As most of my readers know, I think that Scripture teaches that believers should gather together in order to edify one another. I (and many others) call this “mutual edification.” (For more information, see a blog series that I wrote recently called “Mutual Edification and the Church.” That link is to the conclusion, which include links to the other posts in the series.)
The “mutual” of the term indicates that the whole church should be involved in edification and that the whole church should be edified. Now, obviously, there are times when every person will not be involved in the process, and there are times when some will be edified more than others. But, there should always be the opportunity for and the expectation of all brothers and sisters taking part in activities that would edify the church.
In this series, I want to investigate the second word in the phrase: “edification.” I have already stated that I believe that believers should seek to edify (the verb form of “edification”) one another when they get together, and that the whole church should be edified. So, in this series, I am not talking about individual edification.
I believe that individual edification is important and that it is a biblical concept. However, this series examines edification in the context of believers gathering together. Paul points out that our goal should not be individual (or self) edification when we are with our brothers and sisters in Christ. (See 1 Corinthians 14:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 14:27-28.)
Also, this series is not specifically about edifying activities. I believe there are many activities that Jesus’ followers can participate in in order to edify one another, but the focus should never be on the activities themselves. Instead, the focus should be on the motivation for and the expected results of those activities. For example, consider what Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. (1 Corinthians 14:26 ESV)
In this passage, Paul recognizes that the believers in Corinth were coming together after having prepared various activities (i.e., hymns, lessons, prophecies). However, Paul’s focus is on the motivation for and result of those activities (love in 1 Corinthians 13 and edification here). The activities are important only IF they are motivated by love and result in the edification of the church. So, this series will focus on edification, not on the activities themselves.
The word “edification” comes into English through Latin. It is equivalent to the phrase “building up.” In this context, either term (“edification” or “building up”) is figurative. The terms refer to the actual process of constructing a building. However, in Scripture (and in this series), they are not referring to physical structures, but to the community of believers who are gathered together in Christ.
In Scripture, we find the term “edification” used along with other similar terms such as “encouragement” or “exhortation” and “comfort” or “consolation.” In a particularly revealing passage, “edification” is also related to unity, knowing Jesus, and maturity in Christ:
… 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)
So, I often say that when we edify one another, we are helping one another live a more mature life in Jesus Christ. But, even then, we have to ask what it means to live a more mature life in Jesus Christ. I think this is intimately related to the concepts of sanctification and discipleship, but it still doesn’t tell us what it means to edify one another.
In this series, I plan to look at three areas in which we can edify one another (i.e., seek to help one another live a more mature life in Jesus Christ): 1) our relationship with God, 2) our relationship with one another, and 3) our relationship with others.