Paul wholeheartedly and passionately warns that divisions will destroy the church! The Romans were a people who liked order above all else. The government quickly put down divisions in the provinces, yet this young church was having problems getting along with those who were socially and culturally different. Paul admonishes us to discern between standing for truth and causing unrighteous divisions, confusing people's faith, and relationship to God. He again acknowledges several others as a testimony on the importance of encouraging and giving our blessings to others.
Nothing will destroy a church or ministry quicker than strife, competition, dissension, and gossip, all of which eventually lead to divisions in a church (Rom.13: 13; Gal. 5:19-20). Such dissension causes "offenses," that is, it becomes a snare or stumbling block to others (v.14: 13).
· Cause divisions means "to stand apart" or "to cause dissension." It occurs only here and in Gal. 5:20. It indicates causing what is good and holy to separate into factions, which is neither good nor holy.
· Many people call Christ, "Master and Lord," but they are far from serving Him. They serve only their carnal, sensual, worldly interests. That is, a "what is in it for me" attitude and mindset! They corrupt the church by deceiving its heart and the people with misdirected and corrupted passion.
· Those who seed strife and make divisions in the Church are not doing Christ's work, but are attempting to gratify their own selves. They cause people to follow a person and not the Person of Christ! Contentious, divisive people will cause others to stumble, so they must be avoided, and disciplined, which means removing them from fellowship if they persist (1 Cor. 5:9-13; 2 Thess. 3:6; 2 Tim. 3:5; Titus 3:10)! This is a stern warning against false teachers, including those in and out of the church. Paul says to "turn away from them!" They must not be tolerated in the church, or on TV, or anywhere else!
· Divisive people destroy the peace and unity of the church, but God, who is the source of peace, will crush this work of Satan through the wisdom and obedience of believers. (v. 8:28).
· Hearts of the simple, or "weakness of faith" sometimes refers to consistent loyalty to Christ, but not in this passage. Here it rather means simple and innocent, new to the faith, or not yet understanding it. Whoever or whatever disagrees with sound doctrine opens a door to divisions and offences. If truth is abandoned, unity and peace will not last long. Be aware! God has promised to destroy the works of the enemy. Make sure you are not the enemy!
· We must keep our hearts open to the Spirit with passion, and guard against that which is contrary to God's Word and plan with all diligence. This is so you are not deceived. Pledge yourself defiantly not to be deceivers. The blessing the apostle gives from God is victory over Satan, which defiles, disturbs, and destroys (Gen. 3:12-19; Job. 1:6), and keeps us from God's best.
· Paul closes with his customary prayer that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ would be with them. Vs. 20 & 24 are suspected extra endings to this letter. Most of Paul's letters were copied and sent to other churches in the area and he would tack on an extra note to them.In conclusion, Paul turns away from the subject of strife and confusion and talks about the God who is the author of peace, encouraging words with which to close this magnificent manifesto! How wholehearted and endearing are these exhortations (Gal. 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:28), especially considering how diverse they are, far more, even, than we would have in a modern metropolis! Here were aristocrats, slaves, trades people, artists, political officials, people from all walks of life, cultures, and skin colors, all coming tighter together in Christ!
As with anything in the Christian walk, that which has power and meaning is from a directed effort by the Spirit to many in the Body; team work! Paul was concerned about how the Romans would threat his messenger Phoebe. The old adage, "don't shoot the messenger" has grave consequences. Paul was unsure how they would react to receiving some "chastising" as well as encouragement. Paul normally ends his letters with personal mentions and encouragement, yet Romans stands out to the point that some scholars say v. 16 is also an ending to the original epistle to the Romans. Thus, the rest of Romans were "add-ons" from other letters Paul wrote that contained the same previous 15 chapters, but he personalized the endings for a particular church. This is subjective and irrelevant to the true purpose of Romans. Since there were many startup churches, Paul's letters were recopied and personalized, and sent off to neighboring Christian communities. Others have suggested that letter writing was so serious and Paul so enthused, he just could not stop! The power and meaning remain true and unhindered.
1. Do you like to send out thank-you cards? If so, or if not, why?
2. Have you ever passionately warned someone about something? If so, how did they take it?
3. How would you react to someone giving you "chastising" as well as encouragement?
4. How would you feel if the church leadership came to you and told you that what you had said or done could destroy the church?
5. Do you like things that are neat and in order? Why, or why not? How does order apply to running a church?
6. What happens when we run a government or a business without any rules or guidelines?
7. What happens when we run a church without any rules or guidelines?
8. Would you feel secure and more comfortable in a church that quickly put down division? Why?
9. Can you imagine living in a society that was almost obsessive compulsive in how it viewed order and discipline? (This was only in organizations, of course. In private, the Romans were very depraved, decadent, and sinful) Would this be better than to have chaos in a church?
10. Have you experienced problems with getting along with others in a church? If so, what were the circumstances and results?
11. Looking back on past problems in getting along, do you see what you could have done to help things be better or prevent the problems?
12. How do you decide when to cause problems for the sake of truth and righteousness? Can you think of examples and possible scenarios?
13. What do you think the offenses were to which Paul was referring?
14. What are offenses with which the church of today would have to deal?
15. Have you personally experienced a snare or stumbling block for yourself or others resulting from strife, competition, dissension, or gossip?
16. How did you feel about it? How do those feelings compare when the same things are happening in your family?
17. How would you explain, "cause divisions," to a new Christian?
18. How does the "me first" attitude and mindset affect the church?
19. What do those who seed strife and make divisions in the Church do to others?
20. What do those who seed strife and make divisions in the Church do to our Lord?
21. Have you ever observed or known someone who needed to be removed from fellowship? If so, without giving names, what spurred you to think that way?
22. Has your church or a church you know had to dis-fellowship someone? If so, do you know how they reacted, and what happened to them?
23. Do you think false teachers are a problem? Why, or why not?
24. What happens to the people when a false teacher gets in a church or a ministry?
25. Why was Paul so passionate about removing false teachers?
26. Is the church today as a whole as concerned as Paul was? Why, or why not?
27. How can your church destroy-crush--this work of Satan?
28. How would you define a person who is hearts of the simple, and how should the church care for them? What benefit can they bring to others in the church?
29. How can someone who disagrees with sound doctrine open the door to divisions and offences?
30. If Romans had (it probably does) a bunch of different endings that were meant for other churches in the area, does that cause confusion or support to your faith? Does it make a difference?
31. What does this phrase mean to you, "God who is the author of peace?"
32. What do you think about a church filled with people of all kinds of diverse backgrounds, cultures and races? Would you feel comfortable worshiping there? Why, or why not?
33. How can your church be more open to people of different backgrounds?
34. What can your church do to avoid the carnal, sensual, worldly interests of others from influencing the decisions of the church leadership?
35. What can you do to avoid the "me first" attitude and mindset? What can your church do to have wisdom and obedience in its believers to root out false teachers?
36. How can you find hope and encouragement in phrases such as, approved in Christ, chosen in the Lord, the God of Hope (v. 15:13) and the God of Peace (v.15: 33)?
37. How can you and your church keep your hearts open to the Spirit with passion, and guard with all diligence that which is contrary to God's Word and plan?
© 1998, 2002, R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Discipleship Tools www.discipleshiptools.org