The assembly must edify one another

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers (Ephesians 4:29)

Therefore comfort each other and edify one another…pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all (1 Thessalonians 5:11, 15)

These verses teach that we are to build each other up. The Greek word for edify (oikodomé) means “to build.” It’s the same word for building a house. We build up the house – the assembly – through mutual edification.

The assembly is the place where you should be finding your encouragement and comfort, because the assembly is your spiritual family, your spiritual and heavenly house. Just as you share things with your families at home and you help one another, so it is to be in the assembly.

How do we edify one another? Edification can occur in many ways. It includes giving thanks to someone for things they do for the church. It includes complimenting each other, praising someone’s good works, or encouraging people in specific callings they have. Words like that impart grace. They let the person know that you care and that they are making a difference. It is important in any family unit to know that you are a valued member – no less than in the church family! Find ways to thank and compliment your assembly-members.

Edification includes lifting someone up when they are in despair. Imagine that you go to worship and ask someone, “How are you?” They respond honestly: “Things haven’t been so good.” In that moment, they need to be uplifted and you have the opportunity to speak words of comfort to them. How can you do that quickly and easily?


What are the Best Questions for Meaningful Spiritual Conversations?

A Study on Mutual Edification – Part 1

by Nathan Odell  at Joined to Him

Recently, I had a conversation with a brother about mutual edification. The funny thing is that our conversation that started out as a light hearted dialogue, turned into a more heated debate/argument, which I realized was far from mutually edifying. I hope you see the irony in this. I then started to consider all the scriptures that spoke about mutual edification and realized that I needed to rethink the way I dialogued with people. I realized that it is possible to sacrifice brotherly love, unity, and mutual edification on the altar of truth/doctrine. To me this is a sacrifice not worth making, which caused me to cease from further dialogue. I’d rather be seen as losing an argument than losing a brother and a friend. With this in mind, I have decided to do a brief study on some of the scriptures that talk about mutual edification, to help clarify my understanding on the matter and to perhaps edify you in some way.

To kick things off, I want to take a look at Romans 14:19.

So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. NASB

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. NIV

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. ESV

Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. NKJV

There are two main things we can see in this verse, from the different translations. Firstly, the definition of mutual edification is ‘building up of one another’ or ‘by which one may edify another’. I would simply define mutual edification as the ‘building up or edifying of Christians by Christians’. I also believe the ‘mutual’ or ‘one another’ part is just as important as the ‘edification’ or ‘building up’ part.

Secondly, Paul states that we must ‘pursue’ or ‘make every effort’ to do the things that lead to mutual edification. This means we need to be active and intentional about building one another up. For Paul to say it in this way means that mutual edification is an extremely important aspect of the Christian life. But how does this verse fit into the context? Let’s take a look.

I encourage you to go and read the whole of Romans 14 to get it’s proper context. A summary would be that Paul is talking about how we should relate to brothers or sisters who believe or understand things differently to the way we do. He uses the example of eating different types of food. One brother believes he can eat all foods and another brother only certain foods. He talks about how the brother who eats all foods may cause the brother who thinks he can only eat certain foods, to stumble.

Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Rom 14:15

Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Rom 14:19-21

Notice how Paul expands his teaching from just food to ‘anything’ in the last verse. To me the principle that comes out loud and strong that Paul promotes is the following: We should avoid anything that causes a brother to fall, stumble, be offended, and made weak, at all costs, and we must pursue or make every effort to edify or build one another up.

If we offend a brother or make him stumble, we are no longer walking in love. But, if we are building one another up, then we are truly walking in the love of Christ. In fact a sure way to avoid anything that causes a brother to stumble is to make every effort in pursuing mutual edification among a group of brothers and sisters. The opposite of tearing down is building up. Let us build one another up rather than tear one another down.

I hope this brief study has been useful and will help you on your journey of ‘pursuing’ mutual edification. Be blessed brothers and sisters.

A Study on Mutual Edification – Part 2

The role of leaders and mutual edification

A thought-provoking post that challenges the way we in the church operate by Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church blog.

The role of leaders and mutual edification

When the church gathers together, Paul says that everything should be done for edification. And, previously, I’ve argued that the kind of edification that he’s talking about is “mutual edification.” I defined mutual edification as all (or many) working together to help all grow together in maturity in Jesus Christ.

Now, when we study most church gatherings today, we find something different. Instead of all (or many) working together to edify everyone, we typically find one, two, or at most a few leaders working to edify everyone. As I’ve mentioned before, this is a form of “solo-edification,” not mutual edification.

But, we know from Scripture that there were leaders among the earliest churches. So, what would be the role of these leaders when the church gathers if it was not to do the edifying?

