Summary: This is the final of 30 studies on the Book of Romans
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. Amen.
After greeting various people in Rome, Paul then goes on to caution them against people who cause two very serious issues – division and offenses contrary to the doctrine or teaching which they had learned. Paul went into great detail to explain the Gospel in a way that anyone can understand. What we believe is so important that we cannot trade the truth for a lie, no matter how appealing it may seem. Just as is the case today, there were false prophets back then as well, who were teaching things that were contrary to the Gospel of Jesus, and thereby destroying the faith of some, or misleading those who were seeking the truth.
Division is a serious offense to the body of Christ, because it destroys what the Lord Jesus took the pains (literally) to build – The Church. Division is never from the Lord, but from the evil one, and anyone who works toward division is playing into the hands of the enemy – Satan, and working to destroy the work of Jesus.
The other serious issue Paul addresses is that of offenses. We are supposed to help build one another up and not offend one another. Once again, the desire to offend another does not come from God, but from the enemy, and those who cause offenses in the Body of Christ are being instruments of the evil one, and working in total opposition to Jesus.
Paul then tells the Roman believers to avoid anyone who teaches false doctrines that are in contrast to the teaching they had received from him. Avoiding people seems like a harsh thing to do, but in cases where people are teaching false teaching, it is necessary, if we are to grow strong, and become all that God would have us become. We cannot afford to be misled into false teaching, as false teaching will result in erroneous living as well, and we would end up in a worse state than we were, before we came to know Christ.
He goes on to say that those who mislead others are not serving Christ, but are rather serving their own bellies, meaning that they are living just to fulfil their fleshly appetites. This means that though these people claim to know Christ, they have not ceased living for themselves just as they did before they came to know Christ. They are no better than unsaved people, (but are worse off), because they claim to belong to Christ, and yet their lifestyles lack any likeness to His character or nature.
Such people use smooth talk and flattery, to deceive those people who are not discerning enough to recognise falsehood when they see it. They fall prey to their sweet talk, and before they know it, they’ve walked away from the true gospel to ‘another gospel’ that is no gospel at all.
He goes on to tell them that their obedience to the gospel of Jesus had become known to believers in other places as well, and that’s the reason he was so keen to ensure that no one infiltrated amongst them, causing confusion in their faith.
He then says that it is his desire that they be wise, and to excel or prefect themselves in things that are good, and to not focus on, or work towards perfecting, what is evil.
He then assures them that the God who gives us His peace, would soon crush Satan under their feet. He doesn’t say that we will crush Satan, because none of us can do that on our own, but He says that God Himself will do that when Christ returns, and all the devil’s schemes and tactics to deceive people, and draw them away from their faith in Christ will be destroyed. We will then stand as conquerors over our enemy whom God destroys.
Paul then pronounces a blessing on them – a blessing of God’s grace – the one thing He took so much pain to try and explain in his letter. If not for God’s grace, none of us will be able to survive God’s judgment. It’s because of God’s grace that we have been able to enter into an eternal relationship with Him. But this grace is experienced by us only through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf, not based on any works on our part.