“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.
“We aren’t like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the Israelites couldn’t watch the end of what was fading away… All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:13,18,CEB).
The Old Testament story of Moses’ practice of veiling his face that the Apostle Paul is referencing in these verses is found in Exodus 34:33-35. The Old Testament story is one of my favorites because it’s theologically rich and yet, counter-intuitive.
Moses periodically entered into the presence of God at the Tent of Meeting. When he left the Tent of Meeting and returned to the people, he fastened a veil over his face. It seemed that Moses hid his face so as not to scare the already fearful Israelites with the shining glory of God that was reflected on his face.
But, that’s not really the case!
“Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned.” (2 Peter 2:2, NASB).
In this chapter the Apostle Peter describes the rise and fate of false prophets. He says that heresy grows concurrently with truth. As the truth of the gospel is more widely and broadly proclaimed, there is a corresponding increase in the willful perversion of it.
Deceit is a growth industry that is fiercely competitive with the truth. In fact, the misrepresentation or distortion of the truth of the gospel seems to be as prevalent as the proclamation of the true gospel.
Some of the Thessalonians had succumbed to a teaching that Christ had already come and so the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians refutes this false teaching.
Paul seemed somewhat surprised by the Thessalonians’ lack of discernment over doctrines he had already taught them (vs. 5).