THE PRINCIPLE OF ENCOURAGEMENT

Most of the biblical principles we have looked at so far focus on how God wants us to relate to each other. The biblical principle of encouragement is another such relationship principle. Also like most of the others, it mirrors the actions of God towards us.

The Greek word for encourage (exhort), parakaleo means to call someone along side. The noun parakletos is translated ‘comforter’, ‘counsellor’ and ‘advocate’. The noun paraklesis is translated ‘comfort’, ‘encouragement’. This biblical principle assumes that we all need encouragement. We cannot live life successfully on our own. In particular, we cannot live the Christian life successfully without encouragement and support of both God and others.

In the New Testament:

Jesus is called our ‘advocate’ [1John 2:2]. He is the one who stands in the presence of God the Father as our Mediator, our great high priest. By his mediation we have permanent, present access to the Father [Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:21,22.] This is an ultimate and absolute encouragement: that because of Jesus, our parakletos, nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the ‘Counsellor’, the Comforter [John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7]. The Holy Spirit, the parakletos, is constantly present with us, encouraging us by teaching us about Jesus Christ, reminding us of the words of Jesus, leading us into more and more truth about Jesus, drawing us away from our sinfulness and changing us more and more into the image of Jesus [2Corinthians 3:18].

The New Testament also describes comfort, consolation, exhortation, encouragement as

Coming from God [Romans 15:5; 2Corinthians 1:3; 2Thessalonians 2:16,17]
Coming from Jesus Christ [Philippians 2:1]
Coming from he Holy Spirit [Acts 9:31]
God’s gift within the body, the church [Romans 12:8]
Coming from the Scriptures [Romans 15:4]
Resulting from the proclamation of the Word of God [1Corinthians 14:3, 31]
Expressed by believers to each other [2Corinthians 1:4-7; Philemon 7].

Just as the triune God encourages us, so those who believe in Jesus Christ are commanded:

To encourage one another with God’s truth [1Thessalonians 4:18; 1Timothy 6:2; 2Timothy 4:2]
To encourage one another and build each other up [1Thessalonians 5:11]
To encourage the timid and help the weak [1Thessalonians 5:14]
To devote themselves to reading the Scripture, to encouragement [Greek text] and to teaching [1Timothy 4:13].
To encourage one another daily [Hebrews 3:13].

Hebrews 10:24,25 commands us to 'spur one another on toward love and good deeds' and 'not give up meeting together ... but ... encourage one another'. These words were written to Christians who were suffering religious persecution from the Jews and physical persecution from the Romans. The temptation to give in and give up believing in Jesus Christ was great. The more difficult it becomes to remain faithful to Jesus the more urgently we each need encouragement. The more the world tells us that our hope in Christ is ungrounded, the more we each need encouragement to 'hold unswervingly' to that hope [verse 23]. These commands are just as necessary today as they were when they were first written.

How do we encourage each other? It can be by example. It can be by our physical presence or our practical help. But it is mostly by the things we say. Our words have the power to either destroy or to build, to pull down or to lift up, to cause fear and guilt or to bring peace and joy, to generate doubt or generate trust.

As we commit to this principle of encouragement let us obey Paul's command: 'Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs' [Ephesians 4:29].

© Rosemary Bardsley 2016