Building Each Other Up: A Scriptural Survey of the Ministry of Edification in the Body of Christ

Building up one another is the demonstration of the love of Christ among believers.


John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus had just given the twelve disciples a demonstration of servanthood love. He had just performed a humbling task of washing the feet of the disciples, even Judas, who was betraying him at that moment. The continuing expression of servanthood love among the disciples would be the mark of their submission to him as Lord and Savior. It would be the basis of their credibility as his disciples. The world apart from Christ would then learn the reality of their salvation by whether they would truly love one anothers.

Something to consider: suppose I were there beside the side of Jesus, and at some point after he had started to wash the feet of the disciples, he had stopped and told me to take over. What would be my reaction? How am I actually reacting to the servanthood opportunities which are already being placed in front of me by Jesus?

Galatians 5:13-14, 6:2: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge your flesh; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ . . . Carry each others’ burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Since Christlike love for our fellow believers is the will of God, the very credibility of one’s salvation from Jesus Christ is at stake in whether one is building up fellow believers in servanthood love. What then can be done to make our love for each other more visible? Even more — doesn’t this require more than attendance at church services, and an occasional greeting to someone else?


Building up one another is necessary because of our spiritual unity with each other as fellow believers.


I Corinthians 12:26: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

Because of the spiritual unity of believers, the suffering or success of other believers affects our own suffering or success. At the very least we miss the possible contributions of the sufferers, and we miss the possible fruitful ministry to their lives when their needs are ignored.


Building up one another provides the atmosphere for growth in the body of Christ among believers.


The atmosphere where growth in the body of Christ takes place is that of ‘speaking the truth in love,’ where each member’s ministry based upon his or her spiritual gift plays a part. The ‘work’ of each part is the divinely willed and empowered gift through the Holy Spirit for the building up of each member. Each member has a place; each member is necessary for the growth of the whole. Apart from this ministry, truthful and loving edification through the spiritual gifts of each member, churches tend to be cliquish, closed and unaccepting, and believers stifled, stunted in their growth, and superficial in their post conversion experience of the working of God in their lives.

Do you know what your spiritual gift is? Have you studied Romans 12:3-9, I Corinthians 12 and 14, and I Peter 4:10-11, and asked God to show you where your place is?


Building up one another happens with prayer for other believers.


Ephesians 6:18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

The ministry of fellow believers to each others in prayer, both in their private times and public gatherings, is the foundation for making the ministry of building each other up spiritually and eternally effective. Before even approaching someone else with correction and encouragement, pray for the person and for wisdom for yourself. Also find someone else who is trustworthy with whom you can share your own heart and pray for each other’s needs: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can be healed” (James 5:16). Be sure to pray in faith, expecting God to answer, and to keep matters confidential. A prayer ministry must not degenerate into a gossip hotline!

Consider then: what people come to mind when I think of those for whom I can pray? What people are there with whom I can pray confidentially for my needs, and even confess my sins?


Building up one another with believers who listen to and understand fellow believers.


Listening to fellow believers must come before any speaking to them. This is to avoid needless and destructive criticism, insensitive and inept advice due to false impressions and mistaken information, and subtle insinuations against anyone else’s reputation through gossip: “He who answers before listening — that is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13). Be careful to get to know the person for whom you are concerned through firsthand knowledge; don’t assume that a secondhand account of a situation shows genuine understanding of someone else’s situation. Love will abound in “knowledge and depth of insight” (Philippians 1:9) not only from learning the Word and being with the Lord, but from taking the time to get to know fellow believers and their situations.

What reasons can you think of why you personally make not take the time to listen and understand other people? What can you do to correct these tendencies?


Building up one another happens when believers lovingly correct each other.


Matthew 18:15-17: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him even as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”

To avoid the destructive practice of gossip, scripture gives these guidelines:

  • Correction should be personal — not through uninvolved third parties — avoiding triangulation.
  • Correction should be confidential — only with those actually involved.
  • Correction aims at restoration: the repudiation of any genuine sin, and renewed and deepened fellowship among believers.
  • Correction needs to be done with gentleness, sensitivity and a willingness to listen (James 1:19-21), and not self righteous judgmentalism.
  • Correction needs to be based on scripture (II Timothy 3:16-4:2) and not personal pique.

