We are told that as brothers and sisters in Christ we are to exhort, edify, and comfort each other: And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s servant in [spreading] the good news (the Gospel) of Christ, to strengthen and establish and to exhort and comfort and encourage you in your faith (1Thes. 3:2). Exhort means to encourage and cheer onward, edify means to build up–and comfort, well that means to comfort. Exhortation and edification are closely related, for they are both basically forth-telling prophecy. That is, they are based on discovering the true meaning of scripture by digging in and studying the original written Word, and then, inspired by the Holy Spirit, comparing the meaning of any particular passage to the overall character of God and His desires for us in such a way as to spark our faith in, and dependence upon, Him.
Exhortation is the encouragement part of such work; that is, helping others to increase their confidence in who they are in Christ Jesus, both emotionally and spiritually. Edification is a building up. A building up of our intellectual understanding of our relationship to God through Christ Jesus. In this sense, exhortation and edification are hand in glove, so to speak. Simply understanding something intellectually does not mean we have the ability to use such knowledge. Exhortation get the knowledge out of the head and into the reality of active use.
Comfort is an interesting concept. We often think of comfort as a satisfaction of life—“a comfortable life”; easy, relaxing and not in any way demanding or stressful. But comfort can also mean to give compassionate help to others, to “ease” their burdens. And in the Biblical sense, that is what is meant. Jesus, of course, sent us The Comforter, the Holy Spirit. Just look at Jesus’ life to see what God wants for us—Jesus was an exhorting, edifying and comfort-giving machine. He told us about and showed us the character of God. His basic call was that the Kingdom came to earth with Him (Matt. 12:28 Luke 11:20), and He would make it available to everyone who called upon His name (Acts 4:12, Rom. 10:13). He showed us the fullness of God’s comfort by healings (Matt, 4:24; untold numbers—see John 21:25), and feeding the crowds (Matt. 15:28, Mark 6:44), extending God’s forgiveness of sins (Matt. 9:2, Luke 7:48, 1John 2:12), and helping us to understand how close God wants to be to us (John 14:17, 20, 15:4, 17:21).
God wants each of His children to provide exhortation, edification, and comfort to the Church—that is, we are to look out for each other and provide whatever we have in the service of others. And this is as it should be. At the same time, we are told to build yourselves up [founded] on your most holy faith [make progress, rise like an edifice higher and higher], praying in the Holy Spirit (Jude 20). Obviously, we can’t extend proper edification to others if we ourselves are unedified. We gain understanding of who we are in Christ, obviously, by praying. But even more important is working on the old RSMMA (resume) with added prayer. By reading, studying, meditating, memorizing, and acting on God’s Word–including the Holy Spirit in all this by prayer–we gain the greatest amount in the shortest time, allowing us to help each other become all that God intends for each of us to become.
All well and good, but where is there a promise in this? Well, the promise is hidden, unless one looks at the statement in a slightly different way. If we are faithful to work on our RSMMA with the involvement of the Spirit, God’s promise is that we will indeed be edified—built up—in our understanding of Him and who He has made us to be in Christ Jesus. Not just by our effort alone, but by His assistance and guidance and teaching. It’s sort of like lighting the fuse on a stick of dynamite. We’re the match that kindles the process, but the dynamite is what does the work. Even so, without the match, the dynamite lies there ready to do its work, but can’t. That little spark of our desire to know God more fully kindles a blast of knowledge that will forever change one’s life, exploding old worldly ideas and allowing the building of a new and better future in God’s plans for us.
But again notice—we are yoked to Christ Jesus (Matt. 11:29-30), and if either Christ or we falter, then the strong one will have to stop and help the other up, and then wait until the other is recovered before going on. Jesus never stumbles and falls, and does not get tired. Not only that, but He carries the largest share of the load. Even so, we still have to carry our share, and not stop dead in our tracks, or else, Jesus will have to stop, too. And that is not a good thing for us. Stay active, get out the Bible, blow off the ½ inch of accumulated dust, open it, and get your RSMMA started in earnest. God promises that you will never regret it.