Who Is an Exhorter?
The word, exhorter, is found in Romans, chapter 12, verse 8, as a part of a list of ministries: “Or he that exhorts, on exhortation.” The Greek word is parakaleo. It’s the same word from which the noun, parakletos, comes. It is used for the Holy Spirit and is usually translated as comforter.
Now, para means near or next to, and kaleo means to call. So parakaleo means to call near. An exhorter is one who calls another person to himself. My picture is an older, more mature man calling a younger one near him, embracing his shoulder, and telling him things he doesn’t know yet.
Teachers and preachers may say to people what they know, or they may give them new information. But exhorters tell people what they probably know wrong. Exhortation means correction, replacing wrong thoughts and beliefs with Biblical ones.
This shows that the ministry of an exhorter is usually not a popular one. Telling people, churches, and movements that they are wrong in certain areas is rarely received with openness.
But at some points in our Christian walk we need exhortation. Sometimes it seems we have done all we could but our life still doesn’t show as much fruit as we want. This may be the time when we can take away the mistakes, the wrong thought and habit patterns that hinder us. As Jesus said,
“every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it, that it may bring forth more fruit”
(John 15:2). This kind of pruning is one of the tasks of the exhorter.
But there is a positive side of parakaleo too, which means to comfort and encourage. In times of trouble and sadness, an exhorter can be a great help.