Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissention and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.
One of the reasons that Paul wrote the Book of Romans was to warn the believers against the false teachers known as Judaizers. These men were teaching keeping of the Mosaic Law for salvation and/or spirituality. Paul, on the other hand was teaching the truth of God’s grace which was in opposition to these false teachers.
We are not told if this false teaching had already made its way to Rome, but Paul anticipated that it would reach them. Therefore, we have Paul’s interruption of his salutation at the end of the Book of Romans. Of course, by way of the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit we have this warning to all believers in all dispensations regarding those who deliberately seek to lead believers astray into false doctrine and cause dissention in the local church.
The Greek words in this verse give us a lot of insight into what constitutes a false teacher and what our response to them should be. For example, the Greek word for dissention is “dichostasia,” which means to cause a division. And the Greek word for hindrances is “skandalon,” which means to put a stumbling block or a snare in the way. The believers in Rome had been taught sound Bible doctrine by their pastors and Paul was warning them not to allow these false teachers to cause a division or cause them to stumble by believing false doctrine. Paul encouraged these believers in Rome to turn away from or avoid these false teachers. The Greek word for turn away is “ekklino,” which means to avoid, to stay away or to have nothing to do with. Avoidance means not to expose yourself to their teaching, not to fellowship with them, not to approve them as ministers of God and to reject their false teaching. Sincerity is not a substitute for truth. False teachers often use Biblical phases, passages and Christian-sounding words. They distort the truth by taking passages out of context, ignoring dispensational truth or in some cases changing the meaning of God’s Word to fit their particular teaching. In some instances they even accidentally present truth. Satan is the great counterfeiter. Therefore, what his ministers teach is mixed with a small amount of truth in order to look like the real thing. Beware… you must always evaluate the message in light of the truth of God’s Word. With God, it is a serious matter to teach His people false doctrine and the consequences of such actions are serious, as well. (Galatians 1:6-9; II Peter 2:1-22; Jude 1-25; I Timothy 4:1-16; II Timothy 2:24-26; 3:1-7; 4:1-4; I John 2:18-22; II Thessalonians 2:1-12; Acts 19:1-7)
For such men are slaves not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
The apostate false teachers are those who reject or distort the truth of the Word of God for selfish motives. These teachers are called false, which is the Greek word “pseduo.” They represent themselves as true in order to gain entrance into a ministry. These false teachers have deliberate motives, which include monetary greed, sensual pleasures, luxurious lifestyles, power, and fame. They actually train themselves in the art of greed and lust. The Bible says that they use fabricated words of flattery with promises of prosperity in order to extort money and material possessions. They are members of the “mutual admiration society,” pretending to admire certain people in order to gain acceptance. They literally make merchandise, the Greek word “emporeuomai,” of the unsuspecting, unstable, spiritually weak believer. (II Peter 2:3-18; Jude 11-18)
They play upon the emotions of the duped believer since they themselves are ruled by their emotions. These false teachers have no substance in their message, they scoff at the truth and will not accept the authority of Biblical doctrine. These false teachers bring with them into these ministries destructive, self-willed, erroneous opinions that lead to divisions and the formation of sects. It is, of course, impossible for them to bring in accurate doctrinal information from God’s Word, since they are unable to learn truth as unbelievers or out-of-fellowship believers. These apostates are so arrogant they even reject human authority and speak evil of persons in authority over them in order to carry out their own agenda.
The Bible says that these false teachers live a lifestyle of the “rich and famous,” while turning the grace of God into a license to sin. They are arrogant souls, in love with themselves, in love with money and love to brag about it. Conceited, unholy, lovers of sensual pleasures; they cannot be appeased. They are rash in their speech, lack self-control, especially over their emotions, and cannot be trusted. With everything they have accumulated they are nevertheless ungrateful and callous to human affection, they do not honor their parents and are haters of anything good. We are commanded to avoid these blasphemers of truth. (II Timothy 3:2-5; II Peter 2:2,12, 13,14,19; Jude 8,16,18)
The followers of apostate teachers fail to take responsibility for their own decisions and actions, entering into the arrogance of self-justification, self-deception and self-absorption. Because of their instability from lack of Bible doctrine in the soul, they are easily lured away into apostasy themselves. Like a fisherman catching a fish, these false teachers entice the weak believer, not only into taking the bait, but paying for it.
The proper response to apostasy is clearly given to us in Jude 20-25. It is interesting that we can find all of the problem-solving devices in these verses:
For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good, and innocent in what is evil.
Paul’s rejoicing with regard to the believers in Rome was first for their obedience in believing the Gospel and second in learning and applying Bible doctrine under the ministry of the pastors in Rome. This information had made its way back to Paul and he was aware of their love for God and their advancement in the Christian Way of Life.
Paul’s authority was not directly involved here; he was not a pastor in any one of the churches. He was an apostle and therefore had authority over all the churches but he did not know most of these people, and therefore Paul was not trying to use his authority at this time. What he was doing was admiring and enjoying the fact that people who were not his congregation, but the congregation of some other pastor, had recognized the authority of that pastor and were growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. He was inspired by the grace and doctrinal orientation of the Roman believers.
Paul knew that there would be false teaching coming to Rome and he was encouraging these believers to be wise with regard to what was good and to be innocent of entering into any form of evil. Good in this verse is a reference to believing accurate Bible doctrine taught by their pastors. In contrast, evil in this verse is a reference to believing the false doctrine taught by the Judaizers and other false teachers. Only by residing in God’s power system can the believer avoid the false teaching of misguided, greedy, power-hungry teachers.
God has given us a power system so that we can execute His plan, purpose and will while living in Satan’s cosmic system. It is an encapsulated environment in which we can choose to live and it affords the believer all the necessary tools for a successful life as a Christian. Jesus Christ tested and proved this encapsulated life for us and now sits at the right hand of God the Father as a testimony to its effectiveness. As believers, we have been given the same power system that was given to Christ, which enabled Him to live a sinless life. Though we cannot live a sinless life, we can live a life pleasing to God when we reside in God’s encapsulated environment and utilize His power system.
Only by residing in God’s system can the believer overcome the craftiness and deceit of the devil. Satan is the great counterfeiter and will do everything in his power to stop the unbeliever from trusting Christ as Savior and to stop the believer from executing God’s plan. Satan uses his power and genius to present himself and his followers as ministers of righteousness, while leading the unsuspecting and duped believer into a life of self-righteous arrogance or lascivious lawlessness. However, no one has an excuse when it comes to Satan’s ploys. We all possess volition and we make the choice to reside in either God’s system or Satan’s system. (Colossians 1:13)
Even when we do fail and fall into Satan’s trap, we can be delivered from Satan’s power. God in His matchless grace has provided a way back into His system. The believer does not have to spend time in Satan’s cosmic system. The way back into God’s system is the Rebound Technique, which is naming or acknowledging your personal sins directly to God. The believer is then restored to fellowship with God and to the power and guidance of God the Holy Spirit (God’s power system). This is why it is so important to keep “short accounts” with God. When you, as a believer, realize that you have sinned, immediately name it to God. This way you will sustain any momentum that you have and will stay in fellowship with God for longer periods of time. No believer, regardless of geographic location, upbringing, I.Q. or any other factor has an excuse for not living within God’s power system.