After a long list of lovely greetings the Apostle feels compelled as he comes to the end of his letter to warn about what he sees as dangerous to the Church: false teachers or leaders or maybe simply those who influence negatively and end up causing decline and so destroying what God has built.
“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. 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. 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. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” (Romans 16 v 17-20)
So using the emboldened words only, here are 5 things to watch out for:
- Division is caused by being in the middle of things. These negative influencers are not the enemy outside the Church but are from within. They are known and so find it easier to deceive.
- Obstacles are created to change the journey and to cause a person to veer away from the direction they were taking. They demand an obedience and an abandonment from the foundational truths that had first been followed.
- Gain is the key for those who are false. Ask yourself, ‘what are they getting out of this?’ If you can see they are benefitting, whether that by position, power or material gain then the next question becomes even more important, “Is this really serving the Lord Jesus Christ?” There are glory-seekers in every generation.
- Deception works because it sounds beautiful and full of truth.
- Naivety is a dangerous position to be in; watch for those ‘who don’t know any better’ (CEV); the ‘unsuspecting’ (NASB); the ‘innocent’ (NLT).
The Apostle wants the Church to watch out, to be vigilant and not to be taken for a fool. We can stop the Church from declining and being destroyed. Open our eyes.