A photo of an open Bible, with the word "exhortation" highlighted in vibrant colors, reminding readers of its importance and encouraging them to apply its teachings in daily life.

What Does Exhortation Mean In The Bible?

If you have ever wondered what the Bible means when it talks about exhorting others or being exhorted yourself, you’re not alone. Exhortation is an important biblical concept that believers should understand.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: In the Bible, exhortation refers to strongly encouraging, urging, or pleading with someone to pursue a specific course of action, especially actions related to spiritual growth and obedience to God.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore the meaning of exhortation throughout Scripture, looking at various Hebrew and Greek words translated as “exhort.” We’ll see how exhortation functions in relationships between believers, and between church leaders and congregations.

With over a dozen subheadings, we’ll leave no stone unturned in answering what the Bible means by exhortation!

The Definition of Exhortation in the Bible

Exhortation is an important concept in the Bible that contains rich meaning. At its core, exhortation refers to urging, advising, or strongly encouraging someone to lead a godly life and pursue righteous actions. It can take the form of inspiration, warning, or comfort depending on the situation.

Encouragement to Pursue Godliness

Throughout the Bible, there are many examples of exhortation aimed to motivate and inspire God’s people towards greater faithfulness and obedience. For instance, in 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12, Paul writes, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, exhorting you and encouraging you and charging you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”

Other verses such as Hebrews 10:24-25 emphasize the important role exhortation plays within the church community: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Warnings Against Sinful Actions

There are also many biblical passages where exhortation takes the form of warning God’s people against partaking in sin and disobedience. For example, Colossians 3:5-8 says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

On account of these the wrath of God is coming.

In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.”

The purpose of these urgent warnings is to steer Christians away from actions and lifestyles that are unpleasing to God. As the Bible makes clear in 2 Timothy 4:2, exhortation that “reproves, rebukes, and exhorts” plays a vital role in sound biblical teaching.

Comfort in Times of Hardship

While exhortation often focuses on righteous living, it can also provide encouragement and reassurance during difficult trials. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 describes God as “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Likewise, 1 Thessalonians 4:18 instructs believers to “encourage one another with these words” regarding Christ’s second coming and the hope of resurrection for those who have passed away. Such verses demonstrate how exhortation gives hope and courage to press on, even in times of grief and persecution.

Key Hebrew and Greek Words for Exhortation

Yâsar – To Instruct and Guide

The Hebrew word yâsar (יָסַר) means to instruct, discipline, or correct. It is often translated as “chasten,” “teach,” or “admonish.” Yâsar refers to giving guidance, warning, and direction in order to train someone in proper behavior or obedience.

In the Bible, it is used both of God correcting and disciplining his people (Deut 8:5; Ps 94:12) and of parents instructing their children (Prov 29:17). The goal of yâsar is to mature and strengthen the one being exhorted.

Nâcham – To Comfort or Console

The Hebrew word nâcham (נָחַם) means to comfort, console, or have compassion. It conveys the idea of coming alongside someone in their distress to give them strength, encouragement, and hope. In exhortation, nâcham refers to comforting those who are discouraged, grieving, or weary by reminding them of God’s promises and presence with them.

As Isaiah 40:1 says, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”

Yâsap – To Add or Increase

The Hebrew verb yâsap (יָסַף) means to add, increase, continue, or do again. It often expresses the idea of repeating an action or going beyond the minimum required. In exhortation, yâsap conveys the notion of ongoing encouragement – to continually spur others on in their faith and obedience to God.

The exhorter comes back again and again to strengthen and motivate those under their care (1 Thess 2:11).

Palal – To Intervene or Intercede

The Hebrew word palal (פָּלַל) means to intervene, intercede, or pray. In the context of exhortation, it refers to pleading with God on behalf of others. The exhorter intercedes for those they are counseling, asking God to act on their behalf.

As part of their role, they bring the needs of others before God’s throne and seek his aid and mercy toward them (1 Sam 12:23).

Parakaleō – To Call Alongside

The Greek word parakaleō (παρακαλέω) means to call to one’s side, to exhort, or to encourage. It involves coming alongside someone to give aid, assistance, or counsel. Parakaleō is one of the main words used in the New Testament for exhortation and conveys the idea of comforting, consoling, beseeching, or advocating for others.

The goal is to strengthen them in their faith and spur them on to love and good deeds (Heb 10:24-25).

Exhortation Between Fellow Believers

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to encourage and build up one another in faith. The Bible offers clear guidance on exhorting fellow believers, emphasizing the importance of nurturing spiritual growth, confronting sin, and living out Christ’s command to “love one another.”

