless your words!
From a Minister in California:
Bro. Maxey, It was great talking to you on the phone today. As I told you, I used to think that I knew at least a little bit about the Bible, but now that I've read your writings, my own knowledge base seems to decrease less and less by comparison. Your articles are very thought-provoking, well-researched, well-presented, and brilliantly written. Thank you for your love and dedication. By the way, how is it that you present such a loving attitude, especially toward those that vilify you? I know that your example is what Jesus teaches us to do, but the way that you "handle yourself" in the midst of so much evil against you is, to me, remarkable. How do you do it?
From a Reader in Michigan:
Al, Another excellent article. I wonder how Dr. Geisler could make such an obvious error when Paul himself states why he is glad he didn't baptize more than he did. I guess the reason is even scholars are not immune from their own party! I recently bought Geisler's book "I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist." I had no real knowledge of him other than this book was recommended by John Clayton's DOES GOD EXIST? journal. Other than a minor point or two that indicated Dr. Geisler's Baptist leanings, I found the book to be extraordinary in presenting evidences for the existence of God. A very useful book indeed.
From a Reader at Texas Tech University:
I enjoyed your essay on baptism and the gospel. I agree with most of what you say. But I am wondering if you are right in claiming that baptism fits under "doctrine." It would seem to me that the "doctrine" is the teaching given to new disciples, not a part of what makes them new disciples. While I agree that instructions concerning baptism are not part of the gospel proper, it seems to me that those instructions naturally follow the gospel presentation and are connected with it. I don't see that we need to classify baptism as being under either gospel or doctrine. As you say in your Reflections, it is simply the natural response to the gospel message. I appreciate your continued fine work.
From an Elder in Missouri:
Your distinction between the Gospel and Doctrine is something I never truly thought about. Your points are well thought out and seem to have merit. I know many "old timers" speak of "obeying the gospel" -- meaning being baptized. This has always troubled me when contemplating such passages as 1 Cor. 1:17. I agree with you that the Gospel (good news) is the message of Christ, and that immersion (along with faith, repentance, confession, etc) is our response to that message. Very good point! Keep the Faith, and keep up the good work!
From a Minister in Texas:
Al, As my mind was wondering in thought last night, I considered whether there was actually the possibility of being a Christian "Impostor," or if perhaps we are not all Christian "Impostors." What I mean is, since none of us are perfect in our walk, maybe the best we might attain to is being an impostor. Somehow I think it might fit perfectly with "be ye imitators of me..." I continue to be impressed with the ability God has given you to reflect on His Word.
From a New Reader in Georgia:
I was introduced to your Reflections recently, and I am so thankful to have such a great Bible Study resource! I was raised in the Church of Christ, and after many years of doubting the validity of some of the "doctrines" that are taught, I am slowly but surely breaking free from the bondage of church tradition. Thank you for your help. Can you direct me to some of your Reflections articles that would help me to understand more fully what is meant by living under grace by faith, and not under law? I am leading a small group ladies Bible Study, and we have many questions! Isn't it a shame that I am 48 years old and still struggling with these issues, and I have been a faithful Christian all of my adult life!! Thank you again for your thoughts and reflections.
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