Tag: Master Builder

The Gift of Exhortation – Part 1 – W.E. Smith

FULL ARTICLE IS LINKED HERE.

Now, my point is this, that when it comes to the heavenly order of the Church, all ministries, all appointments, all positions, all relationships exist solely for the increase of Christ. That is the thing which governs all. No one has any position or ministry which is merely official. What is position in the Church from the heavenly standpoint? What is ministry in the Church from the heavenly standpoint? What is the significance that attaches to all the relationships of the Lord’s people? They are all, by Divine intention, for the increase of Christ. I suppose that we will accept that, so far as the special ministries are concerned. Yet that might need examination. Such as exercise those special ministries are not there to give addresses or to preach sermons. In the heavenly order, there is no ministration of any kind which does not mean a ministration of Christ to the increase of Christ, so that the Church becomes more fully Christ in expression, and any ministry that does not, or that cannot, lead to that is not in the heavenly order. (T. Austin-Sparks, from “The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus”)

Dear saints, our prayers for all of you persist in this dread hour, such that you will be wholly equipped in all things pleasing to our Blessed and Soon-Coming Lord and King, Jesus Christ. Please in turn pray for us that we too will grow in all wisdom and holiness, as He makes us ready to be received by Himself at His imminent appearance. The hour is dark dear brethren, and (sadly) the darkness covers all the world and even the testimony of Jesus Christ, to the degree that Christians seek their collective purpose in the kingdoms of men, not their Master. Are we each redeeming the hours left to us, such that the Lord Jesus is being increased in every one of us, in the Body as a whole? Are we building each other up in Him, through all of the ministrations of the Spirit, as Austin-Sparks reminds us?

exhortationThe Lord willing, I would like to share a message on the spiritual gift of exhortation to be exercised on behalf of His little ones. This, like so many areas in  Scripture, has been too little understood and exercised among the church of Christ. By His grace we will dig deeper into such matters, here a little and there a little, to see what the Spirit has to say.

To exhort (parakaleo in the Greek) means to call near, to invite, to urge strongly, to beseech or implore others to action, to make a forceful appeal for some kind of immediate response. The word ‘Exhortation’ is derived same Greek term translated comforter, helper and counselor in the 16th chapter of John’s gospel. And a careful study of the Word will reveal that exhortation is the basis for much of the epistles delivered to the saints in the New Testament, and that it is a spiritual gift in its own right.

Consider Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 14 –

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (Rom. 12:1-8)

Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying. (1 Cor. 14:1-5)

[Livingwalk Note: The gift of exhortation and prophecy are very closely related in the epistles and often Paul uses them practically synonymously]

Here we discover that each member of the body is to exercise gifts according to the “grace given to us” and “according to the proportion of our faith“. The very health and spiritual vitality of the Body is dependent on this. To some it is given to prophecy, to others to serve, to teach, to lead, to give, to show mercy, and to still others, to exhort. All of these various gifts are granted and empowered by the grace of God for the edification or building up of the body, and each member is to exercise such gifts based on the “proportion of his faith“.

What does this mean – “proportion of his faith“? Well, not only is each member granted a differing gift, but not all are given the same degree of faith (in the exercise of that gift), as the Lord conveyed in the parable of the talents (Matt 24) and minas (Luke 19). To each servant is given a certain portion to invest (or exercise for the profit of the Master Builder), while He is away. When He returns, there will be an accounting (at the Judgment Seat) of each servant’s faithfulness in transacting His Master’s business with whatever portion he was given.

Now in a very substantial sense, His business involves the establishing and development of His Church (“I will build My Church”) in preparation to reign with Him in His Kingdom, and each member of the body is to invest the talents given to him by exercising gifts for the building up (edification) of the body. It is vital in God’s plan that each son brought into His household by the grace and provision of the Lord, fully matures in the life of God such that he might enter into all that the Master has planned for him.

In other words brethren, Paul is laying down the practical application of what our Lord suggested previously in these parables to His own. And to certain individuals, the talent or gift given, is that of exhortation. Let us therefore consider this further as the Spirit permits.

