Paul’s Final Instructions
17 And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. 18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people. 19 But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord. This makes me very happy. I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
As Paul closes out his letter to the Romans, the first part of the chapter is a laundry list of people he commends for their work with him in the Gospel. Notice most of these names we have never heard before. Men and women who have served alongside of Paul in this mission to reach the Gentiles with the Gospel. While we may hear a lot about the apostles like Peter, Paul and John, there are a whole host of servants who gave their lives for Jesus. And we owe them a great debt of gratitude for their service. We should take time to thank God for those he has brought alongside of us in our ministries. The beauty of Christian ministry is the teamwork we get to participate in. We grow in our relationship with God, each other, and do something we could never do on our own. This is the way that God designed the church for optimal efficiency and effectiveness.
Then, in the verses above, Paul warns the Romans how this unity and fellowship can be threatened and even destroyed. He warns about people who will infiltrate the church, and cause arguments and division over petty issues. They will appear to be smooth talking, but their message will glorify themselves and not God. Notice also they teach things that are not in alignment with what they had been taught by Paul and others. Usually this teaching diminishes what Christ has done for us on the cross, and overestimates what we can do for God in our own flesh. Sometimes this can be disguised as "self-help", or also how God can make "you" prosperous. But the common strand in both is an inordiante focus on "self". As Paul says, "they are serving their own interests."
Paul closes by telling them how happy it makes him that they are obeying the Lord. Paul has a shepherd's heart, and what gives him great pleasure is seeing God's flock follow the Lord in obedience. Though he has spent a lot of time going from country to country, Paul never forgot about the names and faces of the people God brought into his life to help him on his journey. God has providentially brought many of you into my life and your encouragement and friendship gives me great joy!
And we know that one day, God will crush Satan under his feet. But in the meantime Satan will try to destroy the fellowship in our churches and create division and strife. Let's guard the fellowship we have and watch our life and doctrine closely! And most of all remember to thank, encourage and pray for each other.