ROMANS 16:1-27 A Final Word and Warning

 

Paul’s final words to the Romans include a list of individuals he knew and commended to the Roman church. Paul took an interest in individual people, not just groups of people as a whole. He also has some final words for the believers in Romans as he concludes this great epistle to the Romans.

 

Commending Phoebe – An Exemplary Godly Servant

 

Romans 16:1-2 – “I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea,2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.”  [1]

Paul commends Phoebe as a sister in the Lord. He describes her as a “servant,” which is translated from the Greek term DIAKONOS (Strong’s # 1249 - diavkono" diakoánoás, dee-ak´-on-os) meaning literally, “to run on errands; an attendant, a waiter at table or in other menial duties;  deacon or deaconess;  minister, servant.”[2] This is the same term used in 1 Timothy 3:8 and 12 to describe deacons in the church, however it is the only occurrence of the term in the feminine in the New Testament.  This is the only place in the New Testament that deaconess is used to refer to a woman. Paul’s description of Phoebe as a helper of many and of myself also,” testifies to her usefulness to the Lord’s work. Phoebe was a servant of the Lord.

 

Oftentimes people get caught up in titles in the church and this is especially true of titles regarding leadership. Deacon, elder, bishop, presbyter, overseers are all used to refer to leaders in the church with varying responsibilities (see 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 2). While these titles are Biblical, I have chosen in the church I pastor to use the more generic title of “leader.”  All leaders regardless of titles are supposed to have one primary attribute and that is that they need a servant’s heart. If you don’t have a servant’s heart, you are disqualified for leadership. Jesus said He came not to be served but to serve and give Himself a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). If you want to be a Christ-like leader, you have to have a servant’s heart. Jesus left us that example to follow (see John 13).

 

Titles become especially problematic when the question of where women involved in church leadership. The involvement of women in the church is often a source of great controversy. While this is true oftentimes in the church, it was rarely a problem for Jesus. Jesus had many women involved in His ministry for support and service. Paul mentions a lot of women in his final words to the church at Rome. What about women in the church, what is their role?

 

Women and Men

 

We should pause a moment to mention a few things about the relationship between men and women. God has sovereignly ordained men and women to have certain roles in order to maintain order according to His plan. Many men have pointed out that the Bible says, “wives submit to your husbands” and it is true the Bible does say that (Ephesians 5:22). But while wives are to submit to their husbands they are to do so, in the Lord.” This means that wives are under no obligation to submit to their husbands in any way that would contradict God or His word. Husbands should be encouraging and leading their wives in a way that facilitates their spiritual growth (Ephesians 5:25-26). Husbands however often appear jealous of their wives relationship with the Lord or their service to God and try to roadblock it in subtle ways or blatant ways. Husbands are to love their wives as Jesus loved the church. Husbands should ask themselves, “What does Jesus want for my wife?”

 

Notice also that the context of Ephesians 5 and the discussion about husbands and wives (Ephesians 5:22-33), is preceded by the words, “submitting to one another in the fear of God” Ephesians 5:21). While wives are to submit to their husbands, they are not required to submit to other men generally. In fact, this verse tells us that we are all to have a mutually submissive attitude toward one another. Humility and mutual submission, esteeming others as better than themselves (Philippians 2:3). Jesus interacted with women and involved them in His ministry and respected them greatly. While He did not choose a woman as one of His core disciples, He did allow them to be involved in serving and supporting Him. Remember, He appeared after His resurrection, first to women, the men were all hiding.

 

Two Prohibitions Regarding Women in Ministry

 

Paul mentions many women in his final words to the Romans (Phoebe, Priscilla, Mary, Tryphena, Persis, Rufus’ mother, Julia, and Nereus’ sister). Women have always played an important role in the church beginning in the ministry of Jesus (Matthew 27:55,56; Mark 14:3; Luke 7:37,38) and throughout the New Testament. Jesus first appeared to women after His resurrection (Matthew 28). The Bible stipulates only two prohibitions concerning women ministering in the church.

