Do you think of your church as the building you go into each Sunday morning?
When the Bible speaks of a church, it most often refers to the community of Christ-followers who gather in His name.
In the New Testament, there are nearly sixty unique commands to Christians about how they should behave in a local church family. These commands, directed at Christians in fellowship together, are often called the “one anothers” because the phrase “one another” is in each of them.
Christians would do well to consider their obligation and privilege to participate with one another in a local church. While these communities are imperfect, they are the only context in which God has ordained cultivation and nourishment for His people.
The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome was written with incredible theological precision and insight. After his magnificent treatise on the Gospel of Jesus Christ for all who believe, he concluded his letter by calling Christians to live accordingly.
Romans 15 includes three of the “one another” commands directed at Christians in a local church family.
Live in harmony with one another (Rom. 15:5).
The command is fairly straightforward. Harmony is grounded in the Gospel of Christ, and it is preserved there as well. Church members should never create strife over issues that are less significant than those doctrines associated with (or very near to) the Gospel itself. Harmony in the Gospel is essential, and harmony in everything else is most often a matter of humility and patience.
Welcome one another as Christ welcomed you (Rom. 15:7).
This seems like an odd command. Why would fellow believers need to be commanded to “welcome” one another? Well, the kind of open-handed welcome in mind here is much more significant than an occasional greeting on the way into a church service. Consider what it means that “Christ welcomed you [Christians].” Once the Christian begins to focus on the depth of meaning found there, then what it means for church members to “welcome one another” will come into fuller view. Christ, in the Gospel, welcomed His most rebellious enemy as His brother… This is an exemplary welcome indeed!
Be full of goodness and filled with knowledge, so that you are able to instruct one another (Rom. 15:14).
Whether Christians actually welcome one another and truly live in harmony with one another, most Christians know they should. However, many Christians might be surprised to learn that they are commanded to “instruct” one another as well. In the context of the local church, Christians are meant to form a community of mutual discipleship and growth. Like a mechanic might teach his son to repair and rebuild cars (both by informing and demonstrating), so too every Christian ought to inform and demonstrate genuine Christian discipleship. Christ commanded all who would follow Him to “make disciples” by “baptizing” and “teaching” anyone else who would become a Christ-follower (Matt. 28:18-20).
These three “one another” commands only begin to form the full landscape of a local church community. The wise Christian will assess his/her current perspective of the local church, make note of any needed adjustments, and commit to participate in a church family as God has designed it.
May God give us all the grace to love Him, the wisdom to know His instruction, and the courage to live accordingly.