Church And Edification

St-Damase-Eglise_churchA primary function of the assembly of the Church is to edify believers. But what does “edification” mean? The basic definition is “the act of building or building up.” In relation to the church, the meaning expands a bit: “the act of one who promotes another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, holiness” (Strong’s Lexicon).

So when Christians gather together, one of our primary functions is to promote the spiritual growth of others.

Paul said this to the believers in Corinth:

When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (1 Cor. 14:26a-33)

I understand that some people believe speaking in tongues, interpreting them, and prophesying were gifts that have ceased, but setting aside that controversial aspect of this passage, there are some very clear principles. The main point seems to be this: When you assemble as the Church, everything should be done for the purpose of edification.

In the book of Romans, Paul talks about edification in a different context, but he uses it in juxtaposition with pleasing our neighbor and doing good for him instead of pleasing ourselves.

I’ve heard a number of sermons about church not being about me “getting something out of it,” but about giving. I understand that, especially in light of this idea that all is to be done for edification. That means my participation is to be done for the edification of others. I’m not sure non-participation can be edifying to others.

At the same time, however, what did Paul mean when he said, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment”? Isn’t the idea of “passing judgment” connected with determining the truthfulness and the value of what was spoken? In other words, we who listen need to do so actively, testing the spirits, judging whether we’re being taught aright.

We aren’t to judge whether the speaker was entertaining, however. We’re to judge whether what he said exhorted us to godly living, to following Christ more consistently, more correctly.

There’s one way a preacher can be sure to exhort the Church: preach the gospel—that is, the good news about Jesus Christ. The story of Jesus begins in Genesis and continues throughout the entire Bible to the last verse in the book of Revelation.

It’s the story of God’s reconciliation with fallen humans and how the restored relationship with God turns our lives right-side up. When a preacher opens God’s word and explains it more fully, he is giving the Church the exhortation we need.

Honestly, we don’t need a pep talk. We don’t need pats on the back. And we don’t need to be accused or condemned. The Holy Spirit can incite and encourage and convict of sin, all through the teaching of God’s word.

I guess there’s a fine line between a pastor’s manipulative prodding and his faithful instruction and exhortation. I guess that’s why I believe in expository preaching.

When a pastor is working his way through a book of the Bible, he addresses the topics that the next passage up brings. A pastor who teaches topically, on the other hand, may never get to some very needed subjects, while he may brow-beat his congregation with the topics he thinks they most need to hear.

Still, what Paul said to the Corinthian church makes it clear that edification is really the responsibility of all of us. We aren’t to assemble ourselves together and then behave selfishly. It’s not about me; it’s about us.

Of course church is also about worship. That’s another one of the main functions of our gathering. But I think corporate worship is different from private worship. The Corinthian passage seems to say as much.

Paul tells those believers that some of them needed to exercise self-control—a nice way to say, shut up and sit down, it’s someone else’s turn to talk. They were not to talk over one another. They were to listen to each other so they could learn from one another. They weren’t to be in their own private world of ecstatic worship that ignored everyone else. When they were together, they were to do what would edify others.

I’m thinking that a part of worship in many evangelical churches might be leaning toward the “private” instead of the “corporate” when it comes to worship. Of course, I’m not in other people’s churches, so I don’t really know. But churches seem to fall into trends. I don’t know if worship leaders and pastors are watching videos and copying each other or going to conferences or what, but it does seem as if there’s a lot of keeping up with the Joneses. And Sometimes I think the Joneses just might be heading off to left field.

I’d rather see a church follow the instruction of Scripture instead of the latest fad.

Published in: on January 11, 2016 at 6:46 pm  Comments (8)  
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  1. Very interesting, Becky. I’ve been wrestling with this same issue. Some of my best experiences have been in places where the idea is embraced that says, “each one has a teaching… Let all things be done for edification.” I used to have a youth pastor that never tried to teach us anything. Instead he would say, “what do you all have to teach me this week?”

