The Christians to whom Paul wrote these words were troubled with “disputes over doubtful things” (Rom. 14:1). The urge to demand others conform to our conscience over matters of liberties is strong. Left unchecked in our hearts, it leads to contempt and condemnation of each other (Rom. 14:3, 10). Critically condemning personal liberties had to stop to avoid being stumbling blocks and promote unity (Rom. 14:13; 15:1-3). Paul is not advising and advancing doctrinal and moral unity in diversity in Romans 14. He is advancing unity by respecting the consciences of each other in matters that are “clean,” “good,” “acceptable,” “pure,” in things God does “not condemn” (Rom. 14:14, 16, 18, 20, 22). By focusing our faith on God through His word guiding us, we avoid factiousness over different consciences toward God-allowed liberties. Christians glorify God by hearts filled with joy, peace, and hope by the power of God’s Spirit guiding us in truth (Rom. 15:5-7, 13).
8 Do not go hastily to court; For what will you do in the end, when your neighbor has put you to shame? 9 Debate your case with your neighbor, and do not disclose the secret to another; 10 Lest he who hears it expose your shame, and your reputation be ruined. (Proverbs 25:8–10, NKJV)
We live in a litigious society. Disputes arise, sides develop, lines are drawn in the sand, resulting in division and alienation that ruins previous goodwill, grace, and unity. The Covid-19 virus has revealed generous amounts of effort are required to maintain unity and peace in society. It has also shown how easily it can be disrupted and destroyed. Diligence by all is essential as we endeavor to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Today’s passage teaches an advantage to diligently solving a problem with a neighbor privately. Hasty retreat to court over disputes often leads to shame by exposing our errors and deficiencies. Better to solve the problem and correct our errors privately. That means do not spread rumors against your neighbor by innuendo, talebearing, and backbiting. Go directly to the person and solve the problem! Don’t ruin your reputation by “demanding your day in court” while failing to use every avenue to solve the real (or perceived) injustice. Jesus said to solve private sins privately and without delay (Matt. 18:15; 5:23-24). Do not develop a reputation as a person of conflict with a combative approach to disagreements. Instead, build a reputation as a peacemaker. “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18).
5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5–6, NKJV)
The apostle Paul is summing up an extended passage on how to be united when differences over scruples of conscience toward liberties exist (Rom. 14:1-15:7). Those things that do not inhibit one’s fellowship with God must not be allowed to inhibit the unity of the saints (Rom. 14:1-5, 13). According to today’s verse, to achieve and maintain unity without pressing one’s conscience upon others requires us to have “patience” and “comfort” (exhortation) toward each other. This means those with a weak conscience is not to condemn those of strong conscience (Rom. 14:3). This means those with a strong conscience toward the liberty are to “bear with” the doubts of those with weak consciences in the matter (Rom. 15:1). The strong in conscience will gladly set aside a liberty to avoid influencing a fellow Christian to sin against his or her conscience (Rom. 14:15, 19-21; 1 Cor. 8:9-13; 10:28-29). In this way we follow the example of Jesus as we endeavor to please our neighbor instead of merely satisfying ourselves (Rom. 15:1-3). We honor God “with one mind and one mouth” when we practice this kind of unselfish deference toward one another (v. 6; Rom. 12:10).
“Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7, NKJV)
Disputes over personal liberties had strained relations between brethren in the church at Rome. The Holy Spirit guided Paul to write a lengthy explanation of the Lord’s will so they would “receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things” (Rom. 14:1). The weakness of which he speaks describes personal scruples of conscience over matters indifferent to God (Rom. 14:3, 5). Such differences are not to become wedges of disruption among the saints. Since God receives Christians who hold different consciences in matters He treats as indifferent (like dietary choices), so must we (Rom. 14:2-6, 7-13). Far from endorsing unity in moral and doctrinal diversity (as many assert by misusing this passage), the apostle advocates unity of diverse consciences over liberties approved by God. (Morality and doctrine are not issues of indifference to God; therefore, they do not fit here, Galatians 1:6-10; 2 John 9.) The critical condemnation of personal liberties must cease (Rom. 14:13)! We avoid being stumbling blocks and we exemplify Christ’s acceptance of us by receiving (welcoming) one another with our different conscientious scruples over (non-sinful) liberties. Christ’s unselfish sacrifice and God’s “patience and comfort” toward us are landmarks to imitate so we may be “like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus” (Rom. 15:1-3, 5). This glorifies God.
