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.”
Today’s text ends saying: 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.” One of the synonyms of exhortation is encouragement. It seems that much of the church today stops at seeking and speaking encouragement from the word, rather than exhortation of the word. Many focus on the encouraging things we receive by grace and not what we must do to walk in grace. Exhortation is more than just encouragement, it is also: admonition, entreaty, caution, counsel, advising, persauding and more. 2 Timothy 3:16 says: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Colossians 3:16 says: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. It is good for us to be encouraged by all that is available to us and for us in Christ; all the promises we have as children of God. But it is necessary that we be exhorted to do the things we are called to walk in those promises.
Every minister of the gospel and every believer in the gospel should hear and receive the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 4:1-5: I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. Many today fill churches where encouraging words are spoken each week. Uplifting songs and hymns are sung to and by the people. Yet there is little if any exhortation. Because of fear that the people will not endure sound doctrine, there is no rebuking and reproving; there is no training in righteousness. Look at the charge Jesus Himself gives to His disciples in Mark 16:15-18: “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. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” The gospel message is more than just encouragement. It is a life and death message. People need more than just to be encouraged by all that is good. They need to be exhorted to choose between evil and good; to choose between salvation and condemnation.
In Matthew 4:17, from the very beginning of Jesus ministry, it says: From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Like Jesus, the early church which we read about in the Book of Acts did not preach a message of encouragement, but rather an exhortation to repent, for people to change the way they think and act. The signs and miracles Jesus spoke of in Mark 16 accompanied the early church because they believed and preached the truth. The gospel message is more than a message of encouragement. It is a message of choice. The choice offered by the message of the gospel is no different than the choice God offered in Deuteronomy 30:15-20: “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” For us, the promise is not a physical land with boudaries. For us the land we are promised is the kingdom of heaven. It has no boudaries and it has no limitations to all that is available to us and for us. It does though require that we choose. In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus exhorts us to choose saying: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Today then, may you be encouraged in Christ and the promises of the word. But even more may you be exhorted to choose life over death; the blessings of God over the curse of sin. In Christ, may you choose righteousness and obedience, so that you will enter the promise of the kingdom of heaven.
Thank You heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ and precious Holy Spirit for Your unchanging word and Your unchanging promises. I believe and so I choose to repent and change the way I think and act. Encouraged and exhorted by Your word, I choose life. I choose prosperity. I choose obedience. I choose righteousness in Christ. Amen.