Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Preserving Unity in Truth

"I urge you, brothers, 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" (Romans 16:17).

Paul wrote 15 verses of greetings to various members of the church at Rome, people he has known in the past. This catalog of people is not only an interesting picture of life in the early church, it also serves to illustrate the unity of believers. Paul climaxes the list by calling on them to express their unity by greeting each other “with a holy kiss,” and states that “all the churches of Christ send greetings” (v. 16).

After this marvelous expression of spiritual unity in the body of Christ, he immediately turns to the negative side of the matter and urges them to put out of the assembly those who reject the apostolic doctrine and thereby destroy unity in the truth.

Paul does not mean that every time someone protests an action of the church or disagrees with a point of teaching, he is to be silenced with the accusation that he is being divisive. But Paul does mean that those who cause divisions are those who are attacking the fundamentals of the faith and that such people must be dealt with.

He goes on to describe such divisive people. They “are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.” In other words, they are ambitious. Moreover, “by smooth talk and flattery, they deceive the minds of naive people” (v. 18). So, for the protection of the weaker brethren and of new believers, such people must be dealt with.

Paul reminds them that “everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you.” At the same time he wants them to realize that trouble does come in the church and that they have to deal properly with it: “but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil” (v. 19). The leaders of the church are shepherds, and they must protect the sheep from wolves.

Many believers accept vows to preserve the peace and purity of the church. Unity and peace are often difficult to maintain since people are instinctively critical. Decide beforehand that when strife or error occurs in your church that your concern will be the unity and preservation of the church tempered also by the need for purity and truth.