March 19, 2011
The Spiritual Gift of
Acts 12:23, Page 1722
“Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord;”
Every born-again believer in Jesus Christ has received a spiritual gift from the Lord Jesus Christ. The term used to describe the gift of exhortation in Romans 12:8 literally means to call along side of you (“παρακαλῶν“). In Romans 12:8, Paul did not define this term. Therefore, I take the position that he meant his readers would be familiar with the normal usage of this term, preserved for us in Scripture, and it would serve as our guide to understanding this spiritual gift.
The Greek term translated here as exhortation has diverse applications in the New Testament. As you read through these varying uses of the term to call along side, I interpret these passages below as examples on the one hand of spiritual activities all believers will do at times, but, on the other hand, the person with the spiritual gift of exhortation in the forms described below will have a special gift from God to edify believers and build up unity. Let us explore some of those uses to gain insight into the different ways God gifts people to exhort in His name and in His ministry to the Body of Christ.
Exhortation/Imploring. The centurion came to Jesus, imploring Him to help a tormented servant (Matthew 8:6, page 1512). Although the centurion was not demonstrating the spiritual gift of exhortation, he does illustrate the passion of the gift of exhortation when it comes to imploring. Paul implored the Ephesians to walk worthy of their calling (Ephesians 4:1, page 1830). One aspect of the spiritual gift of exhortation includes the gift of imploring people to take action, and specifically, to do the will of God. In your life, I am sure that you can recall a time when someone implored you to walk with God, to do His will.
Exhortation/Comforting. The comforting aspect of the spiritual gift of exhortation has several important aspects.
Comforting the Afflicted. God Himself really cares about each believer and comforts them. He also provides the spiritual gift of comforting, which goes beyond the duty and privilege of every believer to comfort others. Some believers who have the spiritual gift of comforting have been trained by God using affliction in their lives. Even while they are still suffering with their own afflictions, by God’s strength and gift, they reach out and call alongside others suffering their own afflictions and comfort them with God’s comfort they have experienced first hand (2 Corinthians 1:4, page 1804). When believers face serious affliction and need comforting, God sends a person with the spiritual gift of comforting.
Comforting the Grieving. When believers see a loved one die, we do not grieve as other people who have no hope. We comfort one another with the knowledge that each believer has left the body, but is present with the Lord. Furthermore, each body will be resurrected in glory when Christ Jesus comes in the clouds to rapture His saints in Christ. The saint with spiritual gift of comfort will apply God’s gracious truth to the grieving in a special outpouring of spiritual activity (1 Thessalonians 4:18, page 1850).
Comforting the Repentant. Every believer must comfort believers who confess their sins, so that they will not be overwhelmed by sorrows (2 Corinthians 2:7, page 1806). Yet, this spiritual gift of exhortation provides special comfort for restoring the repentant soul as it hurts from sin. Indeed, when the church imposes discipline upon a believer, the goal will always be restoration (Galatians 6:1, 1826). After repentance, restoration comes with comforting. In contrast to the exhortation gift that implores, or exhorts in the narrow sense, this gift follows up with people who have strayed, repented and now need comforting.
Comforting the Depressed. God comforts the depressed, and sometimes does so through sending people to comfort you (2 Corinthians 7:6, page 1811). The word used for depression here (“ταπεινοὺς“) means low, humble, or brought low with grief. God used the arrival of Titus to encourage Paul and his companions. The spiritual gift here brings comfort to the grieving, the lowly, the emotionally turmoiled and downtrodden.
Exhortation/Appealing. Another area of exhortation includes appealing. Jude appealed to believers to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints (Jude 1:3, page 1912). Compare the effect of love motivating Paul to appeal to Philemon for Onesimus his runaway slave (Philemon 1:9, page 1868; compare Philemon 1:10 for same word used to appeal). Some believers possess the special gift of interceding for another person, and appealing for them and appealing to another believer to do the gracious thing.