In the New Testament, leaders were not chosen based on their spiritual gifts, and they were not place in positions of authority. Instead, leaders were recognized because they were exercising whatever gift God had given them, and because they were more mature (while still maturing) followers of Jesus Christ, and because they were good (living) examples for others to observe and imitated in life, faith, service, etc.

Thus, these leaders would certainly be edifying others when the church gathers together, using whatever gifts that God gives them as well as working through other opportunities that God provides (i.e., gifted teachers are not the only Christians responsible for teaching). However, this is not the extent of their leading. Why? Because while it is important for leaders to edify others, if all they do is edify other then they are several things missing from their role as leaders during the gathering of the church: 1) they are not allowing others to edify them (part of the “mutual” aspect of mutual edification), 2) they are only teaching others to be edified and not teaching them to edify, and 3) they are not providing examples of what it means to be edified by others.

So, while leaders should certain edify others, they should also allow themselves to be edified by others. This is important both for the continued growth and maturity of the leader(s) as children of God and followers of Jesus Christ. But, it’s also important for the continued growth and maturity of the whole church. Unidirectional edification (i.e., edification that is only done BY the leaders) is not as healthy for the church as mutual edification (i.e., edification that is done by the whole church).

There’s another way to think about this. Someone who feels he/she must be in control of a church gathering or who must be the one speaking, teaching, preaching, whatever, then that person is not actually leading in the way that leading in described in Scripture. This is true even if that person has be placed in some type of leadership position.

A leader among the church will both edify the church and will give plenty of opportunities for others to edify the church as well.

About edification, mutual edification, and self- or solo-edification

Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church blog

About edification, mutual edification, and self- or solo-edification

“Edification” (or “building up”) is an English gloss of the Greek termοἰκοδομή (oikodome). This term can refer literally to the act of building or construction, but it can also be used in a figurative sense. Figuratively, “edification” refers to a process of growth from a less mature state to a more mature state. For the person who is “in Christ,” this figurative edification refers to spiritual growth, with the ultimate goal being a likeness to Jesus Christ. Other terms such as the παρακαλέω (parakaleo – “encourage”) word group can also be used to indicate this same type of growth toward maturity.

“Mutual edification” indicates that the work of building up is a mutual or corporate responsibility. This is the type of upbuilding that Paul refers to when he says (concerning gathering with other believers), “Let all things be done for edification.” (1 Corinthians 14:26 ESV) Solo edification (that is, edifying oneself or one person edifying others) is not the purpose of the church assembling. Instead, the purpose of the assembled church is that the entire congregation (or at least multiple people within the congregation) be involved in helping one another mature. The mutuality of this kind of edification is as important in the New Testament texts as the process of edification itself.

This conclusion does not negate the fact that self-edification or solo-edification is possible and even beneficial to the individual. Self-edification refers to the person building up him/herself. There are many activities that God uses to build up an individual, sometimes even working through the actions of that individual. For example, Paul says that speaking in tongues can be edifying to the one speaking in tongues, even if that person does not understand what she/he is saying. (1 Corinthians 14:41 Corinthians 14:28)

Solo-edification refers to one person building up many others. This unidirectional type of service may seem like a form of mutual edification, but it is not. Mutual edification is multidirectional, recognizing that God communicates through all of his children, not just one or a few.

The authors of Scripture conclude that neither self-edification nor solo-edification is the purpose of the church gathering together. Thus, a distinction should be made between some act performed by one person that edifies himself or herself or others, and acts performed by many people that edify many people. Only acts performed by many people that edify many people are considered mutually edifying. And, these are the only acts that should be performed when gathered with other believers.

Thus, the “one another” aspect of edification should be considered carefully when the church gathers together. While we often consider the truthfulness of what is said, or the love with which something is done, we often do not consider the mutuality aspect of our gathering together. But, for the church – and especially for our growth and maturity – mutuality is an extremely important part of edification.

Cell groups – only place for true edification

Here is a challenge by cell group leader Ralph Neighbor

Clearly, it is only in the Cell Group setting, where intimacy and close communion is made possible, that true edification can take place.  . . .

What shall we say, then, brothers: When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. ~ 1 Cor 14:26

Did you miss the word “everyone?” Don’t! the hcurch (whether evangelical, charismatic, or pentecostal) has been missing it for as long as I have been alive.The clear teaching of Scripture is that the highest form of spiritual life we can experience is going to take place in a Cell group, where every sngle Christian becomes a channel of charismata (grace gifts) and the group is built up as a result.

~The Shepherd’s Guidebook, p. 164-5

Who edifies whom?

by Alan Knox – The Assembling of the Church

Continuing my discussion of edification this week (see “Salvation as the motivation for mutual edification,” “Acceptance and edification,” and “What is Edification?“), I thought I would tackle a different question: Who is responsible for edifying whom?

Let’s begin with the definition from my 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.

In reality, many words can be used synonymously with edification, such as encouragement, discipleship, shepherding, etc. Any concept that carries the idea of helping others grow in maturity in their beliefs, their relationships, and their way of living relates to edification.

So, who is responsible for these things? 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 14:19Romans 15:21 Corinthians 14:26Ephesians 4:16Ephesians 4:291 Thessalonians 5:11, and Jude 1:20-21) as well as passages that carry the same concept without specifically using “edification” language (Matthew 28:19-202 Corinthians 13:11Colossians 1:28,Colossians 3:161 Thessalonians 5:14Hebrews 3:13Hebrews 10:24-25).

Besides these direct instructions for all believers to work toward edifying one another, there are other types of exhortations as well. For example, the authors of the NT often present themselves and their work in edifying others as an example to follow. Leaders among the church are instructed to edify others both as their own responsibility toward the Lord and as examples to others. Finally, Scripture often speaks of the work of God himself in edifying his children with the intention that we would follow his work.

Thus, Scripture is clear in many different ways that the work of edification is the responsibility of all of God’s children, all the saints.

However, we must be very careful. The work of edification is not something that is to be added to the life of a believer, like a suitcase that can be picked up, carried around, or dropped whenever the person pleases. No… instead, the work of edification is the natural outgrowth of the supernatural work of the Spirit in a person’s life.

Edification begins with love and concern for others. But, just as God’s love for us did not end with good thought, but continued in his expression of that love in Jesus Christ, our love for one another cannot stop with good thoughts toward one another. True love as developed and expressed by God’s Spirits leads one to give of oneself in order to help others. We learn by the work of the Spirit to be more concerned with others than with ourselves (Philippians 2:1-4). This is all part of the process of edification.

To whom, then, do we direct this work of edification? To our brothers, our sisters, and our neighbors. In fact, the Spirit drives us toward a desire to see anyone we meet grow in Christlikeness, both believers and unbelievers. The Spirit drives us to love and care for and serve those who are hurting, hungry, thirsty, etc. This is all included in the work of edification.

But, once again, we cannot see edification as another task to be added to our to-do list and checked off when appropriate. Instead, as we read earlier in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, our life of edification and exhortation toward others flows from our salvation and new life in Jesus Christ. We are to live for the benefit of others, the growth of others, the discipleship of others, the edification of others.

I can look back on my life and see many, many instances where I was not concerned with the spiritual growth of the people around me. Today, there are times when I do not care whether or not I am edifying others. Often, if I see others making disciples, then I coast about my day, happy that someone else is taking care of it.

There are many excuses that I could give for living like this. In reality, the problem is that during those times I am not allowing the Spirit to supernaturally work through me to impact the lives of the people around me. I could blame church structures, or leaders, or education, or ability, or gifts, or time, or money, or any number of things. But, the reality is that in this case, as with many other problems, I am my own worst enemy.

I must continually die to myself and allow the Spirit of Jesus Christ to live and work in and through me in order to edify others.

God’s Glorification Through Mutual Edification

by Eric Carpenter

“Why does the church come together?” This is a question that is not asked frequently enough, but when it is asked we know what the usual answer is: “worship.” I suppose this is why so many larger churches have labeled the biggest room in their buildings the “worship center.” (I wonder what happens in those places if anyone worships outside the “worship center”? Do they face church discipline?)

So, what is the point of the church coming together? When we throw off tradition and look to the bible, we see that mutual edification is the point of the gathering. For example, I Corinthians 14:26 says, “How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”

However, we also know that everything the church does, including gatherings, should be for the glory of God. Paul writes in Ephesians 3:21, “To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

So, does the church come together primarily for mutual edification or for God’s glorification? The answer is “Yes.”

When we come together as a church body, we should (according to Hebrews 10:24), “…consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.” When we do this, we are building one another up. This is the essence of mutual edification.

As we mutually edify one another, God is glorified.

I believe the clearest passage dealing with this is I Peter 4:7-11. Peter discusses much “one-anothering” within the church body. We see that fervent love is the key motivator. We are to lovingly exercise our spiritual gifts for the edification of the church. When this occurs, God is glorified in Christ Jesus:

I Peter 4:7-11, “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

So from now on when I’m asked why the church gathers together, I’m going to give a simple five word answer:

“God’s Glorification Through Mutual Edification”

The Church No One Wanted to Join

by David Black, (Whoa, read his teaching vita): Professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He has also taught courses at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Lancaster Bible College, Fuller Theological Seminary, Talbot School of Theology, Simon Greenleaf University, Criswell College, Freie Hochschule für Mission (Germany), Tyndale Theological Seminary (Holland), Bibelschule Walzenhausen (Switzerland), IEM Bible College (India), Chong Shin Theological Seminary (Korea), Faith Theological Seminary (Korea), Cosin Theological Seminary (Korea), Evangelical Theological College (Ethiopia), Meserete Kristos College (Ethiopia), and at other institutions. In addition, he has lectured at the Complutensian University in Spain, the Areopagus in Timisoara, Romania, and the Universities of Oxford and Leeds in England. [He has been around and has several Greek texts out, so although I have a hard time figuring out how it will all work, unless one belongs to a house-type church, I have to take his words and ponder them.]

