Sean Duncan teaching at the last Romans Project meeting of the Summer. He spoke on avoiding false teaching by knowing correct theology.
17 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. 18 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. 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. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Going through romans all summer we have seen the simplicity of the cross and how it is our most basic need, but we also have seen a glimpse at its complexity and how it is the most substantive thing we could ever want or desire.
Romans is one of the most dense explicitly theological books of the bible and for good reason. The theme of Romans like we said week one is the Gospel. From start to finish it discusses how God is reconciling sinners to himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the Cross and how that shapes our understanding and approach to life in response to that truth. From start to finish Romans eludes to and proclaims of God’s faithfulness in his promise to very unfaithful and even faithless people.
The theme of romans is the Gospel and it is wrapped in a theological discourse because paul believes, as we will see, that it should be the continued life endeavour of the christian to grow in understanding of God throughout his or her’s life. Your theology shapes the way you see God, the world around you, yourself, your purpose, nature, and all of creation. Your theology is your deepest held convictions of what is true about God, reality, people, and existence. Your theology affects everything, And how you understand the Gospel affects everything.
The gospel changes everything. And your theology affects everything.
We should all cling to better promises of Christ that is given to us through the Gospel. And we should reject the false promises of the flesh. That the world can satisfy us, or give us identity, or pleasure, or purpose, or security, or community. We get all those things fulfilled through Christ. So don’t let your biology shape your life. Let your theology shape your life.
Here is a quick reminder of what we have looked at throughout the summer
- (Romans 1) God gets glory through his promise to ungodly people
- (Romans 3) God’s glory is displayed on the cross as being both just and the justifier
- (Romans 5) Hope is the receipt of our justiﬁcaiton
- (Romans 6) Christ died for you, so you could live for him
- (Romans 8) We have hope in the fact that it is Christ that holds on to us, we don’t hold on to him.
- (Romans 10) Jesus is Righteous, Jesus is Lord, Jesus Saves
- (Romans 12) We don’t worship to get a response out of God, we worship as a response to God.
The church of Rome, much like our case today, is facing those who present false teaching from yet are calling themselves christians and conveying that they are bringing the same message. The problem with false and opposing doctrine is that it could lead someone to death. The essential doctrines of Christianity and the message of the gospel, that God is reconciling sinners to himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for all who place their faith in Him, lead to eternal life. But just like being a physician where malpractice can lead to serious sickness, malpractice in ministry is even more dangerous as it leads to death. So Paul now is warning both the Romans and us to watch out for false teaching by knowing what is true and being wise of God’s perfection.
17 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. 18 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.
We are warned to watch out for those who are creating divisions due to opposing teaching and to also watch out for those who create obstacles by teaching misleading and false teaching. Divisions, or opposing teachings are usually easy to see as they look like a big fork in the road, splitting in two different directions. While obstacles on the other hand are more like something in the road like a fallen tree, you can continue down the same path but by all means be careful to avoid that obstacle. If you were driving down the road and ran into a fallen tree that would be incredibly dangerous and even deadly, and that’s how misleading teaching can be to. Dangerous and even deadly if not avoided.
And these ‘teachers’ deceive the naive, the people who don’t really know any better. And they only don’t know better because they have not intentionally sought out the knowledge of the truth. And they do so with smooth talk and flattery, they seem like they know what they’re talking about.
Now remember in verse 17 paul is appealing to ‘you, brothers’, this plea and warning to beware of false teaching is not just going out to the church elders, or the pastors, or even the small group leaders, or worship band members, but this plea is going out to ALL those who are in Christ Jesus. Those that are in the family of God. The brothers and sisters adopted by the Father.
And the only real way to know what is not true, is to know what is true.
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.
Okay, here is what paul is asking us to do.
Wise of what is good. The Greek word for good that is used here is Agathos which denotes the significance or excellence of a person or a thing, frequently in a moral sense. Another place this word Agathos is used is by Jesus in the Gospels when he says “No one is good but God alone”. So when we see the word ‘good’ here we know that it is first and foremost talking about God’s moral excellence and perfection and Paul is asking us to be wise of that. Be wise of God’s character. Be wise of the truth of God and His Word. Be wise of good theology and doctrine. Know what is correct so you don’t get tricked.
Paul asks the entire body of believers, not just church leaders to be wise of what is good. To know correct theology. To know and understand true, essential doctrine. And to let their right theology shape and guide their life.
And Paul is asking us all to know correct theology because there is something that should happen to us after we are saved. And that is the way we see the Cross should grow in magnitude of its Glory through our understanding. The first half of romans beholds the glory of God through Jesus on the cross. Which leads paul to this place in romans 7 where he see’s his sin so blatantly right in front of him. And that is a result of the Cross growing in his understanding.
Once we are saved, as time goes on, The more we become aware of God’s holiness and come to understand it, the more we become aware of our sinfulness and our need for Christ. And vise versa. The more aware we become of our sinfulness and need for Christ the more we become aware of God’s holiness and yearn for greater understanding of it.
That is why it is important to study theology and know correct doctrine. Theology is not just for the scholar or the pastor. Theology is for every single person in the body. Your understanding of Theology shapes the way you see people, your job, your purpose, your standing with God, your value in society, how to approach social justice issues like racism or abortion, and it even plays into everyday normalities that we take for granted such as why we have schools, or why we have hospitals.
Everyone should be wise of what is Good. and innocent as to what is evil.
Evil, just as that word for Good refered to God’s perfection, and righteousness in his Moral standing, This word for evil means the absence of that. The word here used for evil can also mean immoral, wicked, or wrong. So Evil here is the absence of Good ( God’s moral excellence and standard) Any time we turn from the standard of God or fall short it is evil, but remember here paul is talking about doctrine. And any doctrine that does not reflect God’s perfection or is contrary to God’s word means it is missing God’s Glory and therefore evil.
And paul asks us to be innocent as to what is evil. So what is paul saying here? To be innocent as to what is evil is to not be responsible or directly involved in the teaching, or encouragement, or influence of false doctrine. That word for innocent can also be translated as pure. Be pure as to what is evil. Don’t teach false doctrine, don’t live your life according to false theology or even your biology, and don’t encourage what is immoral or false teaching.
We should be to good to deceive people and to wise to be deceived.
20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Paul is now speaking of God in a warlike sense. The God of peace will defeat evil and secure a state of complete freedom from Sin for those who believe in Jesus. The Kingdom of God has been inaugurated, But soon, the kingdom of God will be consummated.But do not be confused by our present day understanding of peace. For us we see peace as the absence of war. Peace as the absence of conflict.
But that is not the biblical case of God bringing peace. Peace is not the absence of war, but rather, it is the restoration of harmony between creation and the creator. Those who are in Christ will be in perfect union with Him. Peace is not the absence of war. War is the absence of peace.Don’t see God as bringing peace for a time being within surrounding times of war. See God bringing peace as restoring the complete harmony between believer and the one believed in, Jesus Christ.
God will Finalize and secure peace not just for himself, but for the christian as well as you see he says that Satan’s head will be crushed Under your feet. In Christ we are more the conquerors. But that process of finalizing peace for ever has already begun and is secured as an absolute of what is to come which is something to hope in (romans 8) Paul now ends this verse with the reason he began. The grace of Jesus Christ. The undeserved favor of Jesus dying the death that a sinner deserved. And bearing the punishment for sin of ALL the Sinners who take Jesus as their Lord and savior. It is by grace through faith that we can even call God father. So remember the truth of the Gospel. The right doctrine of the Bible.
Don’t let your biology overcome your theology.
If there is one thing you took away from this summer, I hope it was the Gospel and its impact on your life.