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ENTERTAINING STRANGERS.

SISTER M. A. Winner, of Ashville, Ohio, asks for views on Hebrews xiii. 2, desiring to know who are these strangers and angels, and how should they be entertained. This Scripture reads as follows: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” The letter to the Hebrews was not intended for the Jews as a nation, but for those Jews who had, by the grace of God, been brought unto the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. The gospel was first preached to the Jews. Those who heard it on the day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts ii., were all Jews. We have no reason to think there was a single Gentile in the audience of Peter on that day. It was ordained that the gospel should be preached in all the world for a witness, beginning at Jerusalem. This was done; Many of the Jews who heard the gospel preached on the day of Pentecost believed it with all their heart, and were given understanding that Judaism had come to an end through the fulfillment by Christ of the whole purpose of the law. However there was the danger ever present of Jewish professed believers lapsing back into Judaism, and some came to hold a strange mingling of Judaism and christianity, as is shown in Acts xxi. 18-24. Thus the purpose of the letter to the Hebrews seems to be twofold: to confirm gracious Jews in their gospel position in the liberty where, with Christ had made them free, and to warn against legal entanglements and ensnaring Judaism. The one word throughout the epistle which might be said to furnish a key to it all, is “better;” contrasting the things of the law with the “better” things of Christ, setting forth him who is “better” than angels, the “better” covenant, “better” priesthood, “better” sacrifice, “better” rest, and so on. The date of the letter is, without a doubt, previous to the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem and the ceasing of the Jewish nationality. This is evident from the eleventh verse of the tenth chapter of the letter itself. Thus, being written before the dispersion of the Jews throughout the world by the Romans, the Gentiles still stood to them as “strangers,” though this strangerhood had in reality been abolished in the cross of Christ, for he had taken down the middle wall of partition that stood between Israel and these “stranger” Gentiles during old covenant or legal times, and had by the death of his cross made of these twain one new man. Thus the command in our text is for the Jew possessing gospel standing in Christ to “be not forgetful to entertain strangers,” for some of these Gentiles might turn out to be “angels;” that is, these Jewish brethren in being courteous, gentle, kind and hospitable to the Gentile “stranger” would doubtless find from time to time that they were “unawares,” being not conscious of it, “entertaining” a brother or sister in the Lord Jesus Christ. This was most certain to be the case, for Jesus had said that the kingdom should cease from national Israel and be given unto a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. “ It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” These are the words of Paul, showing the coming to pass of the declaration of Jesus, in Matthew xxi. 43. Thus it was not at all necessary for the Jews in grace, who are especially borne in mind by the writer of Hebrews, to any longer regard the Gentiles as dogs and heathen, as was the case when the Mosaic covenant was in full sway, but to bear in mind that in the gospel dispensation, having its dawning in the resurrection of Christ from the dead, the influence of grace was among the Gentiles and likely to spring forth into fruitfulness at any moment and in the most unexpected places. To entertain these strangers meant to manifest courtesy and hospitality toward them. It did not mean to welcome them to the ordinances and privileges of the gospel church, without being persuaded they were subjects of grace. Looking back to the patterns of gospel things in the legal rites and ceremonies of the old covenant, we find the “stranger” is often mentioned. Israel of old was commanded not to vex or oppress the “strangers” within their gates; the gleanings of the harvests and vineyards were to be left for them and for the poor, and in Deut. x. 19, it says, “Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” This loving the stranger manifested itself in relieving his necessities, giving him food and raiment, and in dealing justly and fairly with him. On the other hand, no stranger except of the seed of Aaron dared offer incense before the Lord; no stranger or sojourner could eat of the holy things of the Israelites; and the stranger that presumed to come nigh the tabernacle or nigh the priest’s office was put to death. The hospitality and kindness toward the stranger enjoined upon Israel of old did not allow of any meddling with the holy things, the gifts of God peculiar to those of the circumcision alone. But in Exodus xiii. 48, 49, the stranger, in case he had desire to eat of the passover with those of Israel, must, with all the males belonging to him, be circumcised. He then became one with those of the circumcision, no more a stranger, but as one at home, and possessed an inalienable right to eat of the passover. “One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.” Leaving now the type and coming over to the antitype in the order and practice of the new testament church, we find the apostles enjoin upon the brethren hospitality, kindness, courtesy, patience, forbearance and kindred qualities toward the strangers: those who are not professedly with the church in like faith, hope and: love. This does not for one moment mean that the church is to be slack and slovenly in keeping her house, and admit just any one and everybody to eat with her of her holy things or partake with her in the observance of her solemn ordinances and privileges. In order to this latter welcoming, there must be per fect accord of heart and soul, unity of calling, hope, faith and baptism. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?” But when a stranger gives evidence that he has been born again, that he has been made to realize his sinful condition, that he has been given a good hope through grace; in other words, when it is made to appear that he has been circumcised of the Spirit in the heart, instead of outwardly in the flesh, then he is no longer to be treated as a stranger and held at arm’s length, because his alienation from the spiritual commonwealth of regenerate Israel is obliterated in his being a new creature in Christ Jesus; it becomes his privilege to come in and sup with the Numerous instances of this kind are found throughout the Book, but we will notice but one more. The two disciples that walked to Emmaus after the death of Jesus were sad of heart, beset with unbelief and fear. A stranger joined them and journeyed with them, but their eyes were holden that they could not recognize him. He began at Moses and all the prophets and opened unto them the Scriptures. When they reached their journey’s end, as night drew on, the two besought the stranger to enter and tarry with them. He did so, and as he sat at meat with them and broke the bread they knew him and instantly he was gone. They had entertained the “angel” of the new covenant “unawares.” Jesus said to those on his right hand, “I was a stranger, and ye took me in.” Those whom he addressed were not aware they had ever done so. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” When Jesus manifests himself for the first time in the heart's experience of a sinner, the sinner does not know what ails him. He has strange thoughts, strange feelings, strange longings: he is entertaining an “angel,” the true character of whom he is to later understand. We were ourselves once strangers in the land of Egypt, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. It behooves the people of God, therefore, to be kind to strangers. Our own soul’s experience dictates this entertainment. The grace of God which has appeared to all men, bringing salvation, teaches these principles of right living by engraving them in the heart and imprinting them in the mind, writing them in the inward parts. Love is the foundation of it all, “the fountain whence all true obedience flows.” “Let. brotherly love continue.” L.

Elder H. H. Lefferts
Editorial

Signs of the Times
Volume 82, No. 16
August 15, 1914