Edification: The Building Up of the Church

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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
January 17, 2015

Edification: The Building Up of the Church

Cultivating New Life in Christ
Selected Scriptures


Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The goal of Grace Bible Church is to carry out this commission which is why we have summarized this command in our church motto and purpose statement: “Glorifying God by Making Disciples of Jesus Christ.”

The idea of glorifying God should be true for any church since everything has been created by God for God (Colossians 1:16) including the church. Ephesians 3:21 states this directly saying, “to Him [be] the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

But what is this about disciples? A disciple is simply someone who follows the teachings of another. They learn from the teacher. They identify with the teacher. They seek to be like the teacher. Luke 6:40 gives a good description stating, “A disciple is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained will be like his teacher.” Paul states in Romans 8:29 that all those that will be saved are “predestined to be conformed to the image of [Jesus].”

The purpose of this church then is to bring glory to God by helping people become more like Jesus Christ.

How do we do that? Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 gives three parts to making disciples: going, baptizing and teaching. We are to go to those that do not know Jesus and tell them about Him. Those who believe are then baptized as their personal identification with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. They have died to self and then been raised to newness of life in Jesus. Then the rest of life is spent teaching them to observe all of Jesus’ commands which is done through both the declaration of Biblical truth and the personal encouragement to live accordingly. The result is that God is glorified. (See: The Identity and Commission of the Church)

Here at Grace Bible Church we have divided our purpose statement of “Glorifying God by Making Disciples of Jesus Christ” into four tasks: Communicating New Life in Christ (evangelism); Caring for New Life in Christ (fellowship); Cultivating New Life in Christ (edification) and Celebrating New Life in Christ (worship).

Last week I spoke to you about evangelism, the going part of the Great Commission. Each of us must overcome any fears that we have and go out to tell people the good news of Jesus Christ. We must do this in the power of the Holy Spirit and not by our own scheming. We must be careful to explain the whole gospel, both the positive and negative aspects of the message, and not try to market Jesus with a false gospel. We give a faithful witness of Christ and then leave the results in God’s hands. As J.I. Packer states so well in Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, “Evangelism is to so present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, in order that men may put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Saviour, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.” (See: Evangelism: The Church Goes out)

This morning I will be speaking to you about Cultivating New Life in Christ. We are to build each other up into Christ likeness. This is called edification.

Defining Edification

Edification sounds like one of those words you learn in college so that you can sound smart regardless of the truth, but we 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.” (Well, that would fit the Great Commission if it was helping people become more like Ed Colón as he strives to be more like Christ – just as Paul called us to do in regard to himself in 1 Corinthians 11:1).

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 oijkoV / Oikos, which means house, and domevw / domeo, which means to build. These two words together literally mean, “to build a house.”

The word is used in the literal sense many places in the New Testament in reference to various buildings. It is used in relationship to the temple (Acts 7:47), a barn (Luke 12:8), a tower (Matthew 21:33) and even the sepulchers of the prophets (Matthew 23:29). Oijkodomevw / oikodomeo is “to build a structure” of some type.

The word is also used figuratively in several ways, and it is in one of the figurative usage that we get the idea of “edification.”

The first figurative usage refers to the coming into existence and expansion of the church. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “upon this rock I will build my church.” Jesus is not referring to a physical building somewhere, but to the universal church made up of all those who believe in Him. In a similar way 1 Peter 2:5 refers to believers which “as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house . . .”. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 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 being built into a holy temple of the Lord (Ephesians 2:21).

Another figurative usage is as a reference to a body of theological knowledge. Paul states in Romans 15:20 that he did not want to build on another man’s foundation. Paul did not want to go to a place where the gospel had already been proclaimed. He wanted to go to new places where the gospel had not yet been proclaimed. 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 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.

