The Purpose of the Church: Edification

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Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

August 8, 1999

The Purpose of the Church – Edification

Cultivating New Life in Christ

Last week I spoke to you about the commission Jesus gave to the church to evangelize. We are to Communicate New Life in Christ by telling people the good news of Jesus Christ. We proclaim the gospel that man can be forgiven of his sin and enter into a personal relationship with his loving creator.

This morning I would like to speak about another one of the purposes of the church. We are to Cultivate New Life in Christ. We are to build each other up into Christ likeness. This is often called edification.

I. What is Edification?

To some, edification, may sound like one of those words they teach you in college so that you can sound smart regardless of the truth. We certainly don’t want to be like the English student who was working on suffixes and reasoned that if "acidification" meant to make something more acidic, and if "humidification" meant to make something more humid, and if "solidification" meant to make something more solid, then "edification" must mean to make something more like someone named "Ed." (That is my bad joke for today).

Edification, according to Webster, simply means, "enlightening of ignorance, or moral or spiritual instruction." In the New Testament the word often translated as "edify" or "edification," is a compound word made up of oikoV (Oikos), which means house, & domew (Domeo), which means to build. These two words together literally mean, "to build a house."

It is used in the literal sense many places in the New Testament in reference to a house or other building. It is used in relation to the temple (Acts 7:47), a Synagogue, a barn (Lk 12:8), a tower (Mt 21:33) and even the sepulchers of the prophets (Mt. 23:29). Oikodomew (oikodomeo) is "to build a structure" of some type.

The word is also used figuratively, and it is in the figurative usage that we will get the idea of "edification."

The first figurative usage refers to the coming into existence and expansion of the church. Jesus says in Mt 16:8, "upon this rock I will build my church." Jesus is not referring to some physical building somewhere, but the universal church made up of all those who believe in Him. 1 Peter 2:5 says in a similar way that Christians, "as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house . . .". Paul states directly in 1 Cor 3:9 that Christians are "God’s building". The nature of this building of God, the Church, is that it is to grow. It is to expand and enlarge into a holy temple of the Lord (Eph 2:21).

Another figurative use is in its reference to a body of theological knowledge. Paul says in Romans 15:20 that he did not want to build on another man’s foundation. Here he was referring to going to a place where the gospel had already been given. Paul wanted build on fresh ground. In Galatians 2:18 Paul added that he did not want to "rebuild what I have once destroyed . . .". Paul had led them out of legalistic Judaism and into the grace of Christ. He did not want them to return to that theological system of righteousness by works.

The third figurative usage of "edification" is "enlightening of ignorance, or moral or spiritual instruction." This is to build up spiritually. We will see how that is done in the church in a moment, but before I go on, let me add a footnote here why I have told you so much background on this word we often translate as "edification."

I want you to have a certain image in your mind about edification before we start talking about its personal application. I want you to think about a building being erected. Think about all the different things that go into it. There are many different types of workers. Architects who design the building. Carpenters build forms and a foundation of concrete is poured. More carpenters come and frame the building and then electricians and plumbers begin their work. Others workers come. There are people who do dry wall, people who hang the doors, cabinet makers, painters, carpet and linoleum layers. The building is up and it is functional, but the work is not done. There are still decorative fixtures to be installed, curtains are put up, paintings are hung. And then about the time you think it is done, a wall is knocked out so that the place can be expanded! That is the picture I want running through the back of your mind. There are a lot of people involved in building something. This is also true of your spiritual state, and about the time you think the work on you is done, look out, because it is time to knock a wall out and start expanding.

II. How Does It Work in the Church.

The first thing to understand about the work of edification, is that it is the work of the Lord. Remember, Jesus said He would build His Church. We are only servants who are used by Him to accomplish the building of the Church. He is the one doing the work. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts a person of their need for Christ, and thereby become a part of the church (John 16). It is the Father that draws a man or woman to Christ. They do not come on their own (John 6:44). And it is the Holy Spirit that teaches believers (1 John 2:27). So first of all, the work of edification is the work of God.

The second thing to understand about edification is, that of necessity, it encompasses a body of theological truth. Part of the work of edification is education, so teaching is a large part it. Teaching is a large part of the work of the Church.

Consider first that teaching is inherent to the fulfillment of the Great Commission of Matt 28:19,20 "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you . . .". Jesus’ command to us is to go make disciples, and this is done by baptizing them upon their profession of faith, and then teaching them how God wants them to live.