 

First, women are prohibited from teaching men in ministry. Second, women cannot have authority over men in ministry. Paul spells this out in his letter to Timothy when he is inspired to write:

 

  • 1 Timothy 2:12-15 – “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.”  [3]

Some have sought to disqualify and limit these verses to the immediate cultural setting in which Paul was writing. However, Paul substantiates his inspired instruction regarding women by referring to the Fall of humankind in the Garden of Eden and how it was the woman that the serpent focused his attack upon. This implies an inherent weakness or susceptibility to temptation or spiritual deception of some kind. It’s interesting that many cults and borderline cultic religious groups have women prominently involved in their history, (e.g. Mary Baker Eddy of Christina Science; Ellen G. White of 7th Day Adventism).

How Eve Was Deceived – “That’s not fare!”

As mentioned above Paul says, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Timothy 2:14). If you’re a woman you might be thinking, “That’s just not fare. I know a lot of men who are spiritually stupid and easily deceived.” That may be true, but perhaps Paul is getting to a core and foundational truth here about women.  We never want to over generalize or create a situation where a group is oppressed or suppressed wrongly. But there is a twofold prohibition stated by Paul and it cannot be dismissed on the basis of it being cultural locked to the first century and before. What Paul said to young pastor Timothy is just as relevant today as it was then.

For those of you who are thinking this just isn’t fare, let me ask you something. Did you ever look at the nature of the temptation that the serpent Satan used on Eve? What was that strategy of Satan all about? Well, first remember what God said to Adam. God said:

  • Genesis 2:16-17 – “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;17 “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”   [4]

Now God gave these instructions directly to Adam, “the man,” before Eve was even created (Genesis 2:18-25). Therefore, Eve’s understanding of God’s prohibitive instruction came from Adam. Whether or not God had informed Eve directly of this prohibition is not stated and we cannot assume He did. But if God did not directly tell Eve, He must have felt Adam would instruct her adequately. How much of Eve’s sin is attributable to Adam’s poor spiritual facilitation and teaching of Eve is anyone’s guess. Adam is obviously guilty of not overseeing the spiritual welfare and understanding of Eve to some extent and is obviously culpable in her sin as a result. But don’t miss, don’t miss the next point.

God gave instructions to the first couple that, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.” They could eat of any tree they wanted and God had created a beautiful garden that He saw as being “very good” (Genesis 1:31). There was only one tree out of all that God had created from which Adam and Eve were prohibited from eating. God said, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (And later they are removed from the garden for fear of eating form the tree of life lest they be perpetually and eternally confined in their sinful state - Genesis 3:23-24). God’s plan involved only one tree out of a vast assortment implied to be in the Garden of Eden, only one tree from all of this was forbidden to the first couple. 

But when Satan the serpent of old came and tempted Eve what did he say, how did he approach God’s prohibition to Eve? Satan said, “has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden” (Genesis 3:2). Satan twists the words of God not only to assert a falsehood (Satan said God said they couldn’t eat from “every tree” in the Garden when God said they could not eat from “the tree” of the knowledge of good and evil), but also to emphasize and focus on exactly the opposite emphasis of God. God blessed with much, Satan tried to steal the blessing with making the little prohibition seem much confining. Satan tempted Eve with getting her to look at the prohibition of God negatively, not at the blessing. Satan portrayed Gods prohibition in a way that would get Eve to think, “That’s not fare!” And that is what Satan is doing to you now if you look at the two prohibitions regarding women’s ministry in the church. A woman is prohibited from teaching men and having authority over men, but they can do everything else.

The gospel of Christ and the grace of God has opened up opportunities for women to serve the living God in incredible ways.  Women should rejoice in what they can do rather than lament what they are prohibited from doing. God has provided opportunity and freedom to women to serve Him in so many numerous ways, (e.g. Children’s ministry; Women’s Ministry; Teen Ministry; Bookstore Ministry; Helps Ministry; Evangelism; Prayer Ministry; etc.) but Satan seeks to deceive women by attacking them with what he makes out to be the thorn of God’s two prohibitions. Ladies in the Lord, don’t let the devil put you down, don't let him do it to you! Don’t think you are any less valuable to God because of the two prohibitions He lays down about ministry. You are of great value and worth to God. Just look at the ministry of Jesus! Humble yourselves before God and He will exalt you in due time (1 Peter 5:6).  Satan accentuates the negative; God presents us with a positive, many positive blessings.

