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 Ï€Î±ÏÎ±ÎºÎ±Î»ÎÏ‰ (parakaleo) and the noun Ï€Î±ÏÎ¬ÎºÎ»Î·ÏƒÎ¹Ï‚ (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 â€œexhortâ€ (parakalein) and to give â€œexhortationâ€ (paraklÄ“sis) is integral to Hebrews. Through his â€œword of exhortationâ€ (13:22), the author does in written form what he wants listeners to do for each other. He is concerned about individuals (i.e., â€œany one of youâ€,â€ 3:12), but gives members of the community responsibility to exhort â€œone anotherâ€ against sin. Later, exhortation will mean â€œstrong encouragementâ€ (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.