Romans 15: 4
1 Corinthians 14:3
2 Corinthians 7: 6, 7
RFW These scriptures may help us to see how we get encouragement. The word in 2 Corinthians 1 is translated in the Authorised Version as ‘comfort’; so we could carry that thought with us, so that we may see how in our experience we get encouragement or comfort. I suppose we all need encouragement and comfort, especially at present, when many of our brethren are passing through times of sorrow. I wondered if these scriptures might help us to consider together how we get help in these circumstances. Evidently encouragement or comfort has to come in from some source outside of ourselves. I suppose 2 Corinthians chapter 1 shows us that the source of all encouragement, or comfort, is in God Himself, and that He is the great Rock on which we all rest in our souls.
But I thought we could see in 2 Corinthians 1 that encouragement could come in through persons who themselves have been encouraged. Paul was one such and he says, “that we may be able to encourage those who are in any tribulation whatever, through the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged of God”. So it is good if there are persons who can bring in encouragement through their own experience with divine Persons.
Then I thought in Romans 15 we might get help to see that there is a source of encouragement in the Scriptures, and that brings in a wonderful resource. The Scriptures are divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit, and we can draw upon them because they give us the experiences of real people, and they become - and I am sure we have often proved it - a source of encouragement and comfort.
In 1 Corinthians 14 there is a reference to what is prophetic which would bring in the possibility of some current expression of the mind of God that He would intend us to find encouragement from.
And then, finally, in 2 Corinthians 7 there is the idea of being encouraged through the brethren, through believers. Paul was encouraged by the coming of Titus, but he said, “and not by his coming only, but also through the encouragement with which he was encouraged as to you”. There are those who are going on and they themselves can be a source of encouragement and comfort.
JDG It says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The Father was intimately linked up with Christ here in testimony, was He not? In chapter 11 of Matthew’s gospel the Lord addresses the Father.
RFW I was thinking about that this morning. The Lord said, “I praise thee, Father, Lord of the heaven and of the earth” (v 25), and He said that in the consciousness of what the Father’s will for Him involved. The Father’s will for Him involved that He should go the full way to the cross and all that that meant, but even so He can praise the Father. He sets on that great note of praise, even in such circumstances.
DMC There were circumstances when it says that “Jesus wept” (John 11: 35), He felt the burden of what they were passing through, but He also says, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God”, John 11: 4. Is that something that we should look for, something added, not just something removed, but there is something added?
RFW You mean that there is something added for the praise and glory of divine Persons? That is a remarkable expression, “Jesus wept”, showing how the Lord felt the pressure of death on the spirits of His own. How deep His feelings were! He was here as Man and He actually experienced the pressure that death had brought in on those whom He loved.
JDG Do you see something in the Lord’s life of “the Father of compassions” expressed in testimony here, how He felt for men?
RFW Those compassions came fully into expression in Him. Mr Raven said that ‘Christ is the expression of all the grace that heaven could devise’, vol 18, p323. That is a wonderful thought. Those compassions were seen in the pathway of the blessed Saviour here below.
DHM It is encouraging in John 14 that, even with all that lay ahead of the Lord, He should think of the need of comfort and compassion for His own in His absence. It is when the Lord speaks of begging the Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit, v 18. It shows the feelings of the Lord Jesus in relation to His own in this very matter.
RFW Yes, He would send them “another Comforter”. I have noticed in a concordance that the word that is translated “Comforter” has an affinity with the word that is translated here “encouragement”. It carries the sense of one who comes to stand alongside of you, and that is a very blessed thought. There is One who comes and takes His place to help you, alongside of you. That is the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. He has come to bring in help from another sphere altogether.
DHM The other sphere is heaven. It is from the heavenly position that these things come.
RFW Yes, it is remarkable that it should be said that the Holy Spirit has been sent from heaven, 1 Pet 1: 12. So Paul had passed through a very great and real experience. He had found help, evidently, in the extreme circumstances in which he and those with him had been placed. So he is able, he says, “to encourage those who are in any tribulation whatever, through the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged of God”. It is blessed to be able to find encouragement from persons who have had real help from God.
DCB Would it affect us that the Lord Jesus in manhood passed through, in principle, every sorrow that has affected mankind? He is therefore able to sympathise with persons whatever their circumstances.
RFW Can you say more about that?
DCB If there is the sorrow of death, we have already expressed how He felt it in John 11. You see how His spirit was affected by various afflictions that affected mankind. He was close to man, “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa 53: 3), having entered into manhood to take these things on. Therefore He can be alongside persons, as He shows in His ministry, to supply whatever comfort they are needing.
RFW And it is remarkable to think that He actually passed through death Himself. He actually went that way and experienced what it actually was to die and to be buried. He has experienced it in all its power and He has overcome it.
DMC Death is the extreme test, but do you think our younger people go through a lot of tribulation which we may know very little about? Do you think that they should find sympathy and comfort and support in the circle of the saints?
RFW Quite so. The moral exercises that they face - we have all had to face them, and we still have to face them - are not easy, are they? We feel deeply for younger ones in the present course of the world with all that marks it, and all the things that they may have to face that we who are older may not have had to face in the same way. What do you say?
DMC I think the greatest comfort we can find, apart from our own links with the Lord, is to get confirmation amongst the saints and to find support as in a family. We feel at home in the company of the saints and should be able to speak about these things.
RFW There are persons like Paul who have passed through great trials and we can derive help and encouragement from them. That is a great thing, to know that there are persons who have actually been through exercises that we may not have faced ourselves to the same extent, and who can bring in help and encouragement for us.
JDG Paul was taken to Rome in his captivity. He may have been depressed when he arrived in the Roman country, but he saw the brethren, and that cheered him up.
RFW Yes, you are referring to the end of Acts (chap 28: 15). Well, what a source of encouragement it is to find that there are others who are going on in the pathway of faith. He writes to the Romans about that: “mutual encouragement … each by the faith which is in the other”, chap 1: 12.
JDG They walked quite a distance to meet him. It cost them something.
RFW Exactly, and he found persons who had faith, so when he saw them “he thanked God and took courage”.
RCT Is this part of the working of the body?
RFW I am sure it is. Just go on.
RCT There are many features of it, but I just wondered if this was part of it, seen working amongst the saints.
RFW Yes, that mutual side, and certain things call it into operation, and you feel the blessedness of it, to touch what is real and vital, and that is what the body is. It is a real, vital and living organism. We can touch what is vital in one another in that way.
TDB Could you say more about God being the source of it? It says He is the “God of all encouragement” in the first scripture you read.
RFW What do you think about it?
TDB I was just thinking it was a remarkable feature to mark God.
RFW The ”God of all encouragement”: it is remarkable that Paul had a fresh sense of it, and he is able to write about it here. It is blessed to think that divine Persons take account of us in our need of encouragement and they are prepared to provide it Themselves. So it is something outside of ourselves; something comes in that is from God.
GAB The word that is used for Comforter, applied to the Holy Spirit here, is the same word used as to the Lord where He is in heaven; so we have a Comforter in heaven as well as One down here. I understand the word “patron” (1 John 2: 1) is the same word: so there is not only our best Friend here on earth, as has often been said, but we have a Friend in heaven who is able to encourage and comfort as well.
RFW That is not just theory. I think for myself there are a lot of things that we may accept in theory, or accept objectively, but this is more than that, is it not? Paul had come through a real experience. He had found something that actually worked. He had found comfort or encouragement, and therefore he is able to help others. You have had experiences in your life and many of us here, the older brethren especially, have had real experiences with divine Persons, and if there is any advice those of us who are a bit older can give to younger ones, it is to get the benefit of the experience of older brethren. How did somebody get converted? How did they come to know the Lord as their Saviour? How did they get on in their soul, in their exercises? What has come into the lives of older ones? These are things that are real, are they not?
RFW He was never the same after that. He could not be the same person.
GB Would strengthening be a parallel thought? I was thinking of King David when he was betrayed by the citizens whom he had delivered. It says, “Jonathan … went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God”, 1 Sam 23: 16. It really took David out of his circumstances and enabled him to see One that was for him.
RFW It is fine if we are able to do that for one another. At another time of trouble, at Ziklag, “David strengthened himself in Jehovah his God”, 1 Sam 30: 6. The people spoke of stoning him but David found resource in God.
RCT That is when “David’s spoil” (v 20) comes out; so there is a result.
RFW Do you think this was like “David’s spoil” here with Paul, in principle? Out of the experience came something that was useful for the help and encouragement of others.
DHM The believer as being set in a local assembly is placed in an environment where these things, potentially, can be a reality. Would you go with that?
RFW This is why we are set together. To these dear saints in Rome, Paul could say, “But I am persuaded, my brethren, I myself also, concerning you, that yourselves also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another”, Rom 15: 14. That is what the local company is for, is it not?
DHM We all know the scripture in Luke 10 that the man was placed in the inn. It was an environment where there was not only safety, but comfort would be there, encouragement would be there. Our local assemblies should mirror that.
RFW He still needed care. It was a place where he was to be cared for.
SCL Do you think it is quite encouraging to consider that no matter what tribulation or test we are going through, whether it be pain, stress or grief, we are not the first ones to be going through it? Even if we cannot necessarily find another brother or sister that is going through it, the Lord went through every possible temptation and He overcame every possible temptation.
RFW “For we have not a high priest not able to sympathise with our infirmities, but tempted in all things in like manner, sin apart”, Heb 4: 15. It is a remarkable thing. It says as to Him, “And the devil, having completed every temptation”, Luke 4: 13. Every single one that was in his armoury was brought to bear on the Lord. He may not have to bring too many temptations to bear on me before he can overcome me, but he brought every one that he had to bear on the Lord Jesus.
SCL And so when we get down on our knees in prayer we are really praying to Somebody who fully understands what we are going through, each and every one of us.
RFW There was a blessed Man here, Himself a divine Person, God manifest in flesh, who went through all these experiences in utter dependence, sin apart. So He understands what you are going through at any stage of your life, does He not?
PEH I was thinking that encouragement has in mind continuance. There are certain times in our lives when we have to come to something. I was thinking of what it says in 1 John: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren”, chap 3: 14. That is someone who has come to something solid in their own experience with God and the result is that they know that they love the brethren, and they are willing to continue. They have been encouraged in that way, do you think?
RFW Encouragement is in view of continuance. That would link with what we read in Romans, does it not? It says, “that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures”. Encouragement comes in so that we might endure. It is those who desire to endure, those who desire to go on, that divine Persons would encourage. Endurance is a great feature. It is something that we may not think too much of, but yet it is a wonderful feature in the believer, the ability to endure, just to go on patiently. The Lord Jesus endured. He is a model in that as in everything else.
DMC We should read Scripture. It is important to take it up as a habit, to read the Scriptures, which is a good habit, but do you think we should read it as getting help by the Spirit to get a word? “Every scripture is divinely inspired”, 2 Tim 3: 16. Scripture as a whole speaks of Christ.
RFW It does. We were just reflecting at home recently as to the blessed service of the Holy Spirit in having the Scriptures written. As you say, “Every scripture is divinely inspired”. What would know about the life of Jesus if we did not have the gospels, for example? And the Holy Spirit inspired those persons to write of Jesus - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. How do we read the Scriptures? You find you cannot read very much before something makes an impression on you. It is intended to be that way, do you think?
DMC It says as to the Lord, “He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the instructed”, Isa 50: 4. Do you think there should be that spirit with us too?
RFW Yes, indeed.
JDG It says in verse 4, “through encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope”. It must be related to One who is living above. It involves an organic link with Christ.
RFW You mean, as we read them, we are put in touch with Him? In this section it has often struck me that hope comes in in relation to the brethren too. The context is “to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each one of us please his neighbour with a view to what is good”, v 1, 2. It has often been said our neighbours are our local brethren, those who have been put beside us. The scriptural injunction is to love thy neighbour as thyself: that is, those who are next to us. Well, how important the Scriptures are! We have hope because we are put in touch with the One who is above, and then the Scriptures tell us about the experiences of persons who have been with God in their lives.
JDG It says “that ye may with one accord, with one mouth, glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”, v 6. We used to be reminded that this is about the highest point in Romans.
RFW It is almost an Ephesian touch, “one mouth”. It really touches on the service of God.
TDB Jehovah says to Moses about Aaron, “and when he seeth thee he will be glad in his heart”, Exod 4: 14. I was thinking really about what you were saying about seeing the local brethren, especially in the times in which we are living. Our brother referred to Paul meeting the brethren. They found him and encouraged him.
RFW Exactly. You find that there are resources there.
DCB Where you began in 2 Corinthians 1, there is the reference to “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. It is that same Person who is to receive the response from persons who have had this encouragement, is it not?
RFW The result is to be this buoyant response, “with one accord, with one mouth, glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. All these experiences that we have, all these things that enter into our lives, are all to lead to enrichment in the service of God, are they not? What have we learned in the things through which we have passed? Have we learned something that enriches the service of God? That word in Matthew 11 has been referred to already. The Lord says, “I praise thee, Father, Lord of the heaven and of the earth … for …”, v 25, 26. There was a reason for His praise. It is not abstract; there is some reason for it, and that note of praise that the Lord Jesus set on as Man has never really ceased, has it? He continues it in the midst of the assembly. He has a vessel that He can use to carry on the great service of praise.
DCB Could you say more about this, that it is not ‘our God and Father’? It is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The One who has provided the blessing is the One to whom the response goes.
RFW I am not sure that I can say very much about it. “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” is that blessed Person, made known through the only One who could reveal Him. The Lord could speak to the Father as none other could, He is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. There was a Man here who could speak to His Father in perfect confidence and to whom the Father could speak in perfect confidence.
GAB I was wondering if you could say a word as to the matter of God being “the God of endurance and of encouragement”. I suppose it must involve the fact that the Lord Jesus was here, a divine Person. It is such a One who is able to encourage. It is all coming from God Himself, but it must involve the fact that a divine Person has been here and been through all these things.
RFW Do you think that what endurance and what encouragement really mean could not be fully known until the Lord was here? There was that which came into expression which was directly of God, His God and Father, was there?
DMC Following on from John 11, in John 12 you get, “Mary therefore, having taken a pound of ointment of pure nard of great price, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair, and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment”, v 3. Was that a blessed, positive result from sorrow that she had passed through, and her experience with the Lord?
RFW Quite so, something positive came out of it. It has often been pointed out that it was as the ointment was put at the feet of Jesus that the house was filled. It is as things are put on Christ that they acquire a distinction that is capable of filling every soul that is there. I am sure you have often had the experience during the morning meeting that, as someone says something to magnify Christ, the hearts of the saints are filled with a fresh sense of His glory. The ointment was always there, but then it was brought out and put on Christ, and that is the great matter: “the house was filled with the odour of the ointment”.
SCL In order to encourage do you think it requires a spiritual mindset? At the end of verse 5 it talks of being “like-minded one toward another, according to Christ Jesus”. It seems to be a spiritual mindset here, not something of a natural mind.
RFW It is a lovely expression, “according to Christ Jesus”. What does the Lord think of your brother, your sister? Can I be “like-minded … according to Christ Jesus”? Can I, in some sense, embrace the Lord’s thoughts as to my local brethren?
SCL Judging from the size of such a task, it would be a daily thing, do you think? It would not just be at a time when our fellow saints need us most. It would be throughout our pathway down here, do you think?
RFW When you think of your local brethren, what do you think about them? But to be “like-minded … according to Christ Jesus”, how one would desire to have some sense of that! What does the Lord think of that brother or sister? Can my mind in any way embrace the Lord’s thoughts as to those for whom He has died? “For the Christ also did not please himself”, v 3. Think of that! He came into conditions in which He did not please Himself or do His own will. I have thought recently of the life of Jesus, that, in one sense, it was a simple life. He came to do the will of Another, and that is what He did. He never deviated from that.
TDB Paul would be thankful to have someone like Timothy, “I have no one like-minded who will care with genuine feeling how ye get on”, Phil 2: 20.
RFW It is remarkable that even in these early days he had not other “like-minded” persons. You might have thought there would have been plenty such available to Paul, but he did not have anybody like Timothy.
DHM We get the opportunity to have that view when we come together to remember the Lord Jesus. We come as individuals with an individual exercise, but it is a great cause for encouragement that there are others, brethren that we know, brethren that we love, local brethren, that we have links with in the Lord.
RFW We come with that desire, to remember Him. We have one thought before us as gathering, so the first thing is that we assemble. Assembling involves that we fit together and we are easy, as it were, in one another’s company, and that makes way for the service of God to proceed, does it not?
DHM It is relatively easy to look at these things theoretically or objectively, but practically we are challenged, and yet it is from the practical gain of it that the enjoyment springs.
RFW Painful and sorrowful things happen to us. They have happened in your circumstances recently and these things bring their test. We have to find a way to prove encouragement in spite of these things, and our experiences together tend to bring out what is real in one another.
PEH Does it bring out divine workmanship? I was thinking that we have to see beyond individual personality to see divine workmanship in each other, really looking for features of Christ in each other. If all we see is each other’s personalities, we will get discouraged, but if we see something of Christ in each other, we are sure to be encouraged.
RFW “Each by the faith which is in the other”, Rom 1: 12. Where did that faith come from? There has been a divine work that put it there. Somebody said recently, ‘If I cannot see Christ in my brother, can I see my brother in Christ?’. There is that which has been secured at such a cost for every one of us.
RCT We have just had another care meeting. I wondered if our administration would have this in mind, the thought of encouragement.
RFW Yes, indeed. So you have arranged to give gifts to various ones and the gifts are of value practically, but it is what is behind them that brings the encouragement - the love, the consideration, that is conveyed through the giving of the saints. I am not seeking in any way to belittle the preciousness of assembly giving or, I suppose we have to say in our day, what bears the character of assembly giving, but what led to it being given? It was the work of God. It was the feelings of Christ in expression.
GAB As we gather for the Lord’s supper we take account of the brethren first, then we look at the loaf; they represent one body in Christ: “we, being many, are one loaf”, 1 Cor 10: 17. Is there not something to focus our affections on? We take account of our brethren and say, ‘Well, in that loaf I see something that is a divine conception really’. I am not speaking of other idea in that verse of the one loaf as the Lord’s personal body at this point, but the secondary view we have there of that idea. There is a correspondence between what the saints are as sitting down practically, knowing one another, and what you see in the loaf.
RFW “We, being many” - our hearts and minds are to be enlarged as we take account of that one loaf and think of what it means.
DMC Would you say in the company there is a practical expression of what is in the body, but there is a much wider thought in the “one loaf” that you carry in your affections. There are many that are included in that loaf that we carry in our affections.
RFW We do, indeed, and yet we are thankful for those available to us. There is some practical expression of it there, of what the one loaf conveys.
JDG “He that speaks with a tongue edifies himself; but he that prophesies edifies the assembly”, 1 Cor 14: 4. I think that is a very fine thought in chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians. What is our objective? Is it “edification, and encouragement, and consolation”? It is related to the expression of what is of Christ here.
RFW Edification is the building up of what is for Christ here. There is something very precious to Christ here.
JDG The object in speaking is to communicate “spiritual things by spiritual means”, 1 Cor 2: 13.
RFW And that is really the only thing that edifies the assembly, the conveying of what is spiritual by spiritual means. So it is an interesting thought that there might be something that would come in freshly on this line that would bring in “edification, and encouragement, and consolation”. We would look for that as we come together, would we not, the idea of what is prophetic? I suppose one outstanding example of it, often quoted, is 1 Thessalonians 4 where Paul writes of the rapture, as we speak of it, and it is a prophetic word, really. “So encourage one another with these words”, v 18. You get an outstanding example of a prophetic word that brings in encouragement.
SCL Do you think as well when we seek to encourage our brethren, we were speaking about endurance and continuity before, but it is really to ensure that God continues to get His portion from each and every one of us?
RFW The Lord may give you something to say. I suppose you would never come to a ministry meeting without having something to say, would you?
TWL I was wondering whether this line of encouragement comes about by persons that are “taught of God” by experience, 1 Thess 4: 9. Would that be right?
RFW That was our first scripture really. Paul had learned something from God directly, had he not, in the way of encouragement?
TWL The scripture in Isaiah 50 has been going through my mind: “The Lord Jehovah hath given me the tongue of the instructed, that I should know how to succour by a word him that is weary. He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the instructed”, v 4. Paul was “taught of God”, consequently he knew God, and so he was able to impart something of God in Christ to encourage persons. Is that how this all works?
RFW “The tongue of the instructed”: how we would long to know something of that!
DMC At the end of the chapter they went out of the meeting encouraged: “the secrets of his heart are manifested; and thus, falling upon his face, he will do homage to God”, 1 Cor 14: 25.
RFW The person who came in was searched, but it was in view of his being encouraged. He was in the presence of something that he had never experienced before. What do you say?
DMC I think the question would be whether we are able for these things. Do you think it should exercise us that we are looking for persons who may be exercised? I am sure there are persons like that. We feel it greatly when persons turn aside.
RFW We do indeed. The reality that there is such a thing as the prophetic word that can bring in the current mind of God is a great matter. It is a wonderful thing if persons then listen to that and are adjusted.
DHM The two on the way to Emmaus were peculiarly encouraged by the Lord as to what was taking place at that very point in time, and that was what they were restored to.
RFW It is wonderful the way the Lord drew near to them, was it not? He asked them what they were talking about and listened to what they had to say. He took them up from that point. It is a great matter to be able to enter into what somebody is actually going through and to bring in a word of encouragement, do you think?
DHM He knew what they were feeling and how they were feeling about things and He was able - you would be careful what you say - to identify with that.
RFW He could take account of the fact that they were downcast. How blessed it is that there is One who can take account of us when we are down, and lift us up!
JDG That is what you have in your final scripture. It says, “For indeed, when we came into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way; without combats, within fears. But he who encourages those that are brought low, even God, encouraged us by the coming of Titus”. It must have been a cheer to Paul to hear something good about a local assembly.
RFW Yes. He brought him good news about this local assembly, about Corinth. It is wonderful to get information like that about persons who are going on. It is fine to find encouragement from that source, the fact that we have heard of others who are going on.
PEH So does that have in mind, as it says in Ephesians, “until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at the full-grown man”, chap 4: 13? So rather than turn aside, as has been mentioned, we should go on. Is it in mind that there should be full growth?
RFW Yes, it is the idea of endurance that you drew attention to earlier: “until we all arrive”. There is a process continuing, is there? We have not got there yet, but we are going on.
GAB Encouragement must necessarily lead to movement. The two in Luke 24 have been referred to. The Lord met them where they were and enlightened them, encouraged them, but then He disappeared from them. His service to them led them into movement, to return to Jerusalem and those who were there. They came back with burning hearts, no longer downcast.
RFW It is a fine thing if somebody is on fire, as it were, and is able to bring that amongst the brethren! Well, it speaks here about “through the encouragement with which he was encouraged as to you; relating to us your ardent desire, your mourning, your zeal for me”. That was the fire, was it not? It had not been set on through human means, but had its origin from God.
DCB I thought it helped us to see as well that even Paul, a great apostle with his links with the Lord, went through times and periods of discouragement. No one in this present condition is exempt from these things, but there is the resource in divine Persons in what you have been bringing before us.
RFW Yes, “without combats, within fears”, “the burden of all the assemblies” (2 Cor 11: 28) resting on him. What things he sustained, what sorrows he carried, and yet he is able to encourage others. Paul is able to encourage us today because he would direct us to divine Persons as the source of all encouragement.
6th January 2013