Romans 16

Read Romans 16.

This closing chapter of the book of Romans was quite personal.

It began with Paul’s personal recommendation of Phoebe (vv. 1-2), then a long list of personal greetings (vv. 3-16). Just before his closing remarks, Paul warned the believers about “those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way” (v. 17b). Those “divisions and obstacles” were “contrary to the teaching you have learned,” also according to verse 178.

Paul was concerned about false doctrine because that divides the body of Christ. Verse 18 told us that these false teachers would divide the church because of “their own appetites.” In other words, their doctrine was deliberately chosen and differentiated from the truth in order “to deceive the minds of naive people” (v. 18) for the personal profit of the false teachers.

Think about that long list of personal greetings in verses 3-16 and this warning in verses 17-19. Paul had seen many churches where there was once warm fellowship and strong friendships torn apart by false teachers. This entire letter was written to establish a doctrinal base, to teach the gospel Christ gave him to this church that had formed apart from Paul’s direct ministry. Paul wanted each person mentioned in this letter to fully understand the gospel, to believe it themselves and to welcome all–Jews and Gentiles alike–who believe it.

It would be a bad, sad thing, therefore, if “Ampliatus” (v. 8) pulled away from and stopped talking to “Rufus” (v. 13) because Ampliatus had departed from the gospel or because he had stopped accepting Jewish beliers as genuine Christians or because he had broken fellowship over which day was the Sabbath and how that Sabbath was to be observed.

A proper understanding and acceptance of the gospel, a commitment to serve rather than be served, and an understanding that Christ has accepted many who don’t hold all the same convictions about everything should unify believers, not divide us.

For us, we should recognize that truth is something to be explored and that exploration involves questions and sometimes debate. But when God’s people know what they believe and why, it should unify us rather than divide us. When others come in with different teaching, we should examine their teaching carefully but also be suspicious about their motives.

Too many believers uncritically accept different teachings from some bestselling Christian author or TV personality or webpage they read. False teachers can be very persuasive; hold on to the gospel and reject everything that departs from it. The unity of Christ’s body is at stake.

1 Corinthians 3

Read 1 Corinthians 3.

Back in 1 Corinthians 1, Paul expressed a great deal of confidence about the salvation of the Corinthian believers. He talked about all the ways in which God had enriched them (1:5) which confirmed their acceptance of the gospel (1:6) so that they had every spiritual gift (1:6). At the end of chapter 1 he explained that their salvation came from Christ crucified not from human wisdom and in chapter 2 he described how their faith was a spiritual work done by the Holy Spirit of God.

Here in chapter 3, he made a turn in his message to the Corinthians. Although they were saved by the Spirit, he could not speak to them as if they were spiritually mature; rather, they had to be addressed as if they were babies in Christ (vv. 1-3). This is quite a put down–not an insult but a needed adjustment to their self-assessment. The Corinthians were proud of how advanced they were spiritually–just look at all the spiritual gifts they had!

But, contrary to their beliefs about themselves, Paul told them that they were acting in a spiritually immature manner, like babies in Christ. What caused him to say that? It was the fact that there was “jealousy and quarreling” among them (v. 3). That jealously and quarreling was about who was the best spiritual leader–Paul, Apollos, or someone else (v. 4). But Paul and Apollos were not competitors; rather, they were servants of God who both made meaningful contributions to the church (vv. 5-9).

Verses 10-17 are often misunderstood in part because Paul will later in this same book talk about our human bodies as the temple of God. That’s what he meant in chapter 6, but here in chapter 3 he is not referring to the human bodies or their individual spiritual lives.

Instead, the context of verses 10-17 refer to the church itself. The foundation Paul laid is the foundation of the church at Corinth, the Lord Jesus Christ himself (vv. 10-11). Apollos, or anyone else who serves the church, is building on that foundation. But it is God who will test the quality of everyone’s work (vv 12-14). The “temple” Paul is referring to here, then, is the church itself in Corinth (v. 16) and the warning against “destroying the temple” is a warning against tearing the church apart through “jealousy and quarreling” (v. 3) or any other way that creates disunity.

What are some sins that tear churches apart? One answer is sin of any kind that goes unconfessed and unaddressed, and the Corinthian church was full of that. Just from this letter we know that the Corinthians had:

  • incest (1 Cor 5)
  • lawsuits among believers (1 Cor 6:1-11)
  • sexual immorality of all kinds (1 Cor 6:12-20)
  • unbiblical divorce (1 Cor 7)
  • abuses of Christian liberty (1 Cor 8-10)
  • disorderly worship (1 Cor 9:1-16)
  • abuse of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 9:17-34)
  • and more

The warning in today’s passage is very serious: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple” (3:17). How many churches have been torn apart by sin–sin among leaders or sins within the body? How many congregations have been ripped apart by gossip? How many have been weakened or killed by failing to follow biblical leadership?

Understand, then, that as a church member, your choices affect far more people than just you. If your choices cause harm to the body of Christ, God promised to deal with you severely for the harm you’ve done to his work (v. 17). This passage should sober us and cause us to realize the importance of making godly choices not only for our own walk with God but for the spiritual health and strength of his church.

Romans 16

Today we’re reading Romans 16.

This closing chapter of the book of Romans was quite personal. It began with Paul’s personal recommendation of Phoebe (vv. 1-2), then a long list of personal greetings (vv. 3-16). Just before his closing remarks, Paul warned the believers about “those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way” (v. 17b). The word “heretic” actually means “one who is divisive.” It has become a specialized term reserved for false teachers, but that is because of passages like this one. In verse 17c, we learn that the “divisions and obstacles” were “contrary to the teaching you have learned.” It was false doctrine that Paul was concerned about because that false doctrine would divide the body of Christ. Verse 18 told us that these false teachers would divide the church because of “their own appetites.” In other words, their doctrine was deliberately chosen and differentiated from the truth in order “to deceive the minds of naive people” for the personal profit of the teachers.

Think about that long list of personal greetings in verses 3-16 and this warning in verses 17-19. Paul had seen many churches where there was once warm fellowship and strong friendships torn apart by these false teachers. This entire letter was written to establish a doctrinal base, to teach the gospel Christ gave him to this church that had formed apart from Paul’s direct ministry. Paul wanted each person mentioned in this letter to fully understand the gospel, to believe it themselves and to welcome all–Jews and Gentiles alike–who believe it. It would be a bad, sad thing if “Ampliatus” (v. 8) pulled away from and stopped talking to “Rufus” (v. 13) because Ampliatus had departed from the gospel or because he had stopped accepting Jewish beliers as genuine Christians or because he broke fellowship over which day was the Sabbath and how that Sabbath was to be observed. A proper understanding and acceptance of the gospel, a commitment to serve rather than be served, and an understanding that Christ has accepted many who don’t hold all the same convictions about everything should unify believers, not divide them.

For us, we should recognize that truth is something to be explored and that exploration involves questions and sometimes debate. But when God’s people know what they believe and why, it should unify us rather than divide us. When others come in with different teaching, we should examine their teaching carefully but also be suspicious about their motives. Too many believers uncritically accept different teachings from some bestselling Christian author or TV personality or webpage they read. False teachers can be very persuasive; hold on to the gospel and reject everything that departs from it. The unity of Christ’s body is at stake.