As we leave behind the acrimonious year of 2016, can I make a plea for unity among God’s people in 2017? Paul made a similar appeal in the first century. His letter to the Romans provides us with clear markers for how to get there. In particular, Romans 15:4-13 is a text that summarizes the complex message of Romans. It reveals Paul’s steadfast hope for unifying God’s people.

This passage in Rom 15 has the capacity to literally transform the ways we understand faith, evangelism and the sovereignty of God. To grasp this beautiful and important passage of scripture in its proper light, it’s helpful to comprehend Paul’s two major discoveries shared in Romans. And in the midst of them, I have to debunk the most common misconception in Romans about Paul.

In three succeeding articles, I’d like to outline Paul’s building blocks for creating unity among God’s people. I wish I could affirm that it worked in Paul’s day. During his Christian ministry, he faced the problem of Jewish believers not wanting to accept Gentile believers. They didn’t heed Paul’s words. In the years that followed, however, we see that Gentile Christians were increasingly unwilling to accept Jewish believers. (A warning for us is that in no time the shoe can easily be on the other foot!) They appear to have not listened to Paul either.

The odds of finding unity may be no better today than they were in Paul’s time. But still, we ought to try. And I can think of no better place to begin than with Paul’s two Aha! moments that undergird his efforts for unity two millennia ago. Will you read on with me? In this New Year, I wish you the blessing of rediscovering the Father’s hope.