I was so glad to read about your exercise to visit those who are shut-in and the elderly in order to encourage them through studying the scriptures together. In our current culture (in America) these dear ones are often forgotten. As one who visits nursing homes and private homes for this purpose, it has been discouraging to hear how lonely they are and how they have been abandoned by loved ones and by fellow-believers as well. So, this is a “good work” that you have been exercised to do.

Psalm 71:9 comes to mind where David prayed, “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails.” In anticipating the latter years of his life, he prayed that he would not be left alone; that the Lord would bless him with His presence. I believe the Lord often makes His presence known by sending younger ones to visit shut-ins. James 1:27 speaks of this, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to VISIT ORPHANS AND WIDOWS IN THEIR TROUBLE…” When we do seek to encourage shut-ins and the elderly by visiting them, the Lord sees this as if we were visiting Him! In Matthew 25:36 Jesus said, “I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and YOU VISITED ME; I was in prison and you came to Me.” Listen His words in verse 40, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”

In speaking of visiting those in prison, He was speaking of believers who would be imprisoned for their faithfulness to Christ. The Apostle Paul is a prime example of this and God graciously provided VISITORS for him to encourage him. One of those visitors was Epaphroditus, “Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus…one WHO MINISTERED TO MY NEED…because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me” (Philippians 2:25 & 30). Another visitor was Onesiphorus, “The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for HE OFTEN REFRESHED ME, AND WAS NOT ASHAMED OF MY CHAIN; but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me” (2nd Timothy 1:16-17).

Regarding scriptures that speak of gathering in homes for Bible study; I believe the references in James 1:27 and Matthew 25:36 encourage us to do this. When we visit widows, elderly or the sick, the most obvious way to encourage them is to open up the scriptures to them. Romans 15:4 states, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we THROUGH PATIENCE AND COMFORT OF THE SCRIPTURES MIGHT HAVE HOPE.” When one is lonely or sick, they need COMFORT and HOPE, and this is exactly what the scriptures will impart to them. So, how fitting it is to visit them with our Bible in hand and then read and expound the scriptures unto them.

Another good reference is Acts 20:20, “I kept back nothing that was HELPFUL, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE.” Paul did not limit himself to public gatherings for Bible studies; he went into private homes and taught fellow-believers in order to be HELPFUL to them. And I am quite sure that in some of those homes he found “shut-ins” and the “elderly” who were very thankful that the apostle would take time to minister to them. And let’s remember also that there were actual church meetings in homes in that day. In Romans 16:3 & 5 we read, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila…likewise greet the church that is in their house.” From the very beginning of the church it was a common practice to meet in homes. Acts 2:42, 46-47 declare, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers…So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE.”  (354.1)  (DO)