Encouragement and Compliment Are Brothers but Not Twins


“Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Heb. 3:13)

Encouragement is a powerful weapon. Did you know that you are commanded to encourage others? How’s that going for you? I’ve been thinking about this lately. I’m not a great encourager and the Lord has been working on me. Encouragement is commanded in multiple places: 1 Thess 4:18, 5:11; Heb 3:13, to name a few. Along with these verses, there is overlap with other “one another” concepts like loving one another (1 Jn 3:11), serving one another (Gal 5:13), and being kind to one another (Eph 4:32).

Encouragement and Compliment:
When I say encouragement, I’m not merely talking about complimenting someone, though that may be important in its own right. Letting someone know you’ve noticed they’ve been hitting the gym is fine and good, but biblical encouragement is aimed at the heart through speaking Truth. We could say compliment and encouragement are brothers, but not twins. In Christian circles, many times “compliment” is synonymous with encouragement. That’s not exactly how the New Testament uses the idea of encouragement. Biblical encouragement is rooted in the work of Jesus (John 16:33), is tied to exhortation towards holiness (1 Thess 5:11), and comes through the Scriptures (Rom 15:4).Encouragement is a serious weapon in a spiritual battle.

Encouragement is rooted in the work of Jesus
Jesus gives his final talk to his disciples on the night of his arrest. He knows they are about to walk through the darkest imaginable days. In John 16, Jesus is both warning and stabilizing them. He tells them to “take heart” because “he has overcome the world (Jn 16:33b).” I don’t want to make too much out an argument from silence, but it is interesting that Jesus doesn’t encourage them by asking them to look at their own gifts, accomplishments, or even faith. They can take heart because Jesus overcomes.

Encouragement is tied to exhortation
The verse from Hebrews quoted above notes the necessity of encouraging one another, “so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Encouraging believers with biblical truth has a safeguarding effect. This is why it won’t do just to offer effusive compliments and call that biblical encouragement. We need to bolster one another’s faith by encouraging people to believe the gospel, by pointing out evidences of grace, and by stirring up others towards love and good deeds. Your encouragement is meaningful and important in a real spiritual battle.

First Thessalonians 5:11 follows a string of exhortations to recognize the seasons (1), to be aware of the coming of the Lord (2-5), and to walk soberly in truth knowing that we are not destined for wrath (6-10). With that in mind, they are to continue to “encourage one another and build one another up (11).”

Encouragement comes through the Bible
In Romans 15, the apostle Paul is concluding his section on Christian liberty by tying a few strings together. Believers are to follow the example of Christ through yielding to one another (verses 1-3), in accordance with the “encouragement of the Scriptures (4), so that you welcome one another and glorify the “God of endurance and encouragement.” (5-7)

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the people are commanded to “encourage one another with these words.” What words were those? Just prior to this verse Paul is talking about eschatology! Many don’t find discussions about the end times encouraging, but rather discouraging. The point of knowing that Jesus will return is to find hope and encouragement, not draw timelines and argue about millennial positions. I’m not anti-eschatology study, but let’s not lose focus on what to do with these truths, use them to encourage one another.

The scriptures are inherently encouraging, because they tell us the truth about the God of encouragement. As we consider how to truly encourage one another, we should do so not by simply offering compliments to one another, but by reminding one another of truth.

An Encouragement to Encourage:

Say It 
Don’t just think about encouraging others, do it! Seek someone out today to encourage with the Word. You’ll be glad you did. I find that I think about encouraging people more than I actually do it. I’m working on it, join me?

Write It
In our digitally immersed age, it’s rare to get hand written cards and notes. Make an effort to write out a note of encouragement to someone. If not handwritten, send the text or email. However it happens, move from thinking to doing.

This entry was posted in Theology by Allen Cagle. Bookmark the permalink.

About Allen Cagle

Allen serves as the Lead Pastor at Sunrise Community Church in Atlantic Beach, FL, in the Jacksonville area. He graduated from The Master's Seminary (MDiv) in 2005 and from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (DMin) in 2017. Allen is married to Mindy and has three awesome kids.