Encouraging Spiritual Growth in the Church

Scripture urges us to exhort our fellow Christians to mature in their relationship with God. As Hebrews 10:24-25 states, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.”

We can accomplish this through praying for each other, studying the Bible together, and generally spurring each other on towards deeper faith.

Exhorting Brothers and Sisters Against Sinful Living

At times, a spirit of gentle correction and rebuke can also characterize biblical exhortation between believers. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is…sexually immoral or greedy, or an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one.”

Church discipline and confrontation of sin should always be carried out in a spirit of restoration (Galatians 6:1). The goal is to lovingly challenge a fellow believer to turn from destructive patterns and return to righteous living.

The “One Another” Passages About Exhortation

Scripture contains 50+ “one another” passages, many focused on exhortation within the church. For example:

  • Romans 15:14 – “Admonish one another”
  • Colossians 3:16 – “Admonish one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11 – “Encourage one another and build each other up”

As a 2015 Barna study discovered, 53% of practicing Christians say their closest friends share their faith. By exhorting fellow believers, we can strengthen our spiritual friendships and the church.

Exhortation from Church Leaders

Elders Encouraging Sound Doctrine and Refuting False Teaching

Church elders have an important responsibility to exhort the congregation towards sound biblical doctrine and refute false teaching that may creep in (Titus 1:9). They are called to “give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”

This exhortation encourages church members to be grounded in their faith and avoid drifting into unbiblical beliefs.

Overseers Exhorting and Convincing Those Who Contradict

In a similar vein, those who serve as overseers in the church must be able “to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Part of their duty is to lovingly exhort and convince false teachers of biblical truth, with the hope of restoring them to proper doctrine (Titus 1:9).

Examples of Paul and Timothy Exhorting Churches

Throughout the New Testament we see examples of church leaders exhorting local congregations. The apostle Paul offered strong words of exhortation to churches he planted, instructing them to remain strong in the faith (Acts 14:22).

His protege Timothy worked to “strengthen and encourage” the believers in Thessalonica amidst persecution (1 Thess. 3:2). Church leaders today continue this tradition of exhorting believers through teaching, preaching and pastoral care.

The Power and Purpose of Exhortation

Exhortation Equips Believers for Ministry Work

Exhortation in the Bible refers to urging, advising, or pleading with someone to take action. It is a powerful way for believers to equip each other for ministry work. As Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Through exhortation, we can motivate our brothers and sisters in Christ to use their gifts and talents for God’s glory.

Exhortation may involve urging believers to avoid sin and pursue righteousness (Hebrews 3:12-13), to remain strong in their faith during trials (Acts 14:22), or to fulfill their calling in ministry (2 Timothy 4:2).

It aims to instill wisdom, faith, hope, and sound doctrine in fellow believers so they are equipped for every good work (Titus 2:1-10).

The Goal of Exhortation is Changed Hearts and Lives

More than just communicating information, the ultimate goal of exhortation is life transformation. As James 1:22 states, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Exhortation calls us to not merely listen to wise counsel, but act upon it from the heart.

When done in love, exhortation can powerfully influence attitudes, priorities, and behaviors. It helps believers resist worldly temptations, pursue God’s will, and glorify Christ with their lives. As 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 expresses, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”

Lives are changed when hearts are stirred to action.

Urgent Exhortations to Save Souls from Destruction

At times, exhortation takes on an urgent tone, warning hearers to repent and believe to save their souls from eternal destruction. As Jude 1:22-23 declares, “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”

This urgent exhortation compels wayward sinners to turn from sin and receive God’s redemption before it is too late.

Similarly, 2 Corinthians 5:20 implores, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” The apostle Paul intensely exhorted people to be reconciled to God through faith in Christ, knowing the eternal peril faced by the unrepentant.

When souls hang in the balance, exhortation takes on a bold, uncompromising tone to save people from impending judgment.


In summary, exhortation is vitally important in the Bible for urging fellow believers along toward spiritual maturity and obedience to God. Church leaders exhort their congregations, while average Christians exhort one another daily.

The passion, urgency, and sincerity behind biblical exhortation demonstrates the importance of pursuing wholehearted devotion to Christ and sound doctrine. All exhortation aims to equip Christians for doing God’s work and to save souls from drifting into the destruction of sin.

Understanding the biblical meaning of exhortation should give us a greater appreciation for the loving urgency behind the pleas and warnings throughout Scripture. May we all spur one another on toward love and good deeds through compassionate, thoughtful exhortation by the power of God’s Spirit.

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