The 2021 theme for the fourth page of TRUTH is “What Christians Do for One Another.” This month, we are studying the concept of Christians showing hospitality to one another. As observed before, the New Testament repeatedly speaks of Christianity in terms of “one another” considerations and actions. Christians do, in fact, have certain obligations toward each other, one of which is the obligation to be hospitable to one another.

The Bible commands Christians to be hospitable to one another. There are five New Testament verses that specifically use the Greek word philoxenia (noun form – “hospitality”) or the word philoxenos (adjective form – “hospitable”). Here are the verses:

 In the context of what it means to “present your bodies a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), Paul tells Christians to be “distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality” (Romans 12:13).

 In the context of the qualifications of elders in the Lord’s church, Paul says elders must be, among other things, “hospitable” (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8).

 The Hebrews writer, in speaking of brotherly love, admonishes Christians, “Do not forget to entertain strangers” (Hebrews 13:2). The phrase “entertain strangers” is one word in Greek, and it is the same word used in Romans 12:13.

 Also, in the context of brotherly love, Peter urges Christians, “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9).

What does it mean to be hospitable to one another? It is hard to carry out any command— biblical or otherwise—without knowing what the command means. So, what does it mean when the Bible tells Christians to be hospitable to one another? The Greek words referenced previously are mostly self-explanatory, carrying the idea of hospitality, love of guests (including strangers), and entertaining strangers (as used in Hebrews 13:2). As far as current English usage, “hospitable” is defined as “given to generous and cordial reception of guests” [Merriam-Webster online dictionary – merriam-webster.com], or “receiving or treating guests or strangers warmly and generously” [dictionary.com]. Since the New Testament was originally written in Koine Greek, not English, caution must be used in defining Bible words with current English usage, but in this instance, the current English usage matches the New Testament usage perfectly. A “hospitable” person, biblically speaking, is indeed one who receives guests generously, warmly, and cordially.

What are some other Bible passages to help us understand Christian hospitality? In describing the judgment scene (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus praised the faithful for a number of compassionate qualities, one of them being, “I was a stranger and you took Me in” (Matthew 25:35). When giving qualifications as to when the church could financially support a Christian widow, the Holy Spirit (through Paul) included as one of those criteria, “If she has lodged strangers” (1 Timothy 5:10). And, the apostle John, in his letter to Gaius, wrote, “Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers . . . If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well” (3 John 5,6). He then said, “We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth” (3 John 8). Peter adds to this, “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). Our hospitality should not be from grudging obedience, but out of a cheerful desire to help and serve others.

In his book, Word Pictures in the New Testament, A.T. Robertson observed that in New Testament times, “Inns were rare and very poor. Hospitality made mission work possible.” A hospitable Christian brother greatly aided and encouraged traveling evangelists/missionaries, and this small (but powerful) deed was not overlooked as to its significance in the spread of the gospel.

It should be noted that John also cautioned against hospitality toward those who do not “abide in the doctrine of Christ” (2 John 9), saying, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 10,11). This does not say to be rude or hateful, but it does forbid the hospitality that is to be shown to faithful brethren.

A Christian, more so than anyone else, ought to be one who is welcoming to guests, especially his fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. While understanding that we live in a world where some take advantage of hospitality (whether for selfish gain or malicious intent), and while we acknowledge the Bible does not teach or encourage blind naivety, we still must accept the clear teaching of the New Testament that Christians are to be hospitable people, and especially so when it comes to our fellow saints.

— Chad Dollahite