“The act of encouragement is wonderfully simple and good, but extraordinarily difficult for sinners. So my encouragement to you (and myself!) would be to lean hard on the Spirit and ask for help. Reflect afresh on the gifts God has given you and think how those can be used in new and lively ways among the saints.”
The answer is quite simple: encouragement.
Now not just your own encouragement, which is important enough, but the encouragement of others. That’s the aim. That’s where the emphasis falls.
In a section like 1 Corinthians 12-14, where Paul addresses spiritual gifts, and the attendant misuse among the Corinthian saints, the apostle exhibits both a clear and sustained emphasis upon encouragement.
Here’s a sampling to make the point. Why are gifts given?
- “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor 12:7)
- “That the members may have the same care for one another.” (1 Cor 12:25)
- “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” (1 Cor 14:13)
- “Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.” (1 Cor 14:5)
- “So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.” (1 Cor 14:12)
- “For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up.” (1 Cor 14:17)
- There is also, sandwiched between the two chapters highlighted above, a Niagara Falls like emphasis upon love. Love is the linchpin for encouragement. Without love how can one truly encourage their brothers and sisters in Christ? See chapter 13.
Paul wants the saints to be encouraged. He presses home the point time and time again, urging the Corinthians to use their gifts, and in particular, the things they say, to build up the people around them.
The takeaway for me just that. How do I use my words at church? Do I aim to build others up? Is it an active ambition of mine? Do people inwardly groan when they see me approaching? Or do they feel encouraged and built up in Christ once the conversation is over?
The act of encouragement is wonderfully simple and good, but extraordinarily difficult for sinners. So my encouragement to you (and myself!) would be to lean hard on the Spirit and ask for help. Reflect afresh on the gifts God has given you and think how those can be used in new and lively ways among the saints.
Austin Brown is a letter carrier is and a deacon in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA). This article first appeared on Gentle Reformation and is used with permission.