The Extraordinary Nature of Unity

Whenever I read Romans chapter 16, I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like for Tertius, who served as Paul’s secretary by writing as Paul dictated. These closing verses reveal a close nit group of men who worked well together with the apostle Paul. Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Tertius, Gaius, Erastus, and Quartus, must have been a formidable team living and serving Christ within the larger church body in Corinth at the time (Romans 16:21-23).

As with all of us, circumstances, relationships, and places we call home, would change over time for these men. However, for this season in their lives, they had the privilege of working together with the apostle Paul for the cause of the gospel. In particular, I’m thinking of the human effort required to enable Paul to write this lengthy, and extremely detailed letter to the church in Rome. This was not merely a courteous letter between friends, but the most precise and thorough explanation of gospel doctrines found in the New Testament.

Obviously, due to the length of this letter to the Romans, it would have required multiple sittings. There would have been times of discussion and prayer, questions would have been directed at Paul from at least Tertius, if not other onlookers. From at least these eight men, there would have been the need for clarification, as Paul revealed the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith (Romans 16:25-26).

A part of me flickers with envy, as I consider the privilege that group had. Yet, today, serving Christ in unity is no less important, or less of a privilege. As we live in an age of individualism, it’s easy for a self-centred attitude to be counterproductive in the body of Christ. Plus, individualism can easily become weaponised to divide and permanently damage the ministry and testimony of Christ. Which Paul points out in Galatians 5:15, if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Instead, through love serve one another (Gal 5:13), humbly considering others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:2-4). Which is the example Christ left us (Php 2:5-8).

Can you imagine what Romans would have read like, or if it would have even got written, if Paul and these eight men were engaged in a cold war with each other? Which is why Paul prayed for the believers in Rome with such pointed passion. 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).

God’s glory is the primary reason for sacrificing pride for the purpose of maintaining sweet relationships in the body of Christ. All other legitimate benefits flowing from unity are secondary to His glory.

Likewise, the apostle Peter wrote of this powerful component in church life. Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind (1 Peter 3:8). May we today, give thanks for the many blessings that flow from united brothers and sisters in Christ, and may we strive to be among them.

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