1 Timothy 4.13
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.

It’s easy to be far more specific in criticism than in praise. We tend to get by with generic sentiments of affirmation — “good job,” or “nice work.” But for negative feedback we choose our words carefully, providing examples and details.

This same dynamic extends into Christian circles in regards to theology. Responses to theological disagreements — or even ambiguous language around theology — are extensive. Conversations delve into the minute, response posts are written, even books get published to ameliorate theological angst. In contrast, orthodoxy and clarity often yield nods of approval with the occasional, “she got it right on that one.”
Devoting ourselves to reading Scripture and taking in Christian teaching is far easier in an insight-hungry culture than living a life of gospel-centered exhortation.

The word “exhortation” in 1 Timothy comes from a powerhouse of a Greek word — paraklesis. Though paraklesis is used to talk about appeal and earnestness (twice each), the other 26 times that it occurs in the New Testament it means comfort, encouragement, even consolation.

The desire of the early church was to command a strong knowledge of Scripture to comfort, encourage, and console people in a broken world. In other words, the most crystallized presentations of Scripture and theology weren’t used for tearing down, but for building up.

Nowhere do we see this more clearly than when Paul walks into Athens. Though profoundly disturbed by their idolatry, he reasoned, empathized, and even praised their spirituality (all of which was directed toward paganism!).
For Peter, as for Paul, Christian servanthood means being at the disposal of others, as Christ was for us, in order to win others to him for the long view, rather than demanding one’s rights for individual fulfillment and personal adornment in the short view. — Royce Gordon Gruenler

Paul encouraged the Athenians toward the gospel. His only rebuke, which came after he established relational credibility through commitment and investment, was that generic spirituality fell short of the glory of God.

Relational depth and Scriptural precision in exhortation laid the foundation the Athenians needed in order to be confronted by the implications of the gospel — namely, that they too were broken, prideful, and in need of a savior.

Evangelism stalls when we do not thoroughly apply the words of comfort, encouragement, and consolation God has entrusted to his Church through the Scriptures. It is wisdom which makes the most of every opportunity with those outside the church by filling each conversation with grace.

Today’s Reading
2 Kings 7 (Listen – 3:55)
1 Timothy 4 (Listen – 2:05)