We all like encouragement, and generally find it ‘easy’ to encourage each other. The more difficult one is exhortation. I like to define exhortation as a loving and kind kick in the pants. It is about motivating to do what is right, and to get back on track when distracted. This command could also be described as discipline that helps you get back on track with God’s plan.
To exhort one another is a command. First it is given to elders and pastors, since they have spiritual authority over the church, and a responsibility to care for God’s people. 1 Timothy 4:13 Paul instructs pastors, like Timothy, to exhort the believers. This is just as vital to their spiritual health as teaching from the scriptures, prayer, and encouragement. 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul instructs pastors, like Timothy, to use the Word of God to convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. It is a disciplinary kick that must be done both gently and firmly, with patience and love. Discipline always takes time and teaching to be effective. Titus 2:15 Paul instructs pastors, like Titus, to exhort and rebuke by the authority God has given, letting no one disregard.
Exhortation is not just for the elders and pastors, but must also be done by every believer as we are enabled and prompted by God. Hebrews 3:13 The writer instructs all believers to exhort one another ‘daily’ so that you do not become ‘hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.’ We must be careful that people do not see our exhortation as judgment against them, but rather loving correction to help them get back on track.
Acts 2:40 Peter is preaching to the multi-cultural group in Jerusalem. His exhortation is to “save yourselves from this crooked generation.” He had just finished giving the first great sermon of the new church on Pentecost. The people asked what they needed to do about this message. Peter responded by explaining that they needed to repent and be baptized. His exhortation to save themselves was a plea to accept the gift of salvation provided by Jesus Christ in order to not get carried away or distracted from the dangerous teaching of the day. This is a similar cry to what genuine preachers of the gospel must give today. Our world is getting further and further from God. We must be urgent in our call to those we love regarding salvation.
Acts 11:23 With much pressures toward legalism prevailing, Barnabas exhorted the new believers in Antioch to “remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.” So many churches, even today, are distracted by various doctrines and legalistic teaching. We need to be exhorted to remain faithful to the true gospel, and God’s purpose for us of making disciples in His name.
1 Thessalonians 2:12 Paul exhorts the believers as a charge, to “walk in a manner worthy of God.” This should sound familiar to those who have been listening to our messages through Philippians. The main exhortation to all believers throughout all of history is to walk in God’s ways, such that God is honoured.
Hebrews 12:5 The writer describes the discipline of the Lord as exhortation that gets you back on track with His ways. Do not resist or get weary of it, rather receiving it as truth that needs to make a change in your life. The passage continues, saying that all discipline is painful at the time it is received, but is always helpful in getting us in line with what God wants. We must receive it well, and learn from it. Exhortation is a form of discipline, and keeps us accountable to each other.
1 Peter 5:2 Peter exhorts all pastors that they do their job well and with the right motives, as they are held to a very high standard.
May we learn to give and receive exhortation graciously, knowing that it will make us more like Christ. It is a reminder that we cannot do anything on our own!!!