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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
I want to begin by welcoming each one of you to what I believe is the final Bible lesson on the book of Roman. With that said, most of you know my teaching style by now.
Although I always have a plan going in, the possibility exists that some noteworthy information will come to mind that I hadn’t previously considered. If this new knowledge assists me (your guide) in helping you understand what the writer of Scripture is saying, then I intend to share it with the group… this in turn lengthens the Bible lesson, which isn’t necessarily an awful thing.
I ended our time together last week discussing some of the reasons why Paul wrote this letter to the church in Rome. By this I mean to say all the Believers in Rome that met in households and not to any one particular group. This letter, later to become known as “the clearest gospel of all…” “hidden in this gold mine of biblical treasure…” was carried to Rome by Phoebe. She probably accompanied others who had business in the city because it was perilous journey for a lone male traveler let alone a female.
If you’ll recall, one of the reasons Paul wrote this letter was to address the internal strife between the Jewish and Gentile Believers who had separated into two church groups. Instead of being united, these Believers were divided largely due to their strongly held religious beliefs. Paul attempted to relieve their hurt feelings and troubled consciences by using God’s Word to guide them. His goal was to restore unity or one mindedness amongst these believing individuals and bring them back into a right relationship with God and with one another.
You see, the real reason these individuals (the Roman church) were no longer united was because of their failure to remain “right with God.” This group of Believers forgot to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing. One group’s reluctance to fully embrace the teachings of the Apostle Paul in holding fast to their “religious traditions” caused a rift to grow when another faction viewed their religious customs as strange and unnecessary. They chose not to give up their “freedom” in Christ Jesus. The ensuing strife disrupted their fellowship, their mission, and their worship.
Our vertical relationship with God determines our horizontal relationship with others.
If God’s adopted children would continue in a right relationship with their heavenly Father, then they would also be in a right relationship with one another; spiritual oneness and unity amongst God’s children would exist.
Paul addressed this same issue in his first letter to the Corinthians: And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ… for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
Some of these Corinthian Believers wanted to follow Apollos; some wanted to follow Paul. Paul said listen up. This isn’t a contest. We’re not trying to outdo the other. We are both: servants (of the Lord Jesus Christ) through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. (1 Corinthians 3:1-6)
Paul is saying they both preached the same gospel and taught the same spiritual Truths. If you visited the church at Antioch or the one at Corinth you would hear the same gospel message and the same Grace Age Doctrines. In other words, each church founded by Paul wasn’t doing their “own thing,” as these Jewish and Gentles Believers in Rome were doing; there was spiritual unity.
Please open your Bible at Romans 16:17 and we’ll read some Scripture together.
17: Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned (from the Apostle Paul; the administrator of God’s grace), and turn away from them.
18: For such men are slaves, not of our Lord 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.
My introduction concerning dissension and disunity in the Roman church was not meant to be just for the purpose of reviewing the previous lesson. It also serves as a lead-in to our final lesson in this series. Since we’re at the end of Paul’s letter, it should be rather obvious that these are his closing statements and as such they reveal what’s truly important to the author. Paul chooses each word with care because the message he is conveying is vitally important to him as it is to the Body of Christ.
In verse 17 our Apostle Paul warned these Believers in Rome to be on the alert for false teachers, who cause dissensions and hindrances from both within and without the confines of the church, contrary to the teaching which you learned... False teachers deny and distort faith-based Truths (Church Age Doctrines); Paul said (be wise in what is good) turn away from them, i.e. avoid them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites (v18).
Here’s a companion Bible passage that not only goes with v17 it too stands as a warning to the early church: I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves (from within the church) men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30).
Although Paul does not identify the “troublemakers” in his letter to the Romans, they were probably Jewish Believers who functioned under the Law and only knew and taught the baptism of John. In the early church, those who taught a combination of God’s Grace and human effort (works), “living by the Jewish Law,” in order to obtain God’s favor and salvation, were called Judaizers. As a matter of fact, Peter was guilty of this activity (Galatians 2).
The word “Judaizer” comes from a Greek verb meaning – to live according to Jewish customs. We find this word description in Paul’s letter to the Galatians where he confronted the Apostle Peter face-to-face for forcing the Gentile Believers to “Judaize” or conform to the Mosaic Law in order to be “right with God.” This event occurred after Peter’s vision and the Lord’s recent revelation: “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” God repeated His message because Peter didn’t “get it” the first time around (Acts 10, 15; Galatians 2).
God, who had made the distinction between Jews and Gentiles, has the right to remove it, whenever and by whatever means He pleases. By this vision and with this statement to Peter God pronounced every man, woman, and child on the planet to be clean. This means the Gentiles will have the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them and those who respond to it, by faith, will be saved. (The rite of circumcision was especially promoted by Judaizers as being necessary for one’s salvation).
Paul encouraged his brethren in Rome to accept those Believers whose consciences were more sensitive than theirs. They were not to quarrel over “opinions” or matters of religious practice and behavior that were NOT central to His gospel. They should accept differences of opinions and even be willing to “give up” their rights and their new found “freedom” in Christ Jesus for the sake of unity. However, acceptances of differences of opinions were not to be extended to Judaizers. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he explained why: they preached a different gospel, which was actually no gospel at all (Galatians 1:7). They promoted division among the churches Paul had established and sought to enslave Gentile Believers to the Law, which promotes sin, and results in death!
