Romans 15:5-6, “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.”
Having provided significant instruction in Romans 14:1-15:4 on Christians’ responsibility not to divide over matters that are not essential for salvation, the Apostle Paul draws his discussion to a close with a prayer for unity in the church. Paul recognizes that Christian harmony is impossible apart from God’s empowerment, and so He calls upon the Lord to grant the readers of his epistle the ability and willingness to glorify “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” with one voice.
Let us consider the most notable points of this prayer. First, the Apostle’s prayer is both an act of intercession and a statement of exhortation. By including the prayer in the body of his letter, Paul once again stresses—albeit indirectly—the importance of unity in the church. He prays for what the Lord wants, namely, a people united in gospel essentials and tolerant of diversity when it comes to matters that do not touch the heart of the Christian faith. Since this is what God desires, it is what we should desire as well. Thus, we should always be working toward Christian unity that is grounded in the truth and promotes peace based on the Lord’s revelation without compromising gospel essentials.
Second, Christian unity does not mean the elimination of diversity in the body. Christ’s willingness to receive as His disciples men and women who have varying opinions on eating meat (see Rom. 14) indicates that our Lord does not seek a kind of unity that amounts to stark uniformity on every matter. There is latitude for differences of opinion in the body of Christ as long as the gospel is not overthrown in the process. God seeks unity amid diversity, which should not be surprising because as a Trinity, He exhibits both unity and diversity—He is one in essence and three in person.
As believers live in harmony, we reflect the Holy Trinity and the unity and diversity that characterizes God’s very existence. Thus, we more fully image the Lord—which is our original mandate (Gen. 1:26-28)—and we bring glory to God. Our whole lives are to be about the business of glorifying our Creator (1 Cor. 10:31). We accomplish this in the covenant community as we pursue the holy love that does not seek to badger others with our beliefs on nonessential matters, yet stands firmly upon the bedrock of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. May we seek this holy love in our own lives, and may we promote it in the church as far as we are able.
Paul’s prayer for unity in the church based upon the truth of God’s Word and for the glory of Christ should be on our lips as well. How often do you pray for the peace and purity of the church around the world? How often do you pray for the peace and purity of your local body? Perhaps if we were all to pray more often for unity grounded in gospel essentials, we would see the Lord move to make this prayer a reality.