And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. 18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people. 19 But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord. This makes me very happy. I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. (Romans 16:17-20 NLT)
It is no wonder that Paul wants to visit Rome. He has many friends there and most of this chapter is taken up with his greetings and expressions of thanks. I look forward to meeting Paul someday. I have a feeling that he will be much more personable than we sometimes think he is from his writing.
Paul has one last instruction as he closes the letter. It is a warning against those who use words with skill to deceive. There are several ways to spot these people. The first is that their words produce division rather than unity. The second is that their words do not match Paul’s teaching. For us, this would mean anyone who teaches things that are contrary to what the Bible says. The third is that the teaching benefits the teacher.
I have been trying to look at Romans from the perspective of worship. I think there is an application to worship in this instruction. Worship produces service to Jesus and that is not what these false teachers are doing. They are not worshiping Jesus, but worshiping self. True worship is always focused on God and will draw worshipers together in unity.
I also think Paul is providing a warning here to preachers and teachers. We sometimes get so wrapped up in what we are saying to God and to people that we forget that the most important thing is what God is saying to us. I love to read what other people have to say about the Bible, but this should never be a substitute for reading the words of God. When I speak or teach my goal should be to simply and clearly communicate what God wants me to say.
For my grandchildren:
Read your Bible every day.