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Edifying the Church

This morning we want to continue looking at the purpose of the church. Why does the church exist? And more specifically, why does the local church exist? The Bible teaches that every believer is automatically part of God’s family when they put their faith in Christ – in that sense we are all automatically a part of God’s church –  but why is it important that we also choose to be an active and committed part of a local congregation? 

Well, when we began this series about six weeks ago, we noticed that the Bible uses the Greek word ‘ekklesia’ when it’s talking about the church. And the word ‘ekklesia’ isn’t really a religious word at all – it was a very common greek word that simply meant a gathering or an assembly of people. An ekklesia could refer to the fans at sports event or it could refer to a bunch of people at a birthday party – it simply describes people gathering together.

So when the writers of the New Testament (and even Jesus Himself) refer to the church, they refer to it as God’s ekklesia…. We are the assembly of God’s family. We are the gathering of God’s people.

And so the question we want to answer in this series is why? Why does God want His people to gather?

What’s God’s plan and purpose for the little pockets of Christians that regularly meet together in small or large groups all over the world? And even more specifically – what is God’s plan and purpose for you and I and everyone else here today as we meet together as the Penhold Church of Hope?

What is the purpose of God’s ekklesia – what is the purpose of the church?

Well, as we started looking at this question several weeks ago, we began with the reminder that the major over-arching purpose for everything we do is to bring glory to God. We’re told in 1 Corinthians 10:31…

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 

1 Corinthians 10:31

This applies to every aspect of our individual lives as well as to every aspect of what we do together as a church. In everything we do, we are to bring glory to God. So that’s obviously the ultimate purpose of the church.

But of course, God has given some specific tasks to the church through which we should bring glory to Him. It’s these more specific things that I want to look at as the purposes or the tasks of the church.

And just to organize my own thoughts, I’ve divided these tasks of the church into three main categories. As I’ve mentioned before, you probably won’t find a verse that lays it all out like this, but this is how I would summarize it: The three main purposes or tasks of the church are:

  1. To bring glory to God through worshipping Him together.
  2. To bring glory to God by edifying His people.
  3. To bring glory to God by evangelizing the world.

These are the purposes of the church. And so far, we’ve just looked at the first of these purposes – to bring glory to God through worshipping Him together. And I won’t run through a full summary of what we’ve talked about, but in brief, worship really has less to do with the songs we sing and more to do with our choice to be obedient to God in all the things that He has commanded us to do. And we talked specifically about his command to gather together, his command to love one another, and his command to partake together in communion and baptism.

Those are just a few examples of how we worship God through our obedience to Him – and those acts of worship that we mentioned (which can only happen in the context of the local church) bring great glory and honour to Him.

And that brings us today to our second task or our second purpose of the church – and that is to bring glory to God by edifying his people.

Now in this series, we’ve already talked about a couple new and unusual words – words like ekklesia or weorthscipe… But now here’s another word that probably needs a definition. What does it mean to edify God’s people? What exactly is “edification”?

Chances are, you’ve probably heard this word before – and you may have some idea what it’s all about – but it’s still not a very common word. It’s not a word that you would likely hear in any conversations outside the church.

So what exactly does it mean to edify someone? How are we to bring glory to God by edifying his people?

Well, the english word ‘edify’ is translated from the greek word “oikodomeo” which basically means to build something. In fact, the literal translation means “to build a house”.

For example: When Jesus talks about the wise man and the foolish man building their house upon the rock and the sand – he uses this word “oikodomeo”. He says in Matthew 7 verse 24…

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds [oikodomeo] a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.” Matthew 7:24-25

In this example, Jesus is talking about someone physically building a house. They are hammering nails, putting up walls, constructing the roof – doing all the things necessary to make sure that it’s a strong and sturdy house that will last for years to come. That’s ‘oikodomeo’.

But of course, oikodomeo doesn’t just refer to physical construction. It doesn’t always involve hammers and nails. That’s just one sense of the word. You can use this word in a couple different senses.

You’ll remember when we were learning about God’s ekklesia – we looked at Matthew 16:18. In this passage, Peter had just acknowledged that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God and in response Jesus says to him…

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…” Matthew 16:17-18a

“I will oikodomeo my ekklesia!” And of course, in this case, Jesus isn’t talking about constructing a building, he’s talking about assembling and growing his family of believers. It’s not so much about hammers and nails, but about gathering people. It conveys the idea of starting with little and then gathering more and more. Like building up your bank account or building your immunity to a disease.That’s another sense of the word “oikodomeo’. 

It can mean to construct a building. It can mean to grow something from a small amount to large. But there’s another sense to this word as well – and it’s this third sense of the word that really captures what edification is all about.

In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul is talking about the different spiritual gifts that God has given to the church – and in particular, he’s talking about the gift of speaking in tongues. And I’m not intending to jump into that topic, but in verse 4 of 1 Corinthians 14, Paul uses this word oikodomeo and the NIV translators have translated that word as edify. Let me show you that verse…

4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 1 Corinthians 14:4 NIV

Or to use the greek word – Anyone who speaks in a tongue oikodomeo themselves, but the one who prophesies oikodomeo the church.

Paul’s point here is that speaking in tongues is really only helpful for the person who is speaking – but sharing a prophecy is helpful for the entire church.

So in this example, oikodomeo isn’t really talking about constructing a building or even growing something from small to big. This is more like helping or strengthening – making something better and stronger. It’s adding something useful into the equation.

And the NLT translation of this verse reflects that idea even more clearly. It says….