Understanding Edification

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 (Matthew 16:18). 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). People do not come to Christ on their own. It is God the Father that draws them to Jesus (John 6:44), and it is the Holy Spirit that teaches believers (1 John 2:27). All of this 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. That is why teaching is such a large part of the work of the Church.

As I pointed out earlier, teaching is one of the three integral aspects of fulfilling the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus commanded to us to go make disciples which is done by declaring the gospel to people, baptizing those who respond by faith in Jesus Christ, and then teaching them how God wants them to live.

Teaching is also vital to our spiritual lives. Too many professing Christians are caught up in the spirit of our age and want to make this secondary by placing more emphasis on how they feel than in what they know. The Scriptures do not. Consider passages such as 2 Peter 1:2-4,  “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 the centrality of knowledge in this passage. The “grace and peace” wished for is in the “knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” “His divine power” which grants us everything we need to live a holy life is “through the true knowledge of Him.” And finally, “His precious and magnificent promises” come to us through the “true knowledge of Him.” Regardless of how you feel, you can stand on God’s promises, but you can’t stand on a promise you don’t know.

Teaching the Scriptures is the only cure for our ignorance of God for it is the only way we can come to truly know Him. Without Biblical knowledge we would know God is creator and is powerful, but we would not know of His many other attributes or His will for man. We would not know of know of Jesus or His offer of salvation. We would not know that Jesus’ death on the cross of Calvary paid the price of redemption. We would not know of His resurrection the third day which proves His claims and promises are true. We not know we can be forgiven of our sins and escape eternal torment in Hell. We would not know about adoption as children of God or be assured of eternity in heaven with Christ. Without Biblical knowledge we would wander in our own thoughts and speculations ignorant that Jesus is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6) and that salvation is granted by God’s grace on the basis of faith in Jesus and not on our attempted works of righteousness (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). Without Biblical knowledge we would be left dead in our trespasses and sin.

Teaching is also vital to the Christian’s walk and welfare. It is by the Scriptures that we know that Jesus sits on the right hand of the Father and that we may draw near with confidence to God’s throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16) through Jesus’ blood (Hebrews 10:19). It is from the Scriptures that we learn how to properly develop our relationship with Him to trust Him in all things. Teaching the Bible not only brings us into a better understanding of our loving Heavenly Father, but also His desires for us so that we might live in godliness and to serve Him properly. Those are the reasons we place such importance on being built up in the knowledge of God through Bible exposition by godly teachers and through self study.

Biblical teaching includes a lot of information content, but it is not to be dry lectures. Knowledge by itself can be detrimental. 1 Corinthians 8:1 warns that “Knowledge puffs up [makes arrogant], but charity [love] edifies [builds up].” Edification is teaching to bring about change in the individual, not just increased information. Edification demands a change in the heart and life as that information given to the mind is applied to life.

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 explains “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 & 3 Paul states this 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. It is to be used to build up others and not so that we please ourselves.

Edification is knowledge applied with godly wisdom. It has the humble mindset of Philippians 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.”

This stresses again this essential point about the nature of teaching. Too often the tendency is to think of “teaching” in the context of someone giving a lecture like a professor in a classroom, or a monologue from a Bible Study leader, or a pastor’s sermon. You can teach in the lecture format, but that is not the only way of teaching. In fact, in many ways, a lecture is the least effective form of teaching, though God uses it by His design (Romans 10:14).

Going back to the Great Commission, Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all nations. We can do this best if we follow Jesus’ example. 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 also in the Synagogues and in lectures. The model is actually that of parents 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 in the common everyday experiences of its people. You do not have to be teaching a class of some type in this building to be involved in the teaching ministry of the church. You are involved in teaching others 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 make that point very clear to me at a farewell party held for Diane and I when I left Faith Bible Church in California to come here 25 years ago. This man had been in my home Bible Studies for four years. He had listened to my sermons for over a year. He began his remarks saying that he could not remember anything I had taught in studies over the years. That was a very unsettling statement, but then he continued and explained that he had learned more 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. That is the reason for our emphasis on personal discipleship, genuine Christian fellowship and each believer using their spiritual gifts within the body.

