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Jamie Johnson
1 September 2019

Encourage or Exhort?

I was having a conversation with one of my children who asked where the gift of encouragement was in the Bible. I pointed to Romans 12:6-8 (NIV), which says the following:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

In Romans 12:6-8 (NASB), it says similarly the following:

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

The NIV mentions "encourage...encouragement" while the NASB mentions "exhorts...exhortation" in verse 8. This had me curious, so I looked into the Greek, which translates to the following:

We are having however gifts according to the grace - having been given to us different: if prophecy, according to the proportion of the faith; or service, in the service; or - teaching, in the teaching; or - exhorting, in the exhortation; - giving, in generosity; - leading, with diligence; - showing mercy, with cheerfulness.

Source: Bible Hub

So, I looked particularly at verse 8 and the Greek words used for exhorting and exhortation. The Greek word for exhorting is παρακαλω~ν (parakalōn) and the Greek word for exhortation is παρακλη'σει (paraklēsei) (source: Bible Hub). I looked further and found this information regarding exhorting: parakaleó: to call to or for, to exhort, to encourage (παρακαλε'ω), meaning "to call to or for, to exhort, to encourage" with the usage "I send for, summon, invite, I beseech, entreat, beg, I exhort, admonish, I comfort, encourage, console." And it is from 2 words: pará, "from close-beside" and kaléō, "to call") -- properly, "make a call" from being "close-up and personal." The word parakaléō ("personally make a call") refers to believers offering up evidence that stands up in God's court. Further, parakaléō is the root of paráklētos ("legal advocate"), likewise has legal overtones (source: Bible Hub). And this points to the Paraklete -- the Holy Spirit! And He is called our Advocate or Helper/Counselor (refer to John 14:26). And He both exhorts and encourages!

As one with the gift of encouragement, that all had me thinking: Whoever has the gift of encouragement needs to exhort and encourage. Whoever has the gift of exhortation needs to encourage and exhort. Exhortation and encouragement are 2 sides of the same coin. When I encourage, I sometimes only focus on the comforting and not saying the hard things of truth. When I exhort, I sometimes only focus on getting the admonishing truth out there without the comfort. I was convicted in my study that I need to do both. In both cases, I need to speak the truth in love as is written in Ephesians 4:15. When I encourage, I want to cheer on folks when they are on the right track. That right track is truth and that is the "exhortation part" of it. And when I exhort, I need to do so gently as Galatians 6:1 commands. When encouraging, it is not always playing it safe, but it is encouragement towards truth. When exhorting, it is not "in the face," but is gentle -- the truth in love. Again, God's Word challenges me.

I noticed another observation after having traveled in Greece years ago. In English, when someone says, "Thank you," we say, "You're welcome." In Greece, in a similar manner, when someone says, "Thank you," they say, "Efharisto" (Eucharisto/Ευχαριστω'). And the "You're welcome" response is "Parakalo" (Παρακαλω'). And that "You're welcome" word is almost identical to the exhorting/encouraging word. I thought about the interchange. A November 2014 word study came to mind where I wrote the following:

The word for "thanksgiving" is built on the words for "good grace" and the word for "grace" is built on the word for "joy."
eucharistias εὐχαριστίας thanksgiving
eu εὖ good + charis χάρις grace
chara χαρά joy.

And our response to "Good grace" (of which joy is the foundation) is to exhort and encourage it -- "welcome" it -- "Parakal(e)o." We want to exhort and encourage God's grace and gratitude and joy. We want to encourage and exhort truth in love and love in truth. Truth without love is fruitless as 1 Corinthians 13 makes clear. And love without truth is not true love. Rather, it is a man-made construct and an idol.

And I thought about our English word encourage where it means "in heart" (en cour). And looking into that word, I found that is true, but more specifically, it means "make strong, hearten...put in...heart" (source: Online Etymology Dictionary).

So, all of that said, may we find strength in the truth and comfort of Jesus in our hearts and spread it to others. Let's encourage, but do so in the truth of God's Word -- the Bible. And let's exhort, but do so gently.


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