March 20, 2011
The Spiritual Gift of Exhortation:
“But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.”
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I ate dinner with two friends of mine recently. My unbelieving friend made a point of telling my believing friend of my failures as a Christian, particularly in dealing with other people who had annoyed me. My unbelieving friend acts like this very often. Spiritually, he loathes talking about spiritual things. I also asked my unbelieving friend when was the last time he saw me fail when I was talking to people who were annoying me. He admitted he had not seen it in years. You see, when we fail, people remember it for a very long time. Near the end of the conversation, my unbelieving friend asked my believing friend to recount my failures too. That believing friend declined. My wife got up and left the table and told me later she does not like “needling” from other people. If they needle me, they will needle her too, she fears. With me, I intend to love unbelievers and anticipate they will act like unbelievers. I want to still love them, no matter what they do. I have many faults even today. Fortunately, God sends people, even unbelievers, to reprove me (Proverbs 12:1–I want to be less stupid). I also recall that people have long memories of people acting badly.
In the life of Paul the apostle, Barnabas played the role of Exhorter at times. When Saul of Tarsus converted to following Christ on the Damascus Road, he became Paul the Apostle of Christ Jesus. At Damascus, Paul preached salvation in Christ Jesus and the Jews there sought to kill him. He fled, with the believers’ help, to Jerusalem. There, Paul met Barnabas. Everyone in Jerusalem knew Saul of Tarsus as the number one destroyer and persecutor of the church. The believers feared him and wanted to stay away from him; they did not believe he was a disciple (Acts 9:26). Now watch what a person named Son of Encouragement (Barnabas) does.
Encouragers Take Hold of a Person. Barnabas took hold (“ἐπιλαβόμενος“) of Paul when everyone else was afraid to go near him. People with The Spiritual Gift of Exhortation take hold of another believer. Notice here that Barnabas knew the facts about Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:27). Barnabas did not just grab Paul at random, but rather Barnabas knew the facts of his conversion and familiarized himself with Paul’s preaching and testimony. Notice too that Paul wanted to associate with the believers in Jerusalem, but the believers feared to associate with Paul, because he had ravaged the church (Acts 9:26).
Encouragers Bring People with Them. Barnabas also brought Paul into fellowship and contact with other believers. Not only do people with The Spiritual Gift of Exhortation take hold of particular saints, but they also bring them into contact and fellowship with other believers.
Encouragers Learn and Speak of the Testimony of the People They Hold and Bring. Barnabas knew the conversion story of Paul. Barnabas told others of Paul’s conversion, and then other believers were more inclined to associate with Paul. Remember, Paul preached in Damascus and faced death there from the Jews incensed by his preaching of Jesus as the Christ. After Barnabas laid hold of and spoke for Paul, he was able to move about freely in Jerusalem, “speaking out boldly in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:28).
So we learn more about The Spiritual Gift of Exhortation today from the life and ministry of Barnabas.
● We learn that people using The Spiritual Gift of Exhortation lay hold of another believer and provide spiritual introductions when others fear to get near the new comer.
● We learn that the people using The Spiritual Gift of Exhortation encourage the unwelcome believers to associate with other believers, and everyone gets to know the power of Jesus Christ in converting even murdering persecutors of the church into apostles.
● We hinder unity when we stay aloof from new believers and do not get to know them, because we cannot overcome our fears and doubts.
Application for Today
Today, I want to see believers encouraged and united. For some of you, you have this wonderful Spiritual Gift of Exhortation that allows you to reach out to unwelcome believers, and bring them into the fellowship. For others, we need to greet each believer in love. Who will you bring to Christ today?