Edification in the Body of Christ

I must also emphasize here that the church’s ministry of edification is for the whole body. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14 and Ephesians 4 all point out that the purpose of spiritual gifts is to edify the whole body. Regardless of what gift or gifts you may have, the purpose of every gift, ministry and empowerment is for the benefit of other believers. There are no spiritual gifts which have a purpose of self edification. Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 14 against their practice of speaking in tongues was precisely on this point. The Corinthian church had divided into factions because of the selfish nature of their use of the gifts that God had given to them.

This concept of the body as applied to the church is an important one. Paul’s most vivid description of it is in 1 Corinthians 12 where he compares the Body of Christ, the church, to a human body. Just as a human body has many parts – feet, hands, ears, eyes, a head, etc., so the church is made of up of people that God has given different spiritual gifts – teaching, prophecy, service, exhortation, giving, mercy, leadership, administration, helps, etc. The human body needs all its parts to work together to achieve peak efficiency and effectiveness. It can live without certain parts, but it is crippled. The same is true with the Body of Christ. It is crippled if it does not have all the gifts needed or if the people do not use their gifts to work together. The church needs all the gifts to working in harmony if it is to be effective.

Paul also comments that those parts of the body that are usually considered weaker or less important are necessary. People give a lot of thought to their hair and how their face looks, but you can do well with little or no hair and an unattractive face. Most people give little thought to their internal organs though they would be very sick or even die if they were not working properly.

The same is true in the body of Christ. Lots of attention is often given to those whose gifts are out front in public view, but a church can still be very healthy even if it does not have talented musicians or a preacher who speaks well for that is the true situation for many churches. But if the church is without people with the gift of administration, it will becomes a well intentioned oaf. If it loses those with the gift of helps and service, it will become paralyzed. If it lacks those with the gift of exhortation it will descend into selfishness and self-destruct. Everyone and every gift is needed to be working in harmony for the church to effectively carry out its purpose in glorifying God by making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Paul’s desire was for all the spiritual gifts to be used as intended for building up the faith and spiritual walk of the whole church and not for selfish gain. He stated it this way in Ephesians 4:11-16, “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 fulness 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 and to build up toward. In verse 13 it is unity of faith, knowledge of Jesus and maturity according to Christ’s standard. In verse 14 it is stability in faith and doctrine. In verse 15 it is speaking the truth in love and growing in all aspects. In verse 16 it is being fitted together with other believers so that the church will grow and increase in love. Every person, every gift, every ministry of whatever scope is to be used to build up the rest of the body in the Lord.

Personal Application of Edification

While it is true that edification occurs when teaching is given to a whole group, such as what is occurring right now with this sermon, there is also a very 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. In 10:8, “. . . which the Lord gave for building you up . . .” In 12:19, “. . . it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ; and all for your up-building, beloved.” In 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.

First, spiritual edification cannot occur in your life 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 with Him 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 actively grow in your knowledge of and submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. If all you are doing is attending 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 in your 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. You also have to apply to your own life the knowledge you gain. Knowledge without personal application results in self-righteous pride.

Finally, you must use your spiritual gifts within the body. I have already pointed out that the working together of spiritual gifts is part of edification. Remember that analogy of a building being erected that I wanted you to keep in the back of your mind? Where do you fit? What worker are you? A carpenter? plumber? painter? interior decorator? Every gift is needed for building up of the whole body.

I don’t know what everyone’s gift might be, but God knows what it is, and He wants you to use it. We can help in that process in several ways. First, there is a paper available in the rack in the back of the church that lists all the gifts mentioned in Scripture. You can download the sermon notes and sermon on Romans 12:4-8 from the website, or we can make a copy of the CD or sermon notes for you. There is also a Spiritual Gifts Inventory available that can help give you an idea of what your gifts might be. Just ask me after the service. But primarily, you need to be praying and seeking the Lord in this matter as you examine your own heart. As you walk daily with the Lord, He will change your heart to match His own. He will then give you the desires of your heart. What then would you like to do? Try that first and see if the Lord does use you to glorify Himself. You will know you are gifted in that area when that happens and it is confirmed by other godly people.


Edification: It is the “enlightening of ignorance, or moral or spiritual instruction.” At Grace Bible Church we are Cultivating New Life in Christ by seeking to increase your understanding of God and teach you to walk with Him so that your life is pleasing to Him. That is why we provide instruction about God, teach whatsoever He has commanded, and try to put believers together where they can use their spiritual gifts to help one another put Biblical truth into daily life.

Get involved in the church’s ministry of edification and heed the command of 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”

Sermon Notes: Edification: The Building Up of the Church
Selected Scriptures


The purpose of the church is to _________God, and fulfilling the Great Commission is part of that

We help people become followers of Christ by going with the __________, baptizing believers and teaching

Evangelism is the “_____________” part of the commission: Communicating New Life in Christ

Defining EdificationCultivating New Life in Christ

Webster: “_________________of ignorance, or moral or spiritual instruction

    oijkoV / Oikos (house) + domevw / domeo (build) = “to ___________________”

Literal usage includes Acts 7:47; Luke 12:8; Matthew 21:33 and 23:29

Figurative usage: Jesus builds His ______________: Matthew 16:8; 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Cor. 3:9; Eph. 2:21

Figurative usage: _________________theological knowledge – Romans 15:20; Galatians 2:18

Figurative usage: “enlightening of ignorance, or moral or spiritual ____________________.”

It takes ______________people with many skills to build a structure – the same is true of your spiritual

Understanding Edification

1) Jesus builds His church (Mt. 16:18), The Holy Spirit convicts (John 16), The Father ________(John 6:44)

2) Edification of necessity encompasses a body of theological truth, therefore ______________is necessary

Teaching is vital to _________________life – 2 Peter 1:2-4

Teaching the Scriptures is the only cure for our _____________ of God

Teaching is vital to the Christian’s __________ and welfare

Knowledge by itself results in _______, but the goal & purpose of Biblical teaching is change of heart & life

Romans 14:17-20; 15:2-3

Edification is knowledge applied with godly wisdom and therefore it is _____________- Philippians 2:3-4

The best model of teaching is __________- and He taught His disciples in every kind of place & situation

Edification in the Body of Christ

Edification is for the _____body (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12-14; Eph. 4), for that is the purpose of all spiritual gifts

1 Corinthians 12 – the human body is used as an _____________of the church, the body of Christ

Every part is needed, and many parts that receive little thought are more ______than those that get attention

Everyone and every gift is needed to be working in ___________for the church to effectively make disciples

Ephesians 4:11-16 – edification produces ____________, stability in faith, maturity and love

Edification occurs in the teaching of a large group, but it is also very __________- 2 Cor. 10:8; 12:19; 13:10

Spiritual edification cannot occur in your life if you have not yet ______________your life to Jesus Christ

You must actively ____________in your knowledge of and submission to the Lord Jesus Christ

You must use your __________________within the body


    Cultivating New Life in Christ by increasing your understanding of God and helping you ________with Him

1 Thess. 5:11, Therefore encourage one another, and ____________one another, just as you also are doing

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 to be 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 in being a disciple of Jesus? What critical knowledge is lacking when there is not Biblical teaching? 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 you can be taught the Scriptures? What are some of the ways a person can be taught to live for Jesus Christ? What is the purpose of spiritual gifts? How does the body analogy in 1 Corinthians 12 help you to understand the diversity and unity that is to exist in the church? 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 using your spiritual gift(s) to help them? How are you personally growing in your knowledge of the Bible? Who do you pray with?

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