Edification is being built up spiritually and strengthened in the faith. By divine design, the church has been equipped to be a self-edifying body (Ephesians 4:11-12). And edification should be produced when the church assembles. We have a part in that happening. Let us consider some elements necessary to edification.
First and foremost, edification has as its well-spring the word of God. “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). The words of God are that which will edify us, so when we come together, our focus and our study ought to be upon the Scriptures, not upon science, history, or any other subject, for they are not that which will build us up.
But are there other elements necessary for edification? In the fourteenth chapter of his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul gave at least two elements necessary to edification when the church assembles.
First, there must be understanding in order for edification to occur. Paul wrote that if one was to speak in a tongue without an interpreter, others would have no understanding and thus receive no edification. “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful” (vs. 14). Although the miraculous spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased, Paul’s instruction lays down the principle of the necessity of understanding on the part of the hearers in order for edification to occur. The miraculous gift of speaking in tongues – known languages – has ceased (1 Corinthians 13:8-10), yet some religions today practice fake tongue-speaking; it cannot possibly edify, for none can understand the gibberish. For us, we need to be sure when we come together that we teach and speak in a way that can be understood, and that necessitates, among other things, the preparation of the speaker or leader.
Second, in order for edification to occur when the church assembles, things must be done decently and in order. See here the principle of orderliness as directed by the apostle: “If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret” (vs.27). And “let all things be done decently and in order” (vs. 40). When churches opt for “spontaneous” worship – a song here or a prayer there with no planning and with no-one aware of what to expect, how is that decently and in order?
We are in need of being built up spiritually, and one of the purposes of our assemblies is edification. Let us be sure in our assembling that the word of God is front and center, that we are prepared for our own understanding and our understanding by others, and that we conduct our assemblies in a decent and orderly fashion. These are essential to our edification.
- Larry Jones