Friday, July 1, 2011

What Does Edification Look Like?

The Apostle Paul addresses the Corinthian church gatherings in chapters 12-14 of his first epistle. He makes an extremely important statement in the well-known 14:26, "What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up."

Paul explicitly states that all things in the church meeting are for the building up, or edification, of the body. But what does this look like?

Whoever wrote the epistle to the Hebrews (maybe Paul) answers this question for us in other well-known verses. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

Again in the context of the church gathering, we see what we are to be doing. We are to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. We are also to encourage one another.

It's interesting that the primary activity in the gathering is not persuading others to believe what we believe. Instead, it is to exhort and encourage one another to lives of love and good works.

It seems safe to say that the growing Christian will gradually become a person whose life is more and more characterized by loving good works. These are to be encouraged during the gathering (whenever and whatever context this may be).

Of course these loving good works are not earning anything. Rather, they are made possible and empowered by Jesus Christ. He is the subject of the Hebrews passage immediately preceding 10:24-25.

Edification, then, is designed to build us up in Christ, draw us closer to Christ, and live lives more like Christ.

What does this look like? What is the outcome?

If we look at Jesus' life, we see what we should together be striving for. Edification should lead to gradually increasing service for others, care for others, compassion for others, and giving to others. The building up, as Paul says, ought to bring about increased sharing of the gospel with unbelievers, increased fervor for carrying out the Great Commission, and increased support of those working/serving overseas. As we grow closer to Christ through the encouragement of others, the good works will very likely be accompanied by increased holiness of life in all aspects (not perfection but sanctification).

Edification is not an end in itself. Rather, edification leads to God being glorified through the increased devotion and obedience of His people. This takes many forms and shapes throughout the day. In the end, the gathering should help us all grow into greater conformity to the person of Jesus Christ.

6 comments:

sattler said...

Thanks for this reminder around 'edification'. I've always found the discussion in Gerhard Lohfink's 'Jesus and Community' extremely helpful. Our cultural default position is to tear down rather than to build up. I suspect encouragement needs a little practice!

Aussie John said...

Eric,

Excellent thoughts.

Edification requires a thoughtful, prayerful, understanding attitude towards others. It is expressed in demonstration as well as words, both spoken and written. It's a lifestyle choice!

If we are not edifying others, we are depriving them.

Eric said...

sattler,

Thanks. I agree about the cultural default. We probably could all use more encouragement. Ephesians 4:29 rings loudly in my ears.

Eric said...

John,

I like the idea that edification is a lifestyle choice. Well said. I need to remember that.

Tim A said...

The scripture that jumps to mind as our goal in our gatherings is also from Eph. 4

"we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love."

What is Paul's formula to accomplish this?
The previous 5 words - "speaking the truth in love..."

Only when the saints are participating in "speaking the truth in love" - the ends will be accomplished. It becomes obvious that one hired expert doing ALL the speaking and the rest of the saints sit silently and soak it in is a very bad substitute and a perversion of what God has asked for.

Eric said...

Tim,

I heartily agree that speaking the truth in love is a large part of edification. How we so often fail to do both of those things (truth and love).