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Sentence Sermons - Hebrews 13:2

Show Hospitality

In the previous article, we considered the “sentence sermon” of Hebrews 13:1, “Let love of the brethren continue.”  The very next verse gives another brief but important command that has a connection to brotherly love: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (NASB).

As we noticed previously, “love of the brethren” in Hebrews 13:1 is translated from the word philadelphia.  Therefore, it is interesting to notice that “hospitality to strangers” in verse 2 is translated from the word philoxenia, which means, “love of strangers” (so translated in the American Standard Version)  This same word also appears in Romans 12:13, and its adjective form appears in 1Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8, and 1Peter 4:9.

Typically, we consider hospitality to be the quality of character that causes one to open his home to another person.  Certainly, hospitality inclines us to share our homes, but having someone stay under our roofs is not the only expression of hospitality.  Hospitality, the love of strangers, can have many applications – lodging, nourishing, supporting, supplying, etc.  Any expression of love extended to a stranger may be interpreted as hospitality.

This command was very practical and necessary for Christians in the first century, for many of them depended on the kindness of strangers.  For example, the apostle Paul, who likely wrote the epistle to the Hebrews, was often dependent on Christians in the places to which he travelled as he preached the gospel.  This was the model for missionary preaching that Christ had established in Matthew 10:9-13.  Not only was hospitality necessary for gospel preachers, but it was also necessary for early Christians who were persecuted and forced to leave their homes or who were poor and needy.

Within the context of Hebrews and following the command to “let love of the brethren continue,” it is evident that the strangers that are considered in Hebrews 13:2 are brethren in Christ who were previously unknown.  This is not to say that Christians ought not to love strangers who are not believers, but a greater consideration is given toward the saints (Rom. 12:13).  Moreover, John advised “the chosen lady” (2John 1) to use caution in choosing whom she would receive in her home, for many deceivers (false teachers) had gone out into the world (2John 7-11).  This warning stands for us as well, for many false teachers remain in the world today.

It is interesting to consider the motivation for practicing hospitality in Hebrews 13:2 – “for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  This appears to be a reference to the angels that visited Abraham and Lot in Genesis 18-19.  Perhaps there were other occasions like this also, but the motivation and the implied warning are clear – God is attentive to the ways that we treat His people, whether they are friends or strangers.  Our love for them reflects our love for Him (1John 4:21).  This was the message of Jesus when He said, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matt. 25:40; see vv. 31-46 for context).  The Lord considers the service we extend (or fail to extend) toward believing strangers personally, and He will reward us accordingly.

Therefore, let us consider our responsibility to practice hospitality as an obligation that we have before the Lord.  It is an important part of the brotherhood that we share in Christ.  Sometimes we give hospitality and sometimes we receive it, but either way our Lord is pleased, for love is practiced.

Next Sentence Sermon: Hebrews 13:3 – Empathy

Stacey E. Durham

 




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