accept

Differences can separate people from one another, acceptance of one another is one of the first steps along the road to unity.
(John Lathrop)

 

The apostle Paul wrote “Accept one another” (Rom. 15:7 NIV). In the remainder of the verse he went on to say that the recipients of the letter should accept one another in the same way that Christ accepted them. Paul said that doing this would “bring praise to God” (NIV).

The Lord delights in the unity of His people. This can be seen in the verses immediately preceding our text as well. In Romans 15:5-6, Paul speaks of a “spirit of unity” (NIV) and of having “one heart and mouth” (NIV), which also glorifies God. Many other biblical texts also confirm that unity is the desire of the Lord for His people, for example, Psalm 133:1, John chapter 17 and 1 Corinthians 1:10.

There are some important things to note about Paul’s words “Accept one another” (Rom. 15:7 NIV).

First, his words are an instruction that is to be obeyed. What Paul said was not offered as a suggestion but rather as a command.

Second, no one can obey this instruction in isolation. A person must be in relationship with other people in order to do what the verse says. It is thus a word for the community.

Third, Paul’s instruction has no qualification on it. He did not say that the leaders should accept others in the church or the young should accept those who are older. The directive was for all in the church he wrote to.

When the apostle Paul gave the directive found in Romans 15:7 he was addressing the church in Rome, a church that at that time he had not yet visited (Rom. 1:10). If you read the whole letter you will see that the church in Rome was made up of different kinds of people.

There were men and women in the church (Rom. 16). But there were also some other differences in the church as well. In the letter we find Paul addressing Jews, for example in Romans chapters 2 and 3, we also find him addressing Gentiles, as in Romans. 11:11-24.

In addition, though all of the believers in the church were Christians they had other differences as well. Based on Romans 12:6-8 it is safe to say that they had different spiritual gifts. A little later in the book we find that they had different beliefs about the kind of food one may eat and about which day was the proper day for worship (Rom. 14).

Though it is not explicitly stated it is reasonable to assume that the people in the church came from different levels of society. The New Testament does not make this a significant issue but there were almost certainly both extroverts (more outgoing individuals) and introverts (those who are more quiet and reserved) in the church.

Paul’s directive to “Accept one another” (Rom. 15:7) was not a random statement. He was led to write it; he wrote under divine inspiration. The truth he communicated was one that God wanted presented because there was a need for it.

And it was not just a theological truth for the people to hear, it was one that they were to apply. They were to live it out in the community of faith.

Differences can separate people from one another, acceptance of one another is one of the first steps along the road to unity.

The challenges of keeping a local congregation united are significant. Imagine the challenge of trying to live out Paul’s instruction in Romans 15:7 in the wider body of Christ! Though the apostle wrote to the church in a particular city I believe that we are supposed to apply his teaching to our relationships in the larger church. We are extremely diverse.

The church today has the same challenges that the church in Rome had. The church today still consists of males and females, from different ethnicities, who come from a number of different socio-economic backgrounds who hold to varying views on a host of secondary theological topics.

The contemporary church has differences of opinion about Divine Sovereignty and human free will, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the proper mode of baptism, the correct form of church government, the appropriate way to worship, and various views on the end times.

And, there are other differences as well. We are truly a diverse people. We can see this in the contemporary church today. We are different people, with different histories, and differing views on secondary issues. But we are to accept one another, indeed, we are to go further than that, we are to love one another.

All born-again believers, regardless of denominational affiliation, should accept one another. This is part of living out our faith. It is a practical way of expressing the fact that we belong to Jesus. The church in God’s Presence is also diverse they are “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Rev. 7:9 NIV). May we all obey Paul’s instruction in the here and now, may we “accept one another” (Rom. 15:7). This pleases the Lord and brings Him praise!

 


John P. Lathrop - United States

John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University, Zion Bible Institute, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME). He is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies and has twenty years of pastoral experience.

 

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