Thursday, February 9, 2012

Exhortation and Mercy - Part 5 of Spiritual Gifts

Today we’re focusing on two spiritual gifts that are a bit harder to pin down – that is, they’re easy to confuse with just being a part of somebody’s personality.  However, we know from Scripture that exhortation and mercy are indeed spiritual gifts , so let’s dive into the Word and discover specifically what they entail in the spiritual context.

Today’s base verse is Romans 12:8:
or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Exhortation – What

Exhort is the Greek word parakaleo, and exhortation is paraklesis (derived from the same root).  Exhort (parakaleo) means to call to, call for, exhort, or encourage.  It is translated a vast array of ways in the New Testament, including appeal, beg, beseech, entreat, implore, plead, urge, conciliate (win over), and comfort.  Exhortation (paraklesis) means a calling to one’s aid, encouragement, and comfort.  It is translated as comfort, consolation, encouragement, exhortation, appeal, and urge.

As you can tell from the formal definitions, exhortation takes a variety of forms.  I personally found five different forms in the New Testament:
·  A gentle urging to general good behavior.  Consider 1 Corinthians 4:16, “I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me.”
·  A strong command to perform a specific action.  Consider 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12, “For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.  Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.”
·  Giving Biblical advice – ways to apply it to one’s life (distinct from teaching – exhortation being more along the lines of general Biblical advice, from what I can tell).  Consider 1 Timothy 4:13, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.”
·  Sharing hopeful messages of redemption from Scripture (to believers or unbelievers).  Consider Acts 13:15-44 and Luke 3:18, “So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people.”
·  General encouragement, not necessarily with a specific focus on the Bible.  Consider Colossians 4:8, “For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage (parakaleo) your hearts” and 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage (parakaleo) one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”

One passage I found that sums up the multi-faceted nature of exhortation quite well is 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12: “You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”

Exhortation – Who

So now let’s tackle the tricky task of figuring out who fits this far-reaching mold, eh? :-)

Based on both experience and our newly-learned definitions and Scripture messages for exhortation, I would classify a person with the gift of exhortation as the perfect “good friend.”

Do you know any believers who just always seem to have a timely word of gentle advice, and are super good at listening to you and encouraging you – way more so than most people?  I would wager that this person has the spiritual gift of exhortation.

As a (albeit-important) side-note, notice that exhortation seems to be incorporated into other spiritual gifts, including teaching (1 Timothy 4:13) and prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:3).  These two, along with apostleship, are varying degrees of “catch-all” gifts…but we’ll get to those in another post. ;-)

Exhortation – How

I’d like to take a moment to make a final note on the how of exhortation.  You’ll note in our base verse for today that it reads, “…he who exhorts, in his exhortation…”  Remember back from our Greek definitions that exhort (parakaleo) has a variety of meanings, some of them quite stern, whereas exhortation (paraklesis) emphasizes the encouragement aspect. 

Therefore, I think there is a very important point in this verse that can’t quite be conveyed when it is translated: “…he who performs the various acts involved in exhorting someone, let him do it with the mindset of encouraging and building him up – let him do it gently.”

This is echoed in 2 Timothy 4:2, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”


Mercy is a bit easier to define. :-)  It is the Greek word eleos, simply meaning mercy, pity, and compassion.  With the sole exceptions of references to the Old Testament in Hebrews 9:5 and 10:28, eleos and its verb form eleeo are used exclusively to mean mercy in the New Testament.  In context, it involves extending forgiveness and aid to others.

(Examples include Matthew 15:32, Romans 15:9, and James 3:17, among many, many others.)

What does this look like in human form?  It seems evident that it’s a person who has a particular, supernatural inclination to forgive people and do things for them when they absolutely do not deserve it.

Finally, what does the instruction in our base verse, “…he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” mean?  From personal experience, I can attest that sometimes when you feel the Spirit prompting you to do something, you kind of begrudge it at the time because you don’t want to do it even though you know deep down it’s another, highly beneficial step toward making you more Christ-like.  I believe this is what’s going on here – Paul is instructing those with the spiritual gift of mercy (that is, the special commission and prompting by the Spirit to extend this mercy to others) that even when they don’t feel like it, when they feel that prompting, they should obey with cheerfulness – it is their task for the edification of the body (1 Corinthians 12:7).

Join the Conversation

Do you have the spiritual gift of mercy or exhortation?  Do you know of someone who does?  Can you think of specific examples of these gifts in Scripture?

No comments: