Exhort One Another   
Hebrews 10: 24-25
By Paul Robison

 A devoted Dallas Cowboys football fan once hung out this sign out on the bleachers in the 40 yard line: “The opera ain't over until the fat lady sings,” meaning “Don't count us of the championship yet!”  It was his way of trying to exhort the team to play their best during the final games of the season.  Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2: “Preach the Word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching.”  This sermon is going to focus on that word “exhort”.  The English word “exhort” comes from two words: “ex” meaning “out” and “hortari” meaning “urge”.  So exhorting is urging something out of another or strongly admonishing another.  This sermon will use the journalist approach to examine the action of exhortation.
 
Look now at Hebrews 3:12-15: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today,' lest any one of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: 'Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.'”  If you look at the verses before these, the writer quotes from Psalm 95:7-11, a passage which shows that the Jews did not remain faithful to God and missed inheriting the Promised Land.  When we ask the question: “Who is to exhort?” we discover two answers.  This passage itself is the exhortation of a Christian leader, maybe even the apostle Paul, to a congregation of believers.  But also note in verse 13 how the writer commands these Christians to encourage one another—“but exhort one another”.  One commentator observed: “The writer views mutual exhortation by Christians as a great help against apostasy [or falling from grace]”.  So, church leaders and church members can exhort one another.  This is the “who” of exhortation. 
 
When we ask the question: “When should one exhort?”, the answer here might surprise you.  Notice how the writer says that the members here were to exhort one another “daily, while it is called 'Today'”.  Our time of exhortation is not just limited to Sundays and Wednesdays.  We are to be exhorting each other each day.  One writer made this good comment: “Today is the best time when God is still speaking to men, while yet there is opportunity, as long as the day of grace lasts” (Lightfoot).  We should exhort each other each and every day before Jesus' comes again.  This is the “when” of exhortation. 
 
When we ask the question: “Why should we exhort?”, this passage also gives several reasons.  First of all, exhortation can help keep us from having an evil heart of unbelief.  Just as the Jews failed to enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief, we also can fail to obtain heaven if we have evil hearts of unbelief.  Secondly, exhortation can keep us close to the living God.  Unbelief caused the Jews to depart from the living God, and that same unbelief can cause us to fall away from the living God.  We see a progression of how one can fall away from God: sin, a hardened heart, unbelief, and then falling away.  One commentator was right when he said: “Much exhortation is needed to gain the upper hand on sin [to see its deception, corruption, and destruction]” (Lightfoot).  How we need good insights of other Christians to help us stay on the narrow road that leads to eternal life!  Thirdly, exhorting one another helps us to keep running the Christian race.  Notice how the writer points out that the end of our Christian race is as crucial as the beginning of it.  We must be steadfast and endure: “For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.”  One commentator's observation rings true: “One of the highest of human duties is the duty of encouragement. ... The world is full of discouragers.  We have a Christian duty to encourage one another.

Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a [brother or sister] on their feet.  Blessed is the man who speaks such a word” (Barclay).  These three reasons are the “why” of exhortation.  So, this passage has given us the who, when, and why of exhortation.  Christian leaders and members should exhort one another daily before Jesus' return so that they can keep a pure and loyal heart, can stay close to the living God, and can keep running with perseverance their Christian race!
 
When we ask: “Where can we exhort?”, two passages help us out.  The first is Acts 15:32: “Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.”  We see from this passage that exhortation took place in a congregation.  Judas and Silas were visiting the brethren in Antioch, and the news had just been shared that the Gentile Christians did not have to keep the law of Moses, according the church leaders in Jerusalem.  These brothers used the assembly as a place to give their exhortation.  When a person forsakes the assembly, they are going to miss out on being spiritually strengthened!  We know that missing meals will make us physically weak. 
Likewise, missing worship assemblies and the exhortation that occurs there makes us spiritually weak.  Now look at Acts 27:22 for a completely different location: “And now I urge you [or exhort you] to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.”  The apostle Paul is speaking here to a group that has been adrift at sea.  An angel had appeared to Paul and assured him that no life would be lost, only the ship would perish.  These people were lost at sea, but they weren't lost to God's watchful eye.  Wherever there may be people who need to hear God's words of comfort, we can be Christ's ambassadors and give them His message of exhortation through the use of His Word!  So, the “where” of exhortation is in a congregation or anywhere people need to hear God’s comfort.
 
