While doing a study on Romans 14, I disgressed and ended up doing a word study on the Greek word that is often translated “build up” in the writings of Paul. In the gospels the word specifically refers to the physical buildings of the temple, while Paul uses the word to apply to the spiritual building or temple which is composed of the “stones” of believers in Christ. In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul specifically tells the church that they are “God’s building”, and Paul uses this word in several of his writings, each time to highlight the priority of building the church, but each time highlighting a specific way we should hold up the priority of building the church.
In the passage in 1 Corinthians 3 Paul warns anyone to be careful how they build on the foundation he has laid, to use ”precious stones” rather than “hay & straw”. This likely refers to the soundness of doctrine and teaching, which Paul knew was vital to the healthy building of the church.
In Romans 14:19 Paul urges us to pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. In this passage his principle is that personal convictions(regarding matters like eating, drinking, and feast days) are not to interfere with building the church. “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.” Can’t get much more direct than that.
In Romans 15:2 Paul brings out a related theme, that we should “each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” Building the church takes precedence over pleasing ourselves. Start to see a pattern?
In Ephesians 2:21 Paul says that the prejudice between Jew & Greek has been nullified by our oneness in Christ. All separations and divisions are to come down in the name of building Christ’s church.
In Ephesians 4:11 Paul switches gears and speaks of the special offices of ministry, such as pastors & teachers, being appointed for one purpose(guess?), to build up the body of Christ. He goes on to say that each member of Christ’s body, when he or she is playing their unique God-given role, is helping the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Later in the chapter, he warns to let no corrupting talk come out of our mouths, but only that which is good for building up(v. 29).
In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul speaks of the misuse of spiritual gifts simply for show. This can apply not only to specific spiritual gifts but to almost anything we say or do in our lives. It is so easy to subtly let our actions be guided by our needs for our egos to be massaged. Instead, Paul simply says, “Let all things be done for building up.”(v. 26). And so we should—everything in our lives, every aspect, centered on glorifying God and building the body of Christ.