    Often we are so busy trying to force feed people information, to teach them, that we forget that they may actually have something to teach us. We also often deny them the opportunity to particpate at all. I can’t tell you how many really talented people I know have been sent off to nursery duty or dish washing for some 20 years, while the church tries to figure out how to get the money to hire some really talented people. This problem comes up a lot with the poor too, everyone wants to minister to “the lost.” The thing is, some of those “lost” know more about faith than we do. We’re not treating them as equals, we’re treating them as projects for our own glorification.

    As to private versus corporate worship, I think you’re on to something. I think of corporate as public worship, as expressing your faith in front of others. What we often do in many churches is sit down and passively receive a program. Sometimes we praise and worship, but rarely do we edify each other as individuals, rarely do we testify to one another. Private worship is supposed to be done at home or where ever you happen to be. Church is supposed to be public, corporate, where we participate way beyond asking for prayer for our great aunt who lives five states away.

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    • In our church recently we’ve taken to turning out the lights during “singing” which has become more like a concert put on by that week’s worship band. The congregation all stands in the dark. Why? I can only assume that this atmosphere is supposed to foster a freedom to raise your hands and worship God from your heart.

      But of course, no one can see what you might or might not be doing. They can’t hear what you might or might not be singing, so I’m not sure how that qualifies as corporate worship. Even our communion services have become rushed and seem less akin to corporate, together worship. So that’s what spurred my thoughts here. But I’ve also been in services that are all about the prescribed program with no room for any spontaneous participation. I’m sure it’s not easy to be a church leader, but I do think we need to look at Scripture more than we look at what the church across town might be doing!


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      • That’s fascinating to me, Becky. I’ve had my own struggles with worshipping in public and been rather convicted over my own desire to hide a few times. It’s simple really, are we extending our hands because we seek the approval of people or because we are praising God? So while I empathize greatly with the desire to have the lights off and to pray in our closets, there is also a calling to allow ourselves to “be seen before men,” which of course, is an odd twist on that particular bit of scripture. But we are not on the street corner, we are within our own churches. I can tell you that some of the best healing, intimacy within the church, release of burdens, comes from being able to be yourself when the lights are on, or rather when His Light is on within you. Secrets, fear, shame, discomfort, these are the things that harm us. So naturally, dragging some of those things out into the Light, is what frees us. A simple confession can lead people to understand they are not alone, they are not weird, in fact nearly everyone else has likely experienced the same thing. That is one way we ease our minds, that is how we fellowship, that is how we edify others, too.

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        • Amen and amen! Beautifully put!



        • I have also read some interesting thoughts on how much of our “modern” church services are built around extrovert personalities rather than introverts. This shed new light on my thinking, as each personality receives blessings in sometimes very diverse or even divergent ways.

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  2. Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

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  3. “I’m not sure non-participation can be edifying to others.”

    I’ll help ya out there friend, It’s not 🙂

    If all you do is come to church, and sit in a pew for 45 minutes with your arms crossed, waiting for grace to be dumped on your head, you aren’t edifying anybody. Not yourself, and not the people around you. That’s just fulfilling some obligation.

    I think your point about testifying to others is huge, Becky. I teach, so I see a lot of folks who just sit and soak so to speak. But, bar none, the best classes we ever have are the ones when somebody takes the lesson at hand and shares some way that lesson has moved in their lives. Just this past Sunday I was teaching out of Proverbs 15 about Wisdom in our words and she shared a great little example from her life, and her daughter in law LOL, where her soft answer had turned away wrath so to speak. It was a great moment, as everybody just got it in that instant.

    Really liking this series on church by the way, thanks for it.

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    • Thanks, Wally. I like the illustration from your Sunday teaching. Of course sermons aren’t exactly interactive, but I think there are other parts of a morning service that offer opportunities for participation. And I think leadership should encourage those because I think it bleeds into the attitude a person takes to the preaching of God’s word.



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