Women in Ministry

Having said this, women do have a very prominent role in the ministry of the church. Women are not permitted to teach men (this I believe prohibits women from being pastors of churches) because of the order of God not because they are of less worth. While the serpent deceived Eve and not Adam according to these verses, we still need to ask, where was Adam when Eve was being deceived? Adam was just as guilty of sin for not looking out for the spiritual welfare of his bride. Men have no reason to puff out their chests when they read these verses because they prove and point to the culpability of men especially in our age who have acquiesced and relinquished their position in the home to their wives. Men, you are supposed to be the spiritual leaders in your homes!

Also, notice that 1 Timothy 2:12-15 is speaking about ministry in the church, it is not speaking about relationships in the secular working environment. There is nothing wrong with having a woman for a boss or a woman for president (Hillary  Clinton notwithstanding!). It is only in ministry that such prohibitions are applicable. Beyond these two prohibitions, women were and are able to serve the Lord without restraint.

When Paul speaks of a woman needing to be in “silence” the sense of Paul’s teaching here is that women should not be brash or brazen or boisterous. Such behavior is unbecoming of a woman of God. But this doesn’t mean women cannot be involved in ministry. When we look at the Bible we see that God has greatly used women for His purposes.

 

In the Old Testament God used the prophetess Huldah to convey direction for the nation (2 Kings 22, 2 Chronicles 34). The judge Deborah was used by God in a mighty way to deliver the nation of Israel from Sisera (Judges 4; 5). And we haven’t even mentioned Rahab, Ruth, Abigail, and a host of others used by God in His plans.

 

In the New Testament we have first Mary who submitted to God as her Savior to give birth to Jesus. We have Mary Magdalene who was the first to tell of Jesus resurrection. Prisicilla who with her husband Aquila helped train Apollos and help Paul. There are numerous women named in the New Testament. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he speaks of the equality of men and women when he is inspired to write:

 

  • Galatians 3:28 – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  [5]

In the Greek and Roman culture of first century times wives were given their own rooms and made to stay out of public life. A wife could not talk to another man in public besides her husband. The philosophers of the day believed every man should have a woman as an escort to accompany him to dinners and affairs, a mistress to fulfill his sexual pleasures, and a wife to bear his children. When the gospel came it addressed many of these prejudicial ideas and that women were equal to men, an unprecedented idea. The Bible does stipulate distinctive roles for men and women, but they are roles of equality not inequality.

 

Pastor Chuck Smith makes the following comments on the rest of the passage in 1Timothy in regards to women and their roles (taken from a transcript of audiotape 8193 Word for Today teaching tapes):

 

Now, it would seem that the place of the woman in the church was never that of teaching doctrine.  Paul points out, 13For Adam was first formed, then Eve.  14And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.  In other words, it was by the woman and her being deceived by Satan, that sin entered the world.  It wasn’t Adam that first ate.  It was Eve that first ate, being deceived by Satan.

 

15Notwithstanding (Paul said) she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.  What does that mean?  There are several interpretations.  Saved in childbearing--and I believe the correct interpretation--is that even as it was by the woman that sin was brought into the world—her being deceived and eating first of the forbidden fruit, so it was by child bearing or by the woman, Mary, bearing the child, Jesus, that salvation came into the world.  Even as sin was brought into the world by the woman, so the Savior was brought into the world by childbearing.  That is she is the one that bore the Messiah and brought Jesus into the world.  And so she shall be saved in childbearing.  That is in the childbearing bringing the Messiah, Jesus into the world, if they continue in the faith and love and holiness with sobriety.

 

Another interpretation is that the place of the woman is really not in a prominent teaching position within the church, but is in the home taking care of the children.  That is the place for the blessing of God upon her life.  That there is ministry in raising your own children. 

 

When I was going with Kay, and when I asked her to marry me, I said I’m not looking for an assistant pastor.  I’m looking for a mother.  I love children.  I want children.  And I’m not looking for you to have an active role in the church, but to have an active role as a mother in training and guiding the children.  And I believe the fact that all of our children are walking with the Lord and are serving the Lord today is the result that she was a Godly mother in the home, watching and taking care of the children.  And she gained a wealth of experience, which now that the children are all grown, she is able is to share from that wealth of experience with the younger women and with the older women in the church today.  It comes out of years of experience that she shares her heart with the women.  God has given her now a very wonderful place in the ministry, as she shares from the background of experience of trusting the Lord and seeking the Lord and the help and the guidance of the Lord in bringing the children up in the fear and the knowledge and understanding of God.  And so that idea of being saved in childbearing has been interpreted by some is that, that is the place where she will find the richness of life, the fulfillment in being there with the children, watching over, training and praying as they grow up in the home. 

