Christian Hospitality – Part 2 (2 John 5–11)

Title: Christian Hospitality

Text: 2 John 5–11

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My wife and I try to get our children in bed by a certain time every night. When they go to bed, we stay up and talk. Sometimes I will talk to her about the text I am preaching on Sunday. It helps me to hash-it-out in a community setting before I give it. You get the 10:30 a.m. version, and she gets the early service. Now, I don’t bring a pulpit in the living room and sing a couple of congregational hymns, but I do give a come-forward invitation (just kidding!). Just a five-minute conversation can help me ground all my exegesis in the reality of everyday life.

The other night, I said, “Let’s play a game. I will say a word, and you tell me the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word. Grass.” She said, “Green.” “Christmas.” She said, “Tree.” “Stud Muffin.” She said, “You, Honey.” (That last one only happened in my dreams.)

I want to do this game with you too. I will say the word and give you some time to think about it, and let’s all say our answers on the count of three. When I say the word evangelism, what do you think? 1-2-3 _______________.

You may have said . . .

·      Tract

·      Pamphlet

·      Knocking on a door

·      A preacher

·      A seminary course

After this morning, I am hoping when you hear the word evangelism you will think, “hospitality.”

Steve Childers has successfully served as a church planter and now as Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. He is heart-deep in evangelism. On one occasion, he had a group of pastors sitting on the edge of their seat when he asked, “You know what the key to evangelism in the 21st century will be, don’t you?” No one answered, but everyone’s faces showed how eager they were to hear.

After letting the anticipation build, he finally said, “Hospitality.”[1]

I want to let this sink deep into your thinking because it is our model for evangelism. It is our model for church growth. We are not planning to build this church through passing out flyers on people’s doorsteps, showing commercials on TV, or posting our pictures on billboards. We have no marketing strategy—only hospitality.

Steve Childers hit a 21st-century truth that has existed since the 1st century.[2] This is how the churches in the New Testament built their platform for the gospel.

As history has progressed in the western hemisphere (America, in particular), it has become more and more individualistic. We have more time-saving devices than any other time in history, yet we are busier than ever. We are more technologically advanced than at any other time in history, yet we are failing in the simple areas.

Hospitality is dying in our nation. That’s actually okay. It’s not okay, however, if it dies in our churches. John Calvin saw the church’s decline in hospitality all the way back in the 16th century. He saw the growing existence of hotels and restaurants as a blight on the church.[3] If Christians were doing what they were supposed to do, they would not need all those hotels and restaurants.

Today, I am giving the second part of a two-part sermon series entitled “Christian Hospitality: Expositions of 2 John.” Three weeks ago, I dealt with a lot of the textual intricacies of this book, but today I am hitting the main theme.

The theme of the postcard letter points to a prominent woman[4] in the church who has given her life (and her money, and her table, and her home) to hospitality.[5]

Transition: This text comes at us from two different angles. The first shows God’s love in Christian hospitality, and the second shows God’s truth in Christian hospitality. We are given this imperative:

1.   Show God’s love in Christian hospitality (verses 5–6).

Love and truth appear again and again throughout this small package of a letter. We are to demonstrate both in our Christian hospitality. How can you demonstrate love by hospitality?

The New Testament word for “hospitality” (Greek philoxenia) comes from a compound of “love” and “stranger.” Hospitality has its origin, literally, in love for outsiders.[6]

Notice verses five and six. John says,

And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

John says, “Permit me to give you a little reminder, dear lady. I am not giving you any new orders. I am repeating the original and basic charter: Love people.” He tells her to walk (or to continue to walk) in this love. “Walk” is a metaphor for living. When John says, “Walk in love,” he is saying, “Live a life of love.” And that is what this lady did. She loved people by being hospitable to them. Her love had actions. Real love is never merely mushy-gushy, lovey-dovey words. It’s deep-rooted actions that back up those words.

I want to show you hospitality demonstrated in her life and also hospitality demonstrated throughout all Scripture. I call it the Mini-Biblical Theology of Hospitality. I want to look at hospitality in 2 John, then 3 John, then back in the Old Testament, and finally, in the New Testament.

·      How did she show hospitality?

This unnamed woman in the book had a good name. Her husband is not mentioned in the text. Her children are mentioned, so we know she did have a husband at one time. Some have said she is widow, others that her husband was not addressed because he was not a Christ follower, and still others that she may have been divorced. We are not sure.

We are sure that she had a reputation for practicing hospitality. In the first century, preachers depended upon hospitality for their survival. Their meals would come from families inviting them into their homes. The lodging came from people who offered their homes as a free hotel. Holiday Inn Express with their complimentary breakfast did not exist. Hotels (inns) in this day were brothels—places of disease.[7] Stationary church members supported God’s itinerant preachers.

·      How did Gaius show hospitality?

Gaius is the main individual addressed in 3 John. John applauds Gaius for showing the same hospitality toward traveling Christians. In the same letter, he calls out another guy for not showing hospitality.

Both 2 and 3 John are dealing with hospitality. As we will see, 2 John speaks mainly about denying hospitality and 3 John about practicing hospitality.

·      How did believers in the Old Testament show hospitality?

Leviticus 19: 34 says, “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” Hospitality in the Old Testament was shown to strangers (people who were not Christians) by welcoming them into their homes.

·      How did believers in the New Testament show hospitality?

In the New Testament, the gospel went forward on the wings of hospitality. How did it fly to every region of the world so quickly? They had an awesome marketing plan that they copied from a Fortune 500 company, right? They kept themselves secluded and periodically handed out flyers to people they had never met before or intended ever to meet again (much less have them in their homes)? No. They evangelized one meal at a time. Disciples are not mass-produced; they are hand fashioned, one relationship at a time.

Romans 12:13 says, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” We are to seek (be eager) to show hospitality—on purpose, planning and scheduling times to strategically invite non-Christians into our homes. It’s not limited to birthday parties, Christmas dinners, or special occasions.

Hebrews 13:1–2 says, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Do not neglect to show hospitality! Let’s pause . . . have you been neglecting hospitality? The early church knew that following Jesus involved hospitality. Such a faith that did not involve hospitality would have been absurd. They invited strangers into their house because they were followers of Jesus, and the strangers could have been Jesus.

1 Peter 4:9 says, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” Do not complain about it. Do not dread it. If you dread it, you have missed God’s plan in hospitality. It’s not about you; it’s about Him. It’s not strictly for your enjoyment; it’s for His glory.

Did you know that hospitality is even a qualification to be a pastor (elder)? Hospitality is found in both lists of pastoral qualifications in 1 Timothy 1 and in Titus 1. Tony Merida said, “Think about this. If a guy doesn’t show hospitality, he’s unqualified to serve as a pastor. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a pastoral candidate being asked this question in any serious way.”[9]

As a church, I want us to seriously consider how we can leverage our kitchen tables for the gospel. How can you leverage your living room, your playground, or your back yard for evangelism? It will not happen by accident. You must be strategic.

John Piper speaks about strategic hospitality and says,

Strategic hospitality . . . asks: How can I draw the most people into a deep experience of God’s hospitality by the use of my home . . . ? Who are the people who could be brought together in my home most strategically for the sake of the kingdom? . . .

Strategic hospitality is not content to just have the old clan over for dinner again and again. It strategizes how to make the hospitality of God known and felt all over the world, from the lonely church member right here, to the Gola farmers in Tahn, Liberia. Don’t ever underestimate the power of your living room as a launching pad for new life and hope and ministry and mission![10]

You could actually put on a well-planned dinner party once a week for the rest of your life, inviting friends and family over, but you would be failing to meet the biblical precedent. When have you put on a dinner party for strangers? You are not entertaining. You are showing hospitality. Entertaining is about impressing people. Hospitality is about serving people.[11]

·      How did Jesus show hospitality?

Look at the stories of Jesus’ life. He hung out with the riff-raff, the questionable, the sinners. Those people who were not invited over to a respectable crowd’s house. Jesus lived hospitality. He did not make disciples by starting programs or enrolling them into institutions. He ate with people.[12]

One of the dominant images of heaven in the New Testament is the image of a banquet. Jesus is in heaven setting a table. He’s inviting all (black, white, Mexican, Latinos, Germans, Asian, Canadian, and Chinese) to sit at His table. God is ultimately the host, and we are all guests.

When you practice hospitality in your home, it’s a dress rehearsal for heaven! Share a meal with others so they might come to experience God’s banquet.

Doing the work of God is not always light shows and shock-and-awe. It might look like a BBQ, throwing ball with kids in the street, or going grocery shopping with your neighbor.[13]

What is hospitality? Let’s define it. It’s welcoming strangers into a safe place in order to share Christ with them.

Let’s unpack this definition. Let’s tease it. Hospitality is inviting strangers—people we meet at the park, casual acquaintances at work or sporting events—into a safe place—this safe place could be your home or a restaurant. It’s a lot better at a home. You’re also inviting them into a safe place emotionally, a judgment free zone—I am not trying to impress you and you are not trying to impress me.

It’s welcoming strangers into a safe place in order to—we have a goal in our hospitality. We want to show kingdom etiquette. Kingdom etiquette is inviting them to know the king—share Christ with them.

People have a longing for belonging. There is a real decline in the church when it comes to a sense of community. We are a community of people who share the same faith in Jesus. Many times people are converted to community before they are converted to Christ.

How do we show hospitality? We must move from the lecture to the lab.

      A.  Destroy the excuses

“I do not have the gift of hospitality.” You may be introverted. That is not a hall pass to skip out on hospitality. You may not enjoy having people over for dinner, but hospitality is not for certain personality types. It is for all personalities. One of my seminary professors pointed out that two men that helped him in the area of hospitality were Steve Timmis and Tim Chester. Both are self-professed introverts. They are introverts who write books about hospitality. Why? Did they learn to be the life of the party? No! they saw the Biblical pattern.[14]

“I do not have the house for hospitality.” To invite others into your house is to admit, ladies, that you’re not Betty Crocker and, guys, that you’re not Guy Fieri. Your house may be small, old, or awkward, but that’s okay. You must avoid the “sham of togetherness”—that’s having people think you have it all together. When they step into your house, they will find out you don’t.[15]

You do not have to make your house look like a 5-star restaurant. John Piper gave great advice: we should use paper plates when we have people over because it’s about spending time with people, not showing off our fine china.[16]

“I do not have the kids for hospitality.” You are going to have to be willing to let people see the messiness of your own life. One of those messy things is when kids disobey you when you have people over. They have this little internal radar that alerts them to let them know they can get away with more things when company is over.

      B.  Make mistakes

Just jump out into the unknown and invite others over. You will learn what not to make and what to make. You will learn what robs you of your time with the guests. You could even team up with another couple in the church and determine to do this together.

Avoid just eating with only close friends. It easier to eat with those whom we are most comfortable. We must get out of our comfort zone.

Find other couples who “do hospitality” well and learn from them. What do they cook? How do they simplify the meal? What do they do when the meal burns? How do they turn the conversation to Christ? Let those who do it well help the rest of us klutzes.

Transition: Are you showing God’s love in Christian hospitality? Here’s the transition in the text, are you . . .

2.   Show[ing] God’s truth in Christian hospitality (verses 7–11).

2 John 7 says, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

In the first century, false teachers would engage in itinerant ministries just like the true teachers. As God deployed His missionaries around the world, Satan deployed his. They would both enter into people’s homes. These false teachers did not knock on the door and say, “Hi! I am a false teacher, please notice my horns, my long tail, and my red suit. I’m here to distort your view of Jesus.” They came under the guise of Christian preachers. They would give a false standard of salvation.

This must have happened to this woman because we have a gentle rebuke. He asks her to be careful around these people who were targeting John’s local congregations: “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward” (2 John 8).

In other words, John is telling this dear gifted woman of hospitality that truth is more important than hospitality. Maybe this lady had taken in a false teacher under the name of hospitality. John calls for hospitality with discernment.[17]

2 John 9 declares, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” Notice the phrase “everyone who goes on ahead.” Perhaps this is a sarcastic reference to the way in which the false teachers themselves proudly claimed to be offering advanced teachings. John claims they had advanced beyond the boundaries of the Christian faith.[18] They became so progressive in their thinking that they progressed right out of Christian theology.

False teaching always attacks the person of Christ. You need to be on the lookout for it. Sometimes it will be a . . .

Jesus plus theology – They add a source of authority outside of the Bible. It may be a prophet not in the Bible, or a man whose writing should be considered on the same level as the Bible.

Jesus minus theology – They subtract from the person of Christ by denying His deity or His full humanity. They subtract from the work of Christ by finding His death on the across inadequate.

Jesus divided by theology – They want to divide your allegiance to Jesus Christ to others (usually themselves).

Jesus multiplied theology – They multiply the requirements for salvation. Basically, they develop some form of work that you need to do in order to be saved.[19]

Verse 10 says, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting.” The church cannot lack the ability to detect these errors. These smooth-talking charlatans played on people’s hospitality to infiltrate their theology. Verse10 could call for a stoppage of an action in progress. Remember, it was common in the ancient world to receive traveling teachers into the home and offer them shelter and lodging.

John is saying, “First century church, do not let false teachers base their operations in your home.” I am saying, “Twenty-first century church, false teachers will try this on you too.” Early churches met in houses. John is saying, “Do not let them teach the church. We can have open homes, but closed pulpits. Do not let error perpetuate in your pulpits.”

Do not even give them a greeting. This does not mean that if you see one of Satan’s minions and you accidentally say “hello” then you have failed your Lord. The word greeting indicates someone expressing solidarity with this teacher.

2 John 11 continues, “For whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” Housing an apostate is seen as collaborating with them.[20] Mark Dever points out that this does not mean that, if we have lost loved ones, they should not stay overnight. John is writing about Christians who profess to be Christians, but teach false doctrine.

If someone comes to you with Jesus plus a mathematical equation, what do you do? How do you balance truth and love here?

·      You cannot say you love someone when you tolerate sinful practices or sinful compromises.

·      You cannot violate truth in the name of love.

·      False teachers should be shunned and not welcomed. This doesn’t sound like love, but it is. Do not affirm them in anyway.

There is a word for our elders here as well:

·      You are responsible for correcting deception. You will give an account of how you oversee the church.

·      You, like John, must rebuke gently. He loved this lady; that’s why he had to address the error.

Although hospitality is an important Christian virtue, the Church must never assist the work of false teachers (i.e., financially supporting them, endorsing their ministries, allowing them to speak in our churches, associating with them in a way that would commend their teaching to others).[21]

Conclusion: What can motivate us to show hospitality?

I could try to motivate you to show hospitality out of guilt: “Just stop being so self-consumed—only inviting people over for a mutual benefit.” Guilt will actually motivate people to do the task of hospitality, but they will not enjoy it.

You must not look at hospitality as a task that you add to your already busy schedule. It’s not a task; it’s a way of life. So what will motivate us? Maybe I should say, Who will motivate us? The best motivation is found in Ephesians 2:12-13:

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

You should not do hospitality out of guilt. You should do it out of grace—the grace that has been shown to you when you were alienated, separated, a stranger, and without God. We were outsiders—strangers—outside of the house. Then Jesus opened the door to the Father and invited us in. He welcomed guests who were poor and sinful. His hospitable act was dying on a cross for your sins, defeating death, damning Satan, and living forever in victory.




Akin, Daniel. “3 John.” Accessed September 18, 2016.

———. Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in 1, 2, and 3 John. Nashville: B & H Publishing, 2014.

Bellingham, John. “Christian Hospitality – 2 John & 3 John.” Rosedale Baptist Church. February 8, 2015. Accessed October 23, 2016. sermon_post/christian-hospitality-2-john-3-john.

Covenant Theological Seminary. “Making Room: The Mystery, Riches, and Challenge of Hospitality.” Accessed September 18, 2016. resources/resource/lecture-series/the-francis-schaeffer-lecture-series-2005-spring-making-room-the-mystery-riches-and-challenge-of-christian-hospitality.

Johnson, Phil. “John on Christian Fellowship.” Recorded March 19, 2012. Streaming audio. Accessed November 1, 2016. sermoninfo.asp?SID=3191216222.

MacArthur, John. “The Primacy of Truth.” Recorded October 19, 2003. Streaming audio. Accessed September 18, 2016.

Mathis, David. “Hospitality and the Great Commission.” Desiring God. October 2, 2012. Accessed September 18, 2016.

Merida, Tony. Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down. Nashville: B & H Publishing, 2015.

Rogers, Cleon L. Jr., and Cleon L. Rogers III. The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.

Sechrist, Ann. “John Calvin and Hospitality in Geneva.” The Valley of Baca in Bloom. August 15, 2013. Accessed September 18, 2016. john-calvin-and-hospitality-in-geneva/comment-page-1.

St. Philip’s Eastwood Anglican Church. “Hospitality.” Accessed October 23, 2016.

[1] David Mathis, “Hospitality and the Great Commission,” Desiring God, October 2, 2012, accessed September 18, 2016,

[2] Of course, truth is timeless.

[3] Ann Sechrist, “John Calvin and Hospitality in Geneva,” The Valley of Baca in Bloom, August 15, 2013, accessed September 18, 2016, john-calvin-and-hospitality-in-geneva/comment-page-1.

[4] Two main views of the “elect lady” present themselves throughout church history. For a further look, review the first sermon in this series entitled “Truth and Love.”

[5] Phil Johnson, “John on Christian Fellowship,”, recorded March 19, 2012, streaming audio, accessed November 1, 2016, sermoninfo.asp?SID=3191216222.

[6] Mathis, “Hospitality and the Great Commission.”

[7] John MacArthur, “The Primacy of Truth,” recorded October 19, 2003, streaming audio, accessed September 18, 2016,

[8] This thought came from Daniel Akin, “3 John,” accessed September 18, 2016,

[9] Tony Merida, Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down (Nashville: B & H Publishing, 2015), 45.

[10] Quoted in Mathis, “Hospitality and the Great Commission.”

[11] Merida, Ordinary, 41.

[12] Ibid., 53.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 46.

[15] Covenant Theological Seminary, “Making Room: The Mystery, Riches, and Challenge of Hospitality,” accessed September 18, 2016, resource/lecture-series/the-francis-schaeffer-lecture-series-2005-spring-making-room-the-mystery-riches-and-challenge-of-christian-hospitality.

[16] St. Philip’s Eastwood Anglican Church, “Hospitality,” accessed October 23, 2016,

[17] John Macarthur’s sermon “Truth: The Sphere of Existence”

[18], Cleon L. Rogers Jr. and Cleon L. Rogers III. The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 600.

[19] Daniel Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in 1, 2, and 3 John (Nashville: B & H Publishing, 2014), 159.

[20] Rogers and Rogers, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key, 601.

[21] John Bellingham, “Christian Hospitality – 2 John & 3 John,” Rosedale Baptist Church, February 8, 2015, accessed October 23, 2016, sermon_post/christian-hospitality-2-john-3-john.