You can click HERE to read the passage.
As Paul is closing out his epistle to the Romans he takes the time to specifically mention a number of people. I have two takeaways from this passage as I have pondered it this week.
1) Sound doctrine is very important both to Paul and to God – Paul has spent the better part of 15 chapters making sure that his Roman friends are theologically grounded. He has done this because even at this stage of the early church there is already erroneous teaching taking place. Note verses 17-18: “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.“ Paul does not want his friends to be theologically naive. This is why he is hammered away at at sin and grace, and the purpose of the law, and the Holy Spirit, and God’s sovereignty, and love, and submission. He wants to make sure that the Roman church is not easily swayed by teaching that tickles their ears but creates heart disease.
We see this happening all the time in the church today. Our churches are full of naive Christians who have not been grounded in sound doctrine. I see two primary reasons why this has happened. 1) Pastors have not done a good job of equipping the saints with sound doctrine. They have delivered milktoast messages that make people feel good about themselves but have not given them a strong theological foundation to base their lives on. 2) People steer clear of any kind of teaching that hints of theology and doctrine and run to teaching that will help them parent better, or have a happy marriage, or enjoy the victorious life. Over time this has created churches that are full of people who are easily deceived and easily swayed by “smooth talk and flattery.”
2) People are very important both to Paul and to God – Paul could have easily ended his letter with the last verse of chapter 15, “The God of peace be with you all. Amen.” But he has not written this letter as a theological treatise to be published and read by “super” Christians and taught only at theological institutions. He has written this letter for regular church people – like you and me. Real people were important to Paul. As he wrote he had the faces of his friends in mind. He says in verse 19, “For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.” He was writing because he cared for these people and did not want them to be led astray – which they were very much in danger of.
As the Pastor of Discipleship Ministries at our church I have a similar sentiment. I watch our people stay away from teaching that I know they need but that they don’t want – because it does not scratch their particular itch. The ironic thing is this – what people do not understand is that having a solid theological foundation will not only keep them from being led astray but will also make them better parents, and have happier marriages, and find victory in this life.
May God give us a yearning for learning. May He fuel us with a desire to be theologically grounded that we might not be so naive in our faith.
Next Week’s Passage – Romans 16:20-24
Memory Verses – Romans 8:1-38