Jump Start # 2759
Romans 16:17 “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.”
In the wonderful musical “The Music Man,” flimflam con man, professor Harold Hill tries to convince the citizens of a small Iowa town that a pool hall is terrible influence upon their young folks. Hill proposes forming a youth band, with uniforms, instruments and instructions, all of which are bogus. To sell this idea, he tells the people that there is “trouble in River City.”
Our verse today reminds us that there was trouble in the church. This wasn’t the voice of a con man trying to bilk the naïve out of their money. This was a Heaven-sent warning. There were those among them who were not settled on the apostolic way. They were moving a direction different than what God intended. The following verse states, “…by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.”
The ESV translates our verse as: “watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught.” The ESV ends this passage by saying, “avoid them.” The NAS says, “turn away from them.”
First, some are never satisfied with the New Testament plan. They are always looking for something new, different and exciting. And, those with such an inclination, will be drawn to the writings of those who do not appreciate, accept nor understand the New Testament authority. There are always radical ideas being expressed by those who do not follow God’s way very closely. They’d have the church engaged in business, and bring in marketing teams to explore new ways of growth and expansion. They do not feel governed by the N.T. For these folks, the Bible is just a guideline and what works, works. And, those among us who dip their buckets into such wells, will be influenced and led to places they should not go.
Second, the core foundation of Biblical authority is proof. Flattery speech, deceptive talk, smooth language, is just that, all talk. Where’s the proof? Where’s the Biblical proof that allows the doors to be opened to what they are advocating? Some will run to the writings of others. But that’s not Bible. Some will try to use emotional appeals. But that’s not Bible. When questioned about divorce, Jesus went to the word of God. When questioned about resurrection and marriage in Heaven, Jesus went to the word of God. When tempted, Jesus went to the word of God. When the early disciples were hearing new things, they went to the Bible to see if they were true or not. Culture, what feels right, what I want, and what makes me happy, all must take a seat to what the word of God says. Where’s the proof?
Third, some have a destructive mentality within them. Rather than building up, they want to divide. Rather than making stronger, they want to create doubt and suspicion. Rather than encouraging, they discourage. Some do these things to draw people after them. They are interest in position and power. Some want to make a name for themselves. Some are jealous and want to tear up the good that is being done by others. Some are just mean and they have no place in the work of the Lord.
Fourth, Paul’s words here are to keep an eye on these people and avoid them. It sounds like a snake in the grass to me. If I saw one, I’d watch it. I’d definitely avoid it. And, I’d likely try to destroy it. Keep an eye on. Don’t allow troublesome, unsettled people to have teaching roles. Don’t allow them to influence others. In some congregations, it’s these unsettled, troublesome spirits that are eager to teach. They will use that opportunity as a platform to push their agendas and spread their poison. Weak congregations are happy that anyone is willing to volunteer to teach, so an open door is granted to these wicked and false teachers. And, once they are in the spots of teaching, it’s hard to get them out. The damage has been done. Truth is undermined. The leadership is questioned. And, these smooth talking snakes win the hearts of others. The direction of the church changes and those who remain true to the integrity of the Scriptures are forced out and forced to leave. It is imperative that leaders are aware of what’s going on. What are people reading. What are they talking about. Who are they being influenced by.
So serious is this that Paul begins this passage with, “I urge you, brethren.” Don’t think this is not a big deal, because it is. Too often, we give people a pass who do not deserve that. Too often we believe that this guy would never do that, when he has been engaged in spiritual treason for years.
Finally, the safety, unity and wellbeing of the church ought to be all of our concern. A person will not recognize what is crooked if he doesn’t know what straight looks like. We must keep teaching and preaching the word of God. Drop the psychology. Quit trying to be cute in the pulpit. Hammer away at those ancient truths. Build a foundation upon the authority of God’s word. Strong churches stand upon strong teaching. Strong doesn’t have to be mean or offensive. But it does have to draw lines where God does.
By keeping an eye on these folks, one hopes that they can be reasoned with and brought back to an understanding of God’s word. Troublesome times have always been here. Satan will use anyone, including one of us to wreck the good of God’s kingdom. Soldiers of Christ must arise. We must work to keep God’s kingdom true, faithful and pure. Sometimes that requires us to watch and even avoid one of us.
Trouble in River City…Satan won’t stop until he is stopped.