Lesson 58

The Epistle to the Romans

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

16:17 Now I beg you, brothers, mark those who are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and turn away from them. 16:18 For those who are such donít serve our Lord, Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceive the hearts of the innocent. 16:19 For your obedience has reached all. I rejoice therefore over you. But I desire to have you wise to that which is good, but innocent to that which is evil. 16:20 Now the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet swiftly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 16:21 Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you, as do Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my relatives. 16:22 I, Tertius, who write the letter, greet you in the Lord. 16:23 Gaius, my host and host of the whole assembly, greets you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, as does Quartus, the brother. 16:24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all! Amen.

Today's Lesson 

Before Paul completes this epistle he has one last admonition for his reader. He tells them to "mark those who are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which you learned." This may seem like common sense, but it is sometimes difficult to distinguish exactly the people Paul wants them to turn away from. After all, both Paul and Jesus were accused of being divisive and rightly so because they sought to divide the righteous from the unrighteous. Moreover, Paul has just spent almost 2 chapters telling the strong not to turn away from the weak brother just because his faith does not allow him to completely understand the grace of God. So, how are we to know those that we should turn away from and those that must be tolerated?


Of course, the best answer is that the Spirit of God will help us to discern between the two. But God often stirs up deep emotions when He wants people to change. Just because there is tension does not mean that a person is causing division. The people that Paul is warning against are those that bring division against the very things that the Spirit of God is trying to accomplish. If God is pulling in one direction, these people are pulling in the other. These people will be "contrary to the doctrine which you learned." Moreover their words are "smooth and flattering" and they persuade the weak to follow after their ideas. They are deceivers.


We are meant to be pure and holy, but that does not mean that we cannot also be wise. Many equate purity with naiveté. But Christ was pure and yet He was never naïve. Let us allow the Spirit to teach us how to be innocence in regard to evil and yet wise to that which is good.


Paul had greeted many people in the first parts of this chapter. Now he allows the people that are with him to send their greetings as well. There is always a tendency to think of Paul as a lonely figure, struggling to serve God despite great adversity. While this is an accurate portrait of Paul at certain times in his life, his letters demonstrate that Paul usually worked with a coalition of people. He taught people and delegated authority to them and nurtured their growth. Paul was always giving himself to other people, just like his own teacher taught him to do.


Verse 22 might seem unusual if a person is unfamiliar with ancient writings. In this verse we have a greeting from Tertius who claims to be the person who wrote the letter. Tertius and others actually helped Paul in the role of a secretary, receiving dictation from Paul and making copies of the epistle during its preparation.


This most important epistle ends with personal greetings. That is fitting for this work. The gospel of Christ is a personal gospel. God touches the lives of people and those people, in their turn, touch the lives of others. Christianity is spread from heart to heart and from hand to hand. There is no such thing as spreading the gospel without becoming involved with other people's lives. God does not work through us when we stand aloof and refuse to get involved with other people.


Are you touching the lives of the people that God has placed in your life? Is the Spirit of God reaching our to other people through you?


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