Summary: The final words of a person are important. The same is true of the Apostle Paul to the Romans church (and to us).
Paul’s Final Words
* September 11, 2001, is a day that will live in infamy. Everyone is aware of some of the events of that day. We know that radical Islamics took over several commercial planes to wreak havoc and death on the USA and her people. Additionally, we know that at the end of the day, almost 3000 innocent people were dead from these actions. Did you realize that Moises Rivas, 29, who was a chief at Windows on the World atop the North tower, realizing the imminent danger, called and left a message for his wife which said, “I Love you.” Melissa Harrington called her brand new husband who was asleep in San Francisco and left this message, “There’s a lot of smoke and I just wanted to let you know I love you.” On that day many took the last opportunity to give their loved one’s final words for remembrance.
* We all remember those last words of Todd Beamer’s spoken to GTE operator, “Let’s Roll”. George Washington said, “I die hard, but I’m ready to go” while another former President, Woodrow Wilson, said simply, “I am ready.” What would you like YOUR last words to be?
* Candidly, it is few people who realize that they words they are speaking will be their last. Over the years I have been present when a number of people have slipped away and many did not realize this was the end. Final words.
* Have you ever written a note, postcard, or letter only to get to the end and be stumped as to how to finish it? You know what you want to say, but because these are the last words you’ll write, you want them to be right.
* Paul comes to the end of this extended letter and, I believe, he possessed some spiritual insight into the troubles which lay ahead for the Roman church (and maybe all churches). So he attempted to give some thoughts which would help, protect, encourage, and remind them of their task.
1. The Warnings He Exposes – Paul knew (like most of us know) that, for the believer and the church, enemies abound. Jesus told us that they would hate us because they first hated Him. To read the New Testament in Toto is to understand that not all the enemies of the cross, church, and the fellowship are found “outside the church.” This is a warning about those who have “crept in” as wolves in sheep’s clothing.
a. Their Identity – The very interesting part of Paul’s warning is this; he didn’t say “if” or he didn’t say “on the chance that this happens.” Paul says, “I implore (I.E. urge, appeal to, beseech, etc) you to watch out (I.E. mark, take heed, observe, look at, watch out for, keep your eye on, etc) those who cause dissentions and pitfalls or obstacles.” It would seem that Paul says, “you know who they are, keep your eye on them.” It amazes me that scripture tells us things we seem to ignore and particularly about protecting the fellowship. The 21st century church has almost come to the concept of thinking it’s unchristian to expect believers to act like believers.
* Have you ever studied the number of places in the New Testament where we are “warned” about these people coming in to cause problems to the church? In Galatians 2, Paul writes about this very issue saying, “False brothers were smuggled in.” Can you imagine who smuggled them in? In 2 Peter 2 we read of false prophet among the people just as there will be false teacher among you. Jude tells us that certain men have come in by “stealth”.
* Paul says, “Mark those people, identify the troublemakers, & keep your eye on them.” One question is this; “How do we identify them?” The answer is in our text.
b. Their Impact – They cause dissention among the brethren, obstacles to the gospel, and offences among the community. Real believers are those who want the Gospel to be shared at all cost. They want lost people to know the Lord. This is the heart of authentic believers. Paul is saying that there will be those who are trouble makers. Watch them, identify them, and you will be able to tell them by their impact. We can return to the teachings of Jude (16) where he writes, “They are discontented grumblers, their mouths utter arrogant words, flattering people for their own advantage.” The words of Jesus always ring in our ears when He says, “You’ll know them by their fruits.” Think about that person who is at the center of every difficulty which the church faces. It seems like every time there is a problem—you know who is behind the scenes feeding the dissention. Paul says, “Based on their works ‘mark’ them. It’s kind of like teaching a class with a troublemaker in it. When you go out to recess, you don’t let that kid out of your sight. In fact;