See also Proverbs 10:12 and 26:17. How do these scriptures suggest that we should deal with these matters if uninvolved parties seek to pry or others seek to enlist us as allies in their personal conflicts?

See also Romans 14:7-12, and Ephesians 4:1-3 and 4:23. What do these scriptures say that would guide us on how to deal with differences of opinion? Remember: among believers differences of opinion are not to degenerate to become a battle of wills.


Building up one another happens when believers comfort each other.


Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

I Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

What ways has God comforted you over the years?

What situations are there which call for us to comfort fellow believers?

What ways are there that we can show comfort in those situations, and pass on the comfort that we ourselves have received from God?


Building up one another happens when believers share scriptural counsel and encouragement.


Romans 15:4: “For everythnig that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”

II Timothy 3:16-17: “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

The Word of God is the proper source of counsel, encouragement and correction among believers. The goal of Scriptural counsel is to direct others away from sin and to follow the will of God in Jesus Christ. It must be used sensitively to the need of each person.

What can be done in your life and in the life of your church to provide better opportunities for personal counsel and encouragement?


Building up one another happens when believers share materially with those in need.


Romans 12:13: “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Hebrews 13:16: “And do not forget to do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

I John 3:17: If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”

This is many times the greatest test of the reality of our love and commitment to each other as believers. This was one of the greatest signs of the spiritual vitality in the earch church (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-37). Its absence will falsify the profession of love for each other.

What opportunities are there for this kind of giving in your life and in partnership with your church? What guidelines should be followed in giving?


Prepare yourself for the ministry of edification; be settled with the issue of the Lordship of Christ in your own life, receive his Word into your heart, continue in prayer, purify your motives, and live to love as Jesus loved.


All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers

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Recommended Reading List

I would always put The Bible at the top of my recommended reading list for anyone. The Bible translation that I personally recommend is the New International Version. It’s the version that I use in my personal reading anymore. I’ve read through the King James Version, the Revised Standard Version and the New American Standard Version in the past, but I’ve found the NIV generally to be the most up to date and readable. In my pastoral experience, I’ve had a number of people come up to me and ask me which version I was reading from the pulpit, because they found that they could understand that version pretty easily. I am fluent in Greek and Hebrew as well, and often go to the original languages to read individual verses, whole passages and entire books. Moreover, I have also been over the history and transmission of the scriptural manuscripts in some detail. Certainly no translation is 100% perfect, and the transmission of the scriptures over the centuries has not been entirely perfect, but what is written and understandable is more than enough for saving faith in Christ, spiritual growth and a well grounded faith of reasonable convictions.

The following is a list of books which I have found helpful or enjoyable over the years. It is by no means complete, and will definitely be expanded in the future.

  • Christian Classics
  • Contemporary Christian Books
  • Resources for a Well Grounded Faith in a World of Skeptics
  • Deeper Christian Life
  • Prayer
  • Revival
  • Evangelism
  • Adult Singles, Christian or Otherwise
  • Marriage and Family
  • Fantasy, Science Fiction and Children’s Books
  • Spiritual Warfare
  • Biblical Interpretation and Study
  • Christian Biography and Autobiography
  • Theology for Faith and Living
  • For Pastors and Christian Leaders
  • Readable Works on Ancient History

    Christian Classics

    Too many classics are deeply neglected. Here is a small start. The lessons and experience of Christians of ages past are still fresh, instructive and moving today.

    • C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.
    • John Wesley,The Journal of John Wesley
    • David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards, The Life of David Brainerd
    • Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship.
    • Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together.
    • A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy.
    • Hannah Whithall Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.
    • Hannah Whithall Smith, The God of All Comfort.
    • John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress.
    • Richard Baxter, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest.
    • Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.
    • A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God.
    • A.W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest.


    Contemporary Christian Books

    I recommend Knowing God very highly, since that’s what being a Christian is all about.

    • J.I. Packer, Knowing God.
    • Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life.
    • Sheldon Van Auken, A Severe Mercy.
    • Ron Hutchcraft, Called to Greatness.
    • Henry Blackaby, Experiencing God.
    • Henry T. Blackaby and Melvin D. Blackaby, Experiencing God Together.
    • Frank Peretti, The Wounded Spirit (the only work that I know of dealing with bullying from a Christian perspective).


