Summary: The goal of the gospel is that all nations might believe and obey Him.

The Goal of the Gospel

Romans 16:17-27

Rev. Brian Bill


I asked Dave Schappaugh to do some research for me this week. I was looking for some examples of false teaching found on the Internet and in other places. Here’s some of what he found. See if you can spot the errors.

• One preacher told his listeners that if they gave to the building fund at his church, they could expect God to give them a house in return.

• Some ministers make use of marketing companies to saturate a certain demographic group with requests for money.

• It’s common to hear preachers promise healing to people if they sow a seed of money into their ministry.

• A pastor in St. Louis has taken up the life of a Muslim during the 40 days of Lent.

• One man claims he is a prophet and that God will relay information to him about people in the audience if they give to him.

• 18 years after the standoff in Waco between the Branch Davidians and the FBI, one survivor, when reflecting on the anniversary of this event coming up on Tuesday, said this on CNN: “David [Koresh] is the messiah, and he’s coming back…Now we just wait for the kingdom.”

I even found some sites that purported to expose false teachers but when I looked at them more closely, they themselves were doctrinally off base. It’s relatively easy to pick off TV preachers and take shots at those who seem way off but it’s a lot more challenging to keep our church doctrinally pure, isn’t it?

Let’s look at the closing verses of Romans 16 where we will discover that the goal of the gospel is that all nations might believe and obey Him.

1. Watch out (17-18). After going through a long list of warm greetings in the first part of the chapter, Paul now goes into warning mode: “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”

You can hear the passion and pleading in the phrase, “I urge you…” It’s like he’s saying, “I beg of you, please.” The words, “watch out” come from the word in which we get “scope” or “scrutinize” as in scoping out those who are up to no good. It’s the idea of being on constant alert and keeping an eye on those who cause divisions. A similar warning is found in 2 Thessalonians 3:14: “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him…” Jesus put it like this in Matthew 7:16: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”

In our all-inclusive society, we are not accustomed to language like this. Why is Paul warning Christians to watch out for wolves?

• Because they are menacing. The word “obstacle” was used of a trap or a snare. We’re warned to “keep away,” which is literally translated as “keep on turning away.” It’s the idea of scoping out that which is destructive and then shunning it. 2 John 11 says, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him.”

• Because of their motives. Verse 18 tells us that they are not serving the Savior but instead their own appetites and desires. Paul puts it graphically in Philippians 3:19: “Their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” That reminds me of the ministry that told people to write out their prayers and include a check in their envelopes and mail them in. When Prime Time Live investigated, thousands of envelopes were found in the dumpster with the checks removed and the prayer requests still tucked inside.

• Because of their methods. Notice that they use “smooth talk” that is as sweet as syrup and “flattery,” which is where we get the word “eulogy” to make people think things that aren’t true. And they target “naïve” or “unsuspecting” people, especially new Christians. Paul sounds a similar warning in Colossians 2:4: “I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” 2 Peter 2:1 says that false prophets are “among the people” and “they will secretly introduce destructive heresies.”

Ben Patterson, campus pastor of Westmont College, tells the story of a retired pastor who began noticing that his former congregation was sliding away from orthodoxy. The pastor saw this as his fault and stated, in two sentences, his great failure as a pastor: “I always told people what to believe. My great mistake is that I never told my people what NOT to believe.”

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