The Edification of the Saints
One of the many gifts of God’s grace to His redeemed people is the Church. In the Church, God’s people find the help and encouragement to persevere in godliness. When Christ poured out His gifts upon the Church, He gave some as Pastors, Teachers, and Evangelists for the equipping of the Saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13). This work of the ministry is strengthened as the people of God grow in their spiritual lives. This spiritual growth is encouraged by continual exercise of our spiritual gifts, and the use of our gifts leads to the edifying of the saints.
A Faithful Church is Committed to Edifying the Saints
What does it mean to “edify”? The Greek word that is used in the New Testament is “oikodome”, and it means “to build up”. In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Paul exhorts his readers:
“For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”
So how are we to edify one another? Many think that building up others means improving their self-esteem, but this is not at all what Paul means. Every problem a Christian faces is essentially a theology problem. We’re built up as we come to greater understanding and submission to the truth of God revealed in His Word.
We are Edified by a Right Perspective of Ourselves
Man represents God in his physical nature, earthly dominion, moral actions, rational decisions, relational interactions, and perpetual existence. Though separated from God because of sin, what unites us all is that we have been created in God’s image. What is so edifying about this truth? Consider just a few of its implications: Because we are made in His image: 1) God can rightly define man’s needs. He is our Creator and He knows us intimately, far better in fact than we know ourselves. 2) Man is dependent upon God. The One who created you is the only One who can truly provide for you. 3) How we treat others reflects our treatment of God. This truth dismantles and destroys our sinful and prideful tendency to reserve the “right” to ourselves to despise or mistreat one another. When we view God as the center of the universe and ourselves as servants of the most high, then we are in position to be built up for God’s glory.
We are Edified by Right Convictions
When our first parents gave in to temptation, it was nothing less than open rebellion against the sovereign God of all creation. It resulted in spiritual death, and its effects were devastating and complete. While not every man is as evil and corrupt as he could be, his depravity is total in that there is no part of him that is not tainted and warped by sin, and therefore no man can commend himself to God (Romans 3:10-20). Understanding this truth informs us of the real need of every man. When we understand our needs correctly we can then seek the right remedy. The believer is remedied by Jesus Christ. When we are found in Christ we are no longer our own. We now live for Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:20).
We are Edified by a Right Walk Before God
As we consider our sin, nothing so thrills the heart as knowing that God in His grace has provided a remedy for our sin in the death and resurrection of His Son. What we sometimes forget is that we need to continually refresh ourselves in the truth of the Gospel. Looking on the cross reminds us of the terrible cost of sin, and the incredible riches of God’s grace. This magnificent salvation involves every member of the Trinity. It is from the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit (Titus 3:4-6). It is the special work of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and salvation is found in no one else (Acts 4:12). This salvation is utterly thorough and complete. It redeems all of a man, breathing life into his dead spirit, making him into a new creation, and promising to one day redeem his body as well (Romans 8:23). Its judicial and moral effects take away all of the sins of the believer (Hebrews 9:23-28), and through Christ we have God’s forgiveness now and forever. Such a comprehensive salvation produces adoration of the Lord of glory, and a humble gratitude that so great a God has stooped to forgive and save so wicked a sinner. This new and transformed life leads to walking in righteousness just as He is righteous (1 John 2:29).
As we abide in Jesus Christ we wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to take us to Himself. Because we have this hope, we purify ourselves just as He is pure (1 John 3:3). The mutual edification in the Body of Christ comes as we encourage each other to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord (Colossians 1:10).
We are Edified by a Right Understanding of Man’s Transformation
Salvation is more than a mental assent to the Gospel. It is a conversion that leads to a fundamental change of the whole life, and involves a complete transformation of a person’s existence under the influence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 26:20). It is the new birth, the second birth, which is not the result of human experience or effort but is distinctly the work of God. Knowing that God is the sole Author of his salvation, and that there is nothing a man can do to contribute to it gives great confidence and comfort to the believer that he is secure in God’s grasp. We have been born again by the power of God (1 John 2:29; Ephesians 2:5; John 1:11-12; Colossians 2:13). As a result of this work of God He holds us and protects us by His power (1 Peter 1:5).
We are Edified by a Right Understanding of Man’s Maturation
When redeemed by God and born again, a believer is immediately justified and forgiven of his sin. He is sanctified or “set apart” by God and begins his course as a Christian (Colossians 3:12). Though already sanctified in the sense of being fully justified and forgiven, he is also progressively sanctified from sin as his life increasingly moves toward a moral conformity to the image of Christ (John 17:17). Future sanctification is revealed in God’s promises of our being perfected in eternity. 1 John 3:1-3 says that when Christ appears that we shall be like Him, and so whoever has this hope purifies himself just as Christ is pure. Understanding God’s sure and certain work to perfect us in Christ gives hope as we struggle with our sin and frailties. As we seek to live a sanctified life, we encourage each other to faithfulness and hold each other to God’s holy standard (Hebrews 10:23-24; Galatians 6:1-3).
To sum it up simply: The Christian life is filled with exhortation and encouragement to help us live like God’s children today.