Accountability among believers is paramount in a healthy #church.
Romans 16:21-23 “Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord. Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.”
What is the significance of Paul’s closing greetings, including the inserted greeting by Tertius who was writing as Paul’s secretary or scribe? The greetings we read in verses 1-16 were given to members of the Roman church whereas these last ones were coming from those who were with Paul. The significance is that there were believers who were physically with Paul, even taking part in the actual writing of this letter, and so therefore they were in agreement with Paul and his theology. Even though we know that Paul was probably the greatest evangelist of all time and the author of more books of the New Testament than any other man, he was always accountable to other believers. His leadership was never a “lone wolf” leadership. He was absolutely writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but he also knew it was of the utmost importance that he remain accountable to his fellow brothers and sisters. This assured all of those who served under him that his ministry was not a monarchy but that Paul knew the value in brethren from the church measuring all that he said and did. There is great safety in that, and we should likewise seek to minister under leadership that recognizes this value as well as seek to be this kind of leader when we are in any kind of authority. This is another of the many reasons that the bible teaches the importance of belonging to a community of believers.
Study/Meditation: Read Galatians 2:11-14. How does Paul exemplify the principle of accountability in his encounter with Peter in Antioch?
*Father, give me wisdom and discernment both in who I serve under as well as how I serve within the body of believers so that accountability between us is always paramount. Amen.
Victory belongs to Christ, and therefore to all of His beloved. #Jesusreigns
Romans 16:20 “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
Oh, that we might stand and endure under this amazing promise! In the midst of false teachers and deceptive leaders and betrayal and sin and terror, we have the promise that the author of all of these evils will lose. He will be crushed under the feet of our Savior. (Genesis 3:15, John 3:8, 1 Corinthians 15:5, Colossians 2:14-15) This is a glorious promise to beleaguered saints who lament that perhaps Satan has the upper hand, who are tired and forlorn on this planet amongst so many works of the enemy. Paul reminds us that we must stand and be vigilant, not giving in nor changing sides, because as Martin Luther wrote, “His rage we can endure, for, lo, his doom is sure.” (“A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” Martin Luther, 1547) Satan is doomed to lose. But even more than that, Paul reminds us that it will be “soon.” Remembering the explanation from the apostle Peter that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8), we endure with vigilance and trust, hanging on to the sure promise that Satan will be vanquished, making the victory ours as it is our Savior’s. Until then, we live in the grace of Jesus Christ, grace that comes at just the right moment as we need it each day, grace that is new every morning. Great is His faithfulness!
Study/Meditation: Read 2 Peter 3:1-18. How are we to live and endure until that great and awesome day when Satan is crushed under the feet of Christ? How should these words directly affect the way you live today?
*Father, all praise and glory and honor be unto Your name forever and ever! Thank You for Your glorious promise of victory. I love You! Amen.
Gullibility is unacceptable for Christians. #discernment
Romans 16:19 “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.”
Sometimes the biggest hearts are the most gullible, aren’t they? How often have we seen well-meaning Christians give their life savings to supposed Christian evangelists who deliver nothing but empty promises and broken dreams? We would never look at these victims and think of them as evil. However, Paul is exhorting that it is just this kind of obedience seeking that must be covered in wisdom and discernment. The truth is that even though these people are well-meaning, their being gullible does not negate their also being culpable. It is our responsibility as believers to be “wise to what is good,” that is knowing and understanding what God has ordained as His will. Likewise it is our responsibility to be “innocent as to what is evil.” In other words, we must be so in tuned with God’s Word that we can easily see what is contrary to it, thereby reacting and responding only to what is in line with His truth. Paul is simply restating what Jesus said in Matthew 10:16 when He said that we are to be as “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Gullibility is unacceptable when we have the very truth of God at our fingertips.
Study/Meditation: Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5. How do Paul’s instructions in this letter to Timothy mirror those in his letter to the Romans? How can you apply these instructions to your life?
*Father, help me to be discerning as to what is evil and contrary to Your Word. Make me as wise as a serpent and as innocent as a dove. Amen.
Discernment is a trait well needed in the church. #truth
Romans 16:18 “For such persons (those who teach false doctrine) do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.”
One of the obstacles for believers in seeking to follow Paul’s direction in these verses is that we often mistakenly think that false teachings will originate from an obvious source. In other words, we, like Snow White in the fairy tale, think that the witch will appear as a scary creature instead of the seemingly harmless old woman she actually shows herself as. Paul is warning God’s children to be wise and discerning in both what and who they follow. The men and women who are often the ones leading Christians astray in false, man-glorifying doctrine (serving “their own appetites”) are generally well-groomed and well-spoken. The phrase “smooth talk” actually means “pleasant” or “plausible.” The word “flattery” is simply “blessing.” False teachers don’t get followers by being harsh and rough in their speech and appearance. Church members are many times lured instead by speech that is believable and comes in the form of a blessing, often delivered by handsome people. It is our responsibility to be led first by God’s Word, not by the men or women who deliver it. We must wisely measure all that we are taught in the name of the Lord by the Word of the Lord. This is our only assurance against this kind of deception.
Study/Meditation: Read Acts 20:27, Romans 6:17, and 2 Timothy 1:13-14. What does Paul say in these letters in regards to discernment in sound doctrine?
*Father, give me a discerning heart so that I might be able to measure what is Your truth against what is false. Amen.
Unity is not defined by compromises in truth. #authenticityofScripture
I urge you, brothers and sisters, 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 has spent a great deal of his letter to the Roman Christians promoting unity in the church. This is, in fact, still his concern in this final exhortation, which might seem a little paradoxical at first glance. The doctrine that he has been teaching them is the doctrine of unity, but it isn’t unity in the sense of the pluralistic society in which we now live. The unity of the church must be founded on truth, not pluralism. Whereas the world might tell Christians that to believe that Christ is the only way to salvation and then want everyone to assent to that belief is arrogant and therefore not unifying, Paul would tell us that there isn’t really any unity without the foundation of truth. When there is no truth that deserves assent from everybody, the only moderator in our competing desires is power. Where truth doesn’t define what’s right, might makes right. Where might makes right, there is only a unified state of unloving captivity. As John Piper said, “When the universal claim of truth disappears, what you get is not peaceful pluralism or loving relationships; what you get is concentration camps and gulags.” (John Piper, “Watch Out for Those Who Lead You Away From the Truth,” November 5, 2006, desiringgod.org) This is why Paul commands that we not only work to be fully aware of these divisive and compromising truths, but that we avoid them altogether.
Study/Meditation: Why is it often difficult to spot these kinds of divisive teachings? How can you be sure that you are armed against them?
*Father, give me the wisdom and discernment to recognize divisive, watered down teachings that are not founded in Your truth. Amen.
God created us to give and receive affection. #churchfamily
Romans 16:16 “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.”
It was a well-known Old Testament custom to greet one another with a kiss. This kiss could have been on the cheek or the hand or the forehead, and even in some cases, on the mouth. It was reserved for close friends and family, as well as those held in high regard, and it was a sign of deep affection. Paul refers to it here and in many other places as a holy kiss, which is a kiss that is in no way sensual or erotic. (1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26) It was simply a conveyance of love and affection. Paul was encouraging this family of believers to treat one another with this kind of love and affection. There is an account of an orphanage long ago that had a high rate of infant mortality, and no one could understand why. The babies were well fed and clothed. They received immunizations and proper care. Still, more than 55% of the babies died within the first year. You see, even though these babies received good physical care, they were never held or kissed. No one cuddled with them or held them in a loving embrace. No one kissed their sweet faces. These babies died because they received no signs of affection and love. God made us so that we respond to touch and affectionate embraces; indeed, we only thrive as He designed us when we have those things. A simple touch or a well-timed hug or even a “holy kiss” can heal a hurting heart faster than any words might do. Shouldn’t we love our spiritual family in such a fashion?
Study/Meditation: Read Luke 7:36-50. How does this story illustrate the deep affection of a holy kiss?
*Father, help me to see where I need to be more affectionate with my church family, and help me to receive this same affection from them. Amen.