Given To Hospitality
Distributing To The Saints

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 64a of 83

“Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality” (Romans 12:13).

We have begun a study of a list of about 15 directives on how the church may grow together in unity of love.

We have seen that (1) we must love sincerely, (2) we must seek to do good and avoid doing evil to one another; and (3) we must cultivate a warm brotherly affection in the church (v. 9-10)

We saw that we must be on fire to serve the Lord in all areas of our lives—whether in church at home or in school. We must not be slow and lazy in our attitude. We must be fervent in spirit (v. 11).

In the previous study, we consider how we must rejoice in hope believing that God is doing all things well for the good of his children. We must patiently endure all pressuring situations and we must serve the Lord in whatever circumstance we are in our lives (v. 12).

In the present study we continue to consider Paul’s exhortation by looking his call to generosity and hospitality (v. 13).

Now, unlike in the previous directive, it is easy to see how this instruction will contribute to the bond of love within the church.

However, this instruction is not as easy to obey as it is often assumed to be. In fact, I suspect that many of us have read this verse many times and have done nothing about it; and I suspect that many of us actually think that hospitality is a gift, and only people such as Aquilla and Priscilla will have it. The rest of us, are not required to do anything.

But this is not what the apostle Paul is saying. He is saying that if we want to grow in unity of love as a church, then all of us—as those redeemed by Christ’s blood and renewed by His Spirit—must learn and resolve to distribute to the necessity of saints and to practice hospitality.

Again, it is not difficult to see how this would be the case even without studying the verse in detail. But let’s give some attention to the instruction that we may, peradventure be challenged to do what is right.

In the first place, Paul reminds us that we must distribute to the necessity of saints.

1.   Distributing to the 
Necessity of Saints

What does the apostle mean? Now, the word ‘distributing’ comes from a familiar Greek word. It is the verb form of the word koinonia, which means ‘communion’ ‘fellowship’ or ‘sharing.’ The word is koinōneō (κοινωνέω), which essentially means “to go into communion or fellowship with someone,” “to become a sharer with someone,” or to “be made a partner.”

Simply stated, Paul is saying: Share with the saints who have need. The saints, or holy ones are all believers. Paul wants us to share of our substance, our time, and our life with the brethren who have need.

Now, if I were to ask you to describe the New Testament church when it was first constituted, what will you say? I believe, 9 out of 10 of us will say something about how the members of the church shared their possession with one another so that they had all things common, and none lack anything (cf. Acts 4:32, 34-35).

This is a beautiful picture. It describes a situation we all know is an ideal to be desired in any church. However, we also know that it is situation that has hardly ever been repeated since the days of the apostles.

Why is this so? Well, I am sure we can all give many reasons. In the first place, we suspect that there were many more poor people in the church in those days. In the second place, we suspect that the society was not so complicated then, and people had more time for one another. In the third place, we wonder if what happened in the church then is intended to be a norm for the church today.

Many of us, will say: “No, it is not a norm. It was something that happened immediately after the Pentecost. The event is recorded for us, but we are not instructed to follow what was done. God does not require us to do the same today.”

Well, it is true that there is no indication in the Word of God that it is mandatory for all churches to follow the example of the Jerusalem church. There is no indication in Scripture that churches which fail to do the same thing are false churches or failing to function as true churches should.

However, does that mean that we are under no obligation whatsoever to seek to imitate what the brethren in the early church did? I don’t think so.

It appears to me that, in calling upon us to distribute to the necessity of the saints, the apostle is teaching us to do what our fathers in Jerusalem did. We must seek to help believers who are poor or in need—whether they are in the same congregation or in other congregations.

In fact, this is not the only occasion when Paul calls upon us to do that.

At the time when the church in Jerusalem was suffering because of a famine, Paul wrote to all the churches he ministered in to urge them to make collections so that he could bring help to the poor saints in Jerusalem when he visits them.

The Corinthian believers were apparently more well-to-do. Therefore, he urged them to share of their substance in both of his inspired letters to them. In 1 Corinthians, he urges them to make their collection by laying aside a sum on the Lord’s Day whenever they met for worship (1 Cor 16:1-2).  In 2 Corinthians, he again encourages them to put to practice what they had resolved to do. “For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you” (2 Cor 9:1), he says. “You know it very well, already,” he is saying.

Likewise, to the Galatians, he says:

“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10).

No doubt, that one of the good that Paul wants them to do is to share their material wealth with those in need. But note how he qualifies the instruction. First, he says “as we have therefore opportunity.” That is: we may not always be able to do good to other, and so we must grab every opportunity to do so. Secondly, he adds, “especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” That is to say: we ought to be ready to give to those who are unbelievers who have needs too. But we must give priority to those who are believers who are of the same household of faith!

So then, we must seek to do good, especially by sharing of our substance with those facing hardship!

Have you been doing so, dear reader? Have not the opportunities for you to do so arisen? Know you not anyone who is needy in the church? Do you not know of a poor pastor ministering in the third world country? What have we done for him apart from remembering him in prayer?

We thank God that many believers across our land took pity and gave very generously when the call was made for funds to help those who were afflicted by the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004. The massive lost of life in the disaster triggered an emotional response in all our hearts.

But now the question is: Are we ready to share even in less tragic circumstances? In other words, do we have an attitude of giving and sharing? Are you always looking out for opportunities to do good, and not merely waiting for a need to knock at the door of your heart? Are your eyes open to the need of the brethren in the church?

“Why should I do so?” you may ask. Why should you be actively seeking to do good? Well, here are five reasons:

  • First, the apostle Paul commands us to do so. We are to be “distributing to the necessity of saints.” Paul is writing under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So this commandment is given by the Holy Spirit.
  • Secondly, if we know that a brother or sister has need and we refuse to help, then we can have no assurance that the love of God dwells in us, and we truly the children of God. John says: “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him” (1 Jn 3:17)
  • Thirdly, it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35; Mt 10:8). What a joy it is to know that we are able to help our brothers and sisters in the Lord who are needy.
  • Fourthly, God is greatly magnified by the thanksgiving of those who have received help. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:12—“For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God.”
  • Fifthly, God is well-pleased with such as give and promises to bless them. This is repeated over and over again in the Scriptures.

“Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble” (Ps 41:1).

“God loveth a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Cor 9:7-8).

“But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb 13:16).

“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb 6:10).

Dear Christian, with so many reasons to encourage you to share with your brethren in the Lord, will you not make it a priority in your life? Will you not seek to do so whenever an opportunity arises? Will you not seek opportunities to do good? Indeed, will you not seek to cultivate a heart of sharing and giving?

What is a heart of sharing and giving? Well, remember Cornelius. Remember how the angel said to him: “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4). Cornelius had a habit of sharing with the poor. As a God-fearer he, no doubt, gave of his tithes faithfully at the temple or the synagogue. But he did more than that. He gave alms. That is: He gave to the poor. He gave beyond what he is expected to give.

Are you tithing, beloved brother or sister? I trust you are, for if not, you would be robbing God. But if you are a tither, may I ask if you are also an alms-giver? Are you giving beyond your tithes? Are you sharing of your substance with the poor or with those who are less fortunate than you? Blessed are you if you are.

But how do you share with the poor? How do you share with the less fortunate? Well, you don’t always have to give money.

Remember Dorcas? This woman was “full of good works and almsdeeds which she did” (Acts 9:36) says Luke. She was probably quite a poor woman. She might have been a widow for many of her friends were widows. Widows in those days were always poor because there was no common property laws in place then. And yet Dorcas in her penury sewed coats and garments for the poor, and perhaps even for those who could afford to buy—just to encourage them.

When she died, the widows who were touched by her ministry wept for her and brought the things she made for them to plead with the apostle Peter to do something if he could (v. 39). And God heard his prayer and raised her up.

You too can be a Cornelius or a Dorcas! The apostle Paul calls upon us to distribute to the necessity of the saints. You can be a Cornelius or Dorcas if you learn to give.

Are you financially better off than some of our brethren in need? Be a Cornelius!

I thank God that some of you are already known as Corneliuses. Though you have not let your right hand know what your left hand does, word has reached the ears of God that you have shared of your substance in almsgiving. I am not trying to flatter you, but I want to urge you, Corneliuses, to keep up the good work. Your prayers and your alms are come up for a memorial before God!

But I would urge the rest of us, to follow their examples.

And if you cannot give financially, give of your skills and time. Be a Dorcas!

Again, many of our brethren are already known as Dorcases in the church. These Dorcases do not sew, but they cook and they bake cakes and bread, they make fruit juices, and they make calendars and book marks, etc. We thank God for them.

But I want to urge the rest of us to follow their examples.

Are you a Dorcas or a Cornelius, dear reader? May the Lord grant you help you to be more and more like Cornelius and Dorcas for His glory! The Lord has blessed you to be a blessing to others. May He grant you help to be a  Dorcas or a Cornelius to touch lives, and to refresh the bowels of the saints (cf. Phlm 7) as you distribute to the necessity of saints.

If you have children, teach them to do the same. Teach them to be like Dorcas: to share the things they have. Teach them from young to share whatever things they enjoy, or you will be raising misers who appreciate not the generosity of Christ.

But going hand in hand with distributing to the necessity of saints is to be given to hospitality.

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim