Romans 16:17-20 A healthy church begins with healthy individuals
17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Paul speaks about the need to actively protect the purity of the gospel to keep its purpose aimed at transforming lives towards Christ-likeness. The church faces dangers of an altered gospel that offers salvation without the need for repentance. On another front, divisive people infiltrate the church and threaten her unity by sowing discord and deception. In order for a church to stay healthy, it is paramount that she cultivates a healthy culture that crushes evil the moment it appears. The way to do that is to continually inculcate the right spirit and doctrine in every member and live them out consistently.
17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
Watch out for two kinds of people: those who cause division and those who stand for a different kind of gospel. They cause divisions by sowing discord among the people; they draw attention and pull people to themselves by smooth talk and flattery. At the same time, they injure the reputation of those they deem as threats to their goal. Ultimately, their motive is to cause people to serve them so as to fulfill their selfish agenda of power, pride and lust. They are also those who speak of a different gospel; a gospel that is self serving, one that is devoid of the fear of God, and of blessings without repentance. They are like lethal cancer; like wild fire that quickly spreads and destroys. Paul’s instructions against such people is to avoid and cut them off from the community.
19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
The way to counter those who are divisive and deceptive is to be wise and principled in all that we say and do: to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. In other words, never to participate in any gossips or deceptive suggestions of the gospel that promises blessings without a wholehearted commitment towards God. Or a gospel that focuses on personal benefits and earthly wealth. In a church where all her members guard against gossips, deceptive doctrines, and self-serving ambitions, the evil one has no opportunity to gain a foothold. A church that accepts and identifies with one another’s weaknesses; that walks alongside with one another; that promotes righteousness and sacrificial living is a powerful church that crushes the devil under her feet. A church that is united in love and having believed the true gospel will secure God’s grace within her members.
Truth & Application
1. Fill your minds with the principles of God and share them liberally. Do all to appreciate one another’s strengths and carry one another’s weaknesses. Learn to listen and empathize with the joys and sorrows of others. At the same time, among trusted friends, learn to be transparent with your struggles and successes. In doing so, we will build a strong and united church and crush the work of Satan under our feet.
2. Withdraw yourself from those who are intimately interested in the affairs of others, and who loves to talk about the failings of others. Refrain from talking about incidents without a noble purpose of building up the hearer. In engaging in conversations with them will result in the details of your life and the words that you have spoken being used for their own advantage.
3. Deception and strife will not survive in an environment of harmony and truth. The best way to keep the agents of Satan out of the church is maintain a healthy culture of harmony and truth.
Dear Lord, I pray that you use me as an agent of Light to create harmony and righteousness in the church. Forgive me for being judgmental and divisive at times. Give me wisdom and grace to influence people towards the Light. Cause our church to unite in love towards the mission to bring healing to the world. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.