If you are a home owner who had your own home built, you had the pressure of selecting carpet colors, paint textures, light fixtures, and so on. Meanwhile, the builder was working hard at forming the foundation and fastening the framework.
The process spans months and sometimes years. It requires intricate architecture and supervision. The project demands accurate craftsmanship to result in a strong home. After all, we don’t only want it to look beautiful, we also want it to be steadfast and long-lasting.
Authors of the Bible used this to illustrate the character of a believer and process of growing spiritually. The word that is often used is the word edify which literally means “to build a home.” In 1 Corinthians 3:9, Paul calls the human soul the temple or “home” of God. This does not mean that God takes up space inside our body, but that He dwells with us in our hearts and minds.
In this life, there are two buyers: God and His rivalry, Satan. Although they both might seek to build up homes, only one has the perfect blueprints that build flawless souls. With God the Father as the Builder, Jesus the Superintendent, and the Holy Spirit as the laborer, we are certain to have a righteous home that brings glory to God in the end. We are having our home built. So let’s see what we can learn from the Master Builder.
Principle of Edification
Again we return to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church. And again he brings up the coined phrase “All things are lawful” or as we learned in the last lesson, “All things are permitted.” But this time, he concludes his sentence with explaining that not all things the Christians are permitted to do have spiritual benefit. Some things can be spiritually damaging to a believer. He writes “All things are lawful but not all things edify” (1 Corinthians 10:23b).
The verse following our text reads this, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (v24). This implies more to just the idea of building up. It teaches that we should be seeking to build up others before ourselves. That was one of the Corinthians’ core problems. They were heavily self-seeking. They were erroneously using spiritual gifts to be showy (1 Corinthians 12, 14). They were being cliquish by leaning towards certain leaders (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). They were so stuck on themselves that Paul had to dedicate over 28 chapters of rebuke. In fact an entire chapter was exclusively about selflessness (1 Corinthians 13). Paul commanded them to seek the edification of the others before themselves.
The problem here is the core problem of sin. It is pride, the root of sin. When edifying (or building others) we have a danger of constructing poorly. See, the truth is, we are all edifying no matter what we do. Since “to edify” does not imply good building or bad building, it is safe to acknowledge that we all edify others. The real question is this, “Are we building others up in the Lord or up in their pride?”
Others are always watching and learning. New and immature believers have a tendency to take the actions of other believers as truth. So while one believer may be convinced that drinking alcoholic beverages are permitted, the immature believer may take that to a whole other level becoming an alcoholic. So we are always building. We must take closer consideration on whom, what, and how we are building.
Paul adds this to his letter to the church:
“Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.” (1 Corinthians 14:1-5)
We touched on this portion in our last look on Christian liberty. Paul is rebuking the church for their seeking self-edification. He just concluded his famous chapter of love teaching them that godly love does not seek to edify self (v13:5). And now he gets practical and personal.
In their desire to build up their prideful egos, the church was seeking more “showy” gifts that would imply that they were more spiritual than others. Their assembly services were more of a “show and tell” get together rather than a true commune of believers. But instead of just rebuking their false imitation of a spiritual gift, Paul gets to the core their problem. They were seeking for edification of self, which is the wrong kind of edification – based on pride. It was a constant tug-of-war over who was the greatest.
Paul gives them an alternative. Seek to prophesy because it will edify the community of believers. It is also important to note that prophesy was a spiritual gift that could be examined and tested as opposed to the gift of tongues. Thus, Paul is calling them to a more challenging gift that would only be given to a small amount of believers. His idea was to utilize their eagerness to build up by setting their passion on another track.
The principle here is out-of-sight and mind in today’s churches. Most Christians go to church to “receive.” In fact, many will leave a church because they felt as though they did not “receive.” Paul is telling the church to have a different motivation. Come not to receive but to give. Come to teach and serve. Come to help and feed. Come not for yourself, but for your brethren.
The principle is of edification. It is very easy to get caught up in a pride tug-of-war with others. Pride is the very core of our sin. And when building a healthy strong home for God’s spirit, it is important to seek those choices that first promote the edification of others. So if your tough decision cannot be decided by the principle of expedience, consider this principle. And seek to build up others in God’s word.