The apostle Paul was meek and humble, but had no use for false modesty. He accurately described himself as a master builder, an expert chosen, prepared and empowered by God to set in place the doctrinal foundation of the Church, and also to establish local churches throughout the ancient Near East. From Paul’s day to the present time, the building of the Church upon the foundation he laid has continued. There have been storms, setbacks, persecutions, fallings away and apostasies. But the Church has survived them all and continues to rise on the foundation of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Just as in the day of Paul, it is through human instruments, by the working of the Holy Spirit, that God builds the Church. To the extent we, God’s instruments, are first aware of and then willing, yielded, obedient and faithful to his will—to that extent the Church experiences blessing, fruitfulness and growth.
It is crucial that Christians understand that every one of us is called to build. We all have the responsibility to help edify the Church. There are no exceptions, anywhere, in the entire Kingdom of God. We are each of us gifted, in varying ways, to edify the Body in love. To the extent we acknowledge our responsibility and exercise our gifts, to that extent we will strengthen and bless the Body—and please the Lord.
Here are some passages which clearly convey our charge to build and be built together with Christ. Note, in the first, the importance of building with carefulness, and the range of “build quality” grades, from precious gold to worthless straw, to be revealed one day by fire:
1 Cor. 3 10 – 15 (NIV) By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
1 Corinthians 14:12 So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.
Romans 15:2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
Romans 19:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
Ephesians 4:11-16 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Colossians 2:6-8 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
1 Thess 5:10-11 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Irrespective of our gifting, we all have the privilege and responsibility of seeking the Lord and lifting the Church up before him at his throne of grace. Should we fail to do this, the fruitfulness of our gifts and works will be shrivelled: Without me, you can do nothing (John 15:5).
On the other hand, If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples (John 15:7 – 8): Abide in Christ, receive and keep his Word (especially, the command to love one another, John 15:9-13), and pray according to his will—obeying these three simple imperatives results in much fruit and brings glory to God.