Romans 16 is essentially a series of personal greetings as Paul wraps up his letter but squeezed in there also is this passage of counsel and one more which we will consider tomorrow.
Romans 16:17 "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’..."
Sounds contradictory for Jesus to say He came to bring division and Paul says avoid those who cause division. This would mean we would have to avoid Jesus. Since that can't be the case we have to go back and read more carefully.
Paul said avoid those who cause division and offenses CONTRARY to the doctrine which you learned.
Big difference. Jesus brought division by bringing truth into error. These men are causing division by bringing error into the simple truth of the gospel. Paul goes on to say: "These men are not serving the Lord Jesus but their own belly".
You fill your belly with food. You purchase food with money. These men are misusing religion for personal profit. They are smooth talkers bringing in fascinating theories and conspiracy theories and all kinds of important sounding topics that draw men's imaginations. Soon the church is split with some recognizing the hype for what it is while the rest are falling for the bait. The first smooth talker in the Bible was the serpent and he used half truths to draw Adam and Eve onto a wrong path.
A few years ago I began to focus my study more on what the devil was doing than on Jesus. It fascinated people but one day I realized it was actually pulling me away from Jesus. I was looking into the darkness rather than into the Light of the world.
The truth as it is in Jesus is beautifully simple. Stay with Him and avoid anyone who would focus your attention on anything or anyone else. I will leave you with this precious quote that unmasks one subtle error false teachers use which is fear:
"The shortness of time is frequently urged as an incentive for seeking righteousness and making Christ our friend. This should not be the great motive with us; for it savors of selfishness. Is it necessary that the terrors of the day of God should be held before us, that we may be compelled to right action through fear? It ought not to be so. Jesus is attractive. He is full of love, mercy, and compassion. He proposes to be our friend, to walk with us through all the rough pathways of life. He says to us, I am the Lord thy God; walk with Me, and I will fill thy path with light. Jesus, the Majesty of heaven, proposes to elevate to companionship with Himself those who come to Him with their burdens, their weaknesses, and their cares. He will count them as His children, and finally give them an inheritance of more value than the empires of kings, a crown of glory richer than has ever decked the brow of the most exalted earthly monarch."
If the central teaching of your pastor is not the attractiveness of Jesus pray for him or her and speak to them about it. If you are too shy leave a simple note on the pulpit - "We would see Jesus". If none of that works seek teaching elsewhere. I know that is a bold and divisive statement but it is Biblical.
See you tomorrow for the last passage in Romans.