A Voice in the Wilderness - Observations and Excursions of a Christian Zealot

Terry Walker's Weblog --- Occasional articles on the Christian Ethic

Monday, October 01, 2007

To Edify a Body - an Introduction

James 3:2-12 says, “We all make many mistakes, but those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way.” Wow, in this verse God clearly states that if we can control our tongues, then all other aspects of our lives will fall harmoniously in line. I love it when God makes it easy. Just keep your mouth shut and life is good. But wait, who of us does not like to hear himself talk? Yes, the world is a better place because God gave you a mouth with which you can tell everyone all about you. Try as we might we simply can’t help ourselves. Just like Job’s friends, who were a silent blessing to him for six days, when they could bear it no longer, they opened their mouths and everything went downhill from there.

Wouldn’t it be grand if we could simply chuck all this useless idle talk, chatter, teasing, joking, rumors, slander, chitchat, clamor, gossip and hearsay? Not only would it be grand but it is exactly what our God commands us to do.

Ephesians 4:29-31 says,
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, so that it will bring grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Isn’t that a great verse? In it you not only have a reminder of your assurance of salvation, but you are given the God given purpose for speaking. You are instructed how to speak, when to speak, and what your goal in speaking should be. And if that isn’t enough it even tells you the result of your poor speech habits, you grieve the Holy Spirit of God, Who is forced to listen to all of your idle talk and gossip. Think about that the next time you are talking about your wife in the lunchroom at work.

The fact is that even Scripture, the very word of God, can be spoken sinfully if you are using it at an inappropriate time or in a manner that is not based on the purpose of glorifying God and edifying the person to whom you are speaking.

Recently I was invited to purposefully edify others, to feed another flock. They in turn were invited to our church. The result of our mutual visits would be an exchange of letters of edification. I thought it a simply, minor task. Intending to write a complimentary, flattering, accolade, I went home and searched my computer Bibles for an example. Excepting the whole of Song of Solomon, I could find not one example of a flattering discourse. Presuming my definition of “edify” in error, I looked up the word and found my natural stupidity verified. To edify someone does not mean to compliment them, it means something much deeper. It means to leave them enlightened and informed. It means to teach them, educate them, instruct them and as a result of your speech, leave them improved. The Greek word for edify means “to build”.

Suddenly my task seemed much harder. Without forgetting that I am to love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind, and I am to love my neighbor as I love myself, how does one edify someone else without ticking them off? So I searched my computer Bibles again and this time I found many examples of apostles edifying others, even those that they had not yet met. The Apostle Paul wrote many wonderful examples of edifying letters, and I chose Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as the basis for my letter. But surely even Paul’s letters occasionally left people angry.

So how does one properly edify out of a motive of love without leaving people angry? I don’t think the answer lies in the hands of the edifier, but rather it is the responsibility of the person being edified to receive the edification in a Godly manner.

Hebrews 12:5-11 says, And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Brother Terry Walker
Providence Baptist Church
Greer, South Carolina