Now the next question is: “What can we exhort?”  This one will take a little longer because the New Testament offers many statements about this.  Luke records in Acts 2:40: “And with many other words, he [Peter] testified and exhorted them saying: 'Be saved from this perverse generation!'”  What an exhortation Peter made to his Jewish audience, and isn't it amazing that his message continues to ring true even today?  America is a great nation, but she also is a very wicked, perverse, and lost society, spiritually speaking.  God has provided a way of escape from this situation, but we must take the initiative to follow His plan of salvation.  “There is nothing you can do to be saved!' is Satan's lie!  Listen to God's Word, believe that Jesus is God's Lamb who died and rose to take away the world's sins, repent and get out of the sinning business, confess your need to follow Jesus, be baptized into His name for forgiveness, and live soberly, righteously, godly, and expectantly, as you long for Jesus' second coming!  This is the Gospel, and we need to be exhorting others to obey the Gospel before Judgment Day comes, and it is too late!  We can exhort: “Be saved from America's perverse society by obeying the Gospel!”  Luke provides another statement in Acts 11:23: “When he [Barnabas] came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged [or exhorted] them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.”  Barnabas lived up to his name, which means “son of encouragement”.  Here was a new Gentile congregation with many immature Christians.  Now notice that Barnabas does not try to make them follow Jewish customs.  No, he exhorts them to determine or resolve in their hearts that they will stay with and obey Jesus' teachings.  “Continue with Christ!” is a message that we can repeat to exhort other members in the Lord's church!  Luke gives us a third statement in Acts 14:21-22: “And when they [Barnabas and Paul] had preached the gospel in that city [Derbe] and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, 'We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God!'”  Paul and Barnabas didn't convert people and then leave them to fend for themselves.  No, they continued to teach and to exhort them.  Here they exhorted them with this message: “Continue in the faith and expect persecution!”  “The faith” means the Christian religion that Jesus and the apostles taught during the first century.  Jude describes it as “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”  This is the timeless faith that we read about in the New Testament; this faith is sufficient, and no other teachings of men should be placed along side it!  As Christians, Jesus warned us that we would face persecutions.  We MUST enter through tribulations.  The verb “must” shows us that we need to look at suffering for Jesus as a necessity.  Let's review quickly; we can exhort others to become saved if they are not, and we can exhort the saved to continue with Christ, to continue in the faith, and to expect persecution. 
 
We saw in Acts 27:22 how Paul showed the crew on the ship that God was near them.  Sometimes in life's storm, a gentle reminder that God is near can offer great comfort to another.  Now turn to 1 Thessalonians 4:1 where Paul's gives another statement: “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.”
Paul wants these saints to continue to live in such a way that they will please God.  Paul has taught them Jesus' commandments in the past, but now he gives them a quick refresher course.  Now notice what he exhorts in verse 3: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality.”   How do Americans look at the sin of sexual immorality?  In a survey published 1991, 62% of American think there's nothing wrong in having an affair (Patterson and Kim).  As a result, about one-third of our population has had or is involved in an affair.  And the average affair is a repeated relationship that last almost a year!  The author’s state: “Forget about Hollywood Wives and Hollywood Husbands.  Here's what's really happening in Boston and Birmingham and any other U.S. city or town you name” (Ibid.).  The apostle Paul exhorts these young Christians to stay away from affairs and to live holy and spiritual lives!  Notice, this command is God's will!  This is not a nice suggestion.  Despite what Americans believe and what so much of the mass media promotes, sexual immorality is still a sin that Christians are to avoid!  Let's exhort one another to live faithfully to our mates and to keep our marital vows!  Another statement is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2: “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.”  Some false teachers were claiming that Jesus had already come again, and it looks like they had written some letters and forged Paul's name on it.  Paul exhorts these members not to be shaken or troubled by these false teachers.  In situations where we find members troubled by false teaching, it is good for us to exhort them: “Don't be shaken!  Stay with the truth!”  Let's review again: we can exhort other members by stressing God's nearness, by emphasizing sexual morality and purity, and by encouraging members not to be shaken by falsehoods.
 
