Romans 15:5-7. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
We come now to the end of our series on Love and Liberty. Paul wraps up his argument that began back in chapter 14 with this beautiful prayer above. It’s a prayer for unity. Can the Weak Christians and the Strong Christians actually live and worship together? These three verses above paint a picture of just that very thing. Not only CAN Christians with differing convictions live in harmony, but when they DO…it is even more glorifying to God. Unity within differences proves the gospel works. Our unity is the glorious expression of the collision of our love and liberty.
Unity from Union with Christ
Our unity flows from our union with Christ. Verse 7 sums it up perfectly. Christ has welcomed you (you are IN CHRIST), therefore welcome one another (CHRIST is IN YOU).
Harmony can only come from faith in the gospel. If I don’t believe that I am fully accepted by God. If I am trying to earn my place. If I am on the treadmill, or the ladder of self-righteousness. If I am not graciously and gloriously saved through Christ, then I will despise other Christians. I will constantly compare myself to them. I will judge them. I will want to prove that I am better than everyone else in the church.
But when we trust deeply in our union with Christ it frees us up for God to grant to us his endurance and encouragement so that we can live in harmony with one another.
Finding unity in detention
What unity isn’t
Unity in Christ does not negate freedom in Christ. This has been the whole point of Romans 14:1-15:7. We do not and are not going to ever agree on every point of faith in practice. We will always have different convictions. There will always be weak and strong consciences in your church. Preferences, opinions, scruples, and of course cultures and backgrounds will always run the gamut. And when it comes to more non-essential doctrines, we should expect each Christian to be in a different place.
This is why we need God’s endurance and encouragement. This is why we must be told to welcome one another.
If you are going to a church where everyone is the same, same convictions, same dress, same understanding, same culture, then you probably don’t need much of God or his endurance. You don’t need to be told to be welcoming, because church is a bunch of people that you already like.
But if you go to a church where there are all kinds of convictions and differences of conscience (weak and strong faith), then you will need to turn to the gospel and to Christ early and often. You will need courage. You will need to be empowered to welcome others because it’s not natural. So it has to be supernatural.
What unity is
What unites those of us who are so different is Christ and his life – in accord with Christ Jesus. We agree on the work of Christ. The deity of Christ. The incarnation of Christ. The death of Christ. The resurrection of Christ. The ascension of Christ. The return of Christ. Our need for Christ. The salvation of Christ. Our union with Christ. The Lordship of Christ.
Our diversity, rather than weakening our unity, displays it. It displays Christ. Our unity shows that we have made Christ first in our hearts and minds. The result? God is glorified. And what the expression of this? We exalt Christ with our voices – that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The unifying power of music.
No other faith requires or encourages the practice of congregational singing. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists…none gather to sing together like we do. We are quite unique in this way. Do you gather with your church? Do you sing with other Christians? Do you know why we sing? Because it proves the gospel to be true, it proves our union with Christ, and it proves the glory of our God in unifying us. “But what if I don’t like all the songs?” That’s the point.
“To live is Christ” means that we have been accepted by Christ Jesus. When we trust that he loves us in spite of our sinfulness and weakness, we will be freed in our hearts to welcome and live in harmony with our brothers and sisters in Christ for the glory of God.
Soli deo gloria.