Paul makes a simple statement concerning the gathering of believers, “Let all things be done for edification (building up)”. (1 Corinthians 14:26) The purpose of this series of posts (See “Edification 1 – Introduction“) is to examine the term “edification” in order to better understand Paul’s simple statement.
“Edification” or “building up” in 1 Corinthians 14:26 (as well as in many other passages of Scripture) is the English translation of the Greek noun Î¿Î¹ÎºÎ¿Î´Î¿Î¼á½µ (oikodomÄ“). The verbal forms (“to edify” or “to build up”) are Î¿Î¹ÎºÎ¿Î´Î¿Î¼á½³Ï‰, Î±Î½Î¿Î¹ÎºÎ¿Î´Î¿Î¼á½³Ï‰, ÎµÏ€Î¿Î¹ÎºÎ¿Î´Î¿Î¼á½³Ï‰, and ÏƒÏ…Î½Î¿Î¹ÎºÎ¿Î´Î¿Î¼á½³Ï‰ (oikodomeÅ, anoikodomeÅ, epoikodomeÅ, and synoikodomeÅ respectively). The Greek words have both literal and figurative meanings.
Literally, Î¿Î¹ÎºÎ¿Î´Î¿Î¼á½µ (oikodomÄ“) word groups point toward the process of constructing or the construction itself. The English words “build”, “building”, “edifice”, “construct”, and “construction” represent the literal forms of this word group.
There are at least two figurative meanings of the Î¿Î¹ÎºÎ¿Î´Î¿Î¼á½µ (oikodomÄ“) word groups. The first figurative meaning (according to BDAG, the standard Greek lexicon) carries the sense of “construct[ing] in a transcendant sense” or of “the building up of the Christian congregation or church”. A good example of this in the New Testament is found in Matthew 16:18 – “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Thus, the term “build” is used literally of a figurative building (the church) – a transcendant form of building.
The second figurative use of the Î¿Î¹ÎºÎ¿Î´Î¿Î¼á½µ (oikodomÄ“) word groups is the one utilized by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:26 and many other passages. BDAG explains this meaning as “to help improve ability to function in living responsibly and effectively, strengthen, build up, make more able”.
Thus, according to Paul, the purpose of gathering together with believers, and the purpose of the different activities that happen when believers gather, is to help improve the ability to function in living responsibly and effectively. In the context, we can assume that this means to live responsibly and effectively as a follower of Jesus Christ. In other words, this is similar to the concept of helping someone mature toward Christ-likeness.
This definition aligns well with Paul’s use of Î¿Î¹ÎºÎ¿Î´Î¿Î¼á½µ (oikodomÄ“) in Ephesians 4:12-13, where he explains the purpose of Christ’s giving gifted individuals to the church:
… to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… (Ephesians 4:12-13 ESV)
Thus, “building up of” or “edification of” the body of Christ has as its purpose (1) unity of faith, (2) knowledge of Christ, and (3) maturity, all of which are measured against Christ himself.
So, according to Paul, when the church gathers, everything that is done should be done for the purpose of uniting believers in the faith, helping them to know Christ himself, and maturing them in Christ-likeness. This is edification.