Hebrews 3:13(3)

Sermon preached on September 03, 2017 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

When I played Little League baseball our team won the Nova Scotia Championship. In the championship series we were the underdogs. To win the championship we had to play a team from Glace Bay. It was a much bigger town over 3 times the size of my town. Because of that they had better ball players. They were in the habit of beating us. For the first while the game was close but then a strange thing happened. One player on our team started encouraging his teammates. I believe he started when it was our turn to bat in the third or fourth inning. This guy wasn't even in the hitting lineup. In fact, he wasn't even in the lineup. He was one of the worst players on the team and his particular duty that day was first base coach. The first base coach's primary duty is to give instructions to the batter after he hits the ball to tell him to stop at first or to continue towards second. Additionally if a player is on first the first base coach is there to help him to decide whether to run to second or not. Like if the catcher misses a ball and it gets by him the first base coach will yell to the runner to either go or hold up on first. This particular inning the first base coach, before he went to the little box where he is supposed to stay, spoke to the player who was first up to bat and told him he could get a hit. He told him to relax, keep his eye on the ball and swing true. (Or something like that.) He then spoke to the guy who was in the next batter's box and said something to him. Then he went to the first base's coach's box and continued shouting out encouragement. That kind of encouragement wasn't unusual but this guy took it to another level. After each batter he would actually leave the first base coach's box and go up to the next batter and encourage him. After awhile the umpire had to tell him to stay in his first base coach's box. What was really unusual that day was the encouragement spread through our team like it was contagious. The first batter got a hit. The guy said the same thing to the next hitter and he got a hit. The encouragement spread from one player to another to another on our team and the next thing we knew there was an excitement, a momentum, a wave of belief that we could win. Our team started to get some runs that inning and we started leading and the encouragement just exploded from there. We were on fire so to speak. We went on to win the game.

I never saw anything like it before or after in a Little League game. We beat a much better team because we encouraged one another. The encouragement created a momentum, an atmosphere of success.

As Christians we need encouragement from one another. Only it's not a gimmick or a superficial thing—it's something that the Holy Spirit uses to build up the people of God and to keep them faithful. Our text says, (Hebrews 3:12-13)

"See to it, brothers,
that none of you has a sinful,
unbelieving heart that turns away
from the living God.
But encourage one another daily,
as long as it is called Today,
so that none of you
may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."

The Greek word that is used here has different meanings. It can mean to comfort, to console etc. But from its earliest use in Greek literature one of its primary meanings is 'to encourage'. It was used of sailors cheering each other on as they were going into battle. (Aeschylus, Persians, 380)

"The long galleys cheered each other, line by line;"

A dictionary definition is: ("παρακαλέω," BDAG, 765)

"to urge strongly, appeal to, urge, exhort, encourage"

Encouragement is very closely related to teaching and is based on doctrine. In Romans 12:8 a closely related verb is used right after the verb 'to teach'. Encouragement is not teaching but it's based on teaching. Thomas R. Schreiner suggests the verb in Romans 12:8, (Romans, BECNT; p. 658)

"emphasizes the pastoral application of the gospel and focuses on its concrete implications for everyday life…"

C. E. B. Cranfield adds, (p. 623-624)

"the immediate purpose of the exhortation was to help Christians live out their obedience to the gospel… So the eyes of the exhorter had to be firmly fixed not only on the gospel but also on the concrete situation of his hearers."

Douglas J. Moo puts in this way, saying that encouragement is, (Romans, NICNT; p. 767)

"the activity of urging Christians to live out the truth of the gospel."

When you encourage someone, it will inevitably involve an element of teaching. We see this from 1 Corinthians 14:31. It says,

"For you can all prophesy in turn
so that everyone may be instructed
and encouraged."

But if you think that encouragement is merely telling someone what they ought to do—you've missed the main part of it. You can sometimes tell someone what they ought to do and the end result is that they'll be discouraged, rather than encouraged. And that's not because they don't want to do the right thing—but it's because you failed to encourage them. An essential part of encouragement is uplifting. One commentator (Schlatter, 1995: 234) defines exhortation as, (quoted from Thomas R. Schreiner, p. 658)

"the message that stirs them…"

Thomas R. Schreiner says that exhortation, (p. 658)

"summons others to actions and stirs them from lethargy."

