gracious hospitality


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GET INTO THE STUDY 5 minutes DISCUSS: Draw attention to the picture on PSG page 36 and ask

SESSION 3

GRACIOUS HOSPITALITY

Question 1: What do you do to make guests feel comfortable in your home?

The Point

GUIDE: Refer group members

Ground your service and love

to the author’s description of

in hospitality.

Airbnb® in “The Bible Meets Life” on PSG page 37. Describe

The Bible Meets Life

how it grew from an air mattress

We tend to evaluate ourselves

in one apartment in San Francisco

based on what we believe, but we

in 2007 to three million lodging

evaluate others based on what

listings in 65,000 cities and 191

they do. Those outside the church

countries. Make the point that this

do the same thing. We can have

concept has become so successful

the right doctrines, but it’s how we live out those truths that makes a

because people like the idea of

difference to those around us. Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that

being welcomed into a real home.

you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 3:35). Our graciousness and hospitality to those outside our circle of friends attracts people to the gospel we profess.

SAY: “When someone visits our church for the first time, they

The Passage

desire to feel welcomed and

1 Peter 4:7-11

sense that this is a place where they can make friends.”

The Setting

GUIDE: Introduce The Point

the early church and eventually was martyred under the Roman emperor

on PSG page 37: Ground your

Nero about AD 64. Probably a few years earlier, Peter wrote the letter we

service and love in hospitality.

call 1 Peter to a group of churches in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Peter

Peter was one of Jesus’ twelve apostles (Mark 3:16). He became a leader in

encouraged them to stand strong and to realize the hope they had in Jesus PRAY: Begin the Bible study with

Christ, even as they faced persecution and suffering.

prayer. Ask God to help us show gracious hospitality to guests. 38

S e ss i o n 3

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STUDY THE BIBLE

1 Peter 4:7 7 The end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and

1 Peter 4:7 10 minutes

sober-minded for prayer. KEY WORDS: The end of all things (v. 7)—The New Testament writers

SUMMARIZE: Before reading

described the times following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension as the “last

the passage, refer to “The Bible

days,” anticipating Jesus’ return.

Meets Life” and “The Setting”

Verse 7. Prayer lays the groundwork for our love and hospitality. In the immediately preceding verses, Peter had encouraged his readers to align themselves with Christ’s mission and purpose (1 Pet. 4:1). They should live their lives doing God’s will rather than pursuing the evil deeds they used to count important before they became Jesus’ followers (vv. 2‑3). They were to identify with their new life in Christ rather than with their former lives, for all would one day give account to God (vv. 4-5). In verses 7‑11, Peter provided practical application to his words. 1 Peter’s declaration, the end of all things is near, may sound strange to modern readers, since Peter wrote this letter almost two thousand years ago. Two ideas require mention. First, in his next letter, Peter would remind his readers the Lord’s timetable differed from theirs:

on page 38 to establish the

“With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day” (2 Pet. 3:8). When we understand that God reigns from eternity to eternity (Ps. 90:2), we better understand Peter’s mindset. Second, the New Testament writers saw the resurrection and ascension of Christ as the beginning of the last days. On Pentecost, Peter so informed his listeners (Acts 2:17). Other New Testament writers used similar words to express this concept (1 Cor. 10:11; 1 John 2:18). The Lord Jesus was coming soon, and every day was one day closer! 2 In light of the coming end of the age, Peter encouraged his readers to be alert. Indeed, life was serious business, because eternity was coming! People’s relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ or lack thereof meant the difference between an eternity with God and an eternity without God. The stakes were too high to waste their lives. Rather, they needed to use them for God’s purpose.

context of the passage.

READ: Read 1 Peter 4:7.

GUIDE: Use the KEY WORDS (PSG, p. 38) to explain what New Testament writers meant by the phrase the end of all things.

SUMMARIZE: Refer to Bible Commentary 1 to provide further explanation of the end of all things. Highlight Peter’s reminder: “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day” (2 Pet. 3:8).

SUMMARIZE: Refer to Bible Commentary 2 on this page and page 40 to explain the following words and phrases: • Be alert. • Be sober-minded. • Prayer.

S U G G E S T E D U S E | W E E K O F S E P T E M B E R 16 39

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THE POINT

Ground your service and love in hospitality.

GUIDE: Hospitality characterized the New Testament church. The biblical writers knew it was of great importance (PSG, p. 38). Enlist group members to read the following verses: • “Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality” (Rom. 12:13). • “Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2). • “Be hospitable to one another without complaining” (1 Pet. 4:9).

DISCUSS: Question #2 (PSG, p. 40): When has your outlook

Peter also challenged his readers to be sober-minded. The words contain the notion of intentionality. We cannot accomplish God’s purpose for our lives by accident or merely by living one day at a time. Rather, we must consider how we will invest our lives in light of eternity. Peter was not saying life had no room for spontaneity or fun, but he was challenging his hearers to live their lives with eternity in view. The word translated prayer literally is “prayers,” but the basic meaning is the same. The Greek structure stresses that Peter desired prayer to result from people’s serious and disciplined lifestyles. As they considered both the importance and relative brevity of life, they would realize they must pray to God regularly. He could intervene and accomplish great things in situations way beyond His children’s abilities (Isa. 55:8‑9). When God’s children pray, they are recognizing their utter dependence on Him. They also are confirming His power to handle their situations. What challenge or trial do you need to soberly take to the Lord in a disciplined manner today? The apostle Paul elsewhere encouraged us to pray constantly (1 Thess. 5:17). However, Peter’s words suggest a more intentional, planned pursuit of prayer in the course of our daily routines. In light of these words, believers should consider how to make prayer a more intentional and significant part of their walks with God.

on a situation changed because of prayer? Alternate: What are some tips or techniques that help you remember to pray for others?

TRANSITION: “In the next verses, Peter gave instructions to the church to love each other and show hospitality toward one another.”

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STUDY THE BIBLE

1 Peter 4:8-9 8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since

1 Peter 4:8-9 10 minutes

love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining.

KEY WORD: Hospitable (v. 9)—Hospitable people provided food,

READ: Ask a group member to read 1 Peter 4:8-9.

shelter, and protection for their guests. Practicing hospitality was a natural extension of the practice of brotherly love (Heb. 13:1-2).

Verse 8. Constant love leads to a lifestyle of hospitality. The words above all may seem surprising since a lifestyle of prayer also is important (1 Pet. 4:7). Peter commanded his readers to maintain constant love for one another. The word translated love is agape (a-GAH-pay). It designates a decision of the will rather than emotion. Today’s world often defines love in terms of feelings or emotions, and love can include those things. However, at its core, biblical love is characterized by self-denying commitment. The apostle Paul affirmed this same truth in 1 Corinthians 13. The Corinthian church had many questions about spiritual gifts, and Paul affirmed their importance (1 Cor. 12). Nonetheless, he highlighted that love surpassed all the gifts (13:1-3). In fact, he affirmed that one day, all the gifts would pass away, but love would go on forever (v. 8). Love unifies the church in a way spiritual gifts never can. The word translated constant further stressed the depth of love Peter sought from his readers. Peter said such an attitude was important because love covers a multitude of sins. Most interpreters believe Peter was alluding to Proverbs 10:12: “Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses.” James used similar language when he encouraged believers to restore sinners from their errant ways (Jas. 5:20). Again, he stressed the power of love to bring peace to people’s lives. Love is able to cover a multitude of sins because a believer’s attitude of self-denial and readiness to forgive others will be evident to those who see it. Anger and hatred only make difficult situations worse. However, love can break down walls of hostility and bring reconciliation. The apostle Paul said that without love, we are nothing; whatever else we do is of little account (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Peter likewise placed love as our highest command because he recognized its supreme importance. 3

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SUMMARIZE: Refer to Bible Commentary 3 to explain the following: • The command to maintain constant love for one another. • Love covers a multitude of sins.

GUIDE: Refer to PSG page 41 to point out that the Greek word for hospitable comes from the combination of two words: love and stranger. Literally, then, hospitality is the love of strangers.

LEADER PACK: Distribute copies of Item 3: Hospitality. Use this as tool to help group members discover the biblical basis for showing hospitality to strangers.

