Sermon: Let Us Build Each Other Up
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Let Us Build Each Other Up
Do you know how to build up other people?
By Don Ruhl
Romans 14 promotes consideration of others in the following ways: We should not divide over matters of opinion or personal preference, on matters that God has not addressed or that God has not specified, or that He has not bound on us.
Eating meat or not eating meat is a matter of indifference, but some matters affect our fellowship with one another, including potentially the salvation of a brother in Christ and things that pertain to the nature of the kingdom of God, which Paul said does not involve, “…eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14.17). Therefore, we cannot let personal preference overrule our fellowship with a brother or sister. The greater issues involve righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit.
Leading the apostle to say, “For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Rom 14.18–19). The Way of Christ does not focus on self, but on what I can do to make my fellow believer a stronger believer.
Let Us Pursue the Things Which Make for Peace
First, cultivate a desire for peace in the body of Christ. We create a desire for peace when we understand who built the church and why He built it, which is His body. In Acts 20, Paul reminded some elders that Jesus created the church by the sacrifice of His life, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20.28). Appreciating all the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual pain Jesus endured to shed his blood, which He shed to purchase the church, will drive a disciple to desire peace for the church. We will value the church as He does. Keeping the crucifixion foremost in mind makes a child of God more willing to seek peace and to give of himself even as Jesus did, for the sake of peace. Jesus created the church to provide a body in which God and man would have peace, and in which men could be at peace with one another.
If peace does not exist within the body of Christ, especially over non-essential items, then the purpose of the church’s existence is called into question. Knowing what Jesus intended for the church and knowing that the soul of a brother exceeds in importance personal interest will keep peace in the body. Let us therefore heed the Holy Spirit, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom 12.18).
Next comes learning the art of making peace. Peace-making requires art, skill to create something that does not currently exist. The easy or childish way creates problems and conflict, which require no particular skill or experience. The art of making peace comes by: Knowing the Scriptural tools whereby peace is made, knowing human nature, how to work with people, especially the individuals involved in the conflict, and having wisdom from God through faith-filled prayer.
Things which make for peace: First know what is important and what is not, for Paul writes in Rom 14.20, “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense” (Rom 14.20). Paul called your brother or sister, the work of God! The needs and interests of others come first.
Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died (Rom 14.13–15).
We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me” (Rom 15.1–3).
But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble (1Co 8.8–13).
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being (1Co 10.23–24).
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Phi 2.1–4).
Let Us Pursue the Things by which One May Edify Another
The body of Christ has the goal of edification.
There is a time for tearing down, but there is also a time for building up (Jer 1.10);
A time for rebuking and a time for exhorting (2Ti 4.2);
A time for casting down and a time for building up (2Co 10.4–8);
A time for debating and a time for helping (Acts 18.27–28);
A time for severity and a time for goodness (Rom 11.22).
However, tearing down is not for the purpose of: Displaying your rhetorical ability, or to promote self-righteousness, or to hurt others. Casting down is necessary to build. Casting down is a means to an end, because sin or false ideas hinders edification and thus we have to remove them and then growth or building can occur through edification. James 1 supports this reasoning, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jam 1.21). Before you plant, you weed; before you construct, you destruct. Therefore, ultimately we desire to edify. As Paul told our Corinthian brethren, “How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification” (1Co 14.26). We seek to edify our brethren, because by it we prepare for the return of Jesus, keeping ourselves from sin and staying alive in righteousness. Therefore, in First Thessalonians 5, Paul concludes his topic of the Second Coming with, “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing” (1Th 5.11).
We have to learn the art of edification. Like peace-making, we need skill and experience to build up the souls of our brothers and sisters in Christ. It does not take much of anything to tear down. It takes wisdom to tear down in such a way as to allow rebuilding and then to do the rebuilding. One man can tear down a car with torch and hacksaw, but come time to restore and he will have to junk what he tore apart. The wise man disassembles with the rebuild in mind. Tearing down as an end in itself requires no art, because it requires no skill; it is not necessarily essential to know the various parts and sequence.
Here are things by which we may edify one another: Knowing the essentials of Christianity, which, in this context, are summarized in verse 17, “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14.17). Then we discuss those essentials with one another. Edification comes through knowledge of essential spiritual things. For these reasons you will hear church leaders all the time urging: attendance at all worship services, attendance at all Bible classes, meditation on the Scriptures daily, spending time with fellow-Christians in spiritual conversations, reading good gospel literature, and listen to gospel preaching. Hebrews 10 makes this strong urging, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb 10.24–25).
What do you need from your brothers and sisters? Do it to them. Let Scripture guide you.
Look outside yourself by first looking up to the Lord. He will teach you how to build others up.