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Avoid Divisive People - Romans 16

For the first sixteen verses, Paul tells the Roman church to welcome and care for many different people who have been a benefit to his ministry and many other churches. What is interesting here is that both males and females had been involved with the ministry of the church in some capacity or another. The shows that women should be involved in the ministries of the church, rather or not they should be pastors is not dealt with in this text. It is only clear that through these examples that everyone should be involved in the spreading of the gospel. Rather that is in teaching, witnessing, encouraging, or supporting; everyone has a role to fill.

In the rest of this chapter, Paul gives us instruction on two important topics before closing with praising God. The first about what type of people to avoid and the second is about what we are to be wise in.

“Now I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause dissensions and obstacles contrary to the doctrine you have learned. Avoid them, for such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words.”

Romans 16:17-18 HCSB ( )

Some go around either looking for something to argue about or try to cause problems among the church members. We have probably all known some people like this. They like to gossip and try to create division. Some do it to gain power and others do it out of plain jealousy. It seems like they are not happy unless they have caused problems. They will talk so sweet to your face and then talk bad and lie about you to others.

The question that one could ask is these people that Paul is talking about here brothers and sisters in the faith or are they unsaved individuals that have come into the church to tear it down? It could very well be both groups of people that Paul has in mind, but it is more likely that they are unsaved individuals and perhaps false teachers. The reason it seems that Paul is not talking about Christians is that he had just finished two chapters about how we are to bear with and carry the weaker believers, but here Paul tells us to avoid them. So he would not tell us to avoid weak believers but instead to build them up.

Is it possible that a weak or new believer could still have this type of lifestyle? Of course, once we believe we don’t just magically change in every area of our lives. That is why we have sanctification, to mold us into being more like Christ in our behavior.

Paul is more than likely referring to the group of Jews that like to go around and teach that Gentiles had to get circumcised and obey the law. Paul is saying to avoid these types of people that do not teach the true gospel. In modern times, Paul would be telling us to avoid the teachers of the prosperity gospel.

“The report of your obedience has reached everyone. Therefore I rejoice over you. But I want you to be wise about what is good, yet innocent about what is evil.”

Romans 16:19 HCSB ( )

The second topic that Paul teaches us in closing is that we should grow in our wisdom of the good things. What are these good things? Paul later gives us the answer to in Philippians 4:8-9

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9 HCSB ( )

These are the things that we are to gain wisdom in. This covers every true and good thing in life. We focus on these things and we will have the peace of God in our lives. If we fail to focus on these things and instead focus on worthless things our lives will be void of the peace of God.

In Romans 16:19, from above, some of the other translations will use the would foolish instead of innocent. That we have to be foolish about what is evil. The idea isn’t that we don’t understand what is evil, but that we don’t have any experience with evil. We should avoid the evil actions that are common among the people of the world.

May God help us to avoid being people that create division and may we avoid all forms of evil. Help us Lord to live lives that glorify You and show the world your righteousness and love.


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