Reading 4 – Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Exhortation–Love and Encouragement
By Humberto Ajucum, Puerto Rico
“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.” Romans 12:6-8.
As we have read and heard, one of the gifts that God has given His church is “exhortation.” It is perfect, as are all the gifts, because He who gives it is perfect, as the apostle says: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1:17. We read that Jesus “ascended up on high,… and gave gifts unto men.” For what purpose? “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:8, 12. God is perfect, and He gives means to uplift His children. Today, we will unite in prayer to petition the great benefactor, our God, to help us understand and possibly receive the gift of exhortation.
What is exhortation?
Careful! “To exhort” is not to nag, as some think. Someone could think that God has entrusted to him with the gift of exhortation and that authorizes him to scold or mistreat his fellowmen, thus doing more harm than good by using rough, harsh, severe speech. The Scriptures warn us not to provoke our children to wrath or anger. Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21. Nagging is not a gift, nor is verbal abuse or attacking people. Exhortation is not cursing, censuring, or condemning others. It is rather giving warning or notice to attempt to persuade someone. According to the dictionary, to exhort means to “strongly encourage or urge (someone) to do something.” The Greek word translated “exhort” is parakaleo. In the New Testament, it includes “to call to one’s side, call for, summon to address, speak to,… to admonish, exhort to beg, entreat, beseech, to strive to appease by entreaty, to console, to encourage and strengthen by consolation, to comfort, to receive consolation.”1 Similarly, the Greek word translated as “exhortation” is paraklesis, used in almost all New Testament passages to mean “imploring,” “exhortation,” “consolation,” etc.2
Purpose of the gift
The apostle Paul says, “Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation.” Romans 12:8. The Common English Bible Version says, “If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging.” One is not simply to exhort by exhortation but to exhort in the manner, form, and style of God. The repetition of the words “exhort” and “exhortation” emphasizes that in the exercise of this gift divine guidance must be present if its purpose is to be achieved.
Other instruction we want to present here is the value of such ministry done with a sense of one’s own responsibility and trust in God. Commenting about the gifts, Sister White writes: “Many who are entrusted with some humble line of work to do for the Master, soon become dissatisfied, and think that they should be teachers and leaders. They want to leave their humble ministering, which is just as important in its place as the larger responsibilities. Those who are set to do visiting, soon come to think that anyone can do that work, that anyone can speak words of sympathy and encouragement, and lead men in a humble, quiet way to a correct understanding of the Scriptures. But it is a work that demands much grace, much patience, and an ever-increasing stock of wisdom.” –(Letter 88, 1895, pp. 4, 5) Manuscript Releases, vol. 11, p. 279.
The purpose of exhortation is to restore or rebuild, to improve the spiritual life of the one receiving the counsel, to go to his rescue. Both the one who exhorts as well as the one who is being exhorted should be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit so the will of God is done.
“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:10.
“The knowledge of God’s grace, the truths of His word, and temporal gifts as well–time and means, talents and influence–are all a trust from God to be employed to His glory and the salvation of men. Nothing can be more offensive to God, who is constantly bestowing His gifts upon man, than to see him selfishly grasping these gifts and making no returns to the Giver….”
“Angels of God, whose perceptions are unclouded by sin, recognize the endowments of heaven as bestowed with the intention that they be returned in such a way as to add to the glory of the great Giver…. God calls for the consecration to His service of every faculty, of every gift, you have received from Him. He wants you to say, with David: ‘All things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee.’ 1 Chronicles 29:14.” –God’s Amazing Grace, p. 62.
“Different gifts are imparted to different ones, that the workers may feel their need of one another. God bestows these gifts, and they are to be employed in His service; not to glorify the possessor, not to uplift man, but to uplift the world’s Redeemer. They are to be used for the good of all mankind by representing the truth, not testifying to a falsehood.” –Manuscript Releases, vol. 6, p. 386.
“In every word and act, kindness and love will be revealed; and as each worker fills his appointed place faithfully, the prayer of Christ for the unity of His followers will be answered, and the world will know that these are His disciples.” –Testimonies for the Church,vol. 9, p. 146.
