the weblog of Alan Knox

Hebrews and Encouragement…

Posted by on Apr 25, 2007 in community, discipleship, edification, scripture | 10 comments

The author of the Book of Hebrews encourages (exhorts) his readers to encourage (exhort) each other several times. For example, consider these passages:

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13 ESV)

So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:17-18 ESV)

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

I appeal to [encourage, exhort] you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. (Hebrews 13:22 ESV)

Encouragement and exhortation are translations of the same Greek words: the verb παρακαλέω (parakaleo) and the noun παράκλησις (paraklÄ“sis). Encouragement/exhortation is very important to the author of Hebrews. In fact, he recognizes his own writing as “my word of exhortation” (13:22). He also recognizes that each believer should serve other believers through exhortation and encouragement.

I appreciate what Craig Koester said about this in his commentary on Hebrews for the Anchor Bible:

To “exhort” (parakalein) and to give “exhortation” (paraklēsis) is integral to Hebrews. Through his “word of exhortation” (13:22), the author does in written form what he wants listeners to do for each other. He is concerned about individuals (i.e., “any one of you”,” 3:12), but gives members of the community responsibility to exhort “one another” against sin. Later, exhortation will mean “strong encouragement” (6:18) to hold fast to the promise (cf. 12:5). Exhortation to pursue virtue and to avoid vice was part of Greco-Roman philosophical tradition. Although exhortation could be sharp, its goal was to benefit the hearer. The author of Hebrews models the kind of exhortation that listeners might use with each other, coupling blunt admonitions and warnings with more comforting and encouraging words (e.g., 5:11-14; 6:4-12). The aim of such exhortation is to promote perseverance in faith and to guard against sin.

According to Koester, the author of Hebrews recognizes that his letter will help believers persevere in faith and guard against sin. However, he also recognizes that his letter is not enough. The believers need to encourage/exhort one another to persevere in faith and guard against sin.

Notice in the Scriptures above the amount of interaction that is necessary between believers for them to be capable of encouraging one another. We should know if someone has an evil or unbelieving heart, or if someone is being hardened by sin (3:12-13). We should know if a brother or sister is “holding fast to the hope” that only comes from a relationship with God (6:18). We should be able to stir up or provoke one another toward actions that demonstrate our love for God and one another (10:24). In other words, in order to encourage one another, we must know one another. We cannot encourage one another (at least, not the way that is necessary) if we are only acquainted with one another.

We must be willing to ask difficult questions, and not accept pat or canned answers. We must be able to recognize when a brother or sister is hurting or in need, and we must then be willing to respond to that hurt or need. We must live alongside brothers and sisters and remind them, “Yes, I am my brother’s or sister’s keeper.”

It is wrong for us to refuse to speak words of encouragment to our brothers and sisters. However, it is just as wrong to refuse to spend time getting to know brothers and sisters; because without knowing them, we cannot encourage them as we should.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-25-2007

    Yes, we must have relationship! Good post.

  2. 4-25-2007


    I believe you are totally on target in this post.

    I wonder, though, if you have any further thoughts on getting to know other believers. You can only spread yourself so thin. Should we limit our relationships to those we can really get to know well? Or should we try to get to know as many as possible? Should we concentrate on those with shared interests and strategic working reltionships in related projects? Or should we intentionally try more to seek out those who may be different from us?

  3. 4-25-2007


    Thank you for the kind words.


    You ask some very good questions. I don’t believe that I, or anyone else, can answer those questions. Each person is different and must trust God to answer those questions. However, for myself, I know that this means that I must intentionally spend time with people in order to get to know them. I don’t think I can build a relationship with someone if I only see them in a structured, formal environment a couple of hours a week (such as the normal “church service”).

    As far as focusing on those who are most like us… I think this is dangerous. There is a reason that God brings “different” people into our lives, and we should try to build relationships with them as well. It will be more difficult, but also more rewarding, I think.


