Register today for VBS 2022!

A Vital Connection

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:7)

There may not be another verse in the New Testament that more clearly links gospel proclamation to local church culture than Romans 15:7. And local church culture is on my mind this year. Last month, I wrote about the three R’s of the gospel in Acts 2: the report, the response, and the result.

And while responding to the gospel in repentance and faith certainly yields individual results, it is the corporate personality of a local church that Luke describes at the end of Acts 2. This new community was marked by six devotions that flowed directly from the gospel doctrine and that corresponded directly to their response of repentance and faith.

But before I begin exploring the six devotions described in Acts 2:42-47, I want to consider Paul’s words in Romans 15. If Acts 2 shows an example of gospel proclamation producing gospel culture, Romans 15 explains why it must be so. This isn’t a possible outcome of gospel proclamation; it’s the necessary outcome.

In fact, we could go so far as to say that the lack of gospel culture within a local church is a doctrinal issue. From time to time, I’ve heard people describe churches this way: “Their doctrine was on point, but the church was really unfriendly.” Or, “The preaching was excellent, but no one greeted me for weeks!”

To which Paul in Romans 15:7 responds, “If a church persists in its cold unfriendliness, then the preaching is not great, and the doctrine is anything but on point.”

Let’s unpack this verse to see if that summary is accurate.


Paul begins this verse with a very important term. The presence of the word “therefore” means what Paul’s about to say is logically dependent on what he’s already said. If what he’s about to say is the structure above the ground, what he’s already said is the foundation below the ground.

So what’s the foundation of gospel culture in a local church? Paul has just wrapped up a section explaining how those who are strong in their faith (that is, who boldly exercise their Christian freedom) are to treat those who are weak in their faith, those who struggle to let go of former regulations regarding food, drink, and holy days.

The section begins by Paul stating negatively what he stated positively in 15:7: “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions” (14:1). In the instance Paul forbids, Christians only welcome each other provided that they agree on all nonessential, convictional, and preferential matters.

Instead, Paul continues, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves…For Christ did not please himself.” In other words, God is not glorified when the strong in faith prevail over the weak, but when the weak are patiently served by the strong. It is our willful and happy unity that puts into practice the gospel itself, the good news that a Savior “came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).

The last phrase of Romans 15:7 reinforces this purpose: “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” This is the foundation for what Paul is about to say in the rest of the verse. Our conduct should clearly call attention to the gospel doctrine we proclaim.

Welcome One Another

So what should our conduct be? There are well over 50 commands in the New Testament concerning how we should and should not treat “one another,” each of which have a vital connection to pure gospel doctrine - that is, to the way God has and hasn’t treated us in Christ. And this verse is one of them.

Paul states it clearly: “welcome one another.” The word welcome is more than just a friendly “hello” and handshake. It carries the idea of gathering someone into a group. If you are hosting a dinner party, when your guests arrive, you welcome them into your home. For the duration of the dinner, they will belong there, eating your food and enjoying your home, because you have welcomed them.

If our motivation is to glorify God by treating each other in a way that proclaims the gospel, we should welcome each other. We should greet, receive, and accept each other into the shared space of the local church. If there’s any doubt this is the foundation for Paul’s command, he puts it beyond debate with the next phrase.

As Christ Welcomed You

The word as is also a very important term. It invokes a comparison to clarify the previous statement. The way we welcome one another should accord with, or be consistent with, or be accurate to, or be a visible representation of, or obviously flow from the way Christ has welcomed us.

In the midst of a heated conversation with the Pharisees, in which they were demanding Jesus prove Himself by performing a miracle in their midst, a voice from the crowd interrupts Jesus to tell Him that his family is outside looking for Him. In a typical moment of brilliance, Jesus replies, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 10:34-35). 

Where has Christ welcomed us? Into His family. Not simply to call us acquitted criminals or restored citizens, but brothers and sisters. What could be more permanent than that? Where do we (or should we) more permanently belong, separate from any earning or performance, than in our families? 

Jesus welcomes us into His family, and He did it through sacrifice. This kind of welcome is always sacrificial. We give up our preferences, our perceived rights, the centering of our vision for what the local church could or should be, so that we can welcome the outsider as we ourselves have been welcomed.

The Result That Must Be

This, according to Paul in Romans 15:7, must be the result of gospel doctrine. The line between gospel proclamation and gospel culture is straight, unbreakable, and inevitable. One cannot exist without the other.

Next month, we’ll dive into the culture of the first local church in Jerusalem, and to the devotions that gospel proclamation fostered in their community.
Posted in