In my Wednesday night bible studies with Ian Cordery last week, I got an assignment to prepare a topic on "Encouragement". Christians are reminded to encourage each other - but how and why? I set out to check out some Bible verses on encouragement, and here's the result.
There are quite a few different words for encouragement in the Bible, and I shall mainly focus on two aspects. First of all, we have οἰκοδομέω. From Strong's Greek Dictionary:
- οἰκοδομέω (G3618)
- to be a house builder, that is, construct or (figuratively) confirm - (be in) build (-er, -ing, up), edify, embolden.
It carries the idea of a constructor or a builder of a house, as greek word oikia means a house. It is about building up the house of God, which is the body of Christ, which is the church itself. The word can be found in 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
For God didn't appoint us to wrath, but to the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Therefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as you also do. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, WEB)
God has already appointed us to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ! The wish of God is to save us, and as the judgement/final day will come like a thief - make sure you are ready! How? Exhort each other and build each other up...
Another frequently used word is παρακαλέω, and its definition in the Strong's is:
- παρακαλέω (G3870)
- to call near, that is, invite, invoke (by imploration, hortation or consolation) - beseech, call for, (be of good) comfort, desire, (give) exhort (-ation), intreat, pray.
It has a different meaning - it is about inviting or exhorting your brothers and sisters in Christ to do something. I found this word in Hebrews 10:25 where the author of Hebrews requests the recepients to continue encourage each other while they wait for The Day.
Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works, not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25, WEB)
In NIV and ESV, exhorting was translated to encourage and encouraging, which I think might not be a good translation after I understand the meaning behind, and I think WEB's exhorting might be a better translation (IMHO) because of people's general understanding of encouragment. When I read Hebrews 10:24-25 before, the word encourage gives me quite a general idea, i.e. comforting, cheering, exorting, etc as we see God's judgement day approaches. However, the whole Hebrews chapter 10+ now gives me a better picture by narrowing the meaning of encourage here to inviting and exhorting. The author has just spent the last 3-4 chapters talking about this once-for-all idea, and he will spend the next two chapter talking about examples of faith in the Old Testament and 'fixing eyes' on Jesus (12:2) - this encouragement is really about inviting the recepients to have faith/trust in God's final word for us.
We shall look at other examples in the Bible on the issue of encouragement, around these two words...