Romans 16:17-19 - I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
Take Heed Lest You Fall
These are some of Paul's last words to the Church at Rome. With these words he reveals his Christian love and pastor's heart for this congregation. After a significant, deep, and vital treatise on Christian doctrine and living, Paul stresses one last time how crucial it is for these Christians to take heed to what he has shared with them.
He knows there are those wolves in sheep's clothing (Acts 20) who will creep in among the God’s people (from within and without) and cause divisions - some purposefully and others because they themselves have been deceived. Regardless, these wolves will place obstacles before God’s people. They will seek to undo and disrupt sound teaching, the very doctrine Paul took pains to communicate throughout his Letter to the Romans.
Deception, Then Derailment
Paul says to keep away from such trouble-makers. Don't hang around them. No good can come from getting too close to them. Such people are not representing our Lord, regardless of how smooth their words are. They serve the idol of their own agenda, their own desires and cravings, not Christ's. The first result of listening to them is deception. Once deception sets in, wandering from the faith is never far behind.
Paul loves the Church at Rome. Because he cares for them he therefore encourages them and builds them up by complimenting their obedience. But he warns them to be wise with regard to what is good and innocent concerning evil. Sticking your head in the sand won't do here. The discernment Paul speaks of requires learning and growing in the sound doctrine he has been teaching them throughout his letter. Their lives and souls are at stake, as well as future generations of Roman Christians. The same is true for you, your children, church, and friends if you wander from the sound doctrine of God’s Word.
I encourage you to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Pray for the Spirit's discernment regarding good and evil. Flee from evil and those who bring it, regardless of whether or not the world calls you judgmental. Cling to what is good and thank God for it.
Read through Paul’s Letter to the Romans with some friends and discuss what each chapter teaches you about truth and falsehood, good and evil. How are your observations relevant to today’s world, and your life in particular?
Grace and Truth,
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