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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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Exhortation (παράκλησις) played an important part in the apostolic ministry. As a technical term for a specific kind of Christian teaching, it first emerges in Acts and in the Epistles. No mention of it (as such) appears in the Gospels. They record the facts and teaching of Christ upon which the later exhortations were founded. Exhortation, or παράκλησις, may be described as a summons to the will, an appeal-urgent, persuasive, and even authoritative-which was based sometimes on Scripture (Acts 13:15) or apostolic teaching (1 Timothy 6:2, 2 Timothy 4:2), but more especially on Christian prophecy (Acts 15:32, 1 Corinthians 14:3; 1 Corinthians 14:31). It was what we call in modern sermons the ‘application.’ Prophesying and exhorting naturally went together in the proclamation of salvation. Cremer holds that exhortation belongs ‘to the domain of prophecy, and is like this a special charisma (Romans 12:8), though it does not appear to have manifested itself separately as such’ (Bibl.-Theol. Lex. of NT Greek3, p. 337). Generally, no doubt, it was given by the Apostle or prophet himself, e.g. by St. Peter (Acts 2:40), by Barnabas (Acts 11:23), by St. Paul (Acts 13:15 ff.), but at times, so it would appear from Romans 12:8, the one who did the ‘exhorting’ might be a different speaker from the one who gave the ‘prophecy’ or ‘teaching.’ Frequently, indeed, especially in times of persecution or unrest, it consisted in a mutual exchange of encouragement or warning among believers (1 Thessalonians 4:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13; Hebrews 10:25).

As the word παράκλησις has many shades of meaning, so the ‘exhortations’ referred to in the NT have many tones of emotional stimulus. In fact, the character of the exhortation was determined by the circumstances which called it forth. In times of threatened apostasy it was admonitory; amid persecution and danger it promoted comfort. Often παράκλησις can only mean ‘Comfort’ (q.v. [Note: quod vide, which see.] ), and in all such instances it is so translated in both Authorized Version and Revised Version (Acts 9:31, Romans 15:4, 2 Corinthians 1:3 ff.); but in all cases where the Authorized Version renders it ‘exhortation’ the Revised Version does the same (except in 1 Corinthians 14:3, where it might with advantage be retained instead of ‘comfort’). Similarly the verb παρακαλέω is often appropriately translated ‘comfort’ in both versions, but, again, wherever in Authorized Version the sense requires ‘exhort’ it so appears in the text of Revised Version (except in Acts 18:27 ‘encourage’ and 2 Corinthians 9:5 ‘intreat’). To grasp the meaning of ‘exhort’ and ‘exhortation,’ as technical terms, it should be noticed that the verb παρακαλέω is, in many cases, translated ‘pray’ or ‘desire’ in Authorized Version , and ‘beseech’ or ‘intreat’ in Revised Version when, however, the appeal so expressed springs from some personal wish or judgment, whereas the terms ‘exhort’ and ‘exhortation’ are retained for instances where the basis of appeal is some Divinely-given truth or revelation (cf. παρεκάλουν, ‘besought,’ Acts 13:42, and παρακαλοῦντες, ‘exhorting,’ Acts 14:22). Exhortation proper (i.e. as part of the apostolic ministry), while it contained elements of personal entreaty (‘we beseech and exhort’ [1 Thessalonians 4:1]), partook more of the nature of a spiritually authoritative message (‘as though God were intreating, or exhorting [θεοῦ παρακαλοῦντος], by us,’ 2 Corinthians 5:20; cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:3 f.), reproving (Titus 2:15), encouraging (1 Thessalonians 2:11), commanding (2 Thessalonians 3:12), strengthening (Acts 14:22; Acts 15:32), edifying (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and, where successful, leading the hearers to a proper state of mind or to right conduct (Titus 2:6 ff., 1 Peter 5:1 f.).

It might be given to individuals, e.g. to Titus (2 Corinthians 8:17), to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3), to Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2); or it was a message addressed to the congregations, generally in their meetings for edification, either verbal (Acts 13:15; Acts 20:2, 1 Corinthians 14:3) or epistolary (Acts 15:31 m., Hebrews 13:22, 1 Peter 5:12, Judges 1:3).

Naturally exhortation was prominent at a time when a speedy Second Coming of Christ was expected (‘exhorting … so much the more as ye see the day drawing nigh,’ Hebrews 10:25; cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:18). The power of exhortation was regarded as one of the charismata, or ‘gifts’ bestowed by the Holy Spirit, for the edification of believers (Romans 12:8, 1 Corinthians 14:3). Barnabas, or ‘son of exhortation,’ was so surnamed by the apostles (Acts 4:36 Revised Version margin) because he was endowed with a large measure of this gift (Acts 11:23). But it was a gift that could be cultivated. Its intensity and power could be increased by proper attention, and so St. Paul urged Timothy to ‘give heed to exhortation’ as well as to reading and teaching (1 Timothy 4:13).

Literature.-H. Cremer, Bibl.-Theol. Lex. of NT Greek3, 1880, s.v. παράκλησις; O. Pfleiderer, Paulinism2, Eng. translation , 1891, vol. i. ch. vi. p. 236; see also Literature under article Comfort.

M. Scott Fletcher.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Exhortation'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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