Using Hospitality One to Another

July 10, 2005 / No. 3262

Dear radio friends,

     So, how hospitable have you been lately?  We have been considering the biblical calling we have as God’s people to show love to strangers.  We have, in the last couple of weeks, been talking about the need to apply that same hospitality one to another in the house of God as brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ.

     Now, as we continue in our series, I would like for us to look at a passage of Scripture that very concretely and rather detailedly shows to us this calling to exercise hospitality among the saints.  The passage is I Peter 4:9-11.  “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.  As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth:  that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever.  Amen.”

     A young man recently asked:  “Pastor, how can I show hospitality?  I have a one-bedroom apartment.  I am single.  I don’t know how to cook.  How can I show hospitality to the saints?”  It struck me that, perhaps, the word hospitality is often understood to mean that you have somebody in your home.  It is true of course, that you show hospitality by inviting people to your home.  But I believe the Word of God goes far beyond that in its instruction regarding how we show hospitality one to another ­— even as this passage of Scripture tells us that we must use the gifts that God gives to us, whether that be by speaking the oracles of God, or whether it be by using the ability or talents with which each one of us has been endowed by God.  We have different circumstances of life.  Each of us, according to the ability God gives to us, can exercise that hospitality to others.

     You will recall that the word “hospitality” literally means “love for strangers.”  Yet, that hospitality, as we will see today, must begin in the house of God.  “Use hospitality,” the apostle Peter writes in I Peter 4:9, “one to another without grudging.”  Let us, for a few moments today, look at what that means, that we are called to use hospitality one to another.

     I think that even though the word hospitality means love for strangers, the Holy Spirit deliberately calls us to use and exercise that love for strangers one to another as fellow saints.  First of all, not all in the body of Christ are known to us.  We may have those closer to us.  Some may be family, others may be friends.  But there are always in the church those whom we may not know very well — perhaps new visitors, perhaps those who are not sitting in the same row in the church as we do (and for years we have been going to the same church).  We must exercise love for strangers right within the body of Christ.

     Secondly, the Word of God clearly calls us to do good to all men (Gal. 6:10), but especially, we read there, to those of the household of faith.  What a sad commentary if we learn to show hospitality and love to those who are outside the house of God and then fail to do so one with another.

     And the third reason, I believe, is that when we begin to emphasize missions and evangelism and to welcome others from outside, then we begin foolishly to take each other for granted and we begin not to focus on the importance of love one for another.  How else will the world know that we are the disciples of Christ but by this love one for another?  I think it is just a sad reality that we begin to take each other for granted, we begin to become blind to one another’s needs.  Oh, we see a newcomer and say, “How are you?”  We show love and hospitality and bring the person to our home and try to answer questions and try to be nice and give him our seat.  Then, pretty soon, here is this brother.  We have come to know his personality, his weaknesses.  Maybe we have had a quarrel once upon a time with that person and we begin to say, “Let him take care of himself.”  And we begin to turn the other way and take one another for granted.  That is not right.  We must show hospitality one to another.  The exercise of mutual hospitality requires fervent love.  That is the context of this passage of Scripture.  Before we are told to use hospitality one to another we are exhorted (v. 8), “And above all things have fervent charity [love] among yourselves:  for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”

     We must awake to the reality that, in the body of Christ, there are always going to be those sins and weaknesses that we see in one another and in ourselves.  We must exercise much love, bearing with one another’s weaknesses.  Just as in a hospital, where patients come to be treated, so in the church of Jesus Christ, via hospitality, we must treat each other with patience.  We must recognize that we are all afflicted with our particular weaknesses and difficult circumstances of life.  We must look at each with that eye of love and concern and compassion so that the exercise of hospitality is indeed one to another.

     The text goes on to explain what this means when it tells us in verse 10, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  You see, the exercise of mutual hospitality requires the recognition that all in the body of Christ have gifts.  “As every man hath received the gift” — whatever that gift may be.  It may not be some extraordinary gift.  It may not be some supernatural gift of healing and of miracles as in the New Testament age.  But every man has received gifts.  All have gifts given by God.  If you have never learned that before, let it be said today:  Every child of God has at least one gift — at least one that God has endowed him with so that he might exercise it in the body of Christ.  But also this, as we read in the last part of verse 10:  “Given by the manifold grace of God.”  God, when He gives to us His grace, also distributes in the body of Christ those gifts according to His grace.  In fact, this word of God in verse 10, when we read that we are to minister one to another, comes from the Greek word diakonos, from which, of course, we get the word “deacon.”  We are all deacons.  Did you know that?  If we have not learned that before, let us learn it today.  In that sense, we are all as priests in the house of God.  And we are all called to serve the needs one of another.

