Spiritual Provocation

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works. Hebrews 10:24

Here’s something you didn’t expect to find—the New Testament exhorts us to have passionate arguments and sharp disagreements with one another. Well, not exactly. At least not in the way you are probably thinking.

In the Old Testament, when God’s “furious anger and great wrath” (NIV) is mentioned—Deuteronomy 29:28; Jeremiah 32:37—the Greek version of the Old Testament used the word paroxusmos to describe it. And when Paul and Barnabas had a “sharp disagreement” on their second missionary journey (Acts 15:39, NIV), the same Greek word is used. So far, no problem. But when we get to Hebrews 10:24, Christians are exhorted to “stir up” good works among one another—and the same word is used. What’s going on? The root of the word is “provoke,” so it’s all a matter of degrees. God was provoked by Israel to anger; Barnabas and Paul provoked one another to disagree. And we are to provoke one another to “love and good works.” At the very least, we’re to be in one another’s business to the degree that we are provoked toward godliness.

“Provoking” one another requires love and discernment—and a willingness to be stirred up when needed.

We must come to good works by faith, and not to faith by good works.
William Gurnall

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