John Murray writes, (Romans, p. 125)

"exhortation is to the heart, conscience, and will."

Martin Luther wrote, (Lectures on Romans)

"The teacher transmits knowledge; the exhorter stimulates",

Leon Morris says of Luther's quote, (Romans, PNTC; p. 442)

"however we translate, something like this is in mind."

Exhortation is uplifting. What is in view is lifting up based on the gospel, based on the promises of God.

When I think back to that Little League series, I remember that not everyone got a hit during that rally. I'm sure one or two of the players struck out. But even then we'd encourage them. We wouldn't say to them,

"That was a really bad at bat. How stupid can you be swinging at a ball that was way outside the strike zone? What's wrong with you."

No. We'd say,

"That's okay. You'll do better next time. Really good try."

Now don't misunderstand. There is a place for reproving others, for rebuking others, for being harsh. There is a place for criticism. We could have said all those bad things to the batter who struck out. But it would have been inappropriate. Usually in a game situation, the guy who strikes out during a rally already feels bad about striking out. He feels bad that he let down the team. He doesn't need more of it. He's actually already feeling too bad. If he continues like that he's not going to do good fielding the ball or at his next at bat. He needs encouragement, nothing else.

We need to be able to read people well so that we should know when a reproof or admonishment is appropriate, or when to encourage. Because we're all sinners and because we see other people's sins more than we see our own—and because we have a tendency to criticize others more than we criticize ourselves—very often encouragement in more appropriate than reproof.

Indeed, encouraging is to be part of our daily life.

Our text tells Christians that we are to encourage one other daily.

"encourage one another daily…"

It is to be part of our every day activity as we meet together. This is constantly repeated in the New Testament. It is repeated so much that the NIDNTTE says, (" Π,", 3:630)

"Exhortation is an almost stereotyped part of the church's life…"

It's what we are to be almost always doing.

Indeed, in the New Testament it's listed as a major activity of Christian leaders.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:11–12 Paul summarized his dealings with the Thessalonian Christians this way.

"For you know that we dealt
with each of you as a father deals
with his own children,
encouraging, comforting and
urging you to live lives worthy of God,
who calls you into his kingdom and glory."

Luke, the writer of Acts, confirms this. In Acts 16:40 we read about the activity of Paul and Silas in Philippi.

"After Paul and Silas came out of the prison,
they went to Lydia's house,
where they met with the brothers
and encouraged them."

Then in Acts 20:1-2 he wrote about the aftermath of the riot in Ephesus,

"When the uproar had ended,
Paul sent for the disciples and,
after encouraging them,
said good-by and set out for Macedonia.
He traveled through that area,
speaking many words of encouragement
to the people,
and finally arrived in Greece,"

Paul, when he couldn't visit some Christians as he wished, would send other Christian leaders to encourage them. In 1 Thessalonians 3:2 he wrote,

"We sent Timothy,
who is our brother and God's
fellow worker in spreading
the gospel of Christ,
to strengthen and encourage you
in your faith,"

But encouraging is not just something that Christian teachers and leaders do.

All Christians are to encourage each other.

Later in the same letter Paul told Christians that part of their ministry is to encourage each other. He wrote, (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

"Therefore encourage one another
and build each other up,
just as in fact you are doing."

It's to be part of your everyday activity. In Romans 12:8 it's listed as a spiritual gift. Paul emphasized how we all need to be using our spiritual gifts. He wrote, (Romans 12:7–8)

"If it is serving, let him serve;
if it is teaching, let him teach;
if it is encouraging,
let him encourage;"

Encouragement is to be the activity of everyone one of us. This command shows us how we must care for one another. Our text says,

"But encourage one another daily,"

William L. Lane writes, (Hebrews 1–8, WBC 47A; p. 87)

"The reflexive pronoun… 'one another,' which is used here instead of the reciprocal pronoun… 'each other,' emphasizes the mutual responsibility that each member of the community should feel for the others."

