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?
The 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.