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THE POINT

Ground your service and love in hospitality.

SUMMARIZE: Refer to Bible Commentary 4 to provide further explanation regarding the word hospitable.

GUIDE: Use the KEY WORD (PSG, p. 40) to explain what hospitable people did for their guests

SUMMARIZE: Refer to Bible Commentary 5 to understand why it is important to render hospitality without complaining or a negative attitude.

DISCUSS: Question #3 (PSG, p. 42): What’s the difference between acts of hospitality and a lifestyle of hospitality? Alternate: What obstacles can prevent us from demonstrating hospitality?

TRANSITION: “In the next verses Peter will introduce us to teaching regarding spiritual gifts and how we are to use our gift(s) to serve others.”

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Verse 9. Being hospitable meant something different in Peter’s context than it does today. In the ancient world, cities and towns did not typically have quality hotels for travelers to use. Rather, people counted on the gracious hospitality of local residents to take them in and provide their basic needs. The Greek term for hospitable comes from two words that together mean “to show love toward a foreigner.” Hospitality did not merely extend to foreigners. Examples of hospitality abound in the Bible. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, showed hospitality to the two messengers who came to Sodom (Gen. 19:1‑3). Rebekah’s brother, Laban, showed hospitality to Abraham’s servant, who came to Haran seeking a wife for his master, Isaac, Abraham’s son (24:31-33). In many such circumstances, a traveler would likely attempt to compensate his host, but the host could not necessarily count on this. 5 The word complaining also can be rendered “grumbling.” It occurs in Acts 6:1 (“complaint”), where it describes the concern over the unequal treatment of widows. In Philippians 2:14, Paul instructed believers to do all things without grumbling. Hospitality definitely required a significant commitment on the part of the host family. They needed to see to the needs of their guests and to accommodate them with food, drink, and shelter. They also took on a certain level of responsibility for their protection (Gen. 19:6‑8). A host might grumble because of the time and effort he needed to expend to care for others’ needs. Peter’s perspective, however, was that showing hospitality to strangers was a wonderful way to demonstrate Christ’s love! As they put aside their own needs and agendas to show kindness to strangers, they demonstrated the kind of self-denying commitment Jesus displayed and encouraged them to display (John 13:34‑35). Unbelieving strangers also might see their example and turn to the Lord. Today, Christians have many opportunities to serve others. Sometimes these opportunities to serve require more time and effort than we might initially be willing to give. In such situations, we need to pray that God will enable us to show the love of Christ to others. If we carry out our duties while grumbling and complaining, people will only see our negative attitude, and not the love of Christ. As we serve faithfully, they will take notice, and God will receive the glory (Matt. 5:14‑16). God can use both our words and our gracious actions to draw others to Himself. 4

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STUDY THE BIBLE

1 Peter 4:10-11 10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve

others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s

words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God

1 Peter 4:10-11 15 minutes READ: Read or ask a volunteer to read 1 Peter 4:10-11.

provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

GUIDE: Use the KEY WORD (PSG, p. 38) to provide a

KEY WORD: Gift (v. 10)—God-given empowerment for ministry. Many different gifts exist (1 Cor. 12:4‑11). All believers have at least one gift and

definition and explanation of the word gift.

should use their gifts to bless others. GUIDE: Refer to DIGGING DEEPER on PSG page 42 for

DIGGING DEEPER

information about Hospitality as

HOSPITALITY AS A SPIRITUAL GIFT Hospitality is a key theme of this session. God has commanded all believers to be hospitable, but some people seem to have the God-given gift of hospitality. See the article on pages 48-51 for more information on hospitality. (Refer group members to PSG pages 42-45 for the same content.)

a Spiritual Gift. Also see the article on pages 48-51 (PSG, pp. 46-49).