“God dispenses His gifts as it pleases Him. He bestows one gift upon one, and another gift upon another, but all for the good of the whole body. It is in God’s order that some shall be of service in one line of work, and others in other lines–all working under the selfsame Spirit. The recognition of this plan will be a safeguard against emulation, pride, envy, or contempt of one another. It will strengthen unity and mutual love.” –Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, pp. 314, 315.
Exercising the gift
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 2 Timothy 4:1-4; see also 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12.
One should not give exhortation to give the impression that one feels superior to others and is belittling them. One should exhort with wisdom, love, firmness, respect, and purity, showing a good example. The exercise of this and other gifts requires wisdom from above, and expresses the inspired mind: “Skill in the common arts is a gift from God. He provides both the gift and wisdom to use the gift aright.” –Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 314.
Precious inspired counsel concerning exhortation is also found in the apostle Paul’s writings. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” “… But be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee,…” “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.” “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” Galatians 6:1; 1 Timothy 4:12-14; Titus 2:15; 2 Timothy 4:2.
As God desires
“As you go to the one you suppose to be in error, see that you speak in a meek and lowly spirit; for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. The erring can in no other way be restored than in the spirit of meekness, and gentleness, and tender love. Be careful in your manner. Avoid anything in look or gesture, word or tone of voice, that savors of pride, or self-sufficiency. Guard yourself against a word or look that would exalt self, or present your goodness and righteousness in contrast with their failings. Beware of the most distant approach to disdain, overbearing, or contempt. With care avoid every appearance of anger; and though you use plainness of speech, yet let there be no reproach, no railing accusation, no token of warmth, but that of earnest love. Above all let there be no shadow of hate or ill-will, no bitterness, nor sourness of expression…. Bear in mind that the success of reproof depends greatly upon the spirit in which it is given. Do not neglect earnest prayer that you may possess a lowly mind, and that angels of God may work upon the hearts you are trying to reach, before you, and so soften them by heavenly impressions, that your efforts may avail….
“Sometimes the mildest and tenderest reproof will have no good effect. In that case, the blessing you wanted another to receive by pursuing a course of righteousness, ceasing to do evil, and learning to do well, will return into your own bosom. If the erring persist in sin, treat them kindly and leave them with your Heavenly Father.” –Review and Herald, July 17, 1879.
“Men and women who, with their different organizations, are brought together in church capacity have peculiarities and faults. As these are developed, they will require reproof. If those who are placed in important positions never reproved, never rebuked, there would soon be a demoralized condition of things that would greatly dishonor God. But how shall the reproof be given? Let the apostle answer: ‘With all long-suffering and doctrine.’ 2 Timothy 4:2. Principle should be brought to bear upon the one who needs reproof, but never should the wrongs of God’s people be passed by indifferently.” – Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 358.
Not everyone will respond positively
“The person who is drawn again and again by his Redeemer, and who slights the warnings given, yields not to his convictions to repent, and heeds not when he is exhorted to seek pardon and grace, is in a perilous position. Jesus is drawing him, the Spirit is exerting His power upon him, urging him to surrender his will to the will of God; and when this invitation is unheeded, the Spirit is grieved away. The sinner chooses to remain in sin and impenitence, although he has evidence to encourage his faith, and more evidence would do no good….” –That I May Know Him, p. 244.
“God requires His servants to be always in earnest to do His will. In the apostle’s charge to Timothy he exhorts him to ‘preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.’ 2 Timothy 4:2.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 359, 360.
What exhortation should not ignore
In respect to this, it is recorded: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1.
“We are threads in the great web of humanity, and, as such, related with each other. Our life leaves upon the minds of others impressions which will be transferred even into eternity. Angels take note of our works, of our words, of the spirit which actuates us. Those who desire to reform others must begin the reformation in their own hearts, and show that they have acquired kindliness and humility of heart in the school of Christ. Those who have charge of others must learn first to master themselves, to refrain from blunt expressions and exaggerated censure. There are cutting words which are indulged in, which may offend, hurt, and leave upon a soul a scar which will remain. There are sharp words that fall as sparks upon an inflammable temper. There are biting words that bite like vipers….
