Body Building 101
Dr. John Barnett
The terms edify and edification, were some of Paul’s favorite words, when describing our ministry in Christ’s church as believers. These words come from the realm of building and architecture and mean literally “to build up”. Even today we get the term popular in health clubs of “body building” and the disciplined usage of exercises to accomplish that goal. Paul lived in a world where athletics and body-building were paramount, so using the words of his culture he called saints to action.
The basic meaning of the Greek word for edify (oikodomeo) is “to build a house” and by extension led to mean the building of anything. When used in our New Testaments it took the meaning of growing spiritually and helping others to grow up in a spiritual way. Anything that contributes to spiritual growth was said to edify.
Peter exhorts everyone at the end of his epistle to “grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ” (II Peter 3:18), and to do that we can find in God’s Word at least three basic means that God uses through us to grow others:
- God’s Word. As Paul was leaving behind the beloved church he had invested his life into for over three years, he told the elders of the church standing with him at the port city of Miletus, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). The Bible, God’s Word, is the key tool that the Lord uses to build our spiritual lives (John 17:17).
- Preaching and teaching. Later in this letter to the Corinthians Paul tells them that, rather than being so concerned about speaking in tongues, they should focus on prophesying, or preaching, which “speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.” The “one who prophesies edifies the church” (1 Cor. 14:3–4).
- Obedient Ministry prompted by Love.Our purpose as believers is to do “the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12); and as Paul reminds us only with love can this edify others, because only “love edifies” (1 Cor. 8:1).
The conclusion is that every believer is called to be an edifier, or a person who builds up others around them.
“Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself” (Rom 15:2–3).
“Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thess. 5:11).
Report to Work Today
Here are three jobs we all should do at the construction site of Christ’s Body.
1. If we are each called by God to edify, build up and help others to grow spiritually, the question is: whose life are you investing in this week? (If not, find one!) Do you have a person you pray for? (If not, find one!)
2. If you have someone you are praying for and investing your time into their life, do you know where they are eating from in God’s Word? (If not, find out today—ask them and note what they say. Ask them to share just one truth they have found and eaten for the nourishment of their soul!)
3. If you have someone you are praying for and investing your time into their life, do you know what passage they are memorizing and then starting to meditate upon from God’s Word? (If not, find out today—ask them and note what they say. Ask them to share just one truth they have found and incorporated into the transformation of their minds into Christ likeness!)