Since this month’s study is mostly an in-depth look at 1 Thessalonians, you will get the most out of it if you take the time first to read the book. If possible, the best way to do this is to read it in one sitting (fortunately, this is a small book and won’t take much time). If you do not mind writing in your Bible, you might want to underline all uses of the words encourage, comfort, exhort, urge, and maybe beseech or appeal depending on your translation. You should find 9-13 usages. Almost every time you see these words, they stem from our root word for encourage (parakaleson). The only exceptions I could find are in the four passages noted below when Paul is using a string of similar words, each possibly to stress a different aspect of the meaning. The exceptions (using NIV) are:
2:12 – “… encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” In this passage, the first word is our word with its broad range of meaning. The second, comforting, is a more specific word used in relation to tragedy or grief. And the third, urging, is also more specific and more insistant (some translations might have “charging you” or “pleading with you”).
4:1 – “Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.” Paul is asking them to remember and live out what they had been taught about how to live in a way that pleases God. He asks first with a general word for asking, then uses our word (rendered “urge” here) to denote more urgency and be more commanding. By asking twice, Paul is being emphatic. He further stresses the importance of what he’s asking by adding “in the Lord” to his request.
5:12 – Neither of the two usages in this verse are from our root word.
5:14 – “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” The urging that Paul is doing is our root word. The other words are more specific depending on the task he’s telling us to do. Warning the idle (or unruly) has a harsher connotation. Encouraging the timid (or fainthearted) is the same word used in 2:12 which implies help for those who may be losing heart due to grief or tragedy. Helping the weak would involve being devoted to or “holding up” those who, for various reasons, cannot stand in their own strength at the moment (in this case, most likely because of weak faith or weak morals, but could also mean physically weak or ill). They need someone to walk closely beside them so they do not fall. And of course, all of us appreciate when others are patient with us.
According to 1:6 and 2:14-16 what kind of tragedy were the Thessalonians experiencing?
Grief for those who have died is addressed in 4:13-18. What does Paul say we can use to comfort/encourage one another under these circumstances? Continue reading