The concept of edification is crucial to understanding many passages in the Bible. At its core, to edify means to build up, strengthen, or improve something. But what exactly does the Bible say about edification, and why does it matter?
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: In the Bible, to edify means to build up the church and individual believers in their faith, knowledge, and obedience to God through teaching, exhortation, and living righteously.
Edification strengthens believers and equips them to serve God and resist sin and false teaching.
In this comprehensive article, we will examine the biblical meaning of edify by looking at how the original Greek words are used, key passages on edification, and how we can apply the concept today to build up fellow Christians.
The Meaning of Edify in Greek
Oikodomeō: To Build Up
The Greek word oikodomeō (οἰκοδομέω) is found frequently throughout the New Testament. It comes from the roots oikos meaning “house” and domeō meaning “to build.” So the basic literal meaning is “to build a house.”
However, it is used figuratively in the New Testament to refer to building up people in the faith.
There are several great examples of how oikodomeō is used in Scripture:
- “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up (oikodomeō).” (Romans 15:2)
- “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up (oikodomeō), just as you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.
Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up (oikodomeō).”
In all of these cases, oikodomeō refers to building others up in faith, knowledge, and Christian maturity.
Oikodomē: Building Up, Edification
The noun form oikodomē (οἰκοδομή) comes from the same root as oikodomeō. It refers to the act of building up, edification. We see it used in a similar figurative sense:
- “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)
- “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up (oikodomē). (1 Corinthians 14:26)
Here again we see that oikodomē refers not to physical buildings but to the building up of believers in spiritual maturity.
Common Usages of Oikodomeō and Oikodomē
- They refer to the process of Christian maturity through spiritual growth.
- Biblical writers often use architectural metaphors to describe spiritual development.
- Edifying other believers is presented as an important responsibility for Christians.
- We edify others through our speech, conduct, and ministry to their needs.
- Edification strengthens the church and leads to unity among believers.
Understanding this background helps illuminate the meaning of “edify” in the Bible. It is more than mere encouragement – it is active building up in the faith.
Key Passages on Edification in the Bible
1 Corinthians 14: Building Up the Church
In 1 Corinthians 14:3-5, Paul emphasizes the importance of using spiritual gifts like prophecy and tongues to “build up” fellow believers. The Greek word translated as “build up” is oikodomeō, which means to spiritually strengthen and encourage others (source).
Paul stresses that edification should be a key goal when believers come together, more so than their own experience or spiritual growth.
Paul also instructs readers to use their gifts while being mindful of others, so that “the church may be built up” (v. 12). He would rather speak 5 clear words that instruct than 10,000 unclear words in tongues, demonstrating that clarity is vital for effective edification (v.19).
Ephesians 4: Equipping the Saints
Ephesians 4:11-16 discusses spiritual gifts like evangelists, prophets, and teachers that Christ gives to the church specifically “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (v. 12).
Here, the word for “built up” is related to oikodomeō, referring to the process of edification.
Verse 16 notes every part of the body contributes to its growth through edification in love. The gifted people equip and strengthen church members to serve effectively.
1 Thessalonians 5: Edify One Another
Paul instructs the Thessalonian church to “encourage one another and build each other up” (v 11). In the original language, the word “encourage” means “to call to one’s side,” while “build up” is our familiar oikodomeō.
So all believers are called to spur each other on positively and contribute to each other’s spiritual growth.
Romans 15: Pleasing Neighbors, Building Up
In Romans 15:1-3, Paul urges strong believers to assist weaker ones in their development, even if it means sacrificing personal freedom. He quotes Psalm 69:9 to portray Christ as the ultimate model of pleasing others to build them up instead of Himself.
Just as Christ endured scorn to redeem humanity, so mature believers should set aside personal interests/rights to aid those struggling in the faith. By God’s grace, edification occurs through these loving actions (source).
Principles and Applications of Edification
Teaching Sound Doctrine Edifies
Edification requires teaching sound biblical doctrine that aligns with Scripture (Titus 1:9). Pastors and teachers must instruct their congregations in the core tenets of the faith so they can grow spiritually and live godly lives.
Grounding believers in foundational truths protects them from false teaching and equips them for serving God (Ephesians 4:11-16). Doctrine should not just fill people’s minds but transform their hearts and actions. Sound teaching edifies when believers apply it to their lives.
Edification Requires Effort and Commitment
Edification does not happen automatically or easily. It requires diligence and dedication from both teachers and learners. Teachers must thoroughly study God’s Word, carefully prepare biblical lessons, and zealously impart truth to their listeners (2 Timothy 2:15).
Learners must actively listen, ask questions, meditate on teachings, and incorporate truth into their lives. We must commit ourselves to the lifelong process of building one another up in Christ.
Edification also requires effort because Christians must battle their sinful nature. Our flesh resists biblical truth and desires worldly passions (Galatians 5:17). We must make no provision for the flesh but saturate our minds with Scripture and pursue the Spirit’s empowerment to live righteously (Romans 13:14).
Laborious discipline and consistency produce steadfast edification.
We Must Edify Both Individually and Corporately
The New Testament instructs believers to build up one another both individually and corporately. Individually, Christians should encourage fellow believers with edifying speech (Ephesians 4:29), stirring them toward love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).
Corporately, biblical preaching and teaching within the church provide doctrinal nourishment for the entire body of Christ. And the Holy Spirit endows each member with spiritual gifts for collective edification (1 Corinthians 12:7).
Whether occurring through personal relationships or public gatherings, edification requires active participation. Believers must fully engage their minds, invest emotionally, and apply practically what they learn.
Individual and corporate edification work synergistically to produce comprehensive spiritual growth and maturity.
In the Bible, the concept of edification is strongly tied to building up fellow believers through teaching, encouragement, and living righteously. Properly understanding edification helps us prioritize strengthening Christians’ faith and equipping them to serve God, resist sin and false teaching, and live out their calling.
Applying the principles of edification leads churches and individual Christians to invest in discipling and teaching opportunities. It calls us all to step up and do our part to contribute to the overall health and maturity of Christ’s body through how we live and minister to those around us.