So let's return to my original quandary: Why is hospitality (1) a virtue Paul says is central to Christianity, (2) a qualification for elders of the church and older women, and (3) a practice to be cultivated as the end approaches?

Answer: With hospitality, we proclaim to the world the incarnation of Christ, God's grace in salvation, the unity of the church, and a Christian's participation in the life of Christ. And to Christ himself we say, "I love you, because you have identified yourself with the least of these brothers." We must preach the words of Christ's gospel, otherwise we draw attention and glory only to ourselves. But we must also preach with our lives so that those both inside and outside the church see that the power of God for salvation begins today, as Christ's people begin to image him from one degree of glory to the next.

  1. BDAG defines philoxenia has "hospitality," which surely includes care for strangers, but is not restricted to strangers.
  2. Tremendously helpful is the entry on "Hospitality" by C. D. Pohl in The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (IVP), ed. T. Brian Rosner et al (561-63). Much of my comments in the OT and NT follow the storyline Pohl lays out. Also helpful is Gustav Stahlin's entry for xenos in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 5, ed. Gerhard Kittel et al (1-36).
  3. Stahlin, TDNT¸ 21.

Jonathan Leeman is Director of Communications at 9Marks Ministries. He is the author of the church and the surprising offense of god's love: reintroducing the doctrines of church membership and discipline (Crossway Books, 2010).

9marks ministries exists to equip church leaders with a biblical vision for displaying God's glory through healthy churches.


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