There was division between Gentile and Jewish believers at the church in Rome. The Roman church started off as a Jewish community by Jews residing in Rome. They were present in Jerusalem as “visitors from Rome” on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10). They were among the 3,000 who accepted Jesus as their Messiah and were baptized. When they returned back to Rome, they started the first Jewish church in Rome. In the course of time, Gentiles were also added to this church. However, in AD 49, Claudius Caesar expelled all Jews from Rome and the Jewish believers in the church left (Acts 18:2), leaving behind the Gentile believers. But the next Emperor Nero Caesar allowed the Jews to return back to Rome. When the Jewish believers return to join the now now predominantly Gentile church, they were not welcomed nor accepted by the Gentile believers, who were feeling superior to these Jewish believers. So, Paul wrote his letter to the church at Rome primarily to address this issue—the relationship between the Gentile and Jewish believers. Paul concluded his long letter with an exhortation for unity between the Gentiles and Jewish believers: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:5-7).
It’s important for a church never to become a church for one type of believers only--whether defined by race, culture or religious background. A church only glorifies God when they are open to accept and welcome believers from any background, and not reject anyone whom they consider inferior to them racially, culturally or theologically. The Jews were doing well economically and socially in the Roman society until they were expelled by Claudius. When they returned they were treated as second-class citizens. The real power of the church is in its ability to accept and absorb people of all sorts of background, for unity is not just a good thing—it is a God-thing. The Godhead is united as Father, Son and the Spirit. As much as the Godhead is one, we His church must be one to reflect this unity. In the world, divisions and dissensions are common occurrences: gangs, cliques, factions, sects, etc. These are reflection of a world broken by sin. However, such division undermines our testimony and makes the church un-Godlike. Unity is the greatest manifestation of the glory of God, for it is the most God-like attribute of the church redeemed by God's grace: "Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God." (v. 7).
Our attitude of welcome and acceptance towards newcomers who are pre-believers, new converts, restored believers and believers from other denominational convictions is the greatest reflection of God’s glory inherent in the unity of the Triune God--the Father, Son and the Spirit.
Father, help us be open-hearted to accept whomever You have called into the kingdom to welcome and accept them. May our unity reflect the glory of the unity in the Father, Son and the Spirit. Amen.