(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
June 1, 2003
Dealing with Dissension
It has taken a year, but today we will complete our study of
the book of Romans. I have personally enjoyed going through this
book and have found it very beneficial to my own walk with the
Lord. I trust that the same has been true for you.
When I return from California, we will be doing a short series
on how to enjoy the freedoms we have in Christ and pursue
holiness at the same time. We will be examining a lot of the so
called "gray" areas to see what Biblical principles
apply to subjects such as Drinking, Drugs, Dancing, Dress,
Worship Style, Music & Entertainment, Dating, Courtship &
Marriage, raising children, keeping our bodies holy and setting
aside "holy" days. After that series we will start into
the book of Philippians.
We have a lot of good preachers who will be here while I am
gone including our missionary to NYC, Tom Broderick and our
former Associate Pastor, Chris Pandolfi. Dean Good, another
graduate of The Master’s Seminary will be up twice.
Pastor Paul Barnes and the men from TLC will be here one Sunday,
and then Elias Carrero will be here the week before I get back. I
trust you will take advantage of the ministry of the Word these
men will bring to Grace Bible Church.
Turn to Romans 16:17 and let’s examine this last part of
the book. It covers three basic sections. Paul gives final
cautions in verse 17-20, extends greetings from his co-workers in
verses 21-24, and gives a benediction in verses 25-27.
By the time Paul writes this letter to the Romans, it is
likely that he had been involved in church ministry and missions
for about 20 years. He had met a lot of people over those years
and shared in ministry with many of them. Last week we looked at
the greetings that Paul extended to those that he knew from such
ministry that had either returned to or moved to Rome. Quite a
few of them were specifically commended for their labors for the
kingdom of Christ. But Paul also knew that there were other types
of people that professed to be part of the Church.
In verses 17 & 18 Paul cautions the Romans about those who
might be among them that would not be helpful in the cause of
Christ. There would be those who would cause problems. Some of
these people would do this simply because they were immature and
ignorant. Others would cause problems because they were the
"tares" Jesus referred to in his parable in Matthew 13.
Jesus said in that parable of the kingdom that the good seeds
were the sons of the kingdom sown by the Son of Man, but that the
tares were the sons of the evil one which were sown by the devil.
They would be gathered and judged at the end of the age.
While it may seem surprising to some that there would be evil
people in the church, those who have been around longer know the
sad reality of it. We are usually not shocked when we find
non-Christians that do not like us and cause trouble. We usually
are shocked when people who profess to be Christians and love
Christ act in very evil ways and disrupt the fellowship of the
church. Paul had been in ministry long enough to not only know
God’s warnings about this, but to experience it himself.
Here in verses 17 & 18 he cautions the Romans about those who
would cause dissension and gives them some brief instructions on
how to deal with such people.
Dealing with Dissension (vs. 17-18)
Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause
dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you
learned, and turn away from them. 18 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
Paul’s urging here is the same at it was back in 12:1.
This is a serious matter and Paul wanted them to pay attention
and heed what he was warning them about and take the appropriate
action. Contrary to the popular idea that love just accepts
whatever a person does, Paul’s love for Jesus Christ and for
his people compelled him to warn about evil people that would
harm them. They must take certain precautions and then take
action lest they suffer the consequences of participating in evil
themselves. In these verses Paul tells them the precautions they
need to take, the actions they need to take and the danger such
evil people bring.
First Paul tells them to take the precaution of keeping their "eye
on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the
teaching which you learned."
The verb translated here as "keep your eye on,"
"mark," "take note of," or "keep a watch
on" is skopew / skope’. From the
noun form of this we get our word "scope" as in
microscope or telescope. It means to "observe" or
"scrutinize" by directing your attention to it. Here it
is used in a negative sense in carefully watching the behavior
and teaching of others in order to protect the church from those
who turn out to be evil. This word can also be used in a good
sense such as Philippians 3:17 where Paul tells the brethren
there to "join in following my example, and observe those
who walk according to the pattern you have in us." In
other words, the same kind of scrutiny should be made of those
who have a good walk with Christ so that we can follow their
example. We want to learn from and follow the example of those
who are living in godliness while at the same time take caution
against those who are not.
The ungodliness that marks those Paul wants us to keep our eye
on are "those who cause dissensions and hindrances
contrary to the teaching you learned."
"Dissension" (dicostasia /dichostasia)
means "division," "disunity" or
"contention." It is "objective disunity" in
the community (TDNT 1:514). It would seem to have a bit of a
"political" sense to it in that it results in party
divisions within the church. People take sides against each other
based more on personal affiliations than differing in carefully
thought out convictions. It was a problem in the Corinthian
church which had split into factions over personