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 naïve. Romans 16:17-18
I’ve had long phone conversations with friends over the years. Just as it appears it’s time to hang up, one of us says, “Oh, one more thing!” That ‘one more thing’ might have been frivolous but most of the time it was something important.
I remember one occasion when I was visiting a friend. We had said our goodbyes. I was in my car, backing out of the driveway, when in the rear view mirror I saw her running down her driveway after me. “There’s something I’ve been too scared to tell you the whole time you’ve been here but I can’t let you drive away without speaking it.” I pulled in, parked, and we sat in the car to talk another hour.
This is tone of the important p.s. in Paul’s long letter. He has said his goodbyes. He has reviewed faces, carved out last words, and just as he’s ready to say farewell, he stops to change gears entirely. What is so important? The matter of bad doctrine seeping into their midst.
What’s so dangerous about that! Isn’t it usually over minor issues? That’s naïve if that’s what I believe. Here’s the thing. The Word of God is the Word of Jesus. Anything that is added or distorted is no longer the words of Jesus. Whose words are they? Who would want to twist, distort, minimize, and mislead? Our enemy. He is subtle and works through the sinful appetites of men through their cravings for power, control, respect, or wealth. Adjust a small preposition in a sentence and the whole meaning changes.
Paul is parental. He sees the faces of these loved ones and is suddenly afraid for the potential that exists for bad doctrine; the kind that might begin small and lead them away from their secure position as a much-loved son or daughter of God. Peter was also parental and warned his loved ones of the same thing. “Be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.” What is the security he speaks of? Knowing who my God is and knowing that I can trust Him no matter what. Bad doctrine always erodes trust and causes me to back up.
And important postscript to any conversation.
One bad doctrine, Lord. Like – You could disown me and I could lose my salvation – and I’ll live in fear. So, please set off alarms so that I am not fooled in this age of deception. Amen