Whereas many of our churches will do practically anything to draw unbelievers to their services, the earliest Christians were so committed and so radical that few if any unbelievers dared join them. In New Testament times the early disciples came together not for evangelism or even for worship but for teaching, for fellowship, for the Breaking of Bread, and for times of prayer (Acts 2:42). The Lord’s Supper was not an addendum celebrated quarterly or monthly but the main reason the church assembled on the Lord’s Day (Acts 20:7). Jesus was front-and-center, not a pulpit.

~  The Church No One Wanted to Join

Then this other challenging article (excerpted): What I learned from the Anabaptists:

It seems from history that the Anabaptists tried to restore biblical Christianity. The reformers and traditionalists persecuted them for that.

Although they shared many theological concepts with the Protestant Reformers, the Dissenters parted company on several crucial points including the separation of church and state (the church must reject all ties with princes and magistrate), believers’ baptism (the church consists solely of voluntary members), and restoration rather than reformation (the only valid model of church life is the early church as revealed in the New Testament).”…

At their gatherings great care was taken that all things were done decently and in order and that all the members had an opportunity to exercise their gifts for the edification of all. Congregations were small enough so that all the members knew each other and could offer any assistance that was necessary.” A classic case in point: today we find congregational participation in our gatherings squelched by an unbiblical emphasis on the “clergy” and a corresponding passivity among the “laypeople.” The motivation behind limiting congregational participation is undoubtedly noble (to ensure “quality,” to protect against heresies, to maintain order, etc.). Still, such motivations seem biblically unsustainable. For example, quality can be just as low in a church that practices monological preaching as in one that encourages mutual participation. Besides, the worst heresies in the Christian church have not been promulgated by laypeople but rather by professionally trained theologians.

Finally, only a form of corporate ministry in which all believers are free to exercise their gifts and share their insights would seem to comport with the New Testament. Along with Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4, 1 Corinthians 14 teaches that the church is a Body comprised of many members, each of which has something important to contribute to the whole. Apparently Paul believed that God may speak or act through any member of the church for the benefit of the entire community. The result must have been a richness and diversity scarcely known today in many of our churches that every member ministry entails either the participation of all believers in every gathering or the abolishing of leadership. Rather, it involves a wide participation by those who are Spirit-led.

A communal approach to ministry would seem, then, to be a core value of the church and should be encouraged by the leadership, whose role is more facilitative than dominant. Common dangers must be recognized and avoided (e.g., over-participation by some, fear of being criticized by the group, passivity). When it is felt that the conventional monologue is appropriate, it will be helpful to stop for questions and interaction with one’s hearers, if not in the middle then at least at the end. Jesus’ own teaching was frequently characterized by verbal interaction, while the apostle Paul clearly engaged in dialogue with his Christian audiences (dialegomai). Even the famous Christian orator Chysostrom interrupted his discourses frequently to ask questions in order to make sure he was understood. Every believer is a priest, and although congregations certainly benefit from the theological expertise of some, the New Testament knows no cult of the expert who ignores the gifts of the people.

~  What I learned from the Anabaptists

Every disciple need to be involved

by David Black

Everyone is gifted somehow to help in the church. We need to be willing to seek those people out and use their gifts and talents. When all are working together (as God planned it) His work gets done the way He intended it. It is the leaders’ job to facilitate that and then step back and let it happen.

I think if we applied common sense household principles to the church it would enormously strengthen the concept of every-member ministry within our congregations. How silly to try to do something for which you’re not gifted! Especially when someone is there who has the know-how. The greatest difficulty is normally to get a church to think “edificationally” and actually desire the participation of all members of the Body.

The early Christians found that there was no joy like the joy of serving one another according to each person’s talents. Alas, we have become dependent on the clergy to the degree that we would rather hire a “professional” to do the work than use a “layman” with the same gift set. But if we are to see a revolution of “lay” participation there has to be a revolution in our attitudes. The early church was open enough to the Holy Spirit to allow its members to exercise their gifts. Each of us is but a limb on the tree, a stone in the building, a sheep in the flock. We need the strength and abilities of each other if for no other reason than none of us can “do it all.”

This may well be the biggest difference between the New Testament church and our own. Their responsibility to care for each other rested squarely on the shoulder of every single member. The early church grew rapidly without the aid of some of our most cherished assets – large staffs, expensive programs, complicated strategies and methods – simply because they opened their homes, their hearts, and their hands to each other.

Each of us may have a role — some of us are best supporting and encouraging others.