Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions
Romans 16:10-27 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my kinsman. Greet those of the household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord. 12 Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren 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. All the churches of Christ greet you.
17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. 19 For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. 21 Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. 22 I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.
23 Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother. 24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. 25 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 which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.
In today’s text Paul says: Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. Even then, in the early church, the idea of division within the church was of great concern to Paul. In his first letter to the church at Corinth Paul wrote: Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?(1 Corinthians 1:10-13) In his letter to the Galatian church, Galatians 5:13-21 says: You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. (This refers to the relationship between believers, not between believers and the world) So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. So serious are dissensions and factions, that Paul lists them among the deeds of the flesh, along with sexual immorality, idolatry, witchcraft etc., as things which will keep people from inheriting the kingdom of God. In Romans 14:10, Paul says: So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.
It was not just Paul who was concerned about division in the church. Jesus Himself says: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?(Matthew 12:25-26) If the church is divided against itself how will it stand? If the church is to represent and bring the kingdom of God in and to the world, and yet is itself divided, what does that say to the world about the kingdom we represent? In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus, speaking to those who would follow Him, says: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Why is it that so often the church is more willing to apply this instruction in its relationship to unbelievers than with those who are their “brothers”, fellow believers?
Because the church is made up of people, people who come from different cultural backgrounds, people who come from different social experience, people, who have even come to know Christ in different ways, we will have different preferences. We will have some differences in our perspective and understanding of scripture. We will have different opinions about how we are to reach the world for Christ. The person who found Jesus at a youth summer camp, will likely value that ministry for their entire life. The one who found Jesus in a prison cell, will likely highly value prison ministry. The one who was saved through the selfless work and witness of one on a mission field, will know and esteem the value of missions. The one who received the revelation of Christ, in a lonely hotel room, from the pages of a Gideon Bible, will know the value of that ministry. There is no one right way to preach the gospel to all creation. There is no single way to be witnesses for Christ.
Speaking to His disciples, Jesus says: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) If we would be disciples of Jesus, if we would be His followers and His witnesses, we would begin by following His command. We would begin by loving one another, by laying aside dissensions and factions. God’s kingdom is not and will not be divided against itself. If we would inherit the kingdom, if we would represent the kingdom, then we ourselves, Jesus disciples, His church must not be divided.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; Holy Spirit, You have called us, Your church to be a community. A community which is first and foremost founded and focused on our common unity, the unity we each individually have with You. May we, Your church, fulfill Your command. May we love one another, as You have loved us. Through that love, may the world know that we are Your disciples. May our witness begin and end in love. May it begin with me. Amen