Years ago, I worshipped with a small group of believers who did a church plant in Bellingham, Washington. They named the plant, “Oikos,” a transliteration of the Greek term οἶκος, which simply means “house.” I thought it was a pretty cool name for a church plant.
But variations on the term οἶκος take us in some interesting interpersonal directions. Consider this statement from the apostle Paul, and then we will look at the relationship it has to the “house.”
This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down. – 2 Corinthians 10:13, NIV-1978
Do you see the house? I suspect you do.
When Paul says Jesus has given him authority to “build up” rather than to tear down, he uses the term οἰκοδομὴν (oikodomein). He describes this task as that of architecting and building a home, calling himself a “master builder.”1 But it is not just Paul who has this calling. We are given that responsibility as well.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. – Romans 14:19, NIV-1978
Every effort to edify/build . . . not just taking a pretty good stab at it. We are called to do everything we can possibly do to live at peace with one another, to build each other up, to edify our brothers and sisters in Christ. Even today, we use the term “edifice” to describe structures/buildings of imposing size or appearance.
Just a few sentences later, Paul says this:
Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. – Romans 15:2, NIV-1978
In both cases above, Paul uses the same term derived from oikos. We are builders, but not building structures. We are building men and women, disciples, Christ-followers. We are edifiers, and we edify with wisdom and with purpose.
Paul contrasts so-called knowledge with love saying, “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”2 He later tells the church at Corinth that prophetic gifts are for the oikodomein (edification/building up) of others, and then in that same exhortation says that all things are to be done for that edification, and yes, he uses the very same term.3
Paul uses the term to call the leaders (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers) to equip and build up the body of believers, to architect them into a unified, mature community of Christ-followers.4
Jesus uses oikodomos when he speaks of the wise and foolish builders. The wise man built on the solid, rock foundation. The fool built on the sand. Jesus used the same root – oikos – to describe this act of building. Thus, edification is an action we engage, and it is the resulting structure we build.
But the climax of this story is that we, you and me, are also being built. We are that edifice, that impressive structure. And emphasis is seen in both forms of oikos here.
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him — you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house a to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:4, NIV-1978
Peter says that we, as stones, are οἰκοδομεῖσθε οἶκος (oikodomeisthe oikos). We are “being built as a house, an edifice.” So, it is something we do, it is something that results from our actions, it is something done to us, and it is what we are becoming.
A skilled builder has tools and uses tools in conducting and perfecting their craft. As a master-builder, the very words you speak are such tools.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up [οἰκοδομὴν] according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. – Ephesians 4:29, NIV-1978
We do not merely react with these tools. We actively seek the edification of others. Indeed, as we noted earlier, “all things” are to be done for the edification of the church. Such edification is our goal, an outcome we plan for and strategically pursue.
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding [οἰκοδομῆς]. – Romans 14:19, ESV
Just as we pursue this edification of others, and we employ our tools in that pursuit, there are also pursuits which draw us away from our desired end.
As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship [οἰκονομίαν] from God that is by faith. – 1 Timothy 1:3, NIV-1978
When we are engaged in the work of God, pursuing what we are to pursue, submitting the edification others pour into our lives, the result is something quite beautiful.
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. – Acts 9:31, NIV-1978
1. 1 Corinthians 3;10
2. 1 Corinthians 8:1
3. 1 Corinthians 14:3, 26
4. Ephesians 4:11-12