SUMMARIZE: Refer to Bible Commentary 6 on this page and page 44 to provide further

Verse 10. God enables us to love and serve others. In verses 10 and 11, Peter turned his attention to spiritual gifts and their exercise in the church for the common good. Peter urged that his hearers use their gifts as each one has received a gift. The apostle Paul gave a much more detailed listing of spiritual gifts in Romans 12 and in 1 Corinthians 12. These passages help provide a context for Peter’s more general words of instruction. Some spiritual gifts listed in these passages are quite prominent, such as prophecy or teaching (Rom. 12:6‑7). Others, such as service or giving, might be less prominent (vv. 7‑8). Paul stressed that each gift was important, and believers needed to exercise their gifts for the common good and building up of the church. They were not to begin “ranking” one another’s importance to God or their importance in the church on the basis of what spiritual gifts they had received, for these were gifts, not naturally6

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explanation to spiritual gifts and the other listings of gifts found in: • Romans 12:6-8 • 1 Corinthians 12:8-11;27-28 • Ephesians 4:11-12 (another listing of gifts or offices in the church, but no Bible commentary on this passage in this section).

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THE POINT

Ground your service and love in hospitality.

SUMMARIZE: Use Bible Commentary 7 on this page and page 45 to show the examples of spiritual gifts given in 1 Peter 4:11: • Speaking • Serving DISCUSS: Question #4 (PSG, p. 43): How do you see the gifts of speaking and serving displayed in the church? OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Three Boats. Display pictures of the following types of boats or go to BibleStudiesforLife.com/ AdultExtra for today’s session: • Row Boat • Cruise Ship • Sail Boat

developed talents. The church needed all the gifts to be what God intended them to be. That is still the case. Peter wanted his readers to be good stewards of the spiritual gift or gifts they had each received. The word stewards can also mean “managers.” A manager or steward, as the term implies, manages the concerns of another. In this case, Peter focused on the spiritual gifts that were operative in the body of Christ. The believers had nothing to offer God that they had not received from Him as a gift (1 Cor. 4:7). They were managers or stewards, not owners, and God expected them to use what He had given them to serve others for His glory. The expression the varied grace of God does not describe God’s grace in salvation, which comes to all who believe (Rom. 3:23‑24; Eph. 2:8‑9). Rather, Peter was describing God’s wide purpose in extending to the church many different types of spiritual gifts. All of them come through His grace, but each one is different and unique. It is a reminder that God does not leave us alone in this world once we become followers of Jesus. Eternal life begins when we place our faith in Him, not when we die (John 10:10; 17:3). Indeed, for believers, eternal life already has begun! God is molding us into the image of Christ even as we live our lives (2 Cor. 3:18). God works in the same saving way in all believers to bring them to faith, but once they follow Him, He leads them along different paths as He uses them for His purposes on earth and in the church.

Say: “A person in a row boat does all the work; when a person is on a cruise ship, someone else does all of the work; in a sail boat, the sailor positions the boat so that the wind will provide the power to move it through the water.” Question: Based on this example, how do we typically function in the church? Refer to the author’s comments on PSG page 43 about the importance of acting in faith to experience the enabling power of God. 44

S e ss i o n 3

Verse 11. Peter had given instructions on how to exercise one’s spiritual gifts in verse 10. He next gave two specific examples of ministry for the sake of the church. We should understand Peter’s words if anyone speaks as stating a condition assumed to be true—“if anyone speaks, and he will.” Peter gave instructions on the manner in which someone in the church should speak. The words let it be as one who speaks do not actually appear in the original text, but they clarify the sense of Peter’s intended meaning. Peter designated the person’s speech as God’s words. Those who spoke were to recognize they were presenting God’s words, and should never have presented their own opinions instead. Those who received the words were to recognize them as from the Lord. When believers speak words of encouragement to one another, God can and does use those words to accomplish His purposes. Peter encouraged those who spoke to guard 7