    Resources for a Well Grounded Faith in a World of Skeptics

    • James Sire, Scripture Twisting.
    • James Sire, The Universe Next Door.
    • Paul E. Little, Know Why You Believe.
    • Paul E. Little, Know What You Believe.
    • Josh McDowell, More Than A Carpenter.
    • Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ.
    • Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith.
    • Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator.
    • Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods.
    • C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.
    • C.S. Lewis, Miracles.
    • Edwin Yamauchi, The Stones and the Scriptures.
    • Edwin Yamauchi, Africa and the Bible.


    Deeper Christian Life

    The trilogy of J. Sidlow Baxter on sanctification may not be currently in print, but it is well worth the reading and understanding. His treatment of the scriptures brings new life to truth which has often lain dormant in the study and often the experience of the church for the past century.

    • A.B. Simpson, The Christ Life and the Self Life.
    • A.W.Tozer, How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit.
    • Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ.
    • Neil T. Anderson, Victory Over the Darkness.
    • J. Sidlow Baxter, A New Call to Holiness.
    • J. Sidlow Baxter, His Deeper Work in Us.
    • J. Sidlow Baxter, Our High Calling.
    • James Gilchrist Lawson, The Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians.


    Prayer

    The books of Andrew Murray and E.M. Bounds are still without parallel, although Wesley Duewel’s book may well come to become regarded as a classic as well.

    • Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer.
    • Andrew Murray, The Ministry of Intercession.
    • Andrew Murray, The Inner Chamber and the Inner Life.
    • Wesley Duewel, Touch the World Through Prayer
    • R.A. Torrey, The Power of Prayer and the Prayer of Power.


    Revival

    • Charles G. Finney, Lectures on Revivals of Religion.
    • Charles G. Finney, Reflections on Revival.


    Evangelism

    • Arthur Blessitt, Street University.
    • Mark McCloskey, Tell It Often — Tell It Well: Making the Most of Witnessing Opportunities.


    Adult Singles, Christian or Otherwise

    The books by Henry Cloud and John Townsend are the only ones that I recommend for Christian singles. They have a particularly good critique of Joshua Harris’s statements in his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye in Boundaries in Dating. For a secular view of developing yourself for regular dating, David Burns’s book is still the best I’ve read, but Cloud and Townsend have much that someone who is not an evangelical Christian would appreciate also.

    • Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Boundaries in Dating: Making Dating Work.
    • Henry Cloud, How to Get a Date Worth Keeping.
    • David Burns, Intimate Connections.


    Marriage and Family

    The book on the Song of Solomon I wish I had written. It is valuable for singles, married people and premarital counselling.

    • Tommy Nelson, The Book of Romance.


    Fantasy, Science Fiction and Childrens Literature

    The books of George McDonald may not be easy to find, but they are well worth the effort. C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy is behind the times scientifically, but very up to date with the philosophical discusssions of emergent evolution and the depictions of spiritual warfare. They are very well written, although That Hideous Strength has a number of Anglo-centric elements that might make it difficult for someone who is not an Anglophile to understand on the first, second or even third try.

    • C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia.
    • C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet (first volume of the space trilogy).
    • C.S. Lewis, Perelandra (second volume of the space trilogy).
    • C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (third volume of the space trilogy).
    • George McDonald, The Princess and the Goblin.
    • George McDonald, The Princess and Curdie.
    • George McDonald, The Lost Princess.
    • George McDonald, The Golden Key and Other Stories.
    • George McDonald, Phantastes.


    Spiritual Warfare

    • Neil T. Anderson, The Bondage Breaker.
    • Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts, War on the Saints.
    • C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.


    Biblical Interpretation and Study

    • Walter Kaiser, Toward an Exegetical Theology.
    • Donald Carson, Exegetical Fallacies.
    • Kenneth Kitchen, The Old Testament in Its World.


    Christian Biography and Autobiography

    • Billy Graham,Just as I Am.
    • C.S.Lewis, Surprised by Joy.


    For Pastors and Christian Leaders

    • Steven Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
    • Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor.


    Theology for Faith and Living

    • John Stott, The Incomparable Christ.
    • John Stott, The Cross of Christ.


    Readable Works on Ancient History and Culture

    Much interest in pseudoscience such as UFOlogy seems to me to be based in much ignorance of and unfamiliarity with what is actually known about ancient history and culture. The average person can understand most of these works. I am indebted to Dr. Edwin Yamauchi, whose classes I profited from for all my four years at Miami University, for many of these references, as well as Dr. Peter Rose.

    • John Boardman, The Greeks Overseas.
    • W.K.C. Guthrie, Ancient Greek Religion.
    • E.R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational.
    • H.W.F. Saggs, The Greatness That Was Babylon.
    • L. Sprague de Camp, The Ancient Engineers.
    • A.T. Olmstead, The Persians.
    • Michael Grant, The Classical Greeks.
    • Michael Grant, The Etruscans.
  • Safe and Unsafe Churches

    Characteristics of the Safe Church

    Characteristics of the Unsafe Church


    Personal information is kept personal and confidential, especially when it is part of a sinful habit or pattern for which a believer is seeking victory.

    Personal information is shared inappropriately among others, often in a distorted and angry manner, and any sinful habits are fair game for conversation with uninvolved third parties.


    The sins of one’s past are not kept in focus, but are treated with due discretion, as something which has been forgiven by Christ.

    The sins of one’s past are shared freely behind one’s back by those who seek to inflate their own reputations at the expense of the reputation of a brother or sister in Christ.


    Personal differences are pursued personally and privately, according to the scriptural pattern of correction and reproof (Galatians 6:1, Matthew 18:15-17).

    Personal differences become the subject of increasing escalation as previously uninvolved third parties are involved.


    Prayer requests are treated with reverence as requests to God above all for his solution, and are not shared beyond the number of believers necessary to seek him in faith in perservering prayer.

    Prayer requests are treated as a way to spread personal news about others while trying to avoid the appearance of gossip.


    The teaching and preaching ministry of the church is directed toward feeding the entire flock of God, toward the challenges that are facing the entire church.

    The teaching and preaching ministry of the church becomes entangled in correcting the supposed problems of individual believers which are better pursued through personal discussion and correction.


    A believer can be trust that no confidences will be broken in the sharing of his or her personal information before other believers through the preaching and teaching ministry of the church.

    Unpleasant surprises occur when confidences are broken or when personal information is shared, often in a distorted and angry manner, in the preaching and teaching ministry of the church.


    Believers do not monitor the attendance, participation and activities of others at the request of others.

    Believers spy on and gossip about the attendance, participation and activities of other believers at the request of others.


    The leaders of the church are those who meet the scriptural qualifications of leadership.

    People who seek power over others and who do not meet the scriptural qualifications for church leadership seek leadership in the church, and others in the church, even those who know their true motives and character, cooperate with their campaigns for personal power.


    The will of God in the Word of God under the Lordship of Christ is the ultimate aim and personal satisfaction of the leaders of the church and the believers in the church.

    Personal prestige, preferences, grudges and prejudices are the hidden agenda behind much pseudo-spiritual posturing.


    Ministry positions are filled according to spiritual gifts, according to the personal and prayerful sense of call and equipment of each believer, yet with reverent corroboration by others in the body of Christ. Each position is approached with the faith that God has

    Recruitment for positions is by social pressure and guilt trips for anyone who may seem to be available, and a refusal upon the basis of no sense of call means simply more pressure. Immediate acceptance of the responsibility is expected, with no allowance for someone to pray about the responsibility before accepting it.


    The entire body of Christ ministers to the needs of all believers in the body of Christ, and they are there for each other in the major crises of life with care, comfort and prayer.

    Some believers are neglected in normal ministries of the body of Christ even in the major crises of life, and the reasons are generally that someone does not like them, or that someone disagrees with some choice that they made in the past which is blamed for their present crises.


    Loving Honesty and Mercy: There is an atmosphere of loving honesty and humble realization that past sins are forgiven through Christ. Sins are covered by the blood of Christ and the love of believers in Christ.

    There is an atmosphere of undue suspicion of others and proud secrecy about past sins. Sins are covered by human deceit.


    Christlikeness: Conformity to the will of God in the Word of God and to the character of Christ is the mark of spiritual safety and maturity.

    External Legalism:Conformity to a series of external rules and regulations is the mark of spiritual safety and maturity — until you break one even inadvertently.