Exhortation/Urging. The ministry of urging believers falls into four related areas.
Urging Sensible Living. Paul urged the young men to be sensible (“σωφρονεῖν“) (Titus 2:6, page 1866). At times, we all need urging to live a more sensible, and less unrestrained, life. In particular, this word sensible includes the idea of restraining passions. God gifts some people to urge you to live under control, and not in runaway passions. While this gift may be full of emotion like imploring, it also brings all emotions under the control of God.
Urging Completion. Likewise, Paul and his group urged Titus to complete the spiritual work among the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8:6, page 1812).
Urging Believers to Get Along. This urging may be directed to fellow believers to get along (Philippians 4:2, page 1839). Some believers possess the gift of getting people at odds with each other, and yet true believers, to reconcile and live together in peace.
Urging Believers to Abstain from Fleshly Lusts. Peter urges the believers to abstain from fleshly lusts (1 Peter 2:11, page 1895). Fleshly lusts plague all believers, but some believers God empowers with a special gift to urge us to abstain from indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind.
Exhort. Exhortation has the traditional meaning of advising, instructing, and calling upon urgently. As we have seen above, each aspect of this gift has different examples given in the New Testament.
Exhort/Teaching and Refuting. As we hold fast the faithful word of God’s teaching, we will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict (Titus 1:9, page 1866). In this case, the exhorting focuses upon taking action based upon the teaching of the word of God.
Exhortation/Preaching. Biblical preaching includes, but does not only include, exhorting believers with the Word of God. Exhortation includes holding forth in preaching the word of God (Acts 20:1-2, page 1739).
Paul also exhorted the Thessalonians to Godly living (1 Thessalonians 4:1, page 1849). The same idea is used of urge and exhortation in Hebrews 13:22, page 1887). The spiritual gift of prophecy also relates to the exhortation flowing from the prophecy, and means the application of teaching (1 Corinthians 14:31, page 1800). This spiritual gift links the Word of God with action based upon it. That action can be refutation, instruction, and application of teaching.
Exhortation/Encouraging. In contrast to what many believers think and practice, God wants to encourage your life. Believers must encourage one another and build up one another in Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:11, page 1850). The spiritual gift of encouragement often includes a note of urgency.
Encouraging Today. Because of the deceitfulness of sin, and the way it hardens our hearts, we need encouragement right now, today. We must encourage one another as long is it is “Today,” so that no one will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13, page 1872).
Encouraging Strength and Faith. Paul sent Timothy ahead to Thessalonica to strengthen and encourage their faith (1 Thessalonians 3:2, page 1848).
Encouraging To Endure Tribulations. This encouragement also applies to strengthening souls to continue in the faith, and to endure tribulations (Acts 14:22, page 1728). As believers, tribulations will come into our lives, and we should consider ourselves blessed. God has already made us more than conquerors, and believers gifted by God with encouragement remind us of that fact all the time.
Exhortation/Conciliating. Finally, consider the ministry of conciliating. Paul said when slandered (“δυσφημούμενοι“), he tried to conciliate (1 Corinthians 4:13, page 1786). While we all should follow the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12, page 1506), God provides a special gift of reaching out to people who are speaking evil untruths about you. This type of conciliation touches the lives of the believers who have created significant distance in their relationships with other Christians. Conciliation brings them together, even in the face of one person being sinful.
Summarizing this spiritual gift of exhortation does not seem easy, except to make the following points.
1. Exhortation comes in many Biblical forms.
2. Exhortation is up close and personal.
3. Exhortation literally involves getting close to people in love, and calling to them in love, with a purpose.
Beverly my wife went through this study with me recently. She said: “Wow, I may have this spiritual gift now that I understand it.” I suspect that many Christians have never taken the time to study the spiritual gifts, and know more about God has gifted you for service. Remember that our spiritual unity and maturity depend upon all of the saints, and not the “clergy,” doing the work of service to God.