Word of the Week
January 2, 2021
What Kind of “New” Will the New Year Be?
We stand at the beginning of a new year and we wonder what it will be like. Will the trends that started in 2020 plunge us even more deeply into trouble? Or will we turn a corner and head into a wide place where we can breathe more freely?
At Ezra Project, we are planning to expand our services to the growing community of people who are serious about Bible study. The new Web site is up and the online word study course will be available very soon.
Right now, we are providing you with a bonus feature for the new year: an article from 2019 that discusses the two Greek words for “new.” To learn more about the difference between “just another year” and “something brand new,” continue reading here
Parakaleō – Ministry to the Stuck
My pastor in Arizona used to pray, “Lord, comfort the afflicted . . . and afflict the comfortable?”
He recognized the fact that people sometimes need to have an arm around their shoulder, but at other times they need a swift kick in the pants! Some need comfort and others need motivation.
We think of those as two opposite strategies, but there is a Greek word in the New Testament that includes both!
The Greek word is parakaleōi which occurs 109 times. and is variously translated as “to exhort, to encourage, to comfort.”
Let’s get acquainted with the main ideas covered by this verb.
- It can mean “to ask for something, to beseech someone to do something.” In the Gospels, people repeatedly begged Jesus for healing or some other kind of help.
- A centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant (Matthew 8:5)
- A leper begged for healing (Mark 1:40)
- Jairus desperately sought healing for his dying daughter (Mark 5:23)
- Even the demons asked Jesus to send them into a herd of pigs rather than destroying them (Matthew 8:31).
In each case, someone strongly urged Jesus to move into action to meet their need.
- It can mean “to exhort, to encourage.” The apostle Paul repeatedly urged the believers to pursue a course of action, to put their faith into practice.
- He urged the Galatians to continue in their faith through tribulation (Acts 14:2)
- He asked the Romans to pray for him (Romans 15:10)
- He told the Romans to avoid false teachers (Romans 16:17)
- He begged the Corinthians not to fight with each other (1 Corinthians 1:10)
In each case, the apostle strongly urged someone to take action. He was pushing people to overcome their inertia or resistance so they could move ahead in obeying God.
- It can mean “to comfort, encourage.” When a person is paralyzed by a load of anxiety or guilt, they need a healing word to enable them to start living again.
- Titus was comforted by Corinth’s enthusiastic response to his ministry, and Paul was comforted when Titus reported the good news (2 Corinthians 7:7,13)
- Paul sent Tychicus to comfort the Christians in Ephesus and Colosse who were anxious about his condition in prison (Ephesians 6:22; Colossians 4:8).
In each case, comfort is contagious. Titus and Tychicus receive encouragement and then they pass it on to others.
The classic text on comfort is 2 Corinthians 1:4, where Paul explains that God comforts us – and then we can share that same comfort with others!
When people would parakaleō Jesus, they were desperately hoping to persuade Him to act on their behalf. Imagine their joy when they found that He had come for that very purpose! God is the great Encourager, so much so that the Greek word parakletos is used as a title for the Holy Spirit, one who is called alongside to help us.
The rest of us, on the other hand, usually need to have someone parakaleō us because we are stuck!
Perhaps you are mired in complacency or laziness, and you need to have someone who will exhort you – someone who will give you a strong push to take the next step of obedience to the Lord.
Perhaps you are paralyzed by grief or fear – you need someone who provide the comfort that will enable you to move forward.
Ask God to be your Exhorter or your Comforter, and He will come alongside you to provide what you need. He might use another Christian to say the words. And then you can be an encourager for the next person. According to Hebrews 10:25, that’s one of the main reasons that we are supposed to assemble with other believers!
This word comes from two Greek words that mean “to call alongside (to help).” Two other Greek words in the New Testament are in the same word group:
Paraklētos – a person who helps, encourages, comforts, exhorts
Paraklēsis – the act or message of encouragement, comfort, exhortation
Both of these words are worth study alongside parakleō.
Q: I have heard that the “falling away” mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is not as bad as it has been painted in the past because of the similarity between “apostasy” and “apostle.” Do you have any comment on this?
A: There has been considerable controversy about this verse, and one Greek word study won’t solve it all. However, it is safe to say that there is no connection between “apostasy” and “apostle.”
“Apostasy” is from the Greek word apostasia formed from apo (away from) + histēmi (to stand).
It means a falling away or defection, as you can see in Acts 21:21, the only other NT use.
“Apostle” is from the Greek word apostolos formed from apo + stellō (to send).
It normally means a person who is sent on an assignment.
The two words are not connected at all, even though their spelling is somewhat similar.
Adoption is a common feature of life today, and it is mentioned in the New Testament several tmes. But there are some major differences between first century adoption and our version. ©Ezra Project 2021