Summary: Romans was a letter Paul found very difficult to end. There is always more that needs to be said. So before Paul ends he makes a final appeal for his readers to keep away from evil influences.
ROMANS 16: 17-24-27
FINAL APPEALS AND GREETINGS
[Acts 20: 28- 32]
Romans was a letter Paul found very difficult to end. There is always more that needs to be said. So before Paul ends he makes a final appeal for his readers to keep away from evil influences (CIT). In this appeal he portrays a couple of the chief characteristics of people who damage churches. His apostolic authority is revealed as he warns the believers in Rome about the menace of divisive people causing dissension and those teaching ideas and doctrines contrary the Word of God.
After this final appeal to obedience he sends greeting from those who are with him in Corinth. He also blesses his readers with God’s amazing grace.
I. GIVE DISTANCE TO DIVISIVE PEOPLE, 16: 17-20.
II. GIVE GREETING TO OTHERS, 16: 21-24.
III. GIVE GLORY TO GOD, 16: 25-27.
The transition to closure begins with a final word of warning in verse 17. "Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them."
Paul has urged kind reception of faithful ministers and Christians. Now he urges us to have nothing to do with those whose cause divisions, hostilities, and hindrance to the Word. The pressed warning is that they watch out for spiritual enemies. He defines these enemies as those who are divisive and seek to hinder the Lord’s work [who put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned]. "Keep your eye on" (skopeo) carries the idea of looking at or observing with intensity. The Greek word in it’s noun form is where we get our term scope as in telescope and microscope. It means more than simply to look at, but to examine and scrutinize carefully. [MacArthur, John. NT Com. Romans 9-16. 1994. Moody: Chicago. p. 372.] [Scope them out.]
Believers are to keep away (pres. imper., "keep on turning away") from or avoid those who cause dissensions [dichostasias, "standings apart"] in the fellowship and hindrances [skandala, "traps, snares"; 14:13] to the teaching of the Word. Don’t engage false teachers in discussions. Don’t spend time arguing with them. Mark them and avoid them. [Why? Here are two reasons.
One reason is protection. Satan is clever. And many a believer who thought he was strong in theology has succumbed to those who are inspired satanically. The second reason is prioritization. Invest your energy in the fields that are already white and ready for harvest (John 4:35), in the lives of those who are already open to the gospel] [Courson, Jon: Jon Courson’s Application Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 1001].
God builds and protects His body the church through the teaching of the Word. Those who will not listen to it and teach something other than the sound doctrine of the inerrant Word will hinder the work of God in and through the church. We must separate our selves[, our fellowship or participation], from those who will not hold to the apostolic teaching [such as we have in Romans].
Verse 18 reveals why people in the fellowship cause divisions and contentions. "For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting."
These people were not serving (douleuousin) Christ as Lord. Instead of doing the Lord’s work, they are disuniting those whom Jesus has united. Instead of serving the Lord, they serving their own selfish desires and motives. They were slaves to their own appetites ("bellies"; Phil. 3:19). Appetites suggests unbridles impulses such as anger, pride and jealousy. Their uncontrolled gluttony drove them to devour the fellowship.
How did they go about devouring the fellowship? The stated problem or tool was by smooth talk and flattery they deceived the minds (lit., "hearts") of naive people (akakn, "innocent, unsuspecting"). They use plausible and flattering conversation by which they were trying to secure influence over the unsuspecting. The word (akakos) simple, signifies not merely innocent, but unwary, he who is liable to deception (Proverbs 14:15).
When we read books or listen to sermons, we should check the content of what is written or said and not be fooled by smooth style. Christians who study God’s Word will not be fooled, even though superficial listeners may easily be taken in. Take the Berean believers as an example for they carefully checked God’s Word (Acts 17:10-12) to see if the teacher match up with it.
No matter how seemingly sincere and caring false teachers or preachers may appear to be, they are not genuinely concerned for the cause of Christ or for His true church. They are driven by self-interest and self-gratification—sometimes for prominence, sometimes for power over their followers, sometimes for financial gain, and frequently for all of those reasons. Many of them enjoy pretentious and luxurious lifestyles, and sexual immorality is the rule more than the exception. Such people "are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things" (Phil. 3:18–19). [MacArthur, p. 374.]