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their words, and to be sure their words were spoken with the understanding that someone might take them as from God. We know today that many times God uses a timely word from a pastor, Bible study leader, parent, or good friend to encourage or guide another believer. Christian leaders should especially guard their words, since it is more likely that those who follow them will take their words as coming from the Lord. We should use our speech to help others in their Christian walks, not hinder them (Eph. 4:29; Col. 4:6). The word translated serves could also be translated “minister” (KJV) and is related to the word deacon. Another word similar to this term is often translated “ministry.” In the church today, we have pastors and others who lead us in the worship of God and in our Christian walks. Many others serve as God’s ministers in the marketplace through various occupations. Wherever we serve, whether we serve as professional ministers or as ministering professionals, we should serve with the knowledge that we are part of the grand story God is writing. How will we serve others to draw them closer to Jesus? Peter said that the service people offered should be from the strength God provides. Believers were to recognize that only what they did in the power of Jesus’ name and by the Holy Spirit’s enabling would make an eternal difference. The apostle Paul described a coming day of judgment when the Lord would examine our work (1 Cor. 3:11‑15). Only the kingdom works we do by the power of the Holy Spirit will last. Peter’s words thus issue a warning and an encouragement to believers today. We cannot accomplish God’s purpose from human strength, but only from His. Peter then highlighted the purpose of our speaking God’s words and serving in His Name: so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. Those who spoke words as from God were to recognize that the goal was God’s glory. Those who served were not to do so to bring glory to themselves but to honor the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul elsewhere echoed Peter’s sentiments, commanding us to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 3:23). Indeed, our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ by grace through faith is to be our allconsuming relationship. All our other relationships and priorities flow from that one. Peter ended verse 11 with a doxology, a brief ascription of praise to God. The words to him be the glory and the power forever and ever remind us that everything begins and ends with God. It is His glorious power that brought

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GUIDE: Refer group members to PSG pages 43-44 to highlight that when God works through us using our spiritual gifts, people benefit from an encouraging word, an act of service, or the gracious welcome of hospitality. This communicates important things we believe to be true: • Our provision. Exercising hospitality will cost us in time, energy, resources, and privacy. When we sacrifice for others, we are often tempted to focus on what we are giving up. When we allow God to use us to demonstrate hospitality, we are testifying that we believe God to be our great Provider. • Our contentment. Hospitality requires us to share with others, which means we will have to make do with less for ourselves. But when we choose this posture of hospitality, we are testifying that having less is fine, because we know that when we have Jesus, we truly have more than enough. • Our future. God is building a people for His own glory. We will live together with Him for all eternity. Heaven will not be lived in isolation, but in community. One way we testify to that truth is by pursuing a posture of hospitality right now. When we welcome others in, we are living out a small foretaste of what’s to come in the future. 45

THE POINT

Ground your service and love in hospitality.

OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Divide members into groups and encourage each group to come up with at least one original way they could show hospitality to someone who had come into their church or community from another city, state, or country. Allow a few minutes for work and then come back together to share.

DISCUSS: Question #5 (PSG, p. 44): What can we learn from 1 Peter 4:7-11 about becoming a more welcoming group? Alternate: In what ways has God

the world into existence, and it is His glorious power that will bring human history as we know it to an end. The apostle Paul also included doxologies in his letters (Rom. 11:33‑36; Eph. 3:20‑21). The words forever and ever should stagger our imaginations. God spoke the world into creation, and He has guided it down through the ages. What is our life compared to that vast length of time? It might seem as if our lives are insignificant. Yet, when we yield our lives to God’s grand purpose, God is able to take what we do and multiply the impact of our work for His glory. The word amen comes from a Hebrew word that means “to be reliable, confirmed, or established.” Today, when we hear a preacher or someone else say something we agree with, we may respond with “amen.” We are saying that what was said is confirmed in our hearts as well. By closing his statement with this word, Peter drove home his conviction that what he had just spoken was indeed the truth. God’s word is certain. As we yield our lives to Him, He will take them and bless them for His purpose and glory. Furthermore, in fulfilling His will, believers will find their own highest fulfillment.

gifted you to serve Him so that He is glorified?

DO: Encourage group members to take a few minutes to complete and share responses to the activity titled “You Are Welcome Here” on PSG page 44.

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LIVE IT OUT Hospitality might be easier for some than others. But regardless of whether our natural personality is welcoming or not, we are compelled by how God has welcomed us in to extend the same welcome to others.

LIVE IT OUT 5 minutes GUIDE: Emphasize The Point:

>> Greet. Arrive at church a few minutes early this week. Spend extra time in the area outside the worship room to make sure you say hello and meet people you don’t know.

