Exhortation is defined as “an urging done by someone close beside.” Paul instructs Timothy, saying, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). The word most often translated “exhort” or “exhortation” comes from the Greek word paraklésis, which means “to call to one’s side; to summon, encourage, admonish, entreat.” To exhort is to develop relationships with other believers for the purpose of encouraging them in their spiritual growth. Part of Timothy’s job as a young pastor was to encourage and admonish those within his flock. God holds pastors responsible for the spiritual well-being of those in their care (Hebrews 13:17), and exhortation is part of keeping them spiritually healthy.
Exhortation is also one of the spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12:6–8. “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: . . . he who exhorts, in his exhortation” (NASB). The Holy Spirit gifts believers with different supernatural abilities to serve Christ and one another. The gift of exhortation is a person’s unique ability to encourage and edify others. This person delights in finding Scriptures that apply to a situation and teaching others how to apply them. People with this gift are often involved in teaching, counseling, and discipleship training ministries within the church. Exhorters are among the first to find believers who are floundering in their faith. They come alongside the weaker ones to encourage, confront, if necessary, and model victorious living.
People with the gift of exhortation do not merely proclaim truth, as prophets often do. They develop relationships, often taking time to do those little extras that make the difference when someone is struggling. Rather than say, “You should begin reading the Psalms every day,” an exhorter might say, “Let’s start a Bible study together on Psalms. How about coffee Tuesday morning?” We are instructed to earnestly desire spiritual gifts, which implies that, as we are faithful with the ones we have been given, God will entrust us with more (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1). Regardless of our primary gifts, all Christians should desire to become better at exhortation to build up those who are weaker, encourage those who lead, and strengthen the Body of Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Corinthians 1:4).