“By trying to correct evil in a hasty, cross spirit, two evils will be created instead of correcting one. Mutual support is essential. It is the fruit of the Spirit which grows upon the Christian tree.
“A radical conversion must take place as regards the manner in which the various minds are to be dealt with…. If harsh language is used; if for difficulties small or great a spirit of impatience is manifested which stirs up and irritates, there will soon be a state of things worse than if nothing had been done to correct the evil. If such dispositions are entertained by believers; if everyone feels free to utter hasty words, we shall have miserable hearts, miserable families, and in the church, discord and dissension.
“But there is a Christlike way of settling all these things. The presence of Christ’s love in the heart will lead to love the very ones who are astray and who are in the wrong….
“‘Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.’ James 3:13.” –The Upward Look, p. 59.
In the time of the end
Exhortation is needed not only when a brother has committed a fault, but also when one desires to encourage brothers and sisters to overcome problems and difficulties and considers how to encourage them to be faithful. The following quotations give us some examples.
“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:19-25.
“We must have a knowledge of the Scriptures, that we may trace down the lines of prophecy and … see that the day is approaching, so that with increased zeal and effort we may exhort one another to faithfulness…. Give up our faith? lose our confidence? Become impatient? No, no. We will not think of such a thing…. Let us lift up our heads and rejoice, for our redemption draweth nigh. It is nearer than when we first believed.” –That I May Know Him, p. 348.
“It will not be an easy task to work for the Master in this age. But how much perplexity might be saved, if workers continually relied upon God, and duly considered the directions that God has given. He says, ‘Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.’ Romans 12:6-8.” –Ye Shall Receive Power, p. 213.
Watchmen on Zion’s walls
The need of exhortation when danger approaches is very timely. Referring to the prophet’s mission to His people, the Lord commanded him: “So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at My mouth, and warn them from Me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it,… thou hast delivered thy soul.” Ezekiel 33:7-9.
What is true for the prophet still has broad application to the ministers, workers, church elders, and all who are entrusted with the care of souls.
Ministers, preachers, and leaders “are to stand as watchmen on the walls of Zion, to sound the note of alarm at the approach of the enemy….
“It is the privilege of the watchmen on the walls of Zion to live so near to God, and to be so susceptible to the impressions of His Spirit, that He can work through them to tell sinners of their peril, and point them to the place of safety. Chosen of God, sealed with the blood of consecration, they are to rescue men and women from impending destruction. Faithfully are they to warn their fellowmen of the sure result of transgression, and faithfully are they to safeguard the interest of the church. At no time may they relax their vigilance. Theirs is a work requiring the exercise of every faculty of the being. In trumpet tones their voices are to be lifted, and never should they sound one wavering, uncertain note. Not for wages are they to labor, but because they cannot do otherwise, because they realize that there is a woe upon them if they fail to preach the gospel.” –Gospel Workers, p. 15.
Men of opportunity
“Satan has laid every measure possible that nothing shall come among us as a people to reprove and rebuke us, and exhort us to put away our errors. But there is a people who will bear the ark of God. Some will go out from among us who will bear the ark no longer. But these cannot make walls to obstruct the truth; for it will go onward and upward to the end. In the past God has raised up men, and He still has men of opportunity waiting, prepared to do His bidding–men who will go through restrictions which are only as walls daubed with untempered mortar. When God puts His Spirit upon men, they will work. They will proclaim the word of the Lord; they will lift up their voice like a trumpet. The truth will not be diminished or lose its power in their hands. They will show the people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 411.
Our final exhortation to our dear brothers and sisters around the world is that we direct our attention to the Most Holy Place to receive the power promised by the Lord for the completion of the sacred gospel commission. Bearing in mind that for every gift received there are joyful results and wonderful blessings, let us encourage each other to use the chosen means of the spiritual gifts God has placed among us. Let us also remember that for every gift we are accountable to God. Therefore, let us take advantage of our favorable opportunities and accept the responsibility for carrying out our sacred duty. God bless us now and forever. Amen.
1 Strong’s Concordance, #3870.
2 Ibid., #3874.