     The Word of God today calls us to exercise that hospitality one to another.  This must be emphasized.  The call is to mutual hospitality.  This means that we must humbly recognize that God places others in the body of Christ so that through me they may also be richly blessed.  But it also means this (I think sometimes we forget that), that God places others in the body of Christ for my good.  Not only must I be willing to show hospitality, I must humble myself to be willing to receive hospitality.  Perhaps I lack in certain gifts and there are others who can minister to my needs.  This is the communion of saints, as Lord’s Day 21 of the Heidelberg Catechism (one of the creeds of our churches) so clearly teaches.  This is what the communion of saints is all about, that each and every believer in the body of Christ, even as he is a partaker of Christ, now ministers to the needs of that body.

     Let us now look at some concrete examples, even as this text shows us in verse 11.  One example of showing hospitality is by speaking (“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God”).  You understand that this text has nothing to do with what is known in the Scriptures as the official preaching of the Word of God.  The text is not addressed to ministers.  This text is not a reference to the declaration of the Word of God by the ordained minister.  This text refers to the call to exercise mutual hospitality one to another, so that if a man speaks, he must speak as the oracles of God.  This is the call given to God’s people who show hospitality by ministering the Word of God one to another.  Now, not all have the “gift of gab.”  We must use the gift that God gives to us by speaking wisely and carefully the oracles or the wisdom of God.

     My wife is a rather quiet person by nature.  I, on the other hand, am told often that I need to learn to speak less.  Well then, let him who is naturally endowed with the gift of gab learn to speak the oracles of God with love, to temper his speech with patience, and with some willingness to listen.  Let others who by nature, perhaps, are quiet learn by the grace of God to be a little bit more bold and to speak the oracles of God.  For this is one example of how we can exercise hospitality one to another.

     But then, we also read, “If any man minister (that is, if any man serve), let him do it as of the ability which God giveth.”  You see, as I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 point out, those who have the gift of serving, of using their hands, of being active (as Martha of old was) in serving — these are called upon to do so according to the ability that God hath given.  Not more, not less.  So, the Word of God tells us everywhere, that we are to love not only in word but also in deed.  We must exercise that mutual hospitality both by our communication (that is, by our speech), by our speaking the truth in love, as well as by our acts of compassion and kindness one to another.

     Is that not true even in the hospital?  Some are doctors, some are nurses, others are counselors.  All do their part.  All learn to recognize the gifts that are given and the talents and the qualifications that they have.  All try to respect one another’s positions and then together mutually exercise that help to those who are in need.

     Now, today, as we look at this very practical text of God’s Word, I would like you also to remember with me that it is not only what we do but how we perform that act of hospitality.  We are to practice hospitality, according to the Word of God, negatively, first of all, without grudging.  To do something grudgingly means to do so unwillingly, to do so while grumbling about it in the process.  Peter writes to the saints:  “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.”  Instead of serving cheerfully, doing what one does with a smile, one might perhaps exercise hospitality while complaining.  That is so easy to do, especially when we are compelled to do something, perhaps by the constraint of others, or perhaps simply because no one else is doing it and we feel that there is an urgent need.  Remember Martha?  Remember how she became so busy serving the Lord while Mary was sitting at the feet of Christ?  And Martha began to complain.  She began, in fact, to complain to the Lord.  She said, “Lord, why dost Thou not tell Mary to get up and help me?”  She became bitter, not only against Mary, but against the Lord Himself.  And the Lord had to reprimand her, telling that Mary had chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.  Martha, we read, had become cumbered about much serving.  It is possible, you know, to become very busy with this exercise of hospitality and to do so complainingly and to do so grudgingly.  I think that, as the man of the house, we must be careful not to put too much on the shoulders of our wives and expect them to do everything cheerfully and not recognize that this glorious work of hospitality can also be done with a wrong spirit, when one is just so overburdened that one complains while doing so.

     Again, verses 7 and 8, to which our text is subordinate, help us deal with this unwilling attitude.  We read verse 8 earlier about charity.  Notice verse 7, “But the end of all things is at hand:  be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.”  Also hospitality has to be exercised with sobriety and with prayerfulness, so that we walk in love that is fervent.  And that love, instead of stirring up strife (according to Proverbs 10:12), will hide sin.  It will cover a multitude of sins.  It will not go around discovering the sins of others, but it will be willing to cover sins and to bear with the weakness of others.  Love, of course, is patient.  It knows, after all, that in the hospital of grace, where God’s people need hospitality, there must be much grace and patience exercised.

     So let us put away our grudging spirit and do this exercise of hospitality cheerfully.

     Positively, verse 10 tells us that we must exercise this hospitality “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  There is one sure way to cure the sin of grumbling.  If we are to be given to hospitality, we must do so by recognizing that we are but stewards of God.  In other words, we must remember that our gifts, our talents, our time, our money, and all that we have are not ours, first of all, but are bestowed on us by God.  A steward is one who looks after the property of another.  So also we are stewards of God.  What we have belongs to our Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ, who has bought us with His own precious blood.  We must not sit on our talents.  We must multiply them.  We must not either use them for our own comfort and pleasure, but we must use them for the needs of God’s people.

     Surely, one good way of exercising hospitality towards others is by ministering cheerfully and sacrificially to the needs of God’s people.

     As we conclude today’s message on the calling to exercise mutual hospitality, I want you to know that next week we will conclude this part of our series by looking at, of all things, the Judgment Day!  Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us that in that day there will be the separation of the sheep and the goats.  I am referring to the passage of Scripture in Matthew 25.  That passage will help us understand that the motive out of which we perform hospitality is very important.  We will learn next time that we must do it as unto Christ.  Christ will tell us that when we show mercy and compassion unto the least of His brethren, we did it unto Him.

     Today, in the Word of God that we considered, we are also shown the motive.  We are told in verse 11 that the motive must be this:  That God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ.  Practicing hospitality must have, as with everything else, this motive:  the glory of God!  It is, indeed, subservient to that glory of God, even the edification of the saints.  Ultimately, while I must do all things for the good of the body of Christ and for the good of the saints, I must have an eye to the honor and the praise and the glory of God.  Is God glorified?  Am I loving my neighbor out of the love of God?  Is this to the praise and glory of God?  God is glorified always.  He is glorified in creation!  Look round about you.  Even though man might want to take away from that, the truth is, as the psalmist says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1).  God is glorified also in the church of Jesus Christ, where we are re-created and are washed in His precious blood and are made saints and we glorify God, even as we shine for Him as a lighted city on the hilltop.  But always, let us not forget, God is glorified, whether in creation, or in the church, or in our personal lives, as the text tells us, through Jesus Christ!  After all, it is the ascended Lord Jesus who, by His Spirit, pours out those gifts to us.  We have no gifts except the Lord Jesus Christ gives us those gifts (Eph. 4).  Not only to those officebearers (apostles, pastors, and teachers), but to all in the body of Christ are given those gifts, so that they might minister one to another.  Jesus Christ it is who gathers, defends, and preserves His church.  And He does so by the lively stones in that body — the members of the church of Jesus Christ, under the preaching of the Word, who hear the call to praise and glorify God and minister one to another.

     “To whom,” the text tells us, “be praise and dominion for ever and ever.  Amen.”  This is not only a statement of fact.  It is that.  But I believe it is a prayer, a desire, a motive.  It is a doxology.  In other words, by our mutual hospitality, we desire that God may be glorified.  Have you ever thought of it that way, dear friend?  When we show hospitality and when we receive hospitality and when there is the exercise of mutual hospitality, all of us should have this motive in our hearts:  that God may be glorified, because He is the One who deserves all praise and dominion for ever and ever.  May God indeed be glorified through that glorious calling of mutual hospitality in the church of Jesus Christ.

     May God, by His Spirit, apply this word of Christian hospitality to our hearts by His Spirit, so that the love of Christ is evidently manifest by the showing of Christian hospitality one to another.  And that without grudging!

     Let us pray.

     Our God and Father, Thou hast shed abroad Thy love in our hearts.  Grant that in Thy house we may now also, as brothers and sisters in the family of God, walk in that love one for another, and thus may Thy name be glorified, and may we manifest that we are indeed the children of our heavenly Father, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.