Building up the Church

17 Aug

Luke uses three phrases to make up Acts 9:31. We spoke of the first phrase: “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria…” in my previous blog, showing how the churches of God had obtained rest from their persecution. I will speak of the second “…and were edified…” in this one, and hope to speak of the third “…and, walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, were multiplied” in my next blog.

I think it interesting that Luke uses the Greek word: oikodomeo (G3618), to say that the churches of Christ were edified. In most places in the New Testament this word is used for building or erecting a structure. Jesus uses the word in Matthew 23:29 for hypocrites building up the tombs of the prophets. In Matthew 7:24, 26 Jesus refers to a man who builds his house either on a rock or on sand. In Luke 17:28 Jesus spoke of how men continued to build in the days of Lot, unaware of the impending judgment, and in John 2:20 the Jewish authorities used this same word to refer to the length of time Herod’s Temple was then in the building process.

Luke could have used a different word to indicate teaching or instruction. There are at least seven available in New Testament usage. Still another could have been used for enlightenment. Nevertheless, he likens the edification of the Churches of Christ to the process of building a structure. Why does he do this?

I believe we get a hint about what Luke is telling us by looking at how this word is used to express an Old Testament idea. No less than five times in the New Testament [Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1Peter 2:7] the writers point to Psalm 118:22-23. In each of those instances oikodomeo is used to do so. The verses read:

The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. (Psalms 118:22-23 KJV)

Truly, the authors of the New Testament believed this Scripture was very important to the Gospel of Jesus. We get a glimpse of how important in Peter’s epistle where he says that, if we have learned from the Lord and have put away all hypocrisy, evil speaking, envying and the like (1Peter 2:1-3), we have come to the Living Stone (Jesus) – precious to God, but rejected by men. We, then, are become living stones, built up (oikodomeo) as a spiritual house (1Peter 2:4-5; cp. verses 6 through 9). This same idea is used by Paul when he says we are the household of God, built upon Jesus Christ the chief cornerstone, growing into the holy Temple of God, built together as a holy habitation of God (Ephesians 2:19-22; cp. 1Corinthians 3:16). Here Paul uses a form of the same Greek word, except that the word contains a prefix to accommodate a preposition. The words Paul uses are epoikodomeo in verse 20 and sunoikodomeo in verse 22.

So, what can we draw from these implications made by Luke concerning the edification or the building up of the Churches of Christ in Judea, Samaria and Galilee? I think we must consider the Temples of God which were built by men and liken it to God’s original plan[1] whereby he intended to dwell in man before the Fall. When sin entered our race death or destruction entered as well. We became as the Temple of Solomon destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar or the Temple of Herod destroyed by Titus, the Roman general and later Emperor. The Temple of God was destroyed, but the stones lay all about in disarray. Men could build and destroy structures of stone, but only God—his Christ—could build up an indestructible structure (Matthew 16:18) intended for his own habitation. Luke, in Acts 9:31, implied that although the men of power in Jerusalem intended to destroy what the Lord had been building up, nevertheless, the spiritual structure was edified—that is, it continued to be built up for the habitation of God. The power of man was impotent in fighting against it.



[1] The idea of the “original plan” of God to dwell with men supported by the Scriptures 2Peter 2:4-5 and Ephesians 2:19-22 comes from Clarke’s Commentary. The rest of my submission is my own.

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Posted by on August 17, 2012 in Persecution, Temple of God


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