Summary: Every Christian needs to be exposed to exhortation. The word covers a lot of territory. It includes comfort, consolation, counsel, and such words as entreat, beg, implore, and persuade. It covers about anything you can think of that motivates people to act, or to change their behavior.
Several years ago I went to hear J. Allen Peterson one of the nation's most dynamic leaders in
ministering to families. He told this true but tragic story. One of the finest couples laboring in the
field of marriage enrichment, who had written 5 books that were very helpful, and who had held
seminars all across the country, had suddenly gotten a divorce. He was so shocked that he flew to
the city where they lived and called it their home. The wife was grateful he had come, and she shared
with him what had happened.
She explained how she and her husband had been so busy trying to enrich other people's
marriages that they neglected their own. They had all the answers, but they forgot the most
important part, which is the doing of what they already knew. That is why the body of Christ
needs the gift of exhortation. It is never enough to know. We must also be motivated to do, and
that is the job of those with the gift of exhortation. The teacher shows us the way, but the exhorter
moves us to walk in it.
John the Baptist is the first person in the New Testament who demonstrates this gift. Luke 3:18
says, "So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people." John did not just
tell people the good news of the coming Messiah, but he moved them to actions, and to do
something about it, which was to repent, be baptized, and to live a life pleasing to God so as to be
ready for His coming. Exhortations are an appeal to the will to act on what is being taught to the
mind. Teaching and exhortation go hand in hand, but teaching appeals to the mind to understand
truth. Exhortation appeals to the will to act on what is understood. The goal of teaching is
knowing; the goal of exhortation is doing.
The fact that Paul separates these 2 gifts means that it is possible for an excellent teacher to
impart valuable knowledge to others, but not have the gift to motivate them to do anything with it.
That is why Christians need exposure to many different types of leadership. One or two may have
excellent gifts that benefit you greatly, but may not have that which motivates you to action.
Every Christian needs to be exposed to exhortation. The word covers a lot of territory. It includes
comfort, consolation, counsel, and such words as entreat, beg, implore, and persuade. It covers
about anything you can think of that motivates people to act, or to change their behavior.
It usually follows teaching and preaching as it did on the day of Pentecost when Peter ended his
great message. In Acts 2:40 we read, "And he testified with many other words and exhorted them
saying save yourselves from this crooked generation." That exhortation moves three thousand to
be baptized and join the church. It is not enough that they were taught the truth about Jesus. They
had to be motivated to accept Him and obey Him as Lord of their lives. Preaching tells of Jesus
being the Messiah. Teaching explains how He fulfills Old Testament prophecy. Exhortation
motivates people to do something about it.
It is not enough to teach a child how to hang up his coat in the closet. You can show him just
how it is done over and over, and still he will throw it on the floor. What is needed is some
exhortation. You say something like, "You hang it up like this or else." Some words that go
beyond teaching are often needed to motivate the child to do what he knows. We all know more
than we do, and so our greatest need is to be exhorted to do it, and sometimes we need the threat to
get us going.
Paul used this kind of exhortation in writing to the Thessalonians. In II Thess. 3:10-15 we
read of how Paul dealt with some lazy Christians. "For even when we were with you, we gave you
this command: If anyone will not work, let him not eat. For we hear that some of you are living
in idleness, mere busy bodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in
the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in quietness and to earn their own living." Then in order to
motivate them to give heed to this exhortation Paul says to the body in verse 14-15, "If anyone
refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he
may be ashamed. Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother."
Here we see exhortation operating in the family of God just as it does in your family. You tell