“Wrestling With Romans”
Guarding the Truth – (Chapter 16 Verses 17-27)
The unity of the Church is guarded by guarding the teaching of the Church, the truth (vv17-19). Why? Because every wrong teaching by its nature divides, it must do. The very first wrong teaching separated the whole human race from God (Romans 5.12), and cost the blood of God’s own Son to reconcile man to God. The rebel, motivated by Satan, still says, “did God really say” (Genesis 3.1), and still with the same silky-smooth talk and flattery deceives many people (v18). Paul no doubt has in mind the Judaisers, who mixed law and gospel, and sought to destroy the grace of God expressed in the gospel (Galatians 1.6-10; 3.1). Now Paul is not being unloving or harsh when he tells us to keep away from such people, the opposite in fact. Because these people who would destroy the gospel are responsible for destroying the souls of men and women. So how does this apply to our own situation today? Well we have those around today who teach another gospel too. Those who would say to us that there are many roads to God, it’s called pluralism. Now that is plainly contradictory to the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ himself (John 14.6; Acts 4.12). With such people we can have nothing to do.
Then there are the more subtle errors, those who still teach salvation by works, they say it is not by grace through faith alone that we are saved. They teach that through baptism we are regenerated, born again. They say that good works are as meritorious in God’s sight, as is our faith in Christ. Now all this kind of teaching attacks the very bed-rock of the gospel. As a consequence of Paul’s teaching on justification by faith alone in this very letter (Romans 5.1; 8.1), and in terms of what Paul is saying here, we cannot have fellowship with such people. Why? Because such teaching leads people to trust in their baptism, in their own so-called good works for salvation. And if the Bible teaches that salvation is through faith in Christ, and faith alone (Ephesians 2.5-8), which it does, then that contrary teaching must needs be soul-destroying doctrine. They may agree with us in other things, but if there is not agreement on the saving truth, there can be no fellowship. There are some Christians and Churches that are perhaps not too clear about these issues, who need to be helped, to see the clear light of Scripture. With such we must be ever ready to help, and bring folk to a better understanding of truth and unity. We don’t achieve that simply with blanket condemnation. Gently, with patience and love, seeking to instruct and bring to a better way (2Timothy 2.25).
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)