Before we do, let us back up a bit and consider what Romans 12:9-12 tells us about the exercise of all such spiritual gifts –

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer…

Here then, we are given the over-arching and under-girding principles by which all gifts are to be expressed as intended by He who grants them –

  • Sincere service, without hypocrisy (singular in intent and heart; not seeking honors or promotion in the church by the exercise of the gift; see Luke 14:10)
  • A commitment to what is good (regardless of the cost in terms of acceptance or popularity; because character and integrity always look to God’s approval and not to that of men)
  • Brotherly love and devotion (to pour oneself out for the Body, as did the Lord, placing the needs of others ahead of our own; see John 15:12)
  • Fervency of Spirit (only harm and self-glory can result if the flesh and not the Spirit is the source of anything in the church)
  • Serving the Lord (because all of us will be judged according to our faithfulness at His Coming; see Rom 14:10, and here)
  • Rejoicing in Hope (because the edification or preparation of the Bride all leads to the future hope of glory; reigning with Christ as His consort Queen in the Kingdom of God)
  • Persevering in tribulation (because not all will welcome or appreciate the authentic exercise of these spiritual gifts in the church)
  • Devoted to prayer (because the faithful steward is most humbly aware that he must be about his Master’s business, and both the provision and the results must come from Him alone)

Brethren, for 2,000 years now there has been much activity conducted in the church of Jesus Christ, much of which has been well-intended and carefully conceived. Great human talent and planning has been directed at any number of great goals in churches and groups all over this world. Seemingly it seems, every mode and method of “doing church” has been devised, tried and tested. And yet, to those with true spiritual sight, they have all failed miserably, because Christians, by and large, have forgotten that it is the Lord alone who (as the Master Builder) will build His church, and the Holy Spirit who will make ready the Bride; and not men.

And He will build His church by equipping and empowering each member of His Body to actively fulfill select responsibilities and functions, for the preparation and edification of the whole. It is the role of the Holy Spirit to reproduce Jesus Christ, the perfect man, within those born again in the spirit, and we must acknowledge that quite often, He elicits the service of other members of the Body in carrying this out. And as we shall see, the gift of exhorting the brethren, as with all of the gifts, is absolutely essential if the Bride is to be ready at the Bridegroom’s return.

Continue to Part 2

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The Gift of Exhortation, Part 2

Go to “The Gift of Exhortation – Part 1

Let us continue in this study by considering what the Scriptures reveal regarding this ministry and gift of exhortation, as inspired and directed by the Holy Spirit.

Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit. (1 Thess 4: 1-8)

enochHere we see brethren, that exhortation, strictly speaking, is not the same as teaching, although it is an earnest pleading for those being exhorted to walk according to the manner laid down previously in the teaching; to enter in and possess the fullness of that promised in the teaching in other words. There is always a need it seems, while we are in the flesh and the world, to be exhorted to continually and actively appropriate the blessings and promises of God by faith, as expressed by His Word (both the Living Word and the Scriptures which contain that Living Word).

In verse 2 above, we see that the Apostle Paul had earlier given the injunctions related to how they should walk in this newness of life. And here he was merely exhorting them to continue walking in them, to live the life, to press onward into the very fullness and holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ. For the Christian faith, this is nothing less than a living walk originating in, and empowered by the Living Word that came down from heaven. It is not enough to merely receive some teaching about what this life means or represents, but we are urged to actually enter into this life, to apprehend (through teaching) and appropriate it (by faith) in all of its fullness and reality. Because we so readily seem to forget this essential fact, and allow our testimony to become little more than hollow religious experience, the Holy Spirit is constantly reminding us of what “newness of life” actually means; that it is an existence apprehended and appropriated by faithful obedience to every word breathed by God. This, when all else is said and done, is the aim of all spirit-breathed exhortation – to appeal to, and encourage believers to appropriate all that the Lord Jesus Christ has wrought for them, and promised in His Word. It is, therefore, not a gift for the faint of heart, or those who so readily shun controversy or opposition. For with such a gift, comes also a God-given courage and boldness to direct His truth and light to wherever He chooses.

