“...they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 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.’ Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, ‘Men of
, and you
who fear God, listen...’” (Acts 13:14-16). And Paul delivers this “word of exhortation,”
or encouragement, from the Scriptures (13:17-41). After connecting Christ to
their history and describing His work in the world, the apostle calls them to
respond: “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him
forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes
is freed from all things...therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in
the Prophets may not come upon you” (13:38-40). Paul’s idea of “exhortation,”
or encouragement: knowledge/belief in Christ unto freedom from sin & salvation
from the curse of the Law & Prophets upon sinners. We cannot excise God’s
wrathful curse against sin from our “encouraging word” in the sermon! Israel
- Encouragement in a “word of exhortation” comes from the whole Scripture (Romans 15:4), including the threats against sin. Paul ends his sermon with a quote from Habakkuk 1:5, "Behold, you scoffers, and marvel, and perish; for I am accomplishing a work in your days, a work which you will never believe, though someone should describe it to you" (13:41). Wow! How different this is from what we would consider an "encouraging message"!
- Such a “word of exhortation” is a work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, Who gives to some the gift of prophecy for this purpose (1 Corinthians 14:3). Being easily tempted to either tickled ears (2 Timothy 4:3) or crush them with a misguided love of power over the people (Matthew 23:6,7; 2 Corinthians 1:24), we need and require the help of God the Holy Spirit to speak through us, or the moment of the sermon is utterly in vain.
- “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13).
Holy Spirit, give this “word of exhortation” through Your prophet-preachers today from “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27) from Your Scripture to Your Church.