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Hospitality through the Bible: New Testament

on May 16, 2013 by Jami Balmet 1 comment

This post is part of my series on The Joy of Hospitality: Practicing the Biblical art of serving others! You can follow along and read all posts in the series HERE.

While Biblical hospitality is not a high priority for most modern western churches, it was vital to the growth, stability, and daily life if the early Church! Let's reclaim this Biblical command and learn again to practice Biblical Hospitality - New Testament style!
Photo by khrawlings

Any discussion of Biblical hospitality, must first naturally start with the Bible. Yesterday we dove into the Old Testament to find out what it has to say on hospitality and now today we will find out how the early Church in the New Testament practiced and modeled hospitality.

While Biblical hospitality is not a high priority for most modern western churches, it was vital to the growth, stability, and daily life if the early Church!

“Hospitality is becoming an almost forgotten Christian virtue in our style of life today, particularly in big cities with their rampant crime on the streets, their locked-in apartments and all their affluent, urban and bourgeois devices which attempt to create privacy in our homes and our lives. In the New Testament, however, hospitality was a distinctive mark of Christians and Christian communities.” ~ Hospitality Commands, pg 6

Hospitality in the New Testament

The Greek word for hospitality that is used in the New Testament is philoxenia which literally means “Love for Strangers“. Each time we are commanded to practice hospitality, God is literally commanding us to have and show love for others!

Love is a central theme of the Bible. We are to love God {Deuteronomy 10:12}, love our neighbors {Luke 10:27}, and kove strangers {Philippians 2:3-4}. And at the root of hospitality is love. By practicing hospitality we are showing love for those in God’s Church, love for strangers, neighbors, and unbelievers, and most of all, love for God by obeying his commands.

“The Christian practice of hospitality was not viewed simply as a means of overcoming a practical problem. Theological statements by different authors in the New Testament show that it was frequently viewed as the concrete expression of Christian love.” ~ Hospitality Commands, pg 16

Serving those in the Church

We have a clear call from Paul to serve those within our Church and practice hospitality.

“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” ~ Romans 12:13

Practically, this serving and contributing to the needs of the saints can take on many different forms. It can mean bringing a meal to a family who just had a baby. It can mean inviting new people at Church to your home for dinner. It can mean donating money and time to the Church’s emergency fund. Later in this series we will get into practical ways we can serve through hospitality.

Serving Unbelievers & Strangers

While one component of hospitality is serving those in the Church, another aspect is serving unbelievers and strangers! As Abraham found out, you should never neglect to show hospitality because you never know who you are serving! Here is a clear command to practice hospitality to strangers

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” ~ Hebrews 13:2

Serve without complaining - Biblical Hospitality
Image courtesy of [digidreamgrafix] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Serve Without Complaining

God surly knows our hearts! He wants us to serve Him with joy and humility. He is not merely concerned with our external actions but also the state of our hearts. He knows that we can tend to act selfishly or serve while complaining. So he issued this command:

“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” ~ 1 Peter 4:9

We must be careful to not complain when extending hospitality when you think about the cost of food and extending hospitality, when a guest is late or doesn’t show up, or when hospitality isn’t extended back to you like you think it should! 

The Early Church

As we see, God commanded that the New Testament believers practice hospitality. This was not just a “gift” for certain people to use. He expected each church and each believer to live it out. The famous church historian, Adolf Harnack, wrote:

“During the early centuries of Christianity it was the Roman church more than any other which was distinguished by the generosity with which it practiced this virtue [hospitality]…A living interest in the collective church of Christ throbbed with peculiar vigor throughout the Roman church…and the practice of hospitality was one of its manifestations.” ~ Hospitality Commands, pg 7

The early Church took those commandments to heart and really lived it out! But somewhere along the line -amidst smart phones and cable TV – we became a reclusive and private society. Amidst affluence and abundance we  became prideful about our homes and let our fear of man {and man’s judgement on our houses, decor, & food} override our Biblical command to practice hospitality.

In Our Own Lives

So how can we take this principle of hospitality that we see practiced in the New Testament and apply it to our own lives in a culture so far removed of that of the early Church? By focusing on brotherly, Christian love. When we have and show love to those around us – we are extending Biblical hospitality.

“Hospitality is a practical way to love others. Therefore, a person practicing Biblical hospitality should also be a loving person. This element separates Biblical hospitality from social entertaining or even distinguishes between the hospitality of a believer and an unbeliever. Believers can uniquely display God’s love as they extend hospitality. Entertaining focuses on having a beautiful table decor or preparing gourmet food. Biblical hospitality is a demonstration of love. Food and other elements are merely tools used to express our love for people. Our motivation for being hospitable women is a response to God’s work in our lives. Hospitality is one way we can tangibly demonstrate our love for God.” ~ Practicing Hospitality, Pg 50

For Further Study

The Bible has much more to say on the subject of hospitality then I could ever hope to cover! I highly recommend these two books to help you on your journey towards Biblical hospitality: Hospitality Commands by Alexander Strauch and Practicing Hospitality by Pat Ennis & Lisa Tatlock.

Read more in this series:

Come with me on a journey to discover the Biblical art of serving others in The Joy of Hospitality Series!

Do you want to learn more about hospitality?

You can sign up for my FREE 3-part video series on hospitality. We begin by first starting where any Gospel-Centered discussion should start: with the Bible! We then take that Biblical definition of hospitality and practically apply it with a beginner’s guide to hospitality – everything you need to know to have the confidence to start extending hospitality – today! Sign up HERE for free!

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  • Do you feel overwhelmed and like your house is out of control?
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