Notice, for example, how frequently in his epistles Paul is urging and beseeching, exhorting and encouraging his readers to do more, to go further, to run faster, to grip tighter, to labor more intently, to focus more narrowly on what it is out ahead, to be careful, to exercise wisdom, to be adequately equipped, to fight the good fight of faith, to move on towards maturity  (and the list goes on).

And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,  and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.  Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thess 5: 5-22)

For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. (2 Thess 3:10-15)

Again, there is an obvious correlation between teaching on the one hand, and exhortation on the other. They are often mentioned together in Scripture, and it would be a rare teacher indeed who would never exhort his students to apply that being taught. And yet in Romans 12:8, we see the gift of exhortation identified as a distinct function of the body, quite apart from that of teaching. This being so, it is well worth our time to dig deeper to comprehend how the gift of exhortation is to be expressed and directed by the Holy Spirit.

Notice in the verse mentioned above that Paul is exhorting the brethren in Thessalonica “through our Lord Jesus Christ“. The very basis of his appeal is through, or by the authority of, the Master. Now to exhort through the Lord Jesus Christ suggests that the exhortation (whatever it happens to be) flows from the Master Himself, and His intuitive understanding of the condition of the Body. It is (and must only be) His perfect perspective from which the exhortation to change, or continue, or to do anything must come. And so if any of His servants are to exercise the gift of exhortation for the edification of the Body in the sense laid down in Scripture, then it can never be derived from their own opinion or judgment of what is needed. What we see simply doesn’t matter, and in another sense, we are not even permitted to judge another man’s servant (Rom 14:4). Only He who searches the heart can know the true condition of any individual or company of believers at any moment in time.

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at[a] His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:2-5)

Those exercising the spiritual gift of exhortation are to do so with “all longsuffering and teaching” (or patience and instruction). The sense here is that exhorting the brethren into the deeper things of Christ is not a ‘one time, fix all‘ proposition, but a continuing calling, requiring patient devotion and love toward those being exhorted, especially as we draw nearer to His coming for His own. A helpful illustration might be that of a devoted and loving parent training children. Any parent knows that it is not enough to merely teach your child something important once and for all; but there is a perpetual need to patiently exhort them in the required behavior or pattern. Patience, therefore is not an option for the fruitful exhorter of the brethren. Note the depth of such patience and longsuffering in the Apostle Paul, throughout all of his letters to the saints as an example. And lest we think this is a quality or disposition found naturally in the human heart, it is most definitely not. Galations 5 reminds us that patience and longsuffering are fruit of the Holy Spirit, just as exhortation is a gift of the same Spirit.

We also observe above that the imperative for spiritual exhortation flows out of the times and seasons, as lying in the foreknowledge of our Lord and Master. Indeed, the great falling away, or apostasy of the last days, as revealed in the Scriptures, may well be upon us brethren, and yet there will always be a remnant who hunger and thirst for the authentic life of God and His righteousness, regardless of the many who have chosen the broad way that leads to emptiness and rejection at His Coming.

There must also be a willingness, on the part of exhorters, to “endure hardship” in the exercise of their gift. Now there will always be those in the church, perhaps the many, who will not suffer to be exhorted to change their ways, or forsake the path of men for the path of God. For them the deeper things of Christ, and the fullness of His Life mean little, for to them church is about affirming all that they are already, and for tickling their ears with sugary reinforcement. To them (like the official teachers and religious leaders of Jesus’ day), he who exhorts is most decidedly unwelcome, and to be silenced at all costs. This is why, brethren, our churches are too often filled with syrupy, man-affirming believers, who are blind and ignorant of the faith once delivered. This is also the reason the word of exhortation has, for the most part, moved beyond the walls, and the days before our Lord’s Appearing are short.

Continue to Part 3