Readings for the Day
Proverbs 28-29, Psalms 60, Romans 16
Verses of the Day
Romans 16:17 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. 18 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. 19 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.
As Paul closes out his most prodigious letter written to the church at Rome, he gives a laundry list of names who helped him to build the church. When you read through this list, there will be many names you don't recognize and are not mentioned outside of here in the scripture. This reminds us of how many faithful and humble servants there were in the early church, many of them women. Indeed one of the most counter cultural aspects of the early church, was the prominent role played by women.
As Paul gives these closing remarks to this prominent early church, he has some specific warnings for them. He warns them against false teachers who will try and worm their way in and deceive them. First of all, they try to cause divisions. Divisive behavior is at the heart of how Satan would love to destroy the church. At the heart of the body of Christ, is its unity. It is the same unity that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share. Divisive behavior can be anything from undermining the pastors and leaders in the church, to self serving attitudes and actions.
The other major obstacle is false teaching. Paul calls it, "teaching contrary to what you have learned". One of the purposes of the church as it passes the faith from generation to generation, is to guard its teaching, which is centered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The primary purpose of the bible is to reveal God's saving love through the sending of His only Son, Jesus. We are saved by grace through faith trusting in Jesus, as our Lord and Savior. Any other teaching or suggestion that there is another way is what the bible calls "false teaching". This is the first and foremost teaching the church needs to preserve above all other doctrines. It will always be the most dangerous threat to the church. Preaching the pure gospel is the number one goal of any church of Jesus Christ.
Secondly, as we live out our lives as Jesus' disciples, Jesus demonstrates a way of life that we are to follow. He gives us an example of how to live out our lives with the kingdom of God becoming a reality in our every day lives. Jesus saved us so that God's kingdom would surely come, but it would also come through us.
These are the two major teachings the church. How are we saved? And, once we are saved how do we live our lives? God's Word as revealed in the Old and New Testament is our true guide as we are led by the Holy Spirit into all truth.
One thing is for sure there will be always be those who try to weasel there way into the church. Messengers sent by Satan to deceive God's elect if possible. We must be careful to watch our life and teaching closely. While this is our calling as believers, we know that God who called us is faithful. And Jesus will continue His good work in us until He comes back to judge the living and the dead, and takes us as his bride to be with him forever.