Exhort One Another

Posted On April 30, 2018

In an academic setting like the one at RBC, it is not uncommon to hear stories that describe a theology student who develops a dry, depersonalized belief in God via neglect of devotional reading of scripture, praying, or involvement in a local church. In these stories, the student’s neglect of a few or all of the means of grace eventually results in departure from faith, and the stories are concluded with a warning against individual neglect of devotional time and church involvement. And indeed, how could we hope to escape the just punishment we deserve if we neglect such a great salvation and drift away from the gospel? Yet, a crucial aspect of the Christian life that can oftentimes be found wanting or left altogether unspoken in such admonitions is a call to brotherly love.

In Hebrews 3:12, the author warns his own audience to be wary of the risk of apostasy, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” These are the same brothers who, with their Sanctifier and Brother Christ, “have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers” (Heb 2:11). Brothers who Christ was “made like. . . in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17). Brothers who “share in a heavenly calling” (Heb 3:1). Nevertheless, they are warned lest they be led astray by unbelief. Regrettably, peers and acquaintances of people who apostatize often become fixated on the apostate person’s fault alone. As true as it may be that the fault is foremost with the apostate person, we too err when we respond (however explicit or implicit) as Cain did, “am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). Moreover, in a manner somewhat unconventional to what seems to be the modern norm of perceiving apostasy as a danger to guard against by individual effort, the author of Hebrews instructs his audience to guard against apostasy by corporate effort as well.

After warning his audience to guard their hearts (Heb 3:12), the author proceeds to urge them, “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13). Perhaps many go astray in the academic setting of theological studies not only because of individual failure but also because of a corporate failure to “exhort one another every day.” This exhortation toward one another is not intended to be comprised of novel theological truths with a high “wow-factor,” but of the principal truths of the gospel. They are meant to hold “our original confidence firm” (Heb 3:14). Certainly, deep study of Scripture and theology will inform and strengthen our belief in the simple gospel, but often we mustn’t allow ourselves or one another to be distracted from the gospel itself. It is in the simple gospel in which we are to build up our brothers and sisters. That gospel is God’s gift to the saints, and “being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man” (WCF 26.1). Sadly, for many Christians it is second nature to shrink from any sort of obligation, but the fellowship of faith in the communion of the saints is not a begrudging task. Rather, it is a jubilant duty that the love of God in the finished work of Christ and the ongoing sanctifying work of the Spirit motivates us to perform.

Bible college may not be our church but, in a broad sense, the people in it are. We have the joy set before us to encourage one another that, though we may stumble and struggle, though we may feel unworthy and, at times, alone, and though we may even disagree on secondary issues, Christ is enough. Simply knowing Him surpasses every obstacle.

By Christoph Anderson, a junior student at Reformation Bible College