>> Host a group. Look for an opportunity to host a small group in your home or to be a greeter in your Bible study group.

>> Share a meal. Dedicate one Sunday each month to be

a day when you will invite someone into your home for lunch. Make this a regular rhythm in your life.

Ground your service and love in hospitality.

REVIEW: Review Live It Out (PSG, p. 45); (see text to the left). Encourage each group member to follow through this week with at least one of the applications.

WRAP IT UP GUIDE: Remind group members that even if we do not have the God-given gift of hospitality, we still are commanded to be hospitable to others. It is in fulfilling His will that we will find our own highest fulfillment.

PRAY: ”Father, help us to show love and hospitality to others with a good attitude and without complaining.”

Grow with other group leaders at the Groups Ministry blog. LifeWay.com/GroupMinistry

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HOSPITALITY AS A SPIRITUAL GIFT BY DARRYL WOOD

A journey to a strange place uneasiness in many people. A friendly smile, warm welcome, and relaxed surroundings ease the stress of travel. People have practiced such hospitality in various ways throughout history. The first century of the Christian church was no exception.

Background of the Term The term often used for “hospitable” and “hospitality” developed from a compound of the Greek words xenos (stranger, foreigner) and philos (friend). The resulting word, philoxenia (hospitality) or philoxenos (hospitable), came to refer to “treating a stranger as a friend” demonstrated through concern for those outside a person’s usual relationship circle. Hospitality appears to have been interwoven into the Hellenistic culture. The ancients practiced hospitality long before the Christian church began. Early Greek city-states extended 48

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care to representatives of other friendly cities. They recognized a humanitarian obligation to provide aid to others. A religious motive drove the concept in some cases. 1 Aristotle, Homer, and other ancient Greek writers 2 The mentioned hospitality and hospitable people.  early church developed in an environment that knew hospitable treatment of strangers. The Jewish roots of the early Christians also influenced them toward hospitality. The concept of hospitality appeared often in the Old Testament. 3 Frequently care extended not only to strangers but to their animals. Provision of hospitality came with an unspoken expectation of reciprocity. In spite of this, though, Judaism tended to see strangers as a potential threat to Hebrew life and faith.

First-Century Practices Due to increased travel opportunities, the need for showing hospitality expanded in the first century. Travel boomed for three interdependent reasons. One, massive road building efforts facilitated greater mobility of the population. Two, trade and commercial development in the Roman Empire necessitated travel. Three, the growing Roman presence supported a peaceful environment that made travelers more secure. Certainly crime still existed. The Romans, however, worked to protect routes for travel and trade. Movement from place to place increased the demand for food and shelter along travel routes. The lodging industry failed to advance adequately. Few inns of any size or quality existed. The mobile population sometimes received help from kind people on their route. Thus the tendency toward hospitality that pervaded the Greek culture expanded with the times. Welcoming travelers as an expression of hospitality was one of many actions the early church took in practicing charity toward those in need. Other charitable expressions included care for church leaders, widows, orphans, the sick, prisoners, slaves, and support for other churches as well as further acts of kindness. 4

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BIBLE STUDIES FOR LIFE

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Association of hospitality with the journey motif remains significant, though, for two reasons. One, the term’s origin relates to care of strangers or aliens. That concept seems to be the purest application of the term. Two, hospitality supported expansion of the early church. The practice enabled Christians to convey the gospel message beyond their local communities. 5 The New Testament includes numerous references that imply the practice of hospitality. Jesus modeled and taught self-sacrificial love as the primary basis for Christian living. Love engendered virtues such as generosity, compassion, respect for people, and hospitality. Jesus set the tone for the exercise of Christian hospitality to strangers, although He did not use the word specifically. He also received hospitality throughout His ministry. 6 As they traveled from place to place, early Christian missionaries relied on fellow believers’ hospitality. The New Testament contains several calls to hospitality and examples of it for missionary travelers and others. 7 Additionally the early church probably met mostly in homes due to the lack of public meeting places. Hospitable believers opened their residences to the brethren. The practice facilitated teaching from guest instructors. 8 Some writers commended hospitality to the churches as a part of their Christian ministry. 9

Gift or Duty? The key to understanding hospitality revolves around how the church interpreted the concept. Was it a spiritual gift the Holy Spirit gave to some believers? Or was being hospitable every Christian’s duty? All believers receive a gift or gifts from the Holy Spirit as a result of His grace. A simple definition of a spiritual gift is a divine, special ability the Holy Spirit gives to a Christian to be used for the common good of the church. The most inclusive New Testament gift lists come from Paul’s writings. 10 Other New Testament passages identify gifts on a more limited basis. Ultimately God determines the types of gifts and their recipients.

