What is Biblical Exhortation?

by Mike Ratliff

13 ἕως ἔρχομαι πρόσεχε τῇ ἀναγνώσει, τῇ παρακλήσει, τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ. 1 Timothy 4:13 (NA28)

13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Timothy 4:13 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

One of those things all Christians, and especially Christian leaders, should be about is obeying Paul’s command in 1 Timothy 4:13. Let us look within that command at what Paul means by “exhortation.” As is the case with so many other words, our English word, “exhortation” does not quite carry the same depth of meaning as does its Koine Greek equivalent. In this post we will look at both the Greek noun is translated as Exhortation, παράκλησις (paraklēsis) as well as παρακαλέω (parakaleō), which is often translated as “beseech.” Why do this? Much of what passes for preaching and teaching in the visible church these days in neither of these things, as we shall see. Consider this a call to repent to those Christian leaders who have compromised their ministries in order to become less controversial or to be more man pleasing as well as a time for you to learn how to discern that what you are hearing from your Church leaders is from God or not. 

What is exhortation? In 1 Timothy 4:13, the word I translated as “exhortation” is the noun παρακλήσει, which is the Dative, Singular form of παράκλησις (paraklēsis), which refers to an “admonition or encouragement for the purpose of strengthening and establishing the believer in the faith (Romans 15”4; Philippians 2:1; Hebrews 12:5; 13:22). Technically, an exhortation is the application of the exposition of scripture. It challenges God’s people to obey the truth of God’s Word and warns them of the consequences of not doing so.

Similar to παράκλησις is παρακαλέω (parakaleō). It is a compound word comprised of παρά (para), “beside,” and καλέω (kaleō), “to call.” Combining these together we have “to call alongside.” It is translated in various Bible translations in various places as “comfort (23 times),” “beseech (43 times),” and “exhort” (21 times). One of my favorite renderings of this word is found in Romans 12:1.

1 Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν· Romans 12:1 (NA28)

Παρακαλῶ here is most often translated as “I beseech…” The power of that is not simply that Paul is imploring the readers of that to listen and obey, but if you carefully read the entire passage, it is incredibly powerful as the Holy Spirit lays God’s truths on the heart of the believer how we truly grow more mature as Christians. In light of the great doctrinal truths leading up to Romans 12:1-2, which is, of course, Romans 1-11, Paul implores the Roman believers to live a life that corresponds to those truths.

Are your Christian leaders exhorting you? If you are in ministry, are you obeying the mandate of 1 Timothy 4:13 or are you patterning your ministry after the world and its ways? This devotion is what produces godly fruit and it lack produces only dead, fleshly fruit. If you are in a church that fails this test, you should consider moving on.

Soli Deo Gloria!