  4. 4-25-2007

    I am totally on board with what you are saying here, but it reminded me of a question i had been meaning to ask you. How do we encourage those we might NOT know very well. It seems hard to believe that the author of Hebrews would know his entire audience this well, and we know for a fact that Paul didn’t know the church in Rome when he wrote Romans. Yet both of these letters seem to be letters intended to encourage and exhort. Would what the authors do in these letters be called something else? Is there room for encouraging those we DON’T know personally?

  5. 4-25-2007


    I think it is clear that in order for us to consistently encourage others, we must know them well. In our busy society, we cannot possibly know that many people on an intimate level. I think this is even more evidence for the need for many more smaller churches and far fewer mega-churches. Smaller churches will more effectively allow for encouragement within the body than will bigger churches. Cell groups within big churches may be a start, but then it just seems like a lot of little separate churches pretending to be a large church.

    I find it ironic that the pastors who get invited to speak at SEBTS chapels almost always come from really big “flagship” churches. I wonder what percentage of the people within their flocks they can encourage within any given week?

  6. 4-25-2007

    In response to David, it would seem that we have Jesus’ example. He was very close to at least three of his disciples, if not more, because I’m not sure what his relationship was with a few of the women who followed and supported him. Then, He was also very dedicated again to at least 12 men and likely some additional women and other men. He went to great lengths to know and teach a group of men and women what it meant to submit to the Father. But He didn’t try to be close to everyone. In fact, he often withdrew from and dismissed large crowds.

  7. 4-25-2007


    We should certain encourage those who we do not know well. In these cases, we can only encourage them in a general manner – much like the author of Hebrews did for his readers. But, just as the author recognized that more specific encouragment was needed, so we need to know (at least some) people more intimately, so that we can encourage them more specically. My point in this post was to point us toward intimate relationships that are necessary (I think) for specific exhortation and for maturity. I don’t think we mature toward Christ-likeness with general encouragement/teaching alone.

    By the way, for those who do not know, Dan and I work in the same office. My response to him is a summary of some of the things we have talked about in our office. I’m pretty sure that Dan and I are on the same page, and I definitely appreciate the balance that his question brought about.


    You have certainly taught me about knowing people and encouraging people. I also think it is important for small groups of believers to get to know one another in order to see this kind of exhortation. I’m not going to touch the question about SEBTS chapel…


    I understand what you are saying about Jesus. And, I do agree that there will be some people we are closer to, and others that we are not as close to. However, there is a difference. Jesus could walk up to “a complete stranger” (such as Zaccheus or the woman at the well) and know them intimately. We can’t do this.


  8. 4-25-2007

    Alan, you are right to say that we cannot do this, but with God all things are possible, and, if it were in line with His divine purpose to give you spiritual discernment through the power of the Holy Spirit for that moment and place, then He could do it. Never forget that. He has an infinite imagination to accomplish His plan and He, amazingly, chooses us to do much of the work… We are Christ’s ambassadors here… remember? We are His representatives. We have the mind of Christ. We have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, demonstrating that we have been bought by His blood in a covenant relationship and have all the benefits of living in the Father’s house… Wow! Wow!! Hallelujah!!!!

    (people are going to start thinking I’m a dangerous charismatic or something. LOL. Darn that Strider.)

  9. 4-25-2007


    I certainly appreciate this post as it declares one of the most important principles of function in the local Body of Christ; expression of the fruits of ones confession.

    We have to look beyond some of our hard and fast traditions of practice, which we wear like shackles. When we do this we will be free to encourage our brethren to see this is how every member of the Body is meant to minister, in one way or another, as Koester says in your quote, as well as in the other great “one anothers” of Scripture.

    Elders must be the models, as it is obviously the case with yourself.

  10. 4-25-2007


    Thank you for the reminder and the enthusiasm! Having the presence of the Spirit and the mind of Christ is certainly something to be excited about!

    Aussie John,

    I greatly appreciate your comment and your encouragement. I agree that the church seems to have lost the ability to serve one another, replacing this with rituals and events.