The gospel of Romans is wonderful. In the first eleven chapters Paul completely covers justification, sanctification, glorification, and selection. If we read these four main sections, we shall see that God has accomplished nearly all that He intended to do. In Romans 1 through 11 we have seen God’s creation, man’s fall, Christ’s redemption, God’s justification, and God’s reconciliation. Furthermore, Paul has unveiled to us God’s identification, the life process of sanctification, and glorification. Also Paul has led us into the source of all of God’s activities—His heart of love. Paul also has led us into the secret chamber of God’s selection where we have seen His economy. What a panoramic view we have seen! Consider all of the items we have passed through: God’s creation, the fall of man, God’s redemption, justification, reconciliation, identification, sanctification, glorification, love, and selection. Although all of these items are wonderful, none of them is the ultimate consummation of God’s work.

The ultimate consummation of God’s work is the church life. Satan is subtle and has caused many of the dear, seeking Christians to even hate the word church. Many Christians uplift sanctification and life, but seem to cast the church behind their back, not caring for it, and even opposing it. Most of them hold the erroneous concept that the church is not for now, but for the future. Hence, whenever we talk about the church we find ourselves in trouble. This is the subtlety of the enemy. Nearly two thousand years ago the Lord Jesus promised that He would soon return; yet He has not come because the church is not ready. Where is the church properly built as the Lord mentioned in Matthew 16:18? Without the church properly prepared, there is no way for the Lord Jesus to return. His coming back requires two things: the restoration of the nation of Israel and the recovery of the church life. If you understand prophecy, you will realize that these two matters are the greatest signs of the Lord’s return. The restoration of Israel and the recovery of the church are necessary for the Lord’s coming back. Without this preparation it is impossible for the Lord to return. In the Lord’s recovery we are preparing the way for His return. Every day we read in the newspapers regarding the events in the Middle East. All that is occurring there is the preparation for the restoration of the nation of Israel. Although I am assured that the Lord is working in the Middle East, I am quite concerned about His work among us. He must match His work with Israel by His work with the church. Thus, we must pay our full attention to the church life.

After eleven chapters of discourse, Paul comes to the ultimate point, the church life, in Romans 12. We have already seen that Paul uses five chapters to cover the church life. I have previously pointed out that the section on the church life begins in a specific manner, with Paul saying, “I beg you therefore, brothers” (12:1). Paul was begging us to present our bodies physically and practically for the church life. After begging us to present our bodies for the church life, Paul proceeded to the second part of our being, our soul, and spoke to us regarding our need to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (12:2). Our soul needs a radical, essential, and metabolic change in both nature and form. Our whole being needs to be changed for the sake of the church life, for nothing natural, common, worldly, or modern is suitable for the Body life. We need a metabolic transformation through the inward working of the divine life element. We need a radical revolution in our thought, emotion, and will. Once we undergo this kind of metabolic transformation in our whole being, we shall be good for the church life. Furthermore, once our body has been presented and our soul transformed by the renewing of our mind, our spirit needs to be burning. Our spirit must be set on fire. If we have all of these qualities, we shall see out of the growth in life the manifestation of the gifts of grace in life. The different gifts and functions will begin to emerge. We must not be like the pew-sitters in the so-called churches who go to the church building and sit in their pews as dead members without any function. Such people can never participate in the church life. The people in the church life must have their bodies presented, their souls transformed by the renewing of their minds, and their spirits burning. Then the necessary gifts will be exercised and we shall have the church life.

For the proper church life, we need the proper Christian life. Therefore, beginning at 12:9 and continuing through 13:14 Paul covers the normal Christian life. We have seen that in this portion of Romans Paul covers many points: our attitude and behavior toward God, our fellow members, ourselves, and our persecutors; our attitude toward the government and the established authorities; the exercise of the principle of love; and the warfare against the flesh. In order to practice the church life, we need to have a normal Christian daily life, a life which matches the church life. We need to have our body presented, our soul transformed, our mind renewed, our spirit burning, and our gifts exercised. Thus, at the end of Romans 13, the church life has been portrayed and the Christian life adequately defined.

However, there is still a great need. We must take care of the matter of receiving the saints. In the matter of receiving the saints, we need to exercise the discernment which is derived from the practicing of the church life and the living of a normal Christian life. If we are unclear about receiving the believers, we shall damage the church life and cut it into pieces. We shall resemble a person who, in so many details, takes care of his physical body, but is negligent about a particular matter which can cause death. If we are not careful about receiving the saints, the church will be mutilated. During the more than forty years I have been in the church life, I have met a good number of dear saints who proclaimed that they had seen the Body, but who, after a short time, became divisive over doctrine, damaged the church, and cut themselves off from the fellowship of the church. When they first contacted the church, they said, “Hallelujah, I have seen the church,” but they became dissenting a few months later. Therefore, I say that we must be very careful about properly receiving the believers.

In order to receive our fellow believers in the Lord, we need transformation. If we remain natural, we shall be unable to go along with others. In fact, according to our natural disposition, we cannot even agree with ourselves consistently. We all fight with ourselves. Thus, it is very difficult for any Christian remaining in his natural disposition to go along with others. Receiving the saints requires transformation. I believe that Paul’s word in Romans 12:2 concerning being transformed by the renewing of the mind not only governs the section on the practice of the Body life, but also all the other chapters relating to the church life. Transformation governs the items found in chapter thirteen as well as some of the aspects of chapters fourteen and fifteen. If we are not transformed to at least a certain degree, we shall be unable to be one with other believers. Although we may meet with them, we shall be unable to fellowship with them or to open ourselves to them. If we were to open ourselves to them, we would end up fighting with them because we are untransformed and so natural in our concept, behavior, and all that we are and do. Thus, in order to receive our fellow believers, we need transformation. All of Romans 14 and part of 15 is devoted to this matter. As we shall see, Paul deals with the receiving of the believers with respect to five main points.