Edification "the process by which believers are built up, that is, progressively advanced in knowledge and holiness.
1. The 'sacred writers perpetually employ this figure as their favorite illustration of the condition of Christians, as forming collectively the temple, succeeding that literal one on Mount Sion; the temple in which the Lord dwells by his holy Spirit; and as being, individually, "living stones, builded up into an habitation for the Lord."' 'The words "edify" and "edification" have so completely lost their literal signification in our tongue, that it would be reckoned even an impropriety to use them in speaking of the building of a literal edifice, and thus the reader loses the force and significance of the language of the sacred writers.' The word 'edify,' especially when applied to individual Christians, has often the sense of instruct; though in the 'Preface' to the 'Order of Confirmation' in the English Prayer-book. 'To the end ... to the more edifying,' the word is probably used in the sense already explained, not in the especial sense of 'instruct"' (Eden).
2. "To perceive the full force and propriety of the term as used by the apostles, it is quite necessary to keep in mind the similitudes by which they generally describe a Christian church. All those spiritual gifts, which were bestowed on the Christians were for the building and edifying of the members of the Church. The apostolical power in Church censures was for edification, not for destruction (2Co 10:8); to build, and not to pull down; that is, to preserve the unity of the Church entire, and its communion pure. And we may observe that this edification is primarily applied to the Church: that the Church may receive edifying; that ye may excel to the edifying of the Church; for the edifying of the body of Christ (1Co 14:5,12; Eph 4:12). And it is very observable wherein the apostle places the edification of the body of Christ, viz., in unity and love: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:12-13). Till we are united by one faith unto one body, and perfect man. And speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ; from whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual 'working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love (Eph 4:15-16). This is an admirable description of the unity of the Church, in which all the parts are closely united and compacted together, as stones and timber are to make one house; and thus they grow into one body and increase in mutual love and charity, which is the very building and edification of the Church, which is edified and built up in love, as the apostle adds, that knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth (1Co 8:1). This builds up the Church of Christ; and that not such a common charity as we have for all mankind but such a love and sympathy as is peculiar to the members of the same body, and which none but members can have for each other" (Hook, Ch. Dict. s.v.).
3. "Many professors, and even teachers of religion, not greatly liking such union and its obvious consequences, yet finding much said in the New Testament; of the attainments and comforts of the first Christians have studied to devise means of enjoying these comforts separately. Instead of the objects that chiefly drew the attention of the first believers, they have endeavored to fix the attention of Christians on a multitude of rules respecting the particular conduct of each in his devout exercises his attendance on ordinances, and the frame of his heart therein. But this is a scheme of religion of mere human device. Nothing can be plainer from the whole tenor of the Acts of the Apostles, and their epistles to the churches, than that it is the will of Christ his disciples should unite together, holding fellowship in the institutions of the Gospel; and also that, as he in his infinite wisdom and grace has made abundant provision for their comfort, establishment, and edification, so these blessings can only be effectually enjoyed in proportion as they obey his will in this respect.