Paul gives another statement in 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”  
We should be a prayerful people, and we can encourage other members to be prayerful as well.  We can especially be prayerful for others' salvation and that other Christians can mature in Christ in peaceful situations.  Now look at 1 Timothy 6:1-2 where Paul writes another statement: “Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.  And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved.  Teach and exhort these things.”  The Christian slave's life and actions were to represent Jesus as they served their masters, whether they were believers or unbelievers.  Likewise, as Christian employees, we should watch how we act on the job so that our actions point others to Christ. 
We can exhort one another to be good ambassadors for Jesus while we are on the job.  Paul provides another statement in Titus 2:6: “Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded.”  The word for sober-minded can also be translated “serious, keeping one's head, curbing one's passion”.  Young Christian brothers, don't play around with sexual temptation and stay focused on living for the Lord!  Older Christian brothers, we are to be temperate or self-controlled and set the example for them (see v. 2).  Let's review again.  We can exhort brethren to pray for others, to show Jesus on the job, and to be focused on God! 
So, the New Testament teaches us these exhortations (the “what”) that we can share:  “Be saved!  Continue in Christ!  Uphold the faith and expect persecution!  God is near!  Live faithfully to your spouse!  Don't be shaken by falsehoods!  Pray for others!  Show Jesus at your job!  Stay focused on God!”
 
Now we can ask: “How are we to exhort?”  Paul explains how in 1 Thessalonians 5:14: “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.”  
Paul describes three Christian groups, and he says some we must warn, and some we must comfort, and some we must uphold.  Patience must be exercised with all members.  In other words, we can exhort by acting appropriately towards other members at their point of need!  This shows that we need to be sensitive to what other members' needs are.  Now look at Hebrews 12:5-6 for another way to exhort members: “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: 'My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.'”  Notice how the writer quotes Proverbs 3:11-12 to help the members here see that divine discipline demonstrates divine love.  An excellent way for us to exhort others is through using biblical passages to teach or illustrate divine truths.  “And that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-16).  God's Word can enlighten us, and strengthen us, and fortify us!  So, we can also exhort others by sharing what the Bible has to say about a matter.  Paul again shows us another way to exhort in Acts 20:31: “Therefore watch, and remember for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”  Paul says that his tears accompanied his exhortations.  Bro. Jimmy Allen in his commentary on Romans made this good observation: “One truth is clear: an unburdened, non-caring, dry-eyed Christian will save no one!”  And it could be easily added that an unburdened, uncaring, dry-eyed Christian will not help another to remain faithful.  So, we’ve learned the “how” of exhortation; we are to exhort at a brother or sister's point of need, to remind others of the Scriptures, and to let our tears of care be seen while we exhort others.
 
Someone has rightly observed: “Exhortation is the musical watchword that takes the grind out of living. ... An individual is never more Christ-like than when full of compassion for those who are down, needy, discouraged, or forgotten.  How terribly essential is our commitment to [exhortation]” (Swindoll).  Jean, a 214 pound homemaker desperate to lose weight, went to the New York City Department of Health, where she was given a diet devised by a doctor.  Two months later, discouraged about the 50 plus pounds still to go, she invited six overweight friends home to share the diet and talk about how to stay on it.  Today, 28 years later, one million members attend 250,000 Weight Watchers meetings in 24 countries every week.  Why was Jean able to help people take control of their lives?  To answer that, she tells another story.  When she was a teen-ager, she used to cross a park where she saw mothers gossiping while the toddlers sat on their swings, with no one to push them.  "I'd give them a push," says Jean.  "And you know what happens when you push a kid on a swing?  Pretty soon he's pumping, doing it himself.  That's what my role in life is--I'm there to give others a push" (bible.org).  As members of the body of Christ, we need to do a lot of pushing.  Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but EXHORTING ONE ANOTHER, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”  If you are not a Christian, there's no better time than right now to confess Jesus and to be baptized in His name.  If you failed to live as a Christians should, admit it, and let us pray that God will forgive and strengthen you.  Don't hesitate!  Be obedient!