 

Women are NOT the second-class citizens of the church; they are children of God which He greatly uses.

 

Greet the Brethren

 

Romans 16:3-16 – “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ.6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us.7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.8 Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord.9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved.10 Greet Apelles, approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.11 Greet Herodion, my countryman. Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis, who labored much in the Lord.13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them.15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you.”  [6]

Paul now sends a greeting to his friends. The number of friends mentioned by Paul and his personal words of encouragement and blessing to each of the ones mentioned testifies to the close fellowship Paul had with these people. Paul practiced what he preached (see study on Romans 14 and 15).

Priscilla and Aquila had risked their lives for the gospel and had a house church (16:3-5a). This couple is first introduced in Acts 18:2 who along with Paul were tentmakers. Priscilla and Aquila had been kicked out of Rome due to an anti-Semitic command of the Roman Emperor Claudius. Paul first met them in Corinth where they had fled (Acts 18:1,2). Priscilla and Aquila were the couple God used to teach the eloquent Apollos more accurately of God’s ways (Acts 18:24-28). It appears that this couple traveled to various places ministering as the last reference to them in the New Testament indicates that they were in Ephesus with Timothy (Timothy was the pastor at Ephesus – 1 Timothy 1:13) when Paul wrote his last epistle (2 Timothy 4:19).

In Romans 16:3-5 it seems that Pricsiilla and Aquila had returned to Rome and started a home fellowship. The early church didn’t have church buildings and met more commonly in the homes of believers. Priscilla and Aquila were hospitable and opened their home for the Lord’s ministry.

Paul then continues with a list of people to extend greetings to. The list of people testifies to the personal nature of Paul and his ministry (16:5b-16). We don’t know a lot about the people listed in this section. Epaenetus was the first convert in Achaia (16:5b). Mary was one who labored much for Paul (16:6).

Andronicus and Junia who were fellow prisoners of Paul and known amongst the apostles (16:7).  Andronicus and Junia were possibly another couple used by God in ministry since Andronicus is a male name and Junia is a female name. There are two interpretations of the phrase, “who are of note among the apostles.” It is possible that this couple were apostles, which create the interesting possibility that Junia was an apostle as a woman. If this is the case, this is the only reference to the possibility of a woman apostle. The alternative interpretation is that this couple were simply known by the apostles much the same as Priscilla and Aquila were known for their ministry.

In verse 16:12 Tryphena and Tryphosa are feminine names and mean “dainty” and “deliquette” respectively.   These were possibly twins. Interestingly, the word “labored” here means to “labor to exhaustion” (Strong’s # 2872 - kopiavw koápiaoµ, kop-ee-ah´-o; to feel fatigue; by impl. to work hard:— (bestow) labour, toil, be wearied.”  [7]

“Rufus” may be the son of Simon who was compelled to carry the cross of Jesus. Tradition holds to this view. This would possibly indicate that Simon and his family were possibly saved as a result of their contact with Jesus (Matthew 27:32).

In verse 16:6 Paul directs the brethren to greet each other with a holy kiss. This is not a sensual or fleshly kiss, but a holy kiss of affection and acknowledgement of love.

Be Aware of Satan’s Divisive Strategies

Romans 16:17-18 – “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” [8]

In these verses Paul instructs believers to avoid those who are divisive and teach false doctrine (16:17). He describes such as not serving Jesus but serving themselves (16:18). He commends the Romans and wants them to be wise in what is good and simple or inexperienced in what is evil (16:19). And he assures them that as they follow God the God of peace will crush Satan under their feet (16:20).

Beware Divisive Ones

One of the six things God hates are those who “sows discord among the brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19). Those who are divisive, who follow unsound doctrine, are to be avoided by the brethren. (Our teaching on Romans 14 should shed some light on what Paul is saying here.) Those who would try to destroy it from within have plagued the church from the start. Satan’s most effective strategy against the church is to attack it from within.

Jesus warned:

  • Matthew 7:15-20 - “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.16 “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?17 “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.18 “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.20 “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”  [9]

Paul refers to this when he gives parting words to the Ephesian brethren and writes:

  • Acts 20:28-31 -  “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.29 “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.30 “Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.31 “Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”  [10]

The Seven Sinful Ways of Church Dividers

The motivation of those who are divisive is to serve themselves rather than the Lord (16:18). The minister of God has no grounds to profit extravagantly from ministry. The minister of the Lord should live simply. The method used by church dividers is, “. . . by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (16:18).

What does the Bible say are the motives and evil strategies of those who would divide the body of Christ? The following is a summary from scripture of the motives and ways of the church dividers. There are seven sinful ways of church dividers.

First, church dividers use craftiness and scripture twisting to undermine the church. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he is inspired by God to write:

  • 2 Corinthians 4:1-2 – “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”  [11]

The ‘hidden things of shame,” mentioned here by Paul may be a reference to those who claim some hidden knowledge or mysterious meaning of the scriptures. The cult of the Gnostics in the early church did just that, they claimed to be the gatekeepers of a hidden knowledge needed for salvation that only they were privy to. This put them in a position of authority over others which they used to manipulate people with and more importantly kept people from the clear revelation of God’s word.

The word “craftiness,” is translated from the Greek term PANOURGIA (Strong’s # 3834 -πανουργία [panourgia /pan·oorg·ee·ah/]) which is found five times in the New Testament where it is translated “craftiness” three times, “subtlety” once, and “cunning craftiness” once. The idea of the word is “craftiness, cunning; a specious or false wisdom.”[12] This is a word that is always used in a bad sense in the New Testament (Luke 20:23; 1 Corinthians 3:19; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 11:3; Ephesians 4:14).

 

The phrase “handling the word of God deceitfully” here is derived primarily from one Greek term,  DOLOO (Strong’s # 1389 - δολόω [doloo /dol·o·o/]) meaning  “handle … deceitfully” once;  to ensnare;  to corrupt.” [13] Vine’s comments that this word, “primarily signifies “to ensnare”; hence, “to corrupt,” especially by mingling the truths of the Word of God with false doctrines or notions, and so handling it “deceitfully.” Vine’s compares it with the word “peddling” (KAPELEUO) found in 2 Corinthians 2:17 which means,  “to corrupt by way of hucksterizing.”[14]

 

We don’t have to look hard in our world today to find those who manipulate and misuse God’s word in craftiness and adulterating it to serve their own ends. The “ministry” of Benny Hinn comes to mind in this regard.

 

Second, church dividers present themselves as angels of light and ministers of righteousness when in fact they are agents of the devil. Again Paul writing to the Corinthians in his second epistle to them states:

 

  • 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 – “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”  [15]

There are those who present themselves as “apostles” of Jesus but who are in reality ministers of Satan. Satan is proud, lies, seeks to use people and to ultimately destroy them, and so will his ministers be.

Third, church dividers teach their own brand of “truth” and are obsessed with disputes and arguments, they use “godliness” for their own gain. Paul wrote to pastor Timothy:

  • 1 Timothy 6:3-5 – “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness,4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions,5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.”  [16]

Those who are willing to sacrifice the unity of the body to get rich or to serve their own purposes are church dividers that should be rebuked by the body of Christ.

Fourth, church dividers have strayed from God’s truth to “profane and idle babblings,” that are cancerous spiritually because they go against God’s revealed truth in His word. Paul wrote again to Timothy:

  • 2 Timothy 2:16-18 – “But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort,18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.”  [17]

Those who divide the church often do so by saying more or less than the Scriptures have stated. By trying to exalt themselves via some “new truth” they end up straying from God’s truth.

Fifth, church dividers are self-centered and self-serving because they love themselves above all else. Paul wrote to Timothy that this would especially true in the “last days”:

  • 2 Timothy 3:1-9 – “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts,7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith;9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.”  [18]

There are people who will step on anyone or crush anything that is in the way of their getting something they want. Usually it is being the center of attention so they promote themselves at the expense of others. Gossip is a tool of the enemy and is used to promote one’s self at the expense of others.