A person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally, but one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire church. 1 Corinthians 14:4 NLT

And this is starting to really capture the idea of edification. In the Biblical sense of the word, edification means to build up and strengthen one another – it means to help someone along in their walk with Christ – it means to promote spiritual growth and maturity.

Simply put, edification means to help one another become more like Christ. This is one of the purposes of the church. 

One of the key reasons that the Penhold Church of Hope exists is so that we can help one another grow to become more like Christ. I don’t know if you’ve looked at our church website anytime recently, but on there we have a list of our commitments and one of them speaks to this exact thing. It says…

We are committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ. We are not satisfied with gaining “church attenders” or even “church members”. We want to see people changed by the Holy Spirit who increasingly know, love, and obey Jesus Christ and are passionate about helping others do likewise.

In other words, we are committed to edification!

Ephesians chapter 4 speaks to this very purpose. Let me read for you, starting at verse 11.

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up [oikodomeo or edify] the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Ephesians 4:11-16

God’s purpose for the church is that we edify each other so every one of us grow in every way more and more like Christ. Verse 13 tells us… 

“This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13

That’s the goal of edification. That we measure up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

So let me ask you this: Do you measure up to the full and complete standard of Christ? 

Are you as holy as Christ? Do you love like Christ? Do you have the compassion of Christ? Do you have the obedience of Christ? Do you have the humility of Christ?

That’s a pretty high standard! I know I don’t measure up. Therefore, I need to be part of a church family who will edify me. I need to have Christian brothers and sisters who will build me up and strengthen me in my walk with Christ. I need to have a church family who will help me grow in my faith and knowledge of Jesus so that I can become mature in the Lord.

This is exactly why God came up with the idea of the local church! He has put us together so that we can help each other grow more and more like Christ. Verse 16 says…

16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:16

That’s what edification is all about. And each of us have both the responsibility and the privilege of being part of that process. It’s an incredible privilege to have Christian brothers and sister who love you and work hard to build you up – not tear you down! That is a very rare thing in this world. 

The world, by default, will not build you up. Just read the news. Or look on facebook. Or follow politics. Or have children. The way of the world is to tear people down – not build them up. 

I’ve seen in my own family our tendency to do and say the things that put each other down, rather than the things that build each other up. Not that we intentionally do that, but because of our sinful nature, that’s the default.

But God’s design for the church is that we build each other up. Using the Word of God as our guide and the person of Jesus Christ as our model, we are to interact with each other in ways that help us become more like Christ.

Now do we get it right every time? Certainly not. I guarantee that there will be times when our Christian brothers and sisters will fail to build us up. And there will be times when we fail to build them up. We are, after all, sinful people who have yet to measure up to the full and complete standard of Christ! But I think that’s all a part of the process.

Tim Chester writes:

“It is in the family of God that I am able to care and be cared for; love and be loved; forgive and be forgiven; rebuke and be rebuked; encourage and be encouraged. All of which is essential to the task of being a disciple of the risen Lord Jesus.” ~ Tim Chesters

It is in the context of the local church that we learn to be like Christ. It’s through our relationships with one another that we grow in faith and Christian maturity.

I think that’s why we are told so often to edify one another or build each other up. Let me give you just a few examples:

So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. Romans 14:19 NLT

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 NIV

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT

We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. Romans 15:2

We have the responsibility to edify one another. We must build each other up – spurring them on grow in faith and Christian maturity.

This is something that we all have to do. It’s not just the job of those in church leadership. It’s for everyone. As we just read in Ephesians 4:16…

16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:16

Each part – each person – has role in helping others grow so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

To go back to our original greek word – oikodomeo – it literally means “to build a house.” And building a house is not a one-person job! You need all kinds of different people. You need the excavators, the concrete workers, the framers, the plumbers, the electricians, the drywallers, the painters – you need all those different people using their particular skills and abilities to put together a complete, sound and sturdy home.

The church is no different. All of us have a role in building each other up. We all have different spiritual gifts. We all have different relationships with each other. We all have something to contribute to the building process in each other’s lives.

    • And maybe it’s as simple as sharing a word of encouragement or a word of truth from God’s Word?
    • Maybe it’s praying for someone on a regular basis?
    • Maybe it’s modelling the character of Christ – extending forgiveness, being patient, being humble…
    • Maybe it’s serving one another in love?

There are so many ways that we can build each other up – many ways that we can edify one another. It is both an awesome privilege and awesome responsibility.

So to close this morning, I want to leave you with a few questions to consider. These aren’t rhetorical or hypothetical questions, but just plain and simple practical questions.

If we have been given the task of edification – if that’s one of the purposes for why we exist as the Penhold Church of Hope – what can you do to edify someone else this week?

In fact, what can you do today to help someone grow to be more like Christ? 

And I know that sounds kinda intimidating when you put it like that, but again, you need to remember that just like how the many different workers that build a house all have different tasks, in the same way, we all contribute to edification in different ways.

Not everyone needs to prepare and share a sermon – but that’s somebody’s job.

Someone else will need to lead a Bible study. Someone else will need to model the kindness of Jesus. Someone else will need to pray. Someone else will need share a meal. Someone else will need to offer forgiveness. Someone else will need to accept forgiveness. Someone else will need to share a Bible verse. Someone else will need to be a friend. Someone else will need to comfort the hurting. The list could go on and on.

So what will you do this week to help someone else grow more like Christ?

What will you say that will encourage them and build them up in the Lord?

I would encourage you as you go into this week to be intentional about practicing edification.

Because as we do that, as the Scriptures say, as each person does their own special work, it helps the others grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

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