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An Exhortation for Exhorting Brothers

Sunday morning exhortations should encourage, comfort, heal, and strengthen one another.
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The Sunday morning exhortation should be more than an exposition, more than a word study, more than a class on first principles, and more than a talk about the signs of the times. These sorts of presentations all have their places among us. But the exhortation is primarily an introduction to the service of the bread and the wine and an aid to our remembrance and self-examination.

The exhortation should emphasize God’s holiness and His purity, as well as His love. It should emphasize the great responsibility of our calling to serve Him. It should not be the place to criticize other churches or criticize one another. Instead, the exhortation should encourage, comfort, heal, and strengthen one another.

In fact, the Greek words which are translated “exhort” or “exhortation” mean exactly that. A survey of how the Greek words (paraklesis and parakaleo) are used in the New Testament reveals that 95% of exhortations in the Bible involve positive encouragement, while a mere 5% have to do with negative criticism.

An exhortation should show us Christ.

Above all else, the exhortation should show us Christ. Wherever our thoughts and words take us as we contemplate God’s message, there we will find Christ. He is the central character in the Bible and the person who we should keep at the forefront of our minds and our hearts.

Our Sunday service should be a memorial. It is not a sacrifice, but it memorializes—that is, it helps us to remember—the one perfect sacrifice which Christ offered to his Father on our behalf. It is one way in which we remember the act that gave us the most wonderful gift imaginable, the divine grace and mercy which Paul called “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Eph 3:8 KJV).

Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. (1Cor 11:25).1

The bread and wine primarily help us to remember the sacrifice itself. This is expressed in Hebrews 10:12-14:

When this priest [that is, Christ] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

In this brief passage the writer to the Hebrews brings out several very important points:

  • Christ, and not any Levitical priest, can offer this unique sacrifice.
  • Christ’s sacrifice is absolutely effective for all time, as well as for all people who believe in him.
  • Christ’s sacrifice occurred only once; it cannot be repeated, and it does not need to be repeated.
  • We are made “perfect” (i.e., complete) in holiness, having our sins forgiven “for all time,” that is, forever, by this one sacrifice.
  • However, this “perfection” is not achieved all at once. It is achieved by a continuously ongoing process, in which we work together with God and His Son. By this partnership of effort we “are being made holy.”

This final point—how we are being made holy—stresses how important it is to meet together and take the bread and wine. It is the primary means by which we can work together with our heavenly Father and our Savior to continue the process by which we are finally made both “perfect” and “holy.” It is not optional; it is an absolute necessity and must be repeated time after time. This is why the writer to the Hebrews adds this in the same chapter: 

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb 10:22-25).

If we are to live up to the New Testament pattern, we should be a family gathered around a table, partaking of a meal while remembering an absent member. It is an uncomplicated act, an act of loving companionship. It is an act of warmth and friendship and familiarity, not an act of pomp and ceremony. If the exhortation has done its work, then we will leave the Memorial Service feeling and acting as though we have been changed for the better:

When they [the high priest and the other priests] saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13). 

George Booker,
Austin Leander Ecclesia, TX

1 All Scriptural citations are taken from the New International Version, unless specifically noted.

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