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The New Testament never names hospitality specifically as a spiritual gift. Believers practicing hospitality in the early church, however, supports the notion that it was one of the gifts. Both Paul and Peter mentioned it in connection with other spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:6‑13; 1 Pet. 4:8‑11). Practicing the gift of hospitality meant using this divinely ordained ability to share unselfishly and joyfully with others, including strangers, in support of relationship building and spiritual growth in the church community. Writing to persecuted Christians, Peter explained the necessity for “intense love” within the church fellowship. Simon Peter pointed to the importance of service gifts to undergird Jesus’ love command (1 Pet. 4:10). Possibly he intended “be hospitable” in verse 9 to be an example of one of those service gifts. Practicing hospitality supported ministry both to Christian exiles suffering from persecution and missionaries attempting to expand the gospel beyond their home areas.

Having a hospitable nature, though, should flow naturally from a Christ-like outlook. If “hospitality” is one of the spiritual gifts, does that prohibit its practice by believers not gifted with that divine, special ability? No. The New Testament shows that some practices are the duty of all believers. For example, each Christian should live out the works of kindness, evangelism, giving, faith, and hospitality—even if these are not the believer’s spiritual gift. Although other believers will not be as proficient in practicing hospitality as one gifted in it, every Christian should be hospitable. Is hospitality a gift or duty? It is both. The New Testament indicates that some are gifted in hospitality. They possess a heightened aptitude to build relationships, welcome guests, and provide for their support—and to do so joyfully. Those gifted with hospitality enhance church ministry. Every believer will not be the consummate host like those gifted with hospitality. Having a hospitable nature, though, should flow naturally from a Christ-like outlook. I

1. Gustav Stahlin, (xenos, foreign) in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [TDNT], ed. Gerhard Friedrich, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 17-18. 2. Aristotle, On Virtues and Vices 5.5, 8.3 in The Loeb Classical Library, trans. H. Rackham, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1935), 495, 503; The Odyssey of Homer 6.121, 8.576, trans. S. H. Butcher and A. Lang (New York: MacMillan, 1927), 96, 133. See Stahlin, (xenos, foreign) in TDNT 5:17-18 for other references to hospitality and Greek writings. 3. For examples see Gen. 18:1‑8; 19:1‑11; 24:14‑22; Judg. 19:10‑25. 4. Adolf Harnack, The Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries, trans. and ed. James Moffatt, vol. 1 (New York: Books for Libraries, 1904), 190-249. 5. Donald Wayne Riddle, “Early Christian Hospitality: A Factor in Gospel Transmission,” Journal of Biblical Literature 57, no. 2 (June 1938): 143–46. 6. See Matt. 25:35. For examples of Jesus’ reception of hospitality, see Matt. 9:10; Mark 7:24; 14:3; Luke 7:36; 10:38. 7. See Acts 16:15; 18:27; Rom. 12:13; 1 Tim. 3:2; 5:10; Titus 1:8; Heb. 13:1-2; 1 Pet. 4:8-9; 3 John 5-6. 8. Didache 10.3; 11.1; 12.1-2. 9. Clement of Rome, The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians 1.2; TheShepherd of Hermas. 10. See Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-10,28; Eph. 4:11.

© 2018 LifeWay Christian Resources

This article by Darryl Wood originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Biblical Illustrator magazine. Each quarter Biblical Illustrator offers in-depth articles and information that support our weekly Bible study lessons. You can subscribe to Biblical Illustrator by going to www.lifeway. com/biblicalillustrator, by using your church’s quarterly literature order form, or by calling 1-800-458-2772.

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