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.
Can Christians with different convictions actually live together in harmony? Can the “weak” Christians and the “strong” Christians actually worship together?
Paul seems to think we can. And his prayer here in Romans 15 proves it. Not only CAN Christians with differing convictions live in harmony, but when they DO, when they welcome one another, and together raise one voice to God, nothing glorifies God more. Why? Because nothing proves that the gospel works more than our unity. Nothing proves our union with Christ more than our unity.
Verse 7 sums it up perfectly. Christ has welcomed you (you are IN CHRIST), therefore welcome one another (CHRIST is IN YOU).
Harmony in a church that is full of differing convictions 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 still climbing 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.
But how do we practice such unity? What makes this kind of harmony possible?
God’s endurance and encouragement.
Because there is true freedom in Christ. Because we are not clones or robots. Because the Spirit is guiding each of us individually into a relationship with the church. Because there are differences of conscience – some weak consciences, and some strong consciences. Because of all this, 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 the non-essential doctrines, we should expect each Christian to be in a different place.
And that’s a beautiful thing! Why? Because it tests our love and our liberty. Will we give up our freedom for love for one another? Will we trust God for his endurance and encouragement? Will we truly 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, because they’re already like you.
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.
And that what our union with Christ gives us – a supernatural unity. It is Christ alone and his life that unites us – 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 unity in diversity shows that we have made Christ first in our hearts and minds. The result? God is glorified. And what is 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.
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 welcomed 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.
Do you live in harmony with Christians with varying opinions, convictions, or scruples?
You in Christ
Do you believe that Jesus (the stronger) has welcomed you (the weaker)? How does this encourage you to welcome others?
Christ in you
What Christian, that you would normally avoid, might you welcome into your life this week?