Edifying the Body of Christ 


And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;  (Ephesians 4:11-13)


St Paul tells us that all of the gifts of the Spirit and offices in the Church are given by God to edify (build up as in edifice) the Body of Christ with the goal of having everyone come to a unity of the faith and to knowing Jesus Christ which will perfect each human into being the creatures God created us to be.  Each of us is trying to be Christ-like and to help others become Christ-like. Thus, spiritual gifts and positions in the Church are not for personal gain and glory, but for the good of the whole. Clericalization occurs when ordained men think they personally have a unique power over others in the Church which these others must respect or even to which they must kowtow, rather than seeing themselves as servants to the others or as supporting the salvation of others. Laity can try for power grabs as well through parish councils/boards, by controlling parish finances or various committees. Rather than struggling against others for power, St Paul imagined the parish would be the place where Christians would support each other, build up each other, sacrifice for each other, and love one another always looking of the good of the entire parish rather than for one’s own interests.


In the desert fathers we read occasionally about their struggles to embody these Christian ideas. One comment laments that the ideal has been lost and the community was descending into sinful, secular thinking. It says whenever an individual tries to raise himself/herself up over others, they actually descend into hell and drag others down with them.

For in times past when the fathers were gathered together to each other they were wont to form bands and ascend into the heavens, but we are lax folk, and are dead in our sins.  Whensoever we draw nigh to each other we come to speak that which is hateful about one another, and one by one we are raised up that we may descend to the bottom of the deepest abyss. And we do not make to sink ourselves and each other only, but also the fathers who come to us, and the strangers who gather together to us, and also the people who are in the world who visit us as if we were solitary monks, and as if we were holy men, and to these last we become a cause of stumbling and loss. (The Paradise or Garden of the Holy Fathers (Volume 2), Kindle Loc 3705-10)


The only ‘power’ one has in the Church is to serve others, build up others, uplift others, support others, give to and for others. The only real power we have is to love one another for this power is from God.

So with yourselves; since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. (1 Corinthians 14:12)

I write this while I am away from you, in order that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority which the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down. (2 Corinthians 13:10)