By John Issac Edwards
The Bible is filled with inspired exhortations. An exhortation is “an utterance, or address conveying urgent advice or recommendations” (The Random House College Dictionary). Let’s consider the exhortations that Paul, Silas, and Timotheus delivered to the brethren at Thessalonica. “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men” (1 Thess. 5:14).
Warn Them That Are Unruly
The duties that Paul addresses here are such as appertain to all Christians, and should not be left to be performed by preachers only. As children of God, it is our obligation to warn, or admonish, those whom we know to be living contrary to the requirements of the gospel of Christ. Notice the warning that God gave Ezekiel long ago, if he failed to warn the unruly. “Son of man, I have made thee a watch-man unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul” (Ezek. 3:17-19). A failure to warn the unruly meant “that the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.” Thus, Paul announced to the elders of the church at Ephesus, “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27). Can you say that you are “pure from the blood of all men,” or have you been neglecting your duty to “warn the unruly”?
Comfort the Feebleminded
In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul exhorts Christians to encourage the fainthearted. The feebleminded, or fainthearted, are those who require constraint as the others need restraint. Perhaps an individual was at one time energetic in doing the work of the Lord; but when persecution and opposition came, this person grew discouraged and disheartened. It then is our responsibility to revive these individuals, to encourage them to continue laboring in the vineyard of the Lord. Paul, after assuring the Thessalonians that those who die in Christ have hope, said, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words”(l Thess. 4:18).
Support the Weak
Paul does not have reference to those who are physically weak sick; but those who are spiritually weak, whose faith is insecure. It is then up to those who are “rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith” (Col. 2:7), to “bear the infirmities of the weak” (Rom. 15:1). If the weak are not supported by the stronger, then they will most likely be “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men” (Eph. 4:14). May gospel preachers, elders, and teachers never shun to pro-claim the “first principles of the oracles of God” (Heb. 5:12), so that the “babes” may have the milk that is needed to grow and to develop into strong, mature Christians (1 Pet. 2:2).
Be Patient Toward All Men
As God is long-suffering and merciful to all (2 Pet. 3:9), so ought we to be toward all men. Long-suffering is that of restraining oneself in midst of harassment and vexation. Instead of growing angry and retaliating, one is to persevere and have mercy. Notice what Paul said about charity, or love; “charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” (1 Cor. 13:4). This is the type of love that we need to cultivate for both our fellow-laborers in Christ and those outside the body of Christ.
May we all give attention to these exhortations, incorporate them into our lives, and then teach them to others.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 5, p. 11
March 3, 1994