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:4–6, NKJV)
Over the past week we have commented briefly on God’s “One-derful” plan for unity from Ephesians 4:4-6. It is the plan for unity that has God’s endorsement, and which binds Christians together in peace as we diligently guard it (Eph. 4:3). To summarize, God’s platform of unity consists of the following planks: One Body: Unity of Relationship (the church, Eph. 1:22-23); One Spirit: Unity of Life (new life in Christ, revealed in truth, Jno. 3:5; Jno. 16:12-13; Gal. 5:25); One Hope: Unity of Destiny (an eternal inheritance, 1 Pet. 1:3-5); One Lord: Unity of Authority (submission to Christ’s will, Col. 3:17); One Faith: Unity of Revelation (the gospel is the faith once for all delivered, Gal. 1:11, 23; Jude 3); One Baptism: Unity of Forgiveness (God’s plan of salvation, Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:37-38; 10:47-48; 22:16); and, One God and Father of All: Unity of Worship (true worshipers, Jno. 4:23-24). Unity in Christ is possible as we trust and follow the wisdom and word of God (1 Cor. 1:10). Human wisdom leads to hopeless division (1 Cor. 1:11-13). The unity of believers for which Christ prayed honors God, does His will, and blesses every soul who participates in it (Jno. 17:20-21; 14:21, 23-24). May me diligently keep this unity with Christ and His people (1 Jno. 1:3-7; 2 Jno. 9-11).
“one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:6, NKJV)
The ancient world had many, many gods. Paul acknowledged the obvious, “For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords)” (1 Cor. 8:5). Times have not changed. There are literally millions of gods in Hinduism. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) teach there are many gods over many worlds ((Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, VI:474-475), even as their Book of Mormon says there is one God (Alma 11:26-31). But, the one true God has revealed His power and deity through creation (Rom. 1:20). He has revealed His character and His will through Jesus Christ (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:1-2). There is no other God than the God of the Bible (Isa. 44:6). While there are many things about God we do not know, we can understand what He has revealed of Himself in nature and in His Scriptures. He is our Creator (“Father of all,” Acts 17:25, and heavenly Father of His schildren, Matt. 6:9). He is Sovereign (“above all,” Acts 11:26). He sustains our lives (“through all,” Acts 17:28). And, He lives with His people (“in you all,” Jno. 14:23). He is the great Unifier of Christians in the (one) body of Christ, the church (Eph. 1:20-23). His reward is with all who diligently seek Him and worship Him in spirit and truth (Jno. 4:23-24; Heb. 11:6).
“one Lord, one faith, one baptism;” (Ephesians 4:5, NKJV)
While the one baptism unifies, the many contradictory teachings and practices of baptism found on the religious landscape divide believers. The Scriptures speak plainly about the what it is, who it is for, and what it accomplishes. The one baptism is the great commission baptism and is for the whole world (Matt. 28:19). The one baptism is water baptism, not Holy Spirit baptism (Acts 8:12-13, 16, 35-36; 10:47-48). The one baptism is immersion in water, not sprinkling or pouring (Acts 8:38; Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). The one baptism is for those who believe the gospel, repent of their sins, and confess their faith in Christ, not for innocent babies without the capacity of faith (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 8:36-38). The one baptism washes away our sins and saves us (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). The one baptism accomplishes this because the sinner is baptized into the death of Christ (Rom. 6:3). The one baptism brings a person into a relationship with Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:27). The one baptism is “into one body,” the church (1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 2:41, 47). The one baptism is not a work of man that earns salvation, it is a work of faith in God’s grace (Tit. 3:4-7; Col. 2:12). We can have the unity God arranged for Christians by accepting what the Bible says about the one baptism which Christ commands and blesses.
“one Lord, one faith, one baptism;” (Ephesians 4:5, NKJV)
The one Lord has not sanctioned thousands of conflicting messages. There is one faith, which is the gospel of Christ. When Paul preached “the gospel” he preached “the faith” (Gal. 1:11, 23). We must speak the same faith as we endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). The “one faith” that achieves unity is the revealed gospel that saves those who believe (Rom. 1:16). Nowhere in the Scriptures do we read of “Catholic faith,” “Protestant faith,” “Orthodox faith,” “Mormon faith,” “Evangelical faith,” or any faith capable of saving the soul other than “the faith” that was once for all delivered in the first century (Jude 3). All these are false faiths that impose and codify division (Col. 2:20-23). If they were all “one faith” they would not be separate faiths teaching and practicing different gospels (Gal. 1:6-12). It is an affront to divine truth (and to human logic) to suggest many faiths are somehow one faith. Only the one faith – the gospel of our salvation (Eph. 1:13) – produces true faith that saves from sin (Rom. 1:17). All other faiths are destructive, divisive deceptions (2 Pet. 2:1-3). The gospel call is to walk worthy of the “one faith” that makes known the will of God, and that unites the saved with God and with one another (Eph. 1:9; 4:1, 11-16).
“one Lord, one faith, one baptism;” (Ephesians 4:5, NKJV)
God’s “One-derful” plan of unity continues in Ephesians 4:4-6 with the emphatic declaration there is one Lord. That simple truth is forgotten whenever religious, moral, and social division occurs. I am not Lord. You are not Lord. Not “Lord Krishna,” not “Lord Buddha,” not any other person who has lived or is living now. Only Jesus Christ is Lord (1 Cor. 8:6). Through Him we have life and all things. He alone has been given “all authority in heaven and on earth” by God the Father (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23). Christ’s word is truth and settles every issue concerning “life and godliness” (Jno. 1:14; 8:31-32; 2 Pet. 1:3). He rules, and by His authority (the “name of our Lord Jesus Christ”) we can “speak the same thing,” reject dissensions and be joined together “in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). This takes faithful effort by each Christian, no question about it (Eph. 4:15-16). Division arises when we follow men or women instead of following Christ (1 Cor. 1:11-12). We must ever remember that Christ is not divided (1 Cor. 1:13). Humble submission to the one Lord will guard unity and glorify God: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:4, NKJV)
Hope is more than desire. It is also an expectation of things to come. A popular song says, “Everybody want to go to heaven, but nobody want to go now.” Its lyrics depict a wholly worldly value of life on earth and of the life to come. While some search for “heaven on earth,” others envision heaven as living their best moment on earth over and over. Both are illusions formed by the fantasies of human imagination. The gospel of Christ provides a singular hope that unites all who heed its call. “In Christ we have obtained an inheritance” that is “incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” for Christians (Eph. 1:11; 1 Pet. 1:4-5). (Note that heaven’s inheritance is obtained “in Christ,” not in the world.) Ours is a “living hope” that combines desire and expectation “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:3). Hope in Christ is our refuge that anchors our souls through life’s storms (Heb. 6:18-19). The hope that unites Christians is “laid up for you in heaven,” and is found “in the word of the truth of the gospel” which calls us out of sin’s death into a life of grace and truth (Col. 1:5-6). The Lord Jesus Christ is “our hope,” for what He has promised, He will fulfill (1 Tim. 1:1). Our sure hope is that where Jesus is now, we will be with Him throughout eternity (Jno. 14:1-3). This is why we put your hope in Christ, not in the fleeting and false hopes of the world (Eph. 2:12-13). We urge you to also put your hope in Christ.