This week, I’ve been writing some summary posts on the topic of “mutual edification.” This is a very important topic, more important than I realized a few years ago when I first started studying the gathering of the church in the New Testament.
Unfortunately, in the church today, mutual edification has been set aside as a dangerous (perhaps even novel) idea. Instead of seeking to build up one another, Christians today tend to prefer to have professionals (whether academically or formally trained or not) do the work of edification.
In God’s economy, this is not possible. It is impossible for one or a few to do the work of edification.
As a reminder, a few years ago I wrote this definition of edification:
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. (See “Who edifies whom?“)
You may notice that much of that definition comes from Ephesians 4:13, which might lead to the following question: Doesn’t that indicate that only those listed in Ephesians 4:11 are responsible for edification? Absolutely not. In fact, it’s impossible to understand Ephesians 4:11-13 as indicating that only those gifted individuals listed in Ephesians 4:11 are responsible for edification when the entire context is taken into consideration.
What do I mean? Well, Paul begins that passage with the unity of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:1-6) and the giftedness of all believers (Ephesians 4:7-10), and he ends the passage with the importance of every brother and sisters working together (stated many different ways) which results in this: “the whole body… makes the body grow so that it builds itself up (‘edification’) in love.” (Ephesians 4:16)
Edification is not the work of one person or even a few people among of the church, regardless of who gifted, intelligent, trained, caring, loving, or godly that person or those people may be.
So, who is responsible for [edification]? To me, the answer is quite simple: If someone is a child of God, saved through the blood of Jesus Christ, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, then that person is responsible for edifying others. There are several passages to help us understand this, both passages that include edification terminology (Romans 14:19, Romans 15:2, 1 Corinthians 14:26, Ephesians 4:16, Ephesians 4:29, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, and Jude 1:20-21) as well as passages that carry the same concept without specifically using “edification” language (Matthew 28:19-20, 2 Corinthians 13:11, Colossians 1:28, Colossians 3:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:24-25). (See “Who edifies whom?“)
Are you a brand new disciple of Jesus Christ? Then the Holy Spirit dwells in you, and you have the ability of and the responsibility of helping others follow Jesus Christ. In the same you, you have the responsibility of being edified by others as well.
Have you been following Jesus Christ for many, many years? Then you also have the responsibility of building others up as the Holy Spirit works through you, and you can still be edified others.
Are you a seminary educated follower of Jesus Christ? Then you are to edify others and you are to be edified by others.
Have you never set foot in a seminary classroom? Then you are just as much of the responsibility of an edifier as anyone else, just as you are to be edified by others.
Who edifies whom among the body of Christ? We all edify one another… together.