As we begin to wrap up our study of Romans, we are going to see instruction from Paul that isn’t just relevant but is absolutely essential to the health of God’s church. There are those who think it their job to cause division.
Paul is talking about the previous teaching in this letter, but he is also talking about other principles known. We are to take care of one another and to love one another. We are not to let the root of bitterness take root among us (as said in ). There were some specific ways that Jesus told us to resolve issues among believers. We have to be in relationship with one another.
Paul warns that those who divide are out for their own appetites. What is driving them? We need to listen. Many times conversations will reveal the hearts of people. What are they hungry for? The metaphor is that God has set the table. We are to come to the table with an appetite in sync with God. But when we come to the table with a different appetite, it will be revealed.
Many times those who have the position of division will be very smooth talking and convincing. But we are to stay aware and not be swept away with any smooth talk that deviates from God’s path for us.
Paul says we are to rejoice in our walk with God. He wants us to be wise in what is good. We are to be people of God wherever we are, and we are to be wise in our conversations and relationships. It might mean to step up and stand for God, but it might also mean to not interact with someone or in a situation where you might get sucked into a no-win situation. In addition, we are not to seek out evil. It is not worth the risk putting yourself in the position to be influenced by sin and evil.
We can see a couple of other examples where Paul warns about not being connected with the wrong groups. In warns us to not even associate with those who say sin is OK. We are to walk with people struggling with sin, but when those people make the decision that the sin is not a problem, that is when we are called to not be connected with them. If we know someone who says they are a Christian that struggles with sin, we are to walk with them in their struggle. But if ever they accept their sin, and maybe they said they are just a sinning Christian and they are OK with that, we are not to associate with them.
In we are told about the struggle and the willingness to work on ourselves to live up to the principles and truths given by God. We are not saying we are perfect, but we are willing to work hard. But if there is someone who isn’t willing to work, to hold up in their lives God’s principles, we are to avoid associating with them.
But associating doesn’t mean some sort of disowning or complete separation. We are to approach them almost as an unbeliever. We are to speak the truth and warn them of their dangerous position.
17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (ESV)
15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; (ESV)
18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. (ESV)
19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. (ESV)
11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (ESV)
6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. 9 It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
13 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. 14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (ESV)