We are all to be doing it. John Calvin writes,

"Nor does the Apostle give only a general precept, that all should take heed to themselves, but he should have them also to be solicitous for the salvations of every member, so that they should not suffer any of those who had been once called to perish through their neglect, and he who feels it his duty so to watch over the salvation of the whole flock as to neglect no one sheep, performs in this case the office of a good shepherd."

Fourthly, it is implied by our text that

we all need encouragement.

You need encouragement. They person sitting next to you needs encouragement. The person sitting on the other side of the church needs encouragement.

This world is a hard place. Acts 14:21–22 says of Paul and Barnabas,

"They preached the good news
in that city and won
a large number of disciples.
Then they returned to Lystra,
Iconium and Antioch,
strengthening the disciples
and encouraging them to remain
true to the faith.
'We must go through many hardships
to enter the kingdom of God,'
they said."

Leon Morris writes, (Romans, PNTC; p. 442)

"For many people in the early church life was a pretty grim affair; there must have been a continuing need for people who could encourage others…"

William L. Lane writes, (Hebrews 1–8, WBC 47A; p. 87)

"The avoidance of apostasy demands not simply individual vigilance but the constant care of each member of the community for one another (v 13)."

Today, just like back in New Testament times, Christians need encouragement.

We live in difficult times.

Read the news. There are so many discouraging things. Our society is quickly embracing sin and becoming hostile toward Christianity. Pressure is being put on Christians to compromise and abandon the faith. A few months back I read about a U.S. Senator who attacked a Trump administration appointee because the nominee believed that salvation can only come through Jesus Christ. The appointee's position is one that is based on biblical teaching (John 14:6, Acts 4:12) and one that just about all Bible believing Christians hold to. The appointee had written a blog post indicating that Christians are saved, but that other people, including Muslims, 'stand condemned' if they do not believe in Jesus. The senator said that the blog post was,

"indefensible, it is hateful and Islamophobic, and an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world."

The senator also stated that the blog post was bigoted in nature and that he was going to vote against the nominee. He was stating quite strongly that people who hold to the teachings of Jesus Christ are unfit to be part of government in this country.

In our society Christians are being put under pressure to compromise the gospel. The world is not going to tolerate Christians who are faithful to Jesus. They want to make you and other Christians unfaithful to Jesus. They want you to stop calling sin sin. They want you to call certain sinful practices 'good behavior'. They want you and the church to stop calling for people to repent. They want you and the church to turn away from Jesus, from His teaching. They want you to deny Jesus' commands. They want you to deny Jesus. And that pressure is being almost constantly exerted. If the church is to survive, you need to encourage other Christians.

So I ask you—

do you encourage other Christians to be faithful on a daily basis?

That's part of your duty. You need to be studying Scripture so that you will know how to encourage others.

We also need to be open with each other. When another Christians asks you,

"How are you?"

How do you respond? Our pat answer is,


What opening does that leave for encouragement? It doesn't leave much.

Your meeting together with other Christians on Sundays and at other times during the week is not to be just filled with small talk. John Calvin writes, (Hebrews)

"For as by nature we are inclined to evil, we have need of various helps to retain us in the fear of God. Unless our faith be now and then raised up, it will lie prostrate; unless it be warmed, it will be frozen; unless it be roused, it will grow torpid. He would have us then to stimulate one another by mutual exhortations, so that Satan may not creep into our hearts, and by his fallacies draw us away from God."

Lastly, the reason we can encourage one another is because

in Jesus there is hope, there is salvation.

Because of His work we are citizens of heaven. Because of His work we will never be lost. Because of His work He will always be with us. Because of His work He is the Good Shepherd who will assuredly bring us to our heavenly home.

Trust Him yourself. Rejoice in Him. Encourage others. Help them to trust Jesus better, to rely upon Him more.

May God give us the grace to do so.