Romans 15:7, “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
Key to Paul’s argument for Christians not to break fellowship over minor matters is that we may not view any of those whom God has welcomed into His family as “lesser” believers (Rom. 14:3). If the Lord has established fellowship with others who agree with us in the gospel but disagree with us on issues that are not essential to salvation, we surely commit a great sin if we are unwilling to fellowship with them. What right do we have to judge or reject as a brother or sister in Christ the person who loves Jesus as He is revealed in Scripture but does not understand the full extent of the freedom that our Savior has purchased for us? Is there anything more arrogant than to set ourselves up as judge and jury, establishing qualifications for fellowship different than those God has given to us?
We have no right to reject those who disagree with us over minor matters, and there is nothing more arrogant than to judge others by standards that God Himself does not use. Paul drives home this point one last time in his epistle to the Romans when he calls us in 15:7 to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” In 14:3 Paul spoke of God’s welcoming us, and in today’s passage, the Apostle refers specifically to Christ’s welcoming us. Thus, we see the close connection that Paul makes between God and Christ, providing yet another line of evidence that the Apostle understood Jesus to be more than a mere man—that He proclaimed the Savior as God in the flesh.
As Christ welcomes us, so does God the Father welcome us, and we are thereby responsible to welcome all who profess faith in the God-man Jesus Christ. Jesus receives without distinction or exception all who repent and believe in Him alone. He does not turn away those who are spiritually immature, and His love for mature believers is not greater than His love for those who are babes in Christ. He does not reject those who do not yet fully understand the extent of their freedom in Him—indeed, if He did, then He would reject us all, for none of us has perfect comprehension of His will. He is our pattern, and if He embraces with open arms those who are misguided about matters not essential to salvation, we must do the same. His embrace of all believers in the gospel means that we must embrace all believers in the gospel. In his commentary Romans, John Murray writes, “If we place restraints upon our acceptance of believers, we are violating the example of that redemptive action upon which all fellowship in the church rests.”
Jesus tells us that the greatest apologetic, or defense, for the Christian faith is love: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). He does not commend an invisible love but one that is fully evident in our embrace of Christians who are different than us. Christ has embraced us, and we commit a great sin when we do not embrace others whom He has redeemed.