Sixth, church dividers are insubordinate and unwilling to submit to authority and subvert church leadership by using deception and gossip. Paul wrote to pastor Titus:

  • Titus 1:10-11 – “For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.”  [19]

Because church dividers are self-centered and self-promoting, they don’t like the idea of others being in a position of authority or leadership, unless of course it is themselves. The word “insubordinate” is derived from the Greek term ANUPOTAKTOS (Strong’s # 506 ανυπότακτος [anupotaktos /an·oo·pot·ak·tos/]) which is an adjective that occurs four times in the New Testament being translated, “unruly” twice, “disobedient” once, and “that is not put under” once.” The idea of this word is one who is “not made subject, unsubjected; that cannot be subjected to control, disobedient, unruly, refractory.” [20] Such a person is “unsubdued, i.e. insubordinate (in fact or temper); disobedient, that is not put under, unruly.” [21] Thus we see a church divider is one who is by nature a rebel whose attitude and way of life is that he or she is the master of themselves. Those who divide the church are those who put any consideration of the Lord and His will subordinate to their own carnal fleshly lusts. Church dividers want control, they want power, they want to rule and they are willing to destroy the body of Christ to get that. If there was ever a satanic attitude, that is it!

 

It’s noteworthy that Paul tells Titus that such church dividers “subvert whole households.” The word “subvert” (Strong’s # 396 - ανατρέπω [anatrepo /an·at·rep·o/]) is found only two times in the New Testament and means, “to overthrow, overturn, destroy; to subvert” [22] (2 timothy 2:18; Titus 1:11). By going from house to house with their false self-serving teaching, church dividers undermine the authority and place of church leaders in the eyes of the flock of God and as a result end up destroying these households spiritually. The implication is that such divisive people do not come to the leadership directly, but go from house to house separately sharing their deception until they can tip the balance of opinion in their favor. Beware those who come to your door with a word on your pastor or a leader that they just have to share with someone. The one they should share their concern with is the person about which they have this concern.

 

Seventh, church dividers are covetous exploiters who use deception to feed their lust for power. Peter was inspired by God to write:

 

  • 2 Peter 2:3,18-19 – “By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. . . . 18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.”  [23]

A person who is covetous is a person who never has enough. It is not enough for a person to be right, they must bring down the one they are at odds with. Church dividers don’t know about the love that covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8), they only want to squash the enemy and usurp the throne. Church dividers are addicts to the lusts of their flesh. They have a covetous lust for power, prestige, the spotlight and they are going to use whatever means possible to get it, even the destruction of people.

Those are seven characteristics of those who disrupt, divide and ultimately seek to destroy the church. How should we meet the challenge of church dividers?

How To Be Ready and Unashamed in the Face of Church Dividers

Romans 16:19-20 – “For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”  [24]

Earlier in this chapter we saw how Paul had loving relationships with the people he ministered to. His love for the flock of God was so great that he had a very strong desire to protect the flock from the attacks of Satan. In other words, he wanted the flock of God to be ready and unashamed when faced with the inevitable attack of the enemy. And as we have seen that attack often comes from within the body of Christ itself.

The threat of church dividers is serious. Satan knows from history that persecution only serves to strengthen the church (see Acts 7-8). His attack is two pronged, he comes at the church from without, but also from within. Satan in effect tries to destroy the church by joining it. In Romans Paul gives us two strategies to meet and address the attacks of the church dividers. The way church dividers should be addressed is twofold.

First, we defend against church dividers by being obedient to Jesus. Paul said the obedience of the Romans was well known (Romans 16:19a). Obedience is very important in the life of the believer. The bible says we are to obey God (Acts 5:29). We are to obey Jesus (Hebrews 5:9). We are to obey the truth of God’s word (Galatians 5:7). And we are to obey the faith as revealed in God’s word (Acts 6:7). Obedience in the life of the believer should come form the heart Romans 6:17) and is aided by the Holy Spirit working in and through the believer (1 Peter 1:22). Jesus connected obedience with loving Him when He said:

  • John 14:21 - “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”  [25]

We can combat church dividers by obeying first and foremost God, His Son Jesus and His revealed word. Don’t let anyone get you to compromise God’s word.