Paul wants every Believer to understand this Truth: a man (or woman) is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by (our) faith (plus nothing else) in Christ and not by the works of the Law… “for if righteousness comes through (obedience to) the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” (Galatians 2:16-21)
What most people tend to overlook here and elsewhere in Scripture is the work of Satan and his emissaries doing their utmost to thwart God’s plan and purpose for His creation. Never forget that Satan is diametrically opposed to every intention of God, which means he’s the enemy of God’s church. That means you and me. Just as the Holy Spirit uses Believers to preach and teach God’s message of salvation and His Truths to influence mankind, Satan also uses people to counter God’s influence on humanity. He is diligently working to confuse the masses and to obstruct the spread of God’s Gospel. He’s never had a problem finding individuals for this purpose…
In Genesis 3:1, Scripture says the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. I took the time to look up the word “crafty” and found more than a dozen synonyms for the word such as, cunning, sneaky, sly, shrewd, devious, astute, wily, deceptive, etc. I did this because I learned from some pretty intelligent people that it’s “wise” to know your enemy… General Patton, for instance, read General Rommel’s book on tank tactics in the dessert and it served him well after he took over command of 3rd U.S. Army in North Africa during WWII.
Too many people today believe that Satan is some impersonal negative force, a religious metaphor, used to scare little children when their misbehaving. Listen folks, he is the “father of lies” so this doesn’t surprise this Bible teacher. He has singlehandedly brought mankind to the point where they believe he doesn’t even exist. Consequently, he is able to operate without restriction in these “free zones.” He gains access to people’s lives through their “fleshly appetites” primarily and Believers are not exempt from his attacks; we are the point of attack (1 Peter 5:8).
False teachers look sharp in a suit or a pant suit and they are smooth talkers; better than most sales people you’ll encounter. They speak words trying to gain the confidence and trust of others, when in actuality their words are mere flattery. These individuals aren’t serving the Lord, or you for that matter, they’re serving their own “fleshly appetites.” What they are seeking is anything but God’s glory and the welfare of His church. They are self-centered individuals seeking fame and fortune, and all the associated carnal desires that come with these ill-gotten gains.
Believers who are not vigilant will be taken in and deceived by false teachers. You and I must be aware that it is standard procedure for the devil to enter the Body of Christ to try and drag away those who are unsure of sound doctrine. Satan will disguise himself as an angel of light in order to do this (2 Corinthians 11:14). Thus, we must know Church Age Doctrine so that you and I don’t fall for false teaching. We must not be so immature to believe that false teachers do not exist, and we must be perceptive enough to know a false teacher by their fruit (Matthew 7:15-20).
One of the fruits of falsehood is strife. The old adage “divide and conquer” can be applied here; it’s one of Satan’s primary strategies because it works! In the book of Romans and elsewhere in Paul’s teachings, strife within the Body of Christ is condemned. In this letter Paul has attempted to demonstrate the unity which Jews and Gentiles experience in Christ Jesus. In Romans 14 and 15, Paul has essentially forbidden debate and tension which can arise out of differing religious convictions. But just as socialism has sought to expand its beliefs and boundaries by promoting strife among the social classes, likewise Satan seeks to cause dissension and disunity in the Body of Christ by fanning the flames of friction causing disagreements.
Paul issues this warning to every Believer in Christ Jesus: 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, he is conceited and understands (how much) nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of (what) gain. (1 Timothy 6:3-5)
Years ago, Lewis Sperry Chafer (1871-1952) a faithful minister of God had this to say, “All heresy (dissent) is either Bible plus or Bible minus.” This means every cult either seeks to subtract from the Bible or add to it. Ergo, false teachers will always be recognized by their “departure” from the Truth.
How should we respond to those who are slaves of their own appetites, who enter our midst using smooth talk, they twist the Scriptures intending to deceive us in order to gain a following? Paul said we are to, “turn away from them.” We’re not to abuse them or attack them bodily. We’re to ignore them: But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. (2 Timothy 2:23; 2 Peter 3:14-18)
Arguing with these folks serves no purpose. Instead of taking that route, we’re to let God manage His affairs. God will preserve and protect the peace of His Church from the emissaries of Satan; those who seek to cause dissension; who seek to hinder God’s purpose for His elect (the church) which He predestined before the foundation of the earth (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4).
How do we know this? Scripture reveals the Truth: The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet (v20).
19: For the report of your obedience has reached to all (Romans 1:8); therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.
In verse 19 Paul compliments these Believers for their obedience to the Truths they’ve learned. They’ve demonstrated a spirit of wanting to obey what the Lord says. But then he follows that comment up with this remark: I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.
In other words, Paul is saying the only way to be safe from Satan’s emissaries is “to be wise in what is good.” The necessary wisdom comes from learning from men, like the Apostle Paul, who were spirit led as they wrote and taught the Scriptures (Psalms 1).
Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
In verses 21-23 we have the greetings of those who are with Paul in Corinth, Greece.
21: Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. (Acts 16:1)
22: I Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.
23: Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother.
This brings us to the final paragraph of Paul’s letter. Tertius (pronounced: tur’-shi-us) of Iconium wrote this letter as Paul dictated it.
Gaius in verse 23 could be the same individual mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:14 who was a convert of Paul at Corinth. The church may have met at his home. Erastus, was the city treasurer obviously.
24: [The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.] (Earlier manuscripts do not contain this verse.)
25: Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the (what) mystery (or secret) which has been kept secret for long ages past,
26:but now is manifested (brought into the spotlight), and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith;
27: to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.
It’s all about Jesus Christ, from start to finish. The gospel is the seed of faith, and it is reproduced by the preaching of it. Today’s gospel of Jesus Christ is the revelation of things that the prophets of old sought to understand but could not interpret (1 Peter 1:10-12). But now God has chosen to reveal His secret first to our Apostle Paul who in turn obediently preached it far and wide before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel. Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Gentiles are no longer without God in this world, and the Holy Spirit is filling up God’s church. This was God’s intention before the foundation of the earth (Ephesians 1:4). He alone is wise. He alone is worthy of glory. Amen.
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