Loving Kindness For Strangers

Titus 1:8.   Be a lover of hospitality.       

1 Peter 4:9.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.         

For many people the mention of hospitality calls to mind Martha Stewart more than the Gospels. While it is worthy to mention the value of opening your home to others, there is a bit more being conveyed in these words.

The word being translated hospitality actually means loving kindness to strangers. And the word strangers refers to resident aliens, minorities, and sojourners in the land. In other words, these scriptures are dealing with the age old problem of ethnicity, prejudice and racism. Do you really think that will ever be properly dealt with outside of Christ?

To demonstrate this truth, let’s start with a narrative from Luke 17 where Jesus is met by ten lepers seeking their healing. He orders them to go show themselves to the priests. As they departed they discover that they have been cleansed and one of them returns to glorify God in giving thanks before the Lord’s feet, and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus comments:

 Luke 17:18.     “there are none found that returned to give glory to God, besides this stranger.”                                                

The Samaritans were a despised people living among the most misunderstood people in history, and are enshrined in the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ by the words  “Good Samaritan”.

These strangers stand out among the members of society by whose treatment the Lord will judge the nations.                 

Matthew 25:31-46.   ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you have done to one of the least of these My brethren, you did to Me.’

So what does the Law and the Prophets have to say about this thorny topic? Let’s consider this survey:

Exodus 22:21.    You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.                                           

Exodus 23:9.  Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.                        

 Leviticus 19:34.  The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.                                               

Numbers 15:14, 15.  One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you.                                 

Deuteronomy 10:18, 19.   He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.                                                    

Isaiah 56:1-8.   Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord speak saying “The Lord has utterly separated me from His people”. Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants. Even them I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.”              

Jeremiah 22:3.  Thus says the Lord: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.       

Ezekiel 22:29.  The people of the land have used oppression, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger.

 Malachi 3:5.   And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.       

So we see beyond the prophets condemning society’s injustice, a Law given to Moses that was acutely concerned for the rights of strangers. How then did this wall of separation come to exist that Paul speaks of in his letter to the Ephesians?

Ephesians 2:12.    At that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.                                                  

How could this be true when the Law of Moses had made every accommodation for the foreigner who desired to seek the Lord?  In verse fifteen he says that the enmity was created by the law of commandments in ordinances: nomos entole en dogma. This expression refers to what Jesus referred to as the traditions and rules of men undermining the Word of God.

Because of the mutual hatred and distrust that existed between the Jew and of the neighboring societies, no Jew would even sit at a table and eat a meal with a gentile. This is something that even the apostle Peter was called out on by Paul, the apostle of the gentiles. In contrast, Jesus always ate with publicans and sinners.

Galatians 2:11-14.   Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.  And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?”                             

Even though he had fully embraced the gentile as a fellow believer when the Lord had given him a vision that corrected his views in Acts 10, his fear of men resulted in hypocrisy.

Acts 10:28.   Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful (Pharisaic) it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.                     

And finally he concludes:

Acts 10:34, 35.  Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that fears Him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him.       

As an elder of the first church in Jerusalem, Peter was very familiar with the complications of a Jewish/Gentile fellowship. When he wrote in his letter to show hospitality without grumbling, the word used is more often translated murmuring. This grumbling or murmuring began early on in the church.

Acts 6:1.   And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.                             

Note the clear racial overtones to the situation at hand. The solution the apostles came up with to deal with the problem was to have the congregation choose for themselves seven men to appoint over the administrative duties.

The apostle Paul recalls for us in 1 Corinthians 10 how murmuring and complaining was the “original sin” of the congregation in the wilderness. The people had just passed through the Red Sea and witnessed a great deliverance when they soon were murmuring against God and Moses.

Exodus 15:24.  And the people murmured against Moses, saying, what should we drink?

 Exodus 16:2.  And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:             

Now in their defense I would point out that they had traveled three days in the wilderness and not found any fresh water. Most Christians have murmured and complained about far less. The point is that this is far more serious than most give consideration.

1  Corinthians 10:11.   Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.      

When Paul says that this issue is where the ends of the ages meet, he was ushering in the end of the age of justification by works of the Law and bringing in the age of justification by grace.

John 1:17.   For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.                                                 

1 Corinthians 10:5, 6.  But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.                   

Hebrews 3:14-19.   For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; While it is said, today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom He swore that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.                              

In other words, regardless of the covenant, grumbling and complaining are an offense to God and will be considered an act of unbelief. And now we can look to Abram to complete the picture and find the purpose.

Paul taught that Abram was the father of justification by faith, for when he was told his offspring would be as the stars of heaven, he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.

James pointed out that Abraham later proved his faith by offering his son Isaac in obedience to God. But in Hebrews we are reminded that the first great act of faith, without which nothing else would have followed, was his departure from his home land.

Hebrews 11:8-16   By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went… he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country…for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God… and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.   (highlights.)

James wrote:

James 1:27  Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.                        

Why then does he not mention strangers along with widows and orphans as the Law of Moses and the prophets do so often? Because we are called to be the stranger, the pilgrim, the sojourner in this world. We cannot conform to this world and expect to be translated into a heavenly homeland.

A community church may compromise to be inoffensive and socially acceptable, but any individual who hopes to go from the called to the chosen, or elect; must be willing to step outside that comfort zone. To set hands on the plow and not look back until you have completed your course and remain faithful. Here is how:

Philippians 2:14-16.     Do all things without murmuring and disputing, That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.                                                          

 

Preaching Blasphemy

Acts 9:20.  At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.   

How much significance should be placed on this point that Paul immediately began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God?  First, consider the evidence that came out at the trial of Jesus Christ.

John 19:5-7. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate said unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.

Pilate said unto them, you take him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.  The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.           

At a public trial, the testimony of His accusers was that Jesus must die for claiming to be the Son of God. Now the man who was previously persecuting the church, one of high esteem among the religious leadership, was preaching this very thing! This is an extraordinary turn of events, that the one who was identified and accepted by the original disciples as the “apostle to the gentiles”, would first boldly preach in the synagogues of every place he visited.

For many have come before and after claiming to be a messiah, a fact of which has often been attested. For messianic Jews to simply proclaim Yeshua haMashiach in Israel or anywhere in the world is nothing new under the sun.  If you want to stir up the status quo, preach the Son of God. 

Acts 5:34-39.   Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.  For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined , who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.                                 

It is noteworthy that this same Gamaliel was the headmaster of the school of the Pharisees where Saul trained. And who was the one man that disregarded this advice and set off on a murderous rampage against the church?  Irony!

Before appearing at the judgment seat of Pilate, Jesus was examined by the High Priest, along with the scribes and elders. Many false witnesses came forward to accuse Jesus, but none of the charges held. Then the High Priest played his trump card:

Matthew 26:63-66.  But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.                                  

And so the religious authorities found Jesus guilty of blasphemy and worthy of death for claiming to be the Son of God. Then Saul, upon his conversion immediately preached this in the synagogues, thereby, bringing the same charge against himself. Then he gave this testimony of himself before his conversion.

1 Tim 1:13.   Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

This is his conversion, to embrace what was called blasphemy, and reject what was before:

Acts 22:3.   I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.                                

The Lord Jesus Christ expects us to preach His Blasphemy, for this is the most excellent glory that He received:

2 Peter 1:17.  For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.   

John 10:36.  Do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 

The Times and the Seasons

After His resurrection and as the time for His ascension approached, the disciples asked Jesus:  Acts 1:6.  “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  

In answer to the teachings of eschatology, wisely and carefully consider the reply Jesus provided them.

Acts 1:7. He said to them, It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.  

The eternal word of the eternal Lord to us all is that knowing the times or the seasons of restitution are strictly under the authority of the Father. And yet we have so many teachers and preachers telling us that such and such happened in this or that year, and by the Law, count for so many years to determine such and such event. 

Let those who love the Lord and desire to live by His given revelation know that these things are not for us to consider. All these matters were dealt with by the Holy Spirit and presented to the church in the apostolic doctrine.

Romans 7:1.  Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?  

Do the saints live by the law, or by the Spirit? Paul is dealing with this question often in his writings. Wisely and carefully consider his insight.

Romans 7:4.  Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.  

This teaching is preceded by this word of knowledge:

Romans 6:3, 4.  Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 

The Fullness of Time

The saints who walk by the Spirit are not instructed by the Law, or by those who would use the Law to bind by jealous intentions the liberty of the children of God in Christ.

1 Timothy 1:7.  Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.  

Galatians 3:2, 3.  This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?   

Galatians 4:9, 10.  But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?  You observe days and months and seasons and years.  

Colossians 2:16, 17.  Let no man judge you in meat or drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but (by your function within) the body of Christ. 

Galatians 4:4.  But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.  

1 Thessalonians 5:1, 2.  But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 

Matthew 24:36.  But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

Be Steadfast

2 Peter 3:14-18. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;  and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.