17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, 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. 18 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. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. 21 Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews. 22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord. 23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings. Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings.  25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.
As the letter to the Romans comes to a conclusion, I thought it was interesting what the apostle Paul felt were the most important things to address, as he signed off.
Firstly, a warning, then statements of faith, purpose and blessing. What underscores all this is the revelation of the truth of the gospel – God’s plan of salvation revealed in the person of Jesus Christ – vs 25-26.
Then as today, the gospel of truth was being warped and misused by “those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned” (v17). I think of political and ideological messages with a Christian veneer, the point of which is to divide and push an agenda. While it is essential Christian voices are heard in public debate, Paul is reminding us not to be hijacked by messages which are feeding others’ appetites. V19 in The Message puts it fairly clearly – “…I want you to be smart, making sure every “good” thing is the real thing. Don’t be gullible in regard to smooth-talking evil.” The test – is this teaching or debate submitting to Jesus, and pointing me to the Lord?
Paul’s warning to “keep away” from these manipulators is challenging (v17) – do we engage in the debate or challenge the teaching to win over or care for our friends who may be influenced by them? Will we then run the risk of being simply drawn into arguments and away from the truth?
Dear Lord, my focus must be on the wisdom I find in you – drawing close to your heart, pursuing your character in my life and being in your Word. Holy Spirit fill me today with wisdom and desire for your truth.
Written by Claire Moore