It seems to me that we don't spend anywhere near enough time edifying. At least, I'm sure you don't spend enough time edifying me!
Could it be that we don't really know what it is or how to do it? I've been thinking about this a long time and would like to share some of those thoughts with you.
The traditional way of doing things is to "go to church" on Sunday - twice if you're devout. Only once if you're lukewarm. On Wednesday night, even though we actually go to the same place and sit on the same pew, we don't "go to church," we "go to Bible Study." In almost all cases, these are the only times we see each other. Oh, I'm not counting the annual Vacation Bible School Picnic nor the "Gospel Meetings." Those really don't change our normal practices.
Anyhow, we see each other only when we "go to church."
Then, what about edification? Our answer usually is that we get edified at these meetings ("at church"). Isn't that why we pay preachers? To edify us? It's becoming more apparent that we have about stopped paying them to convert the lost. Our growth results tell us that. So, the preacher is paid to edify us. Then we go to "Bible Class." (We call it that, you know, because we wanted to have a Sunday School like the kingdoms around us, but we didn't want to call it by a denominational name!)
In the Bible Class, we have an amateur edifier. He must be an amateur, because we don't pay him. If we're lucky, it is one of the elders.
Let's count up now. On Sundays, the preacher edifies us. That's one. We have a Bible Class Teacher on Sunday mornings. That's two. Then we have a Wednesday Night Bible Study Teacher. Usually, this one is also the preacher, but let's take advantage of the benefit of the doubt. That's three. Three edifiers! Outstanding! Is that about the way it is where you are?
How do you think it was in Ephesus?
Paul said to them that the work of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers was "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up (edifying) of the body of Christ..." The work of the saints was to build up the body of Christ? How can that be? I thought the building up (edifying) of the body of Christ was what we paid the preacher for and what we appointed Bible Class Teachers for!
Paul said it was the saints' work. The saints' work? I'm one of those. So are you. So when was the last time each one of us built up the body of Christ? Can you think of any saints where you are that have never edified you? Most of them? That's terrible.
I got to thinking about this a few years ago and it really began to bother me. I wondered, "how can we edify each other if there's only so much time when we assemble? There's not time for everyone to talk."
Then I started searching the scriptures to see if I could determine how it was done in the first century.
In the first place, they met constantly! Every day, as a matter of fact. It seems to me that if we met every day, it would certainly make a difference in how much time we have for edifying each other. In Acts, it seems that the saints spent all the time together that they could. I've even heard some say, "Well, they were all away from home, they came to Jerusalem for Pentecost, were converted and continued to visit there. They didn't have anything else to do but assemble."
Where in the world do you read that? Were they visiting in Jerusalem for years? With nothing to do? Come on, get real!
For all of the first century and well into the third, saints around the world continued to meet every day. Not only that, but they had the Lord's Supper every day, as well. It wasn't until the digression had become well-formed and the Catholic Church was almost in full bloom that saints found out they didn't have to meet and commune every day. Who told them that? Why was it changed?
In the Gospel Advocate, J.C. McQuiddy wrote and his article was reproduced in the booklet Around The Lord's Table:
On the time and place of the observance of the Lord's Supper, McClintock and Strong's Cyclopedia (Vol. V, page 574)says: "In the apostolic church, as we have seen, the Lord's Supper was regularly celebrated in the public assemblies, hence in private dwellings, at common tables, during the persecutions in hidden places, at the sepulchers of the martyrs, and, later, in the churches at special tables or altars. In imitation of its first celebration by Christ, it was first celebrated at night; later, it became almost universally connected with the morning service. In the primitive church, Christians partook of it almost daily, and when this was made impossible by the persecutions, at least several times a week or certainly on Sundays. In the fifth century, many theological writers complain of the laxity of Christians in the participation of the Lord's Supper, and afterwards several synods had to prescribe that all Christians ought to partake of it at least a certain number of times.
Once the saints stopped seeing each other regularly, then there was no time for "the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up (edifying) of itself in love."
So, it seems to me that we are going to need to start spending more time with each other. Some times other than when we "go to church," "go to Bible Class," or "go to Bible Study." How about at each other's homes? How about several times each week?
Someone asked me, "If you start spending that much time with each other, what on earth would you do?" Now isn't that an interesting question? We would edify each other, of course.
Now, the trouble is, most people haven't even given enough thought to this to understand what edify means.
To edify means - literally - to turn something into an edifice. Our English word means almost identically the same as the original Greek word. It means to build up a building. To turn raw materials - such as stones - into an edifice.
OK, I understand that, you say. How do I turn you into a building? Paul says that "the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up (edifying) of itself in love."
It seems to me that the key ingredient is love. For whom? For God. For Jesus, His Christ. For each other. If I am characterized by that kind of love, what will I do for you? Of course, the answer is - anything you need done for you.
If you are untaught, I will study with you, so that we both learn more. If you have suffered a loss of a loved one, I will do what I can to comfort you. I will pray with you to make your burden lighter. If you are having family problems, I may just listen and give you a shoulder to cry on - or I may give you advice and help. You may be feeling ugly and unloved. Even though I don't know how being ugly feels, I can be a friend and build up your self-confidence. The list could go on and on.
Trouble is, it seems to me, that we don't even see each other often enough to know what the other needs. We don't see each other enough even to know what each other is like or likes.
If I give my concentrated thought to what will build you up - strengthen and fortify you to be better equipped to face the devil and serve the Lord - then I will provide for you what you need when you need it.
You will not find me wagging my finger in your face and preaching to you about modest apparel when your real need is for any kind of clothes to wear. I won't preach to you about gluttony when you haven't enough food in your cupboard to feed your children. Nor tell you about the temptation of riches when you can't pay your rent. Nor lecture about pride when you are overcome with a vast inferiority complex. However, in the "Lord's church" in my lifetime, I have seen just that kind of thing being done. Have you?
No, I will get to know you so well as we meet from day to day, that I know your weaknesses as well as your strengths and I will know what you need to make you stronger. And, motivated by my love for you - I will supply it to the very best of my abilities.
...the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up (edifying) of itself in love.