Consider also that teaching is pivotal to our lives. In passages such as 2 Peter 1:2-4 we find, "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." Notice that the "grace and peace" wished for is in the "knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." Notice as well that "His divine power" which grants us everything we need to live a holy life is "through the true knowledge of Him." And finally, notice that "His precious and magnificent promises" come to us through the "true knowledge of Him." You can’t stand on a promise you don’t know.

Teaching the Scriptures is the only cure for our ignorance of God and the only way we can come to Him. Without Biblical knowledge we would not know that Jesus’ death on the Cross and resurrection the third day was so that we could be brought back into relationship with Him and be saved from eternal torment in hell. Without a knowledge of the Bible we would not know that Jesus Christ is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6), and that being a Christian means believing on Him and following Him.

It is the Bible that tells us that Jesus sits on the right hand of the Father that we may draw near with confidence to the throne of Grace (Heb 4:16), that we might come into the Holy place through the blood of Jesus Christ (Heb 10:19). If you are a Christian, it is because you are in a relationship with God, and the goal of your life is to know Him more intimately every day. A big part of the Christian’s life is being built up in the knowledge of God through being taught the Bible by godly teachers and through self study.

Teaching is also vital to the Christian’s walk and welfare because it brings him or her into a better understanding of our loving Heavenly Father. But teaching, in the Biblical sense, and especially in the sense of edification, is not dry lectures on the existence and attributes of God. Teaching, in the sense of edification, brings about change, not just increased information. Edification is not intellectual brain change alone, for it demands a change in the heart and life as that information is applied to life.

This is important because knowledge by itself can be detrimental. 1 Cor 8:1 tells us that "Knowledge puffs up [makes arrogant], but charity [love] edifies [builds up]." An example of this is seen in Romans 14 where Paul discusses those things which may or may not be evil depending on the culture and the individual. Starting in verse 17, Paul says, "the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense." We are to walk in love (vs 15) and not unnecessarily offend our brother who does not yet understand the freedom we have in Christ. In 15:2 Paul states it clearly – Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself . . .". Knowledge about our freedom in Christ is important, but it is to be used to please God, and not ourselves.

Edification is more than knowledge, it is knowledge applied with godly wisdom. It has a humble mindset. Edification that is Biblical is given with the mindset seen in Phil 2:3,4 – "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interest of others."

Things brings up an essential point about the nature of teaching. Teaching, in the Biblical sense, is not just the dispensing of information. Too often we tend to think of "teaching" in the context of someone giving a lecture like a Pastor’s Sermon, or a Bible Study Leaders monologue. This is teaching, but the lecture format is not the only way of teaching. In fact, in many ways, it is the least effective form of teaching, though God uses it be design.

In the Great Commission, Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all nations. What is a disciple? Simply someone who follows another person’s teaching. How did Jesus teach his disciples? In every kind of life situation. While walking along a road, sitting by the side of a lake, while eating, while talking with people, and even on occasion in a Synagogue. The model is actually that of a parent teaching their children. As applied to the church, this means that a lot of the teaching ministry of the church actually occurs away from the church building and out in the common everyday experiences of its people. So do not think that because you might not be teaching a class of some type at church that you are not also involved in the teaching ministry of the church. You are involved in more ways than you have probably ever thought about, and you may never know about the lessons you have taught to others until you reach heaven.

I had a man bring that point home to me at a farewell party held for Diane and I prior to coming here. This man had been in my Home Bible Studies for four years. He had listened to my sermons for over a year. Yet he said that he had learned more from me by spending time with me and us sharing our lives with each other than he ever did by my Bible lessons and sermons. It is a bit scary to think that someone is watching your life that closely, but that is exactly where a lot of teaching occurs.

We should also note that the church’s ministry of edification is for the whole body. Eph. 4 and 1 Cor. 14 point out that the purpose of spiritual gifts is to edify the whole body. Paul’s argument in 1 Cor 14 against speaking in tongues was due to the selfish nature of the practice. Paul’s desire was to see all the spiritual gifts being used as intended for building up the faith and spiritual walk of the whole church and not for selfish gain. Eph. 4:11-16 states more concisely.

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Note what edification is to produce, what it is to build up toward. V. 13 – Unity of faith; knowledge of Jesus; Maturity according to Christ’s standard. V. 14 – Stability in our faith and doctrine. V. 15 – Speaking the truth in love and growing in all aspects. V. 16 – being fitted together with other believers so that the church will grow and love increase in love.

