Thursday, September 26, 2013

Biblical exhortation, and the modern Silence of the Pulpits

"I exhort you!" "I beseech you!' We read those biblical phrases a lot. So. What do they mean?

That is what this blog essay is about.

"Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching." (1 Timothy 4:13)


Paul is urging Timothy to be bold and stay strong. Timothy was a pastor. However, exhortation is not only for pastors. Gills Exposition says of the verse,

"Exhortation" intends the stirring up of believers to the exercise of grace, and the discharge of duty; and is a considerable part of the work of the ministry, and on which a minister of Christ should much insist; -

Mike Ratliffe on the same verse
What is exhortation? In 1 Timothy 4:13, the word I translated as “exhortation” is the noun παρακλήσει, which is the Dative, Singular form of παράκλησις or paraklēsis, which refers to an “admonition or encouragement for the purpose of strengthening and establishing the believer in the faith (Romans 15:4; Philippians 2:1; Hebrews 12:5; 13:22). Technically, an exhortation is the application of the exposition of scripture. It challenges God’s people to obey the truth of God’s Word and warns them of the consequences of not doing so.

The pastor exhorts the believer, and the believer exhorts the believer. As a matter of fact, some believers have been given the gift of exhortation!

"Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness." (Romans 12:6-8).

GotQuestions explains the gift of exhortation,

"The gift of exhortation is a person’s unique ability to encourage and edify others. This person delights in finding Scriptures that apply to a situation and teaching others how to apply them. People with this gift are often involved in teaching, counseling, and discipleship training ministries within the church. Exhorters are among the first to find believers who are floundering in their faith. They come alongside the weaker ones to encourage, confront, if necessary, and model victorious living.

Jesus exhorted and John the Baptist exhorted. Their first words and the main thrust of their ministries were to tell people to repent. Believers should exhort people to repent, whether you have the gift of exhortation or not. It is what Jesus came to do, seek the repentant and save the lost. As His ambassadors it is what we are here to do.

GotQuestions again, "Regardless of our primary gifts, all Christians should desire to become better at exhortation to build up those who are weaker, encourage those who lead, and strengthen the Body of Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Corinthians 1:4)."

So what else should we exhort about? --Peter also exhorted to people that they should repent. (Acts 2:38).
--John exhorted to people about truth. (3 John 4).
--James exhorted people to good works in Christ (James 2:17-18)

So if pastors are urged to exhort, and believers with the gift are urged to exhort, and believers without the gift are urged to exhort, why isn't the church exhorting?

Christians are being persecuted everywhere! Chased, hunted, killed, and churches burned! Here is a snippet from an article called The Silence of the Pulpits

If you are even slightly awake about the world news today, it is no surprise that Christians are being killed, raped, and brutalized throughout the Islamic world.  However, there is a place where you can go to  escape the dreadful and relentless details of Christian annihilation by Islam.  You can just go to church.  ...
The principal reason public opinion hasn't been galvanized around the persecution of Christians is that the various church leaderships either ignore or dance around the issue. If churches don't speak up forcefully, then it is unrealistic to expect the world's democratic governments to do the same.And so the response found in nearly every church to the murder of Christians is...wait for it...complete silence.  Not a mention or reference to it, or to the brutality against Christians that happens almost every day in the Islamic world.  This is not a passive silence, because if you try to change it, you will fail.  The silence is an active, working conspiracy that goes throughout nearly all of Christendom."

The article's author goes on to propose that the reason for the silence means one must examine the who the people are doing the persecuting, and since facts are the enemy today, they don't like speaking about the fact that Muslims are doing the killing. (ans why are Muslims doing this Christian-killing? They hate Jesus).

If we are supposed to exhort unto the truth in opposition to false doctrine, as John modeled for us, then why is there a deafening silence from evangelicals?

John MacArthur on the Deafening Silence of Evangelicals
"There is a widespread reluctance in the evangelical community to offer strong, biblical critique in response to theological error. And the glut of unrestrained charismatic teaching serves as a glaring example of that. Theological pacifism has inadvertently given license to many false teachers. They have free reign to misrepresent the Holy Spirit and mislead the people of God by proclaiming their imaginings as direct revelation from the Lord. Believers cannot sit and watch as such blasphemy poisons the minds of people looking for the truth."

No, a person is not being humble and gentle when they remain silent and do not exhort when they should.

Bill Muehlenberg said in his essay "The Sin of Remaining Silent – and Doing Nothing"
"Remaining silent and inactive about evil when we have a chance to make a difference is not just cowardly, but sinful. We are called to be proactive in promoting that which is good and resisting that which is evil. Apathy, fence-sitting and refusal to engage are not options for the biblical Christian."

If a sister is reading a book you know for a fact to be thoroughly permeated with false doctrine, will you sit still and say nothing? If a precious brother says he is a Christian but refuses to go to church to hear the word and worship Him, will you let it go? If you are a pastor and you know for sure that a member is watching porn, or engaged in adultery, should you exhort that brother or sister to repent? Yes you should.

Paul told Titus that as an elder he should encourage those who are in sound doctrine to continue and refute those who contradict. (Titus 1:9)

Exhort with all due love to the brethren and others! Stay strong and speak up. Exhort!!

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Further reading

This is an excellent and practical essay on street preaching.  found it helpful even though I am not a street preacher. It's a practical treatise on engaging with people in exhortation.

Thoughts on street preaching

What the Bible says about speaking up

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