If you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.
Acts 12:24-13:15 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.
25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them John, who was also called Mark.
13 Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper. 6 When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, 7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. 8 But Elymas the magician (for so his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. 9 But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him, 10 and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord? 11 Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.” And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand. 12 Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.
13 Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem. 14 But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, “Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.”
I was struck by the first and last words of today’s text: The word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied “Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.” Paul and Barnabas were “sent out by the Holy Spirit.” In Acts 1:8 Jesus says: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." As witnesses for Christ, we too should offer words of exhortation. What does it mean though to exhort others in Christ? Exhortation is defined as: to encourage: to incite by argument or advice : urge strongly: : to give warnings or advice : make urgent appeals. Far too often we focus on or stop completely at the encouragement. If we will fully acknowledge the importance of our call and commission in Christ, recognizing the consequences for those to whom we are witnesses, we will be encouragers, but we will also be exhorters. Jesus says: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20) “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16) More than being those who only encourage others, knowing the consequences, we should be those who urge them strongly. We should appeal to and warn them. We should incite them to believe, knowing that those who disbelieve shall be condemned. We should teach them to observe all that Jesus commanded.
Our culture and our society have become polarized on almost every issue, political, social, economic and spiritual. We need to understand that the polarization, the division of people against each other is not of God, but of the devil. In Matthew 12:25 Jesus says: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” We can see the desolation of our society and our culture as we allow ourselves to be divided against one another. The buzz word of our culture in regards to division is tolerance. But tolerance will not stop division. Tolerance is defined as: capacity to endure pain or hardship: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own. Tolerance causes pain or hardship. We tolerate things that we don’t like or agree with. Tolerance will never bring us closer together. The pain and hardship we endure will make the division even greater. As believers then what are we to do? Romans 12:21 says: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. We do not overcome evil by tolerating it. We overcome evil with good. Galatians 5:16-26 says: Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please… Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (In Matthew 5:19 Jesus says: “Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” Tolerance teaches others to relax the commandments of Jesus.) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law… If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus says: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” We should not be those who tolerate darkness. Rather we should exhort the world with light.
Tolerance denies, hides even lies about the truth. Ephesians 4:11-15 says: He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ. John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. If we would truly love others we would be those who do not tolerate sin and darkness, but rather speaking the truth in love, we would exhort, urgently encourage them to know the love of God demonstrated in the cross. We would testify of Christ, wanting them to know and believe that Jesus died for their sins.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit may I: empowered and sent by the Holy Spirit be one who exhorts others. May I walk in the fruit of the Spirit. May I shine the light of Christ and may I speak the truth in love that there may there be unity in You, that the word of the Lord would continue to grow and to be multiplied. Amen.