Division is not of God! (Romans 16:17-20)


READ:

[Rom 16:17-20 NASB] 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. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord (Jesus) Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. 19 For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore, I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Among Pauls final instructions to the church in Rome, he addresses briefly, yet profoundly the ideas of unity and division. His main concern is with those who cause division and particularly division over sound doctrine.

Have you ever heard that something is "pregnant with meaning?" This is very true of these four verses. What Paul has to say here is informed by the scriptures and they say a lot about unity and division. Hopefully, we'll learn a little of that today.

As we start, I want you to know; I have the same goal today as Paul did 2,000 years ago.

In verse 19 he says, "For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore, I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil."

In other words, Paul's goal then, and mine today is not to talk about something we're doing wrong necessarily. As a church, I can say with a great deal of confidence that we all desire to live godly lives. We may not always know how to do this, but that becomes an issue of maturity and/or understanding rather than stubbornness or outright rebellion. Like Paul, I hope today's message will help us become "wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil."

As we walk through verses 17 through 20, they'll serve as a kind of outline for the bigger issues of unity and division. So let's jump into verse 17:

"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."

The term "urge" in Greek is "parakaleo," and it means to demand earnestly or pressingly. Clearly, this issue of division is rather important. Paul only uses this term four times in the book of Romans, and each represents a sort of watershed moment (at least doctrinally): Romans 12:1 when Paul says "I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice." Romans 12:8 when he says that the one who has the gift of exhortation should use it (the word means to urge, clearly the church needs this). Romans 15:30, when Paul asks the saints to strive together with him in prayer for his ongoing mission, the term he uses is "to urge." And again here in Romans 16:17.

"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."

There are two things Paul is urging these Christians to do. We have to see both of them, or we're going to miss his point. 1. "keep your eye on those who cause dissension..." and 2. "turn away from them." Paul doesn't just leave it at watching them. We must turn from these kinds of people.

But why? Who are they? This is where terms matter.

The term dissension means "discord that splits a group," and the word hindrance literally translates "a cause for stumbling." Now, keep in mind that this "splitting of a group" and causing others to "stumble" has to do with doctrine or teaching.

"those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the TEACHING which you learned."

So who are they?

1. They are people who don't agree with sound doctrine. 2. They're willing to split the church over it. 3. The doctrines they espouse cause people to stumble (Whether in faith like the Judaizers or in godliness). But more on this one in a second.

Verse 18 goes on to say, "18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord (Jesus) Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting."

So 4. They don't belong to Jesus! They are slaves of their own appetites. And I suppose we could list them as "smooth talkers" and "deceivers."

Titus 3:10-11 speak of this kind of individual also.

[Tit 3:10-11 NASB] 10 Reject a factious ("heretic" KJV) man after a first and second warning, 11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

5. A Heretic. The difference in holding an unorthodox view and causing division because of it... (EXPAND)

6. We can add to our list that this kind of person is perverted. Obviously, we understand what is meant here, in that they are perverting God's truth.

Turn with me to 1 Timothy 6. Here Paul writes to Timothy concerning such a person as well,

[1Ti 6:3-5 NASB] 3 If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, (this one is a big one for me... EXPAND...) 4 he is conceited [and] understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth

Believe me; the list can go on and on. This is no doubt why when we talk about church discipline there's a marked difference between someone caught in sin (these are brothers that need to be restored) and a divisive person (these are unbelievers that we need to turn away from.) EXPAND...

Last thing on this point back at number three I said that these people espouse doctrines that cause people to stumble. Do you remember what Jesus says about these kinds of people?

[Mat 18:6 NASB] 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

So we know who these people are. But before we get back to Romans, I want us to consider two very serious questions. 1. How important is God's view of unity? And 2. How does God see division or those who cause division? We know who these people are, but how does God see them?

1. How important is God's view of unity?

[Psalm 133:1 NASB] 1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity!

The psalmist goes on to compare this unity with the anointing of Aaron as a priest and the place, Mount Hermon, from which God commanded the blessing; life forever. To God, unity is as good and pleasing as His priesthood and eternal life.

2. How does God see division or those who cause division?

[Proverbs 6:16-19 NASB] 16 There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty (proud) eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness [who] utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.

Those are heavy words! Okay, back to Romans:

[Rom 16:17-20 NASB] 17 Now I urge you (I think we have a much better understanding of how important this was to Paul), brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord (Jesus) Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.

Notice it's the "unsuspecting" that are targeted. False teachers, heretics, those who divide are just like bullies and abusers; they pick on the weak. Knowing this helps us to understand not only the Christian value of maturity but also an important reason behind it, specifically that we not get duped by divisive people, that we don't allow them to bully us or others (keep an eye on them)!

[1Co 3:1-3 NASB] 1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able [to receive it.] Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. (How does Paul know this? What is he seeing that makes him think they are fleshly?) For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?

In [1Co 14:20 NASB] 20 Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.

The problems with immaturity are multifaceted, but in our context, the problem is that people are easily divided.

This was a problem in the Old Testament too. In Jeremiah's day, God's people were an utter mess.

[Jer 4:22 NASB] 22 "For My people are foolish, They know Me not; They are stupid children And have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, But to do good they do not know."

If you know the history of Israel, then you would know that while Jeremiah and others were prophesying God's truth and a call to repentance, "false shepherds" were declaring peace, safety, and prosperity to the nation, even though they were living in sinful rebellion!

Quite honestly this sounds like many today and yes even many in the church. Teachers are telling people what their itching ears want to hear. The antidote to this deception is Christian maturity.

Back to [Romans 16:19-20] 19 For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore, I am rejoicing over you (Paul is proud of these people in their obedience, and yet he is concerned about their maturity), but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Please understand that the Devil is at work in divisive people. Paul reassures the Romans that they have hope. Their hope is that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under their feet. What a promise. Clearly, we have steps to take.

While we know that our battle is not against flesh and blood, our goal is to preserve the unity among those (flesh and blood people) who belong to Jesus Christ! We are to turn away from these people and keep an eye on them, so we and others are not duped.

#divisionisnotofgod #division #god #church

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