An Epistle Written Unto the Christians
Christ called his disciples his friends (John 15.14), and all but John forsook him at the hour of his death. Their physical presence was an aspect that was missing in the hour that it was desired. When Christ washed his disciples’ feet he had to touch them physically, he could not have used livestream services to do this thing.
What then can we gather from the physical aspect of the Christian brotherhood? Well, when the disciples received the Holy Ghost they were together in prayer. When Paul was converted Ananias came to him, put his hand on him and called him brother. There is a warm greeting in Christian friendship that does not lend itself nearly as heartily to letters or phonecalls, for although these things are good, they should never become the norm for Christian friends.
A Martyr from Nazi Germany
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Christian who lived in Nazi Germany during Hitler’s reign and during WWII. When Hitler came to power, Bonhoeffer was on the radio reproving the nation, and explaining that Hitler was bad for the country. Throughout Hitler’s reign, Bonhoeffer taught Christians, had fellowship, and continued to preach against the Nazi regime. Because of these actions, they hanged him in 1945. Throughout the war, he rebuked Christians across Germany for forsaking the Jews, forsaking each other, and for turning their backs on Christ. He always discussed the importance of having friends, and being in fellowship. He cited scripture, written by the Apostles Paul and John, that spoke of the nearness they desired to have to their friends, and I have no doubt this was most important to the martyr when he was in a concentration camp near the end of his days. But even the demise of his flesh shews forth the reason for the physical aspect of Christian friendship being so important, for although the Nazis destroyed his physical body, Bonhoeffer himself went to be with the Lord. For to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5.8). While we yet live, however, a major aspect of our Christian walk is to exhort the brethren, as Bonhoeffer did.
Exhortation is encouragement, incitement, advising, and counseling. These are words rarely used to describe what churchgoers receive from a church service these days. Words or phrases heard instead are: exciting, or “the speaker was excellent”, or “that was a good message”, or “I really enjoyed the music”, or “wow free toilet paper!” Is the point of exhortation to entertain? The exhortation of the brethren is an important part of being a child of God that many have forgotten about or have never known. A Christian must first be watching so that he may exhort. Bonhoeffer understood what was happening around him, and he knew the clouds of war were brewing, and he exhorted his country to recognize it too.
Scripture to exhort
1 Corinthians 16:13 Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
-Watch: to remain in God’s will and word
-Stand fast in the faith: a statement that explains that there are some who DO NOT stand fast in the faith, this means they do not stand firm in their faith in Christ. This allows false doctrines to creep in.
-Quit you like men: which is to say “don’t quit” for true men don’t quit
-Be strong: this is impossible to do without the Lord, as the Lord is our strength
-But the end of all things is at hand: the day of the Lord is quickly coming as Jesus himself even said “behold I come quickly”
-Be ye therefore sober: this means not to abuse anything that might alter your mind, emotions, or will
-And watch unto prayer: not only read scripture, but pray over it, pray and read
This is an exhortation from the Apostles, and the way to describe what the apostles have said here is to “Watch”. It is written:
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.Hebrews 10:23-25
We see that trials are to work patience (James 1:3-4), and through trials a brother is an encouragement (Matthew 26:37-38, 2 Corinthians 2:13, 7:6, Philippians 2:25-27). These scriptures show the ease of standing together in the faith of Christ. And as for the exhortation of the saints, it is seen so vividly in Hebrews 10:24: We must consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.
The Necessity of words in exhortation
The examples of exhortation are clearly seen: Jesus told his disciples to pray, Paul was comforted by Titus, and Epaphroditus was an example unto the brethren of someone who would give his life for Christ. The preaching and teaching of the pastor is good, but the exhortation of the saints is not bound to exhortation by one man, but by many and any that God uses for the time appointed, as read in the Holy Scriptures.
Proverbs 15:22-23 Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established. A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!
The Necessity of meeting for exhortation
And so, we must not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is.
We read that we should not waver in our faith in Christ, but have a solid foundation and to stand fast. Yet there are some who have forsaken the assembling of themselves together, and it is because they are not standing firm in their faith in Christ, but wavering.
Now here is the test, if one believes that they are standing they must now take heed lest they fall. If a brother is not assembling with the saints is he exhorting any? The scripture in verse 25 says not forsaking, but exhorting. Who are they exhorting, how are they exhorting, and when are they exhorting if they are not assembling? Paul even said to assemble and exhort more as ye see the day approaching. This can only be done by watching, watching, watching.
The results of exhortation
It is written:
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
We can see here the fellowship of friends who have come together for: support in their labor, comfort in their trials, defense against evil, and strength through adversity. In short: these are all exhortation, yet it required the meeting of them together for these to occur.
We should be thankful in our hearts for the friends God has given us. Christians in China are imprisoned, beaten, and killed for meeting for the worship of Christ and the exhortation of the brethren, and the same happens in many places that lack the same freedoms we enjoy in the United States. Bonhoeffer stated that we should be grateful to live among other Christians and not those of the wicked world, and this was a man who would soon after die for Jesus Christ in Nazi Germany and be separated from every Christian brother and sister that he loved.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
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