Edification is also personal. While it is true that edification occurs when something is given to a whole group, such as what is occurring right now with this sermon, there is also a personal aspect to it. Even in the last part of 2 Corinthians where Paul is admonishing them for their quickness to listen to arrogant itinerant preachers who really did not know what they were talking about, Paul speaks of edifying them three times and each time he uses the personal pronoun. 2 Cor. 10:8 – "….which the Lord gave for building you up…" 12:19 – "…it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ; and all for your up-building, beloved." 13:10 – "in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me, for the building up and not for tearing down." This brings it back to you.

III. How Does This Affect You?

First, it cannot affect you if you have not yet yielded your life to Jesus Christ. A person cannot be built up in their relationship with the Lord Jesus if there is no relationship to begin with. If you have not yet placed your trust in Jesus Christ and His work alone for life both in eternity and in the present, then you need to talk with myself or one of the other church leaders today. Do not leave this place without having peace with God.

Second, you must grow in your knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. If all you doing is attending is the worship services here, then you are on a starvation diet. You are never going to really know Jesus Christ until you understand the Word of God for yourself and learn how to apply it to your own life. That requires that you are able to study the Bible for yourself and that you are interacting with the rest of the body of Christ, and especially with more mature Christians. Are you involved with you own daily Bible reading and study? We have lots of material to help you do that. Are you using any of it? Do you get together with other believers and talk about the Scriptures and what the Lord is doing in your lives and pray for one another? There are plenty of opportunities for doing that, but you have to take advantage of them.

Finally, you must use your spiritual gifts within the body. I will be speaking on this a lot more when I talk about Caring for one another in Christ next. I have already pointed out that the inter-working of spiritual gifts is part of edification. Remember that picture of a building being erected that I wanted you to keep in the back of your mind? Where do you fit in the picture? What worker are you? A carpenter? plumber? painter? interior decorator? Every gift is needed for the building up of the whole body.

Edification: It is the "enlightening of ignorance, or moral or spiritual instruction." In the church, it means coming to a greater understanding of God and learning to walk with Him, living our lives in a way that is pleasing to Him. With that in mind, the church provides instruction about God, teaches whatsoever He has commanded, and puts believers together where they can use their spiritual gifts to help one another put Biblical truth into daily life.

I pray you are involved in the church’s ministry of Edification and heeding the command of 1 Thess 5:11"Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing."

Sermon Study Sheets   KIDS CORNER

Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.

Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the term "edify/edification" is used in the sermon. Talk with your parents about how you a built up in your faith in Christ.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

What does "edification" mean? Give some examples of it being used in its literal sense. Give some examples of it being used in a figurative sense. Have you ever watched a building being put up? How many different jobs did you see being done? How many different jobs do you see that need to be done in the church? What is God’s part in building you up in Christ? What is the importance of knowledge? What things do you need to be knowledgeable about in order to grow in Christ? What is the danger of knowledge? How is that danger overcome? What are some of the ways in which can be taught the Scriptures? What are some of the ways a person can be taught to live for Jesus Christ? What are some of the evidences of a church that is becoming mature in Christ? (See Eph. 4:12f). Who are some of the people that are helping you become more like Jesus? Who are some of the people that you are helping become more like Jesus? How are you personally growing in your knowledge of the Bible? Who do you pray with?

Sermon Notes – 8/8/1999 a.m.

"The Purpose of the Church: Edification"

Cultivating New Life in Christ

What is Edification?

Oikodomew (oikodomeo)

Literal uses

Figurative uses

How Does it Work in the Church?

A Work of God

A Body of Knowledge

Fulfilling the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19,20)

Pivotal in a Christian’s Life (2 Peter 1:2-4)

Vital to our Walk & Welfare

The Danger of Knowledge (1 Cor. 8:1)

An Example: Romans 14:15-15:2

The Right Mindset (Phil. 2:3,4)

Biblical Teaching

Preaching & Teaching


Its for the Whole Body

1 Corinthians 14

Ephesians 4:11-16

It Applies to You

2 Corinthians 10:8; 12:19; 13:10

How Does this Affect You?

Do You Know the Savior?

Are You Growing in the Knowledge of Jesus Christ?

Are You Using Your Spiritual Gifts? 

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