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Peterson on Encouragement in Hebrews

Posted by on Mar 27, 2009 in edification, scripture | 2 comments

In his article “The Ministry of Encouragement” (in God Who is Rich in Mercy, Eds. Peter T. O’Brien and David G. Peterson; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986) David Peterson writes about the use of the verb “to encourage” and the noun “encouragement” in Paul’s letters and in the Book of Hebrews. Concerning the book of Hebrews, he writes:

One of the features of Hebrews is its emphasis on the care that members of the church should have for each other. They should take care lest there be in any of their number (3:12) an evil, unbelieving heart, and exhort one another lest any should be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (3:13). The writer’s desire for each one of them to show “the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end” (6:11) leads him to challenge them to minister to one another again in 10:24-25 and in 12:12-17. The last passage echoes particularly the sentiment of 3:12-13 by challenging them to “take care” lest anyone “fail to obtain the grace of God” and any “‘root of bitterness’ spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled”… (244; italics in original)

In this connection it is interesting to recall the writer’s statement about his readers in Heb 5:12. Sufficient time has elapsed since their conversion to Christ for him to say “you ought to be teachers”… [T]he wider context of Hebrews would suggest that the writer is not simply concerned about their professing and propagating the faith to unbelievers but about their teaching one another by means of mutual exhortation to hold fast the confession of their hope without wavering… (244-45; italics in original)

At the conclusion of the central doctrinal section of Hebrews the exhortations of 10:19-25 draw out the practical arguments of the writer’s teaching about the death of Jesus and his heavenly session. The third hortatory subjunctive [command] in the sequence urges the readers: “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”. The appeal to “consider one another” implies thoughtful reflection and recalls the use of the same verb in 3:1 (“consider Jesus”) and the challenge in 3:12 to “take care” with respect to the spiritual health of the congregation. The expression “to stir up one another to love and good works” indicates the need for Christians to be constantly roused or provoked by one another to godly living, no matter how much they have demonstrated “love and good works” in the past… The concept is not that of self-protection by staying in the fold but of a positive responsibility to minister to other Christians. (245)

And his conclusion:

Hebrews teaches that mutual exhortation in a congregation is essential as a means of dealing with problems of unbelief and temptations to apostasy. It is the divinely appointed means of encouraging believers to persevere in the faith. (249-50)

I am enjoying my study of the “Theology of Encouragement in Hebrews“!


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  1. 3-29-2009


    It is definitely a necessary thing in this day and age to encourage others where unbelief and apostasy are concerned.

    There are many false doctrines out there where one could be deceived away from the faith. Especially yound believers. There are also many opportunities for believers to be led astray by allowing a root of bitterness to spring up in their hearts, this could also lead someone to apostasy.

    Just one of many reasons why the word encourages us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together and all the more as the end approaches.

    Sounds like an awesome study!!


  2. 3-29-2009


    I agree that mutual encouragement is necessary. I think most would agree that mutual encouragement is good, but few would say it is necessary.