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But, what is edification?

Posted by on Jan 2, 2013 in edification | 2 comments

But, what is edification?

Yes, when we gather together with our brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important (necessary, actually) that we all work together in order to edify (or “build up”) one another. This term “edification” is a construction term. The verb “edify” literally points to building a structure, like a house or barn or whatever. So, the term “edification” (as the abstract) refers to the process of constructing a building. (In English, the relationship between the related Greek terms can be seen in the concrete noun “edifice,” the abstract noun “edification,” and the verb “edify.”)

Of course, the term “edification” can also be used in a figurative (i.e., non-literal) sense. This is the way that Paul (and other NT authors) used the term, as in, “Do all things for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26) (Of course, there are some literal uses of the terms in the NT as well.)

But, what does it mean to “edify” one another figuratively?

A couple of years ago, I wrote this:

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. (See “What is edification? – Introduction.”)

As I explained at the end of that post (linked to above), I believe that edification is best seen and understood in terms of relationships: 1) our relationship with God, 2) our relationship with one another, and 3) our relationship with others.

About our relationship with God:

Our maturity in Christ starts with trusting God – that is, faith. Yes, it is important to know certain facts about God and about Jesus and about the Holy Spirit. But, this alone is not faith. We help one another when we see areas of our individual or corporate lives in which we are not trusting God and then we work toward helping each other trust God more in that area of our lives. (See “What is edification? – Relationship with God.”

About our relationship with one another (other followers of Jesus):

The types of relationships that the church needs cannot be built and matured in scheduled or weekly meetings. Instead, our relationships in Christ are grown in the struggles of life when those struggles are shared with one another. It is in this type of scenario that we truly learn to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. (See “What is edification? – Relationship with One Another.”

About our relationship with others (who do not follow Jesus):

The edification, then, comes in helping one another build more and more relationships with those who are not part of the church. We seek to see each other serving and loving those who are unbelievers. And, our relationships must be authentic, actually caring about the people. Also, the gospel must be central to our relationships. But, there is a big problem if we reject people who reject the gospel. (See “What is edification? – Relationship with Others.”

Can we help one another develop these relationships? Yes, we can. And, this is what Scripture refers to as “edification.” And, we do help one another grow in these relationships – all of these relationships – then we are taking part in “mutual edification” – which is what the authors of the NT indicate should occur whenever we gather together.

It can be beneficial to keep these three relationships in view, because we often shift to one or the other:

Plus, at any time, a group of Christians can tend to shift in one direction or another, neglecting either their relationship with God, with one another, or with others. I think we can use these three aspects as guides. Are we growing in each area? How do we know? What fruit do we see? Is this only individual growth or do we see corporate growth as well? What needs to be adjusted? (See “What is edification? – Conclusion.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 1-2-2013

    On the one hand we need to do our best to help one another grow in life, love the Lord, develop our relationship with the Lord and with the other believers, and experience Christ. But on the other hand, we can’t really SEE or quantify the building up / edification… It’s actually Christ who builds up His church (Matt. 16:18), and we learn to work together with Him as ministers of the new covenant.

    But I like the connotations of the word “edification” you discovered. It is such a rich word in meaning and application!

  2. 1-2-2013


    The feedback you describe in the last paragraph is both important and neglected. We need to be able to evaluate ourselves and our groups in a way that allows us to commit to improving rather than withdrawing in shame.

    I think that is only possible if we really see ourselves as a growing organism: we are more limited now than we will be tomorrow.