- Romans 16:17- Avoid a Divisive Person?
Some Christian teachers proudly proclaim they embrace everybody & their beliefs, because they don’t want to be divisive. This may sound good to many of you, but is not a biblical teaching. Some may even consider themselves a better person because of this ecumenical approach & cite part of Romans 16:17 as proof for that:
‘Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences’
I have also heard some of them say: ‘That we should avoid a divisive person” or that “We are not suppose to divide the ‘bride of Christ,’ the Church for whom Jesus died!” But I would answer to that: “Who do you think is really doing the dividing? the one who brings an unbiblical teaching or the one defending the doctrine of Christ? – Also aren’t we suppose to lovingly warn others (the bride) when there is danger? or is it better to let the ravenous wolves in sheep clothing destroy her? ”
Sadly this Bible verse of Romans 16:17 has been misused so much, specially by some denominations & sects to wrongly mark & shun people (churchgoers) for various reasons, but in reality this was written to protect the body of Christ from contamination of false doctrines & false teachers. The division is in reality caused by the teacher who brings the wrong doctrine to the body of Christ, not by the discerning person that is trying to defend the faith or by the churchgoer that is there to learn, & by the way, whom won’t affect much their congregation or the body of Christ if they have wrong doctrines (because they are not the teacher/leader).
We are suppose to love one another even when we find someone in fault, & a mature Christian as possible, will look to restore them (who are in fault), Gal.6:1-2. But teachers are going to be judged more severely (James 3:1) because they have a bigger responsibility and can badly influence hundreds (if not thousands) of believers.
Now let us read the entire verse to understand it better:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark (#G4648 consider) them which cause divisions and offenses (#G4625 = snare, stumbling block) contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” Romans 16:17-20
Our authority is the Bible or the Scriptures, not people’s opinions. What this verse is really telling us, is to avoid teachers that are saying things contrary to the doctrine that Jesus taught (that we find in the Bible). Sadly the majority of Christians are not doing this, because they are being taught by false teachers in these last days.
The Bible doesn’t say that we should taste everything and “Chew the meat & spit out the bones” (1), but it does says to avoid them. Jesus also warned us in different occasion to be careful of false teachings: “Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. . .How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees” Matt.6:5-12. Leaven is a very small organism that spreads throughout the dough and changes its nature, operating exactly like sin in man, & in this example false doctrine/teachings does the same.
We also find apostle Paul saying regarding the deceptive persuasions (false teachings) of the Judaizers: “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little yeast leavens the whole batch.” (Gal.5:6-9, 1 Cor. 5:7).
Furthermore, regarding the advise of ‘Chew the meat & spit out the bones’, I think we should ask ourselves, how are we sure that we are eating the right spiritual meat? think about it for a moment, even if we spit out the bones, what will happen if the meat is contaminated? . . it will make us sick! isn’t that right? – Beloved please, we need to be very careful, & always obey God’s Word, it is for our own good! Our loving Father knows best what we need. If He says to avoid false doctrines & teachers that propagate them it is for a good reason & He knows better!
We understand that in order to differentiate a false teacher we will need to exercise discernment, something absolutely necessary in these last days, but also take into account that a false teacher will always try to vilify discernment to avoid getting caught.
Here is a good sermon by pastor Mike Winger on the subject, that will help us identify false teachers: