Two year ago, in January 2010, I started a series on the subject of mutual edification by looking at a passage in 1 Thessalonians. The series continued with posts about passages in Romans and 1 Corinthians. Finally, it ended with posts that asked a couple of questions: 1) who edifies whom? and 2) how do we edify others?
The post below was the conclusion of that series: “How do we edify others?” I do not offer specific steps towards edification, because I think the “steps” will changed based on the people involved. However, I do offer a few guidelines that I’ve noticed about edification. If you’re interested, links to the other posts in the series can be found at the bottom of the post.
This is my last planned post on edification for this week (see “Salvation as the motivation for mutual edification,” “Acceptance and edification,” “What is Edification?” and “Who edifies whom?“). In this post, I would like us to consider some of the methods we can use to edify others.
Once again, let’s with begin the definition from a previous post: Edification is using words and deeds in the context of familial relationships and fellowship to help one or more followers of Jesus Christ grow in their understanding of Christ, their love for and unity with their brothers and sisters in Christ, and their faithfulness in living like Christ.
There are a few things to consider at the beginning. We are gifted differently. We have different opportunities. We spend time with different people who need to mature in different ways. We are all at different levels of spiritual maturity in different parts of our lives. We cannot make specific statements about methods of edification that will cover all instances.
However, there are some general guidelines that can help us think through how we are (or are not) edifying others. For instance, I think we can all agree that Scripture teaches that we can use our words to either edify (build up) or destroy (tear down). But, it’s not just our words. Our actions (deeds or lack of deeds done for the purpose of serving others) can work to either edify or destroy. If we desire for people to grow both in their understanding and in their way of life, then both our words and our way of life must be used to edify.
Second, we must understand that in different contexts, different methods of edification are appropriate. Paul makes this very clear in 1 Corinthians 14. For example, while uninterpreted tongues is an appropriate means of edifying the one speaking, it is an inappropriate means of edifying a group of believers.
Third, in spite of the second principle, we should still recognize that ANY time we spend with another person or other people is an opportunity for edification. We see this in Scripture often as people make disciples and encourage one another when the church is meeting together, or when they are working together, or when they are sharing meals together, or when they are traveling together.
Fourth, edification is a mutual process. If I only view myself as the “edifier” in a certain relationships, then I have misunderstood the way that God’s Spirit works through his children. Even if I am the more mature believer, I can still learn from and be encouraged by and be discipled by (i.e., edified by) a less mature brother or sister. I can be wrong… I am wrong in many of my beliefs, my relationships with others, and my way of life. Humility is very important in our relationships with other believers such that we are willing accept the teaching, correction, example, etc. of others.
Fifth, and finally for now, in order for the church to grow in maturity, every believers must take advantage of the opportunities, giftings, talents, abilities, relationships, etc. that God has given them. Excellent leadership does not produce growth in the church. A phenomenal teacher/preacher does not produce growth in the church. Instead, it is when all believers are working together to edify one another that Paul says the church (together) will grow in maturity toward Jesus Christ.
I know that I still have much to learn about edification. I’m looking forward to the times that God uses the people in my life to edify me, just as I’m looking forward to times when God chooses to use me to edify others. We need one another.
Some Thoughts on Mutual Edification:
- Salvation as the motivation for mutual edification
- Acceptance and edification
- What is edification?
- Who edifies whom?
- How do we edify others?