PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body as a holy and living sacrifice to you.
Jesus, We belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Romans 16:17–19 (NIV)
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
Just in case you thought it was all rainbows and unicorns from here on out—think again. Paul has a zinger to lodge and a bomb left to drop. It’s kind of like unbuckling your seat belt after the plane has landed and you are taxiing to the terminal. Don’t do it! Instead, brace for impact.
I appreciate the pull-no-punches nature of the way the Open English Bible translates vv.17–18:
I beg you, friends, to be on your guard against people who, by disregarding the teaching which you received, cause divisions and create difficulties; disassociate yourselves from them. For such persons are not serving Christ, our Master, but are slaves to their own appetites; and, by their smooth words and flattery, they deceive simple-minded people. (Rom. 16:17–18 OEB)
This is a zinger of a warning against false teaching and false teachers. From the first day to the present day, false teachers and false teaching abound and it is among the gravest threats to the church and our churches.
Please know, this is not Paul warning the church in Rome that the Mormons have moved into the neighborhood. He is talking about church leaders and people who have been influenced by false teaching, errant doctrine, fake gospels, and the like. Notice something else. False teaching, while often cloaked in plausible shifts in interpretive methodology, is usually driven by an attempt to accommodate or otherwise pave the way for the expansion of human appetites and novel ideologies concerning the human body. (see Gnosticism) Paul could not be any more clear on this point:
For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.
That was the third jab. Here’s the right hook:
By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
This is a constant warning Paul often issued to the churches. Remember when he said this in the letter to his young protege Timothy:
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Tim. 4:3–4)
So what’s a Bible-believing, Jesus-following Christian to do, Paul? To the Romans, concerning false teachers and teaching, Paul is emphatic: Keep away from them, says the NIV. The OEB renders it even stronger: Disassociate yourselves from them.
But why Paul, what’s the harm here? I mean, can’t thinking people disagree on such matters? Doesn’t it all come down to how you interpret the Bible? Have you looked at the science, Paul? We’ve heard of your harsh rhetoric concerning women in the church. Why should we be surprised about your other prudish prejudices? (It’s a classic tactic of those who can’t win on the merits. Attack the witness. aka ad hominem)
But really, why Paul?
Here’s why: False teaching and false doctrine work like termites. They show up long before you have any idea of them and they slowly, systematically destroy the house from the inside out. By the time you discover their presence, it is usually too late.
Danger Will Robinson!
Abba Father! Thank you for loving us enough to warn us of the things that will undo us, even when we don’t understand, yes even when we disagree. Thank you for the courage of Paul and his tenacity to stand up to the enemies of your church and our souls. Thank you for the thankless love of so many over so many centuries who have stood, at times, against the whole world. Indeed! Athanasius Contra Mundum! Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.
Do you carry the urgency of Paul’s concern about false teachers and false teaching? Or do you have a more laissez-faire attitude?
Today we will sing “Take the Name of Jesus with You,” also known as “Precious Name.” It is hymn 156 in our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise.
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt