The English word edify appears twenty times in the New Testament in one form or another. The word means, “the act of building.” Nineteen of the twenty times this word is used in the New Testament it is used by Paul and has the sense of Christians encouraging or strengthening one another (Rom. 15:2; Eph. 4:29). It has been said that the church has three important works: evangelism, benevolence, and edification. Evangelism is the work of spreading the gospel to those who are outside of Christ. Benevolence is the work of helping those in need, whether inside or outside of the body of Christ (Gal. 6:9-10). Edification, as it is revealed in the pages of the Bible, is a responsibility of the church in an effort to keep the saved, saved. How can we accomplish the important work of edification?
We can edify one another by not tearing one another down. In Romans 14 Paul dealt with matters of conscience among Christians and wrote, “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Rom. 14:19). In the same context he wrote, “Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification” (Rom. 15:2). He instructs us to not despise one another and to remember that God is the Judge in such matters, not man (Rom. 14:2, 12).
We can edify one another by speaking properly to one another. Paul wrote, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). It is the case that words can hurt and be detrimental. Consider some things that Solomon wrote about words: “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin” (Pro. 10:19). “Grievous words stir up anger” (Pro. 15:1). “A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul” (Pro. 18:7). Our words can be a tree of life or a source of foolishness (Pro. 15:2, 4). God’s children should use their words to strengthen their brethren, not cause them harm.
We can edify one another by fulfilling our own responsibilities within the body of Christ. Paul wrote about this aspect of edification in Ephesians 4:11-16. God wants His church to grow up and for every joint to supply its work for the purpose of the “increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Every member of the church has work to do! If one part fails to do his/her part, the whole body suffers. First Corinthians 14 reveals that there was much division in that congregation because of a spirit of competition among the brethren and an abuse of the spiritual gifts they possessed. Paul commanded them, “Let all things be done unto edifying” (1 Cor. 14:26).
We can edify one another by our faithful attendance at the assembling of ourselves together (Heb. 10:24-25). Some of the Hebrew Christians were in danger of falling away and were told, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised)” (Heb. 10:23). What happens when a Christian sins willfully by forsaking the assembly? The author wrote that that child of God, “…hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29). We must never underestimate the encouragement we can give or the damage we can do with our attitude toward the assembly of the church.
God wants His church to be strong and mature. Paul encouraged the Corinthians by writing, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men (act like men), be strong. Let all your things be done with charity” (1 Cor. 16:13-14). Perhaps all of the above points on edification could be summed up with two verses written by Paul: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).
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