Acts 13:13-15
13 Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem. 14 But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, “Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.”

I love this passage!  This is the first time I recall reading it, as it isn’t a memorable passage.  It gives details of Paul and his entourage leaving the small island of Crete and John returning to Antioch.  But pay attention to what is happening here.  They are there to preach the Gospel of Christ, right?  Look at what Paul did though.  He read the Law and the Prophets, a common practice among Jews in the synagogue on the Sabbath day.  The leaders said, “please brother, teach us.”  This was all the invitation that Paul needed!

Tomorrow we will view the sermon that Paul gives, but today let’s focus on this request we see coming from the Jewish leaders.  How often do we ask others to exhort us?  First, we must get over what we think exhortation means.  We have likened it to mean, “a good talking to,” which usually involves being scolded and told we are wrong, walking away with our tail tucked between our legs.  Let me “exhort” you about that.  Exhortation actually means encouragement and edification.  It is an appeal to comfort and consolation, lifting someone up to a higher level of living and understanding.  Exhortation isn’t a negative thing…it’s a positive thing!

What we see here is what we saw in Jesus’ original followers.  These men wanted to learn more about God.  They hungered and thirsted for righteousness.  They wanted to be edified.  How often do we ask people to “school” us in something so we can become better?  We generally see this as a challenge of our own beliefs and knowledge and instead of accepting the words we are being told, we get defensive and come up with ways to fight back, even though there isn’t a fight.

The other interesting thing we notice is that even though Paul was there to preach the gospel, he let the Holy Spirit take the lead.  He didn’t walk into the synagogue pointing fingers and calling them all sinners.  He didn’t instantly start preaching about Jesus.  He waited to see if they wanted to hear something more.  Maybe he knew they would ask and it was a customary practice.  The point, however, is that he waited until the right time.  He wasn’t going to waste his breath talking to someone who didn’t really want to hear what he had to say.  This is an important approach to sharing the gospel that we need to make note of.

How often do you seek to be exhorted?  How often do you look for spiritual guidance and correction so you can grow in your relationship with God?  Who can you seek out today to exhort you?

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