“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 naive” (Romans 16:17-18, ESV).
In the Book of Romans the Apostle Paul offered several theological discussions about Christian living. In the previous post in this series from Romans (see Pusillanimous Christianity), we learned that Christians don’t need to be afraid of the future. If your hope is in God and God is in control of your life, then you have nothing to fear because God is in charge of your future.
In Romans 16 Paul continues the lesson about becoming a mature, grown-up Christian. He said that when a Christian is immature and naive, he or she is susceptible to being deceived.
That’s because there are persons that claim to be Christians, who even teach other Christians, but think more about themselves and stroking their own egos than they do about serving Jesus and helping Christians grow spiritually.
These people use insincere flattery to make you like them and make you think they are important or smart or spiritual. The careless Christian is gullible and the smooth talk of these false teachers can sweep away the innocent and unsuspecting.
There’s an old adage that says, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” And this is exactly the point Paul is trying to make.
When you don’t understand Christian doctrine and don’t know what you stand for and believe, people with bad intentions, ulterior motives, hidden agendas or inflated egos can easily influence you to believe false teachings.
While the careless Christian let’s their guard down, the careful Christian remains vigilant against false teaching.
And, Paul assures us in vs. 20 that the careful Christian’s vigilance is rewarded because the source of all error, Satan, the devil, whom these false teachers represent will one day be destroyed and we won’t have to worry about false teaching any more.
James formulates Paul’s warning about false teaching into some simple, practical advice on what we need to do to keep from being a careless Christian: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7, ESV).
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. (2 Timothy 2:22-23, ESV)