Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 9:43AM
Jeff Smith in Fellowship

We use the word “visitation” frequently in church circles. Every week, we compile a visitation list that includes people who have visited our services and members who were absent and presumably might require a visit. If someone should pass away, a viewing or visitation precedes the funeral service, and the Bible uses visitation as a way of describing episodes of judgment or rescue. Visitation is an important function of the body of Christ, but all too often, it is dismissed as someone else’s responsibility. Imagine what we could accomplish if we understood that visitation was everybody’s business.

I. Divine Visitation

    A. For Blessing

        1. first, however, we should not limit visitation to something as simple as showing up, saying hello and ducking out; biblically, visitation includes a provision of whatever the visited person requires

        2. that is the way the Old Testament describes God’s visitation program

            a. “The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him” (Genesis 21:1-2).

            b. “Indeed the Lord visited Hannah, and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the young man Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord” (First Samuel 2:21).

            c. “And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob’” (Genesis 50:24).

        3. God is credited with blessing the earth even when people take certain things for granted: “You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it” (Psalm 65:9).

        4. when God visits, he does not expect only to be served, but to provide us with “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17).


    B. For Punishment

        1. God, however, also used the word visitation to describe his habit of punishing his people and their enemies when they required that instead of more happiness

        2. “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Numbers 14:18).

        3. this God continued to do throughout the Old Testament as Israel insisted upon idolatry and as heathen nations afflicted them beyond measure

        4. the New Testament even suggests that God visits his people today with paternal chastening designed to awaken us to righteousness (see Hebrews 12:1-11)


    C. For Salvation

        1. Zechariah, the father of John, even prophesied about God’s visitation: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68).

        2. the breadth of this visitation became clearer as Jesus grew up and begin ministering in miracles and teaching (Luke 7:11-17)

        3. in a literal, even fleshly sense, God visited humanity in the person of Jesus Christ; when the apostle Philip asked to see God, Jesus answered, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’” (John 14:9)?

        4. because salvation is ultimately by grace, God must visit forgiveness upon everyone who would be redeemed


    D. Visit One Another

        1. clearly, our God’s visitation is not just about saying hello, but is about fulfilling needs, and he asks that we use him as a model by which our own visitation is constructed

        2. members of the same body ought to be well acquainted (Hebrews 3:12-15)


II. Visit One Another

    A. With Unbelievers

        1. on occasion, we have opportunity to visit with those who are not believers in Christ, or whose belief has not yet led them to trust or obedience

        2. when we visit with them, no matter where it is, we want to be prepared to tell them what they need to hear in a voice that they might both understand and appreciate (Colossians 4:5-6)

        3. we will only succeed if we adopt the unbiased attitude of Jesus who gave everyone a chance, without regard to things like occupation, social status, wealth, education, sect, or race (Acts 10:24-29)

        4. Peter taught and converted the house of Cornelius, visiting it with truth, as “God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name” (Acts 15:14).

        5. to have any kind of standing or influence among those outside the church, we must strive to maintain an acceptable reputation at least for honesty and neighborliness (First Peter 2:11-12)


    B. New Converts

        1. when we enjoy success in making converts, it does not stop being important that we visit those who might be in their most spiritually vulnerable state – that of immaturity or false security

        2. we learn from an approved apostolic example that the early Christians made it a point to return to visit with those who had so recently come to the cross (Acts 15:36)

        3. before departing Philippi, they stopped to visit with Lydia, even though their lives had been threatened (Acts 16:35-40)

        4. we cannot allow apathy or fear to keep us from encouraging the babe in Christ to grow and be faithful; our words might provide the milk they need to endure the inevitable onslaught of temptation or persecution (see Matthew 13:20-22)


    C. The Sick

        1. the first controversy recorded in the church involved visitation (Acts 6:1-4)

            a. the church members selected Philip, Stephen and five others, while the teachers refused to be distracted from their labor in teaching the word

            b. it is not that serving tables was unimportant, for the widows had a sincere need; it’s just that there was plenty of help to get that done if only everyone would get involved

        2. on another occasion, the apostle Paul visited a sick person as few could (Acts 28:7-9)

            a. none of us can heal the sick in this way, but all of us could probably pick up a prescription or drive someone to the doctor

            b. Paul did what he could and just because it was a miracle, we are not excused from doing what we can

        3. the other side of the issue involves the pride or self-pity that can get in the way of asking for help (James 5:14-16)

            a. the church will be there for you, but it will not always know your need; the sick have a duty to call upon the elders of the church and inform them of their need

            b. it is the elders of the church and those chosen to do the work of “Diakoneo” such as there is in Acts 6 that can best see to their needs, but only if we call upon them


    D. Beloved Brethren

        1. some complain that we are losing the sense of brotherhood that used to bind us as one even beyond the realm of the congregation; when we travel and have opportunity, it should be pleasant to visit with our brothers and sisters where they are (First Corinthians 16:5-7, 12)

        2. we know how encouraging it is to have visitors here, even if they are members of the body of Christ and live elsewhere; it should be a blessing we are likewise happy to share as we travel for work or vacation or have opportunity to attend gospel meetings around the area (Second Corinthians 1:15-16)


    E. Wayward Brethren

        1. when our brethren go astray in their beliefs or in their behavior, it is even more important that we visit them

        2. it is interesting that we read of Paul delaying a visit to Corinth because he hoped that the brethren there would get things straightened out before he arrived (see Second Corinthians 2:1); that is usually about where we stand when there is an apparent need to intervene in someone’s apostasy

        3. there are times when that happens, but it must be noted that Paul did write them at least a letter to that end; just as often, our delaying only allows the wayward to feel abandoned, justified, or undetected (Second Corinthians 13:1-4)

        4. confronting others about their sin is where we have to examine ourselves first, remove all the beams from our eyes and make certain that we have only good intentions (Galatians 6:1-2)

        5. the biggest roadblock, however, is fear


    F. Needy

        1. surely, we also recognize a duty to visit the needy, and not just to say hello; “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).

            a. to express visitation, inspired James used the Greek word Episkeptomai (pr. ep-ee-skep'-tom-ahee), which means, “to look upon or after, to inspect, examine with the eyes in order to see how he is, i.e. to visit, go to see one … the poor and afflicted, the sick … to look upon in order to help or to benefit … to look after, have care for, provide for” (Thayer)

            b. visitation is more than just looking and leaving; visiting those in need is figuring out what they need and providing it – whether that is company, food, medicine, solace, or whatever

        2. just as faith without works is ineffective for salvation, so words without action are useless in feeding the hungry, clothing the cold, and sheltering the homeless (see James 2:14-17)

        3. as individuals, we have many more immediate opportunities and liberties to help the helpless; whether we act as the Good Samaritan or pass by on the other side goes a long way to determining whether we are faithful sheep or obstinate goats (Matthew 25:34-40)



The temptation is to let someone else do the visitation – other people, the church, the government, the preacher – but visitation is everybody’s business as much as Heaven is everybody’s hope.


Questions For Review

  1. How is God’s visitation characterized in the Bible?
  2. What caused Jesus’s audience to feel they had been visited?
  3. How can we exhort one another daily?
  4. What stops us from visiting unbelievers?
  5. What can happen to unvisited new converts?
  6. Whose job is it in the church to visit the sick?
  7. What stops us from visiting the wayward brother or sister?
Update on Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 7:50PM by Registered CommenterJeff Smith

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