Second, we are to defend against church dividers by being wise in what is good and simple in what is bad (16:19). Paul said, “Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” Paul was glad about the obedience of those at the Church of Rome and he exhorted them to filter out that which was evil. This is similar to what Paul said earlier in Romans 12:

  • Romans 12:2 – “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  [26]

Don’t be conformed to the world’s way of doing things or thinking. Instead let the Spirit transform you into the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29). How does this play out practically?

Don’t get caught up in their divisive arguments. We don’t have to study evil to know it’s evil. We don’t have to go to a brothel, a bar, do drugs, or rob a bank to know that it is evil. Stay away from evil and learn and study that which is good.

Paul wrote to pastor Timothy:

  • 2 Timothy 2:23-26 – “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”  [27]

Rather than get caught up in foolish arguments or weird, deceptive and false interpretations of scripture, we should be students of Gods word so that we won’t fall prey to church dividers. Paul wrote to Timothy:

  • 2 Timothy 2:10-16 – “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.11 This is a faithful saying: 1 For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him.12 If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.14 Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.”  [28]

The best way to be ready and unashamed to face the inevitable attack of the enemy is to take to heart what has been taught in such portions of scripture as Romans and know it so well that you are able to recognize false teachings and deceptive scripture twisting when it arises.

Third, we defend against church dividers by trusting God to crush Satan under our feet by the grace of God  (16:20). Paul says, “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”  This is referring to the prophecy of God concerning what would happen to the serpent of old (Genesis 3:15). This will be fulfilled at Christ’s coming again (Revelation 19-20).

God gives peace even under the most severe attacks of Satan. Paul wrote to the Philippians:

  • Philippians 4:6-9 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”  [29]

It is the grace of God that provides us with His peace and anything else we need to weather the storms of Satan our adversary. Peter wrote to his flock:

  • 1 Peter 5:8-10 – “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”  [30]

Jude sums up this issue well when he is inspired to write:

  • Jude 16-25 – “These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.17 But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ:18 how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts.19 These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction;23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. 24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,25 To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.”  [31]

Rely on God to give you peace to weather the storms Satan brings with his church dividers. With God on our side, we can’t lose. Even the “bad” things that come into our lives He will use for good (Romans 8:28). God’s goodness and grace will crush Satan’s evil intended purposes every time.

Amanuensis

Romans 16:21-24 – “Timothy, my fellow worker, and Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my countrymen, greet you.22 I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord.23 Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, and Quartus, a brother.24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”  [32]

Paul adds a greeting from those who were with him at the time of his writing this epistle. Timothy of course was Paul’s dearest helper to which he wrote two epistles (1 and 2 Timothy.)

There is a short insertion here by the amanuensis or secretary who physically wrote out what Paul dictated to him (16:22). Gaius was one of the few to be personally baptized by Paul (1 Corinthians 1:14).

Paul just seems to have a hard time ending this epistle. The length of the epistle testifies to Paul’s concern and love for those of this Roman church. Paul takes three pronouncements of “Amen” to end this epistle (16:20,24,27).

Benediction

Romans 16:25-27 – “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began26 but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith—27 to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.”  [33]

Paul concludes this magnificent epistle by pointing the believers to God who is able to take what has been taught and apply it to their lives. To the end Paul gives glory to God. It is God’s power that is able to accomplish all of this great epistle in your life. We have sought to be made ready and unashamed; God and only God is able to do that in your life.

 

Directing people to God as the One who is able to fulfill His word in a person’s life is a common thread in all benedictions. Below are a few more:

 

  • Hebrews 13:20-21 – “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”  [34]
  • 1 Peter 5:10-11 – “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  [35]
  • Jude 24-25 – “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,25 To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.”  [36]

These benedictions are a great instructor and blessing to us because they reveal God’s desire for us and His ability to bring it to pass and make it a reality in our lives. God alone can make us ready and unashamed.

Conclusion

 

How important is it to be ready and unashamed of the gospel of Christ?

 

When evangelist John Wesley (1703-1791) was returning home from a service one night, he was robbed. The thief, however, found his victim to have only a little money and some Christian literature. As the bandit was leaving, Wesley called out, "Stop! I have something more to give you." The surprised robber paused. "My friend," said Wesley, "you may live to regret this sort of life. If you ever do, here's something to remember: 'The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!'" The thief hurried away, and Wesley prayed that his words might bear fruit.

Years later, Wesley was greeting people after a Sunday service when he was approached by a stranger. What a surprise to learn that this visitor, now a believer in Christ as a successful businessman, was the one who had robbed him years before! "I owe it all to you," said the transformed man. "Oh no, my friend," Wesley exclaimed, "not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin!"   [37]

That soul may have never been saved had Wesley not been ready and unashamed of the gospel. But because he was ready and unashamed a soul was saved and a glorious testimony created. Wesley was also quoted to have said:

 

            Get on fire for God and men will come to see you burn.

 

To be “on fire for God” is to be ready and unashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ as we have learned in the book of Romans.

 

We have now come to the end of our study and the question that begs an answer is Are you ready and unashamed? Are you ready and unashamed to share and defend the gospel of Christ? Remember what we have learned:

 

Paul wrote this letter so that those who prayerfully study it in the Spirit could also be ready and unashamed to share and defend the gospel as he is (Romans 1:1-17).

 

The reason a gospel is needed is that the world is snake-bit and has a poison of shameful sinfulness. “There is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 1:18-3:18).

 

But God has graciously provided an antidote for that poison shameful sinfulness in His Son Jesus who died in our place on the cross so that anyone who receives Him by faith can be forgiven of his or her sin. Salvation from the shameful sinfulness of humanity is obtainable by God’s grace through faith in Jesus who will then justify the sinner and bring them to a condition that is just-as-if-they-had-never-sinned (Romans 3:19-5:21).

 

Once a person is justified by grace through faith in Jesus, they enter life in the Spirit Who is seeking the God ordained purpose of conforming every believer to the likeness of Jesus Christ. This sanctification in the Spirit is certain, so certain that we are more than conquerors in that we go into the spiritual battle knowing beforehand and certain that the Holy Spirit will accomplish this transformation (Romans 6-8).

 

God is sovereign and elects people to accomplish His will in His overall salvation plan. He is like a Potter in this regard and we are like clay in His hands. God has a purpose and plan for all people and in Christ it will be accomplished. A perfect example of God’s sovereign election to purpose is seen in the nation of Israel who is now being made jealous through God’s use of the gentile peoples, but will again be used by Him directly when the fullness of the Gentiles comes in (Romans 9-11).

 

In Romans 12:1-2 we have a transitional verse from Paul’s doctrinal section (Romans 1-11). We begin to have all of God’s glorious plan for us accomplished in and through us by first giving ourselves as a living holy sacrifice and no longer being conformed to the world’s way of doing things, we now trust in God to transform us according to His revealed perfect will for us. God gives us spiritual gifts to accomplish His will for us. He wants us to be good citizens and good witnesses in the secular world. He doesn’t want us to divide over debatable issues that are a matter of opinion but He wants us to understand that the body of Christ, the fellowship of believers, the church, is an environment used by God to conform us to the likeness of Jesus. It is in the body of Christ that we are encrouraged, exhorted, corrected and through relationships actually experience much of what Jesus experienced with people and are therefore given opportunity to respond in the Spirit as He would. This is the way God transforms us into Christlikenss. There are those who seek to destroy God’s fellowship of believers, but we are to trust in God and know that the God of peace will soon crush the enemy under our feet (Romans 12-16).

 

That is a summary of what God has provided for us to become ready and unashamed. Are you ready? Are you unashamed of the gospel and willing to share it with the lost? Are you on fire for God? Are you at least a little bit more ready and unashamed than you were when you first began? I hope so. Press on and go over again the letter of Romans and pray the Spirit take it and make you ready and unashamed in the hands of God. Be ready Christian! Get fired up! Be unashamed! May God set us ablaze by making us ready and unashamed before Him.

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[3]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]Strong, J. 1996. Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship: Ontario

[13]Strong, J. 1996. Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship: Ontario

[14]Vine, W. 1997, c1996. Vine's complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words (electronic ed.) (Vol. 2, Page 151). Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[20]Strong, J. 1996. Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship: Ontario

[21]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.). Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[22]Strong, J. 1996. Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship: Ontario

[23]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[37] Our Daily Bread, October 1, 1994.