By Kevin Cauley
Last week we discussed the work of the church that deals with reaching out to those who have never been saved. This is the work of evangelism. However, the church has an equal responsibility to minister to the saved. There are those among the saved who may be tempted to leave the church and return to the world (2 Peter 2:20-22). There is also the need to engage each member in introspection so as to not let Satan have an advantage over us (2 Corinthians 2:11). The church also has a need to produce additional men who will be able to lead in the office of eldership and to preach the gospel as evangelists and teachers (2 Timothy 2:2). There is also a certain amount of special instruction that needs to be given to the young, both men and women (Titus 2:1-10). I am sure that there are more things that go on in the area of edification within the congregation and this is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Suffice it to say that this is sufficient information to conclude that a local congregation must have a program of edification.
Perhaps the most obvious program of edification within the local congregation is the support of a local preacher. A large part of the preacher’s responsibilities have to do with edifying the local congregation (Ephesians 4:12). If the preacher teaches Bible class and delivers regular addresses to the local congregation, he provides the bulk of spiritual instruction to the local church. This is not to say that the local preacher is the ONLY source of edification within the local congregation. The bible teaches that there are many sources (Ephesians 4:12). However, the local minister has heightened responsibilities in this regard as Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:1-5). It is incumbent upon the local preacher, therefore, to make sure his teaching is of sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).
The eldership has a role in edification as well. Their role is one of ensuring that the congregation is fed with the proper diet of spiritual matters (Acts 20:28). They are to oversee the local congregation and its activities (1 Peter 5:1-4). Again, the bulk of this edification is going to come from the decision regarding the local preacher and their working with him to ensure that the congregation has a proper diet of spiritual nourishment.
Elders should also consider the work of teaching Bible classes and even preaching from the pulpit from time to time. One of their qualifications is that they be “apt to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). Within this qualification we find the need both to be able to evangelize and to edify.
Deacons have specific roles in edification. There may be a deacon who has the responsibility of looking after the activities of the congregation. There may be another deacon who looks after education depending upon the size of the congregation. Whatever the assignment of the deacon is, there is the inherent responsibility of edification of the congregation within that assignment. We find that the first deacons (Acts 6:1-7) were largely involved in this role and as a result of the great work that they did, the church was edified and grew.
Perhaps the most often overlooked role of edification, however, comes from the individual members. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Each individual member has the responsibility to encourage those who are around him or her. This can be done through many different ways. We can visit the sick or those in the nursing homes. We can prepare cards or flowers. We have monthly fellowships and potlucks in which we can participate. We can call one another on the phone and just make sure that everything is OK. When we sing hymns one to another we are edifying each other (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). There is no shortage of work that can be done in this area and each individual member has the responsibility to work in this area of edification.
When all do their part in the work of edification within the local congregation, we get the beautiful picture of peace and harmony within the church (Ephesians 4:16). Edification has a purpose-the building up of the body of Christ. When the body is edified, then more souls will be saved. Edification affects evangelism in this regard-that when the members are strong, more of the lost will be brought to Christ. This in turn also has an edifying effect upon the faithful. Let us strive to do our part in edifying the local body of Christ.