One of my favorite verses about the life of the church is First Thessalonians 5:11, which tells us to encourage and build up one another. But what does it mean to build up one another? Is that like giving compliments or saying kind words, or does it go much deeper? Let’s explore this idea together.
The word we often use for the work of building up one another in the gospel is edification. This refers to progressively growing and maturing both individually and collectively. Whether through preaching and teaching in formal settings (Eph. 4:11-13), one-on-one counseling, or informal gatherings, edification does two things:
- First, it encourages us to grow deeper in our understanding of our identity as believers—new creations, beloved children of God. We have been delivered from darkness and now belong to the kingdom of light, in which we become more and more like Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:1-10,19; Col. 1:13).
- Second, it equips us to live on mission as ambassadors of the kingdom of God (2 Cor. 5:20). Mature and maturing believers don’t keep the gospel to ourselves. We share it joyfully and without hesitation.
Ultimately, edification is discipleship in the truest sense. It is the work of building one another up as believers, encouraging each other as we live in relationship together (1 Cor. 12:26; Gal. 6:2).