“Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24
The theme of “one another” reminds us that our fellowship together should be interactive. This requires communication, and the Bible sets forth three ways to speak to one another.
BY THE SCRIPTURES
“Comfort one another with these words” (1 Thes. 4:18).
In this chapter, Paul uses the Word of God and the promise of Christ’s coming to comfort bereaved saints whose loved ones were asleep in Jesus. He then instructs us to do the same as we seek to comfort one another.
What better way to comfort others than to go to the very source of comfort. The Father Himself is the God of all comfort, who sent His Son into this world to offer eternal comfort, saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in Me.” He, in turn, sent us another Comforter, the Spirit of God, who has come to dwell within us forever.
Finally, God has given us His Word so that “we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).
Practically, when fellow believers experience times of sorrow, we can give them no better comfort than the Word of God. Now I didn’t say that we should give a sermon, but rather give them a good word from God’s Word. He has promised to honor His Word. It will not return to Him void, but it will accomplish the purpose for which He sent it (Isa. 55:11). The Scriptures will minister to the soul in deep need. As Paul said, it will turn a hopeless sorrow into sorrow that is full of hope (1 Thes. 4:13). No wonder he tells us to “comfort one another with these words.”
BY THE SAINTS
“Encourage one another” (1 Thes. 5:11; Heb. 3:13; 10:25).
Being equipped by the Word of comfort, we have been called to minister that comfort to one another personally. The words encourage, comfort, and exhort are all the same word in Greek, parakaleo. But just knowing the origin of the word will accomplish nothing. It still must be translated into the personal touch of caring for others. To encourage someone is to come alongside them to strengthen their heart with renewed confidence in the Lord.
If we were left on our own to make this happen, we would fail before we began. How could we reach into another person’s heart? The best we can muster is to say, “Cheer up, it could be worse.” One man told me he took this advice, smiled, and, sure enough, it did get worse!
But we are not left on our own! The Holy Spirit is the Comforter and our Helper. His title, Parakletos, is the same as the ministry to which we are called. To encourage one another is a spiritual work which God is doing through you and me. How blessed we are to be used by God to share in this great work of encouragement.
Since this spiritual ministry is to be carried out person to person, it is best seen in a spiritual person. A person who is a man like Barnabas, “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24). In Acts 4:36-37, when the apostles met Joseph, who sold his land and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet, they renamed him Barnabas, which is translated “son of encouragement.” In this case, it was his giving, not his words, that encouraged them.
Barnabas didn’t stop there. When God reached out to the Gentiles at Antioch and a great many people believed, the apostles sent Barnabas to minister to them. Acts 11:23 tells us, “When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.”
The work was great and Barnabas knew they needed help. He also knew a man named Saul who needed to have a place to minister, so he departed for Tarsus and brought Saul to Antioch to minister with him. Barnabas lived up to his name. He encouraged the Lord’s work and the Lord’s worker—Saul.
Paul and Barnabas were a wonderful team, and, as they served together, they were used by God in each other’s lives like iron sharpening iron. Later, they went different ways but continued encouraging others in the work. Barnabas took John Mark, and Paul took Silas.
I can only think that Paul learned the importance of encouraging one another from Barnabas and followed his good example of mutual encouragement among the saints. This is evidenced his letter to the believers at Rome: “that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me” (Rom. 1:12).
Where are the sons of encouragement today? That may be the problem—today. It’s easy to put off encouraging others till tomorrow or wait for a more convenient time. The writer of Hebrews addresses this word to our hearts in Hebrews 3:13 saying, “Exhort [encourage] one another daily, while it is called ‘today.’” This means encourage someone today and every day!
Again, the writer of Hebrews exhorts us to “encourage one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.” In other words, a day is coming when you will no longer have the opportunity to encourage others. So today’s the day to do it. Our assembling together should be unceasing, and our encouraging one another should be increasing!
“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19).
We’ve thought of what to say to one another. Now we should focus on how to speak to one another. In short, make it melodious. Accentuate our communication and exaggerate the message with high notes of praise to God.
Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 name three forms of melody with which we are to speak: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The first, psalms, comprise the hymnbook of God’s people. They are part of the inspired Word of God. You might say that it is the only songbook that we read from instead of singing from.
All the psalms are doctrinally sound, sure, and settled forever in heaven (Ps. 119:89). They are word for word God-breathed and “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
While the psalms are inspired, hymns could not claim that same reverence, except when they contain portions from the Word of God. Overall, we have to say that while hymns are not inspired like the psalms, they are nonetheless inspiring. We lift our voices in a hymn and the hymn lifts our hearts in praise. What a wonderful vehicle in which to rise upward to join the eternal strain.
It is indeed amazing how the Lord has used hymns to comfort and encourage, to convict and to win souls to Himself, and to share between saints as we speak to one another. The expression “better felt than telt” is best suited for hymns that stir the heart and minister grace in our communication with one another.
Together with psalms and hymns are spiritual songs. Into this unique category may fit all the other forms of melody made up of shorter works or choruses for young and old alike. It may be a brief form of praise with repetitive phrases that serves to get across a simple message. While they may not be inspired or inspiring to the heights, they are inspirational in that their repeated lines stick with you. They can be reminders that we need to focus on the Lord as we fellowship together. Ultimately, when we speak to one another, make it harmonious.
Comfort, encouragement, and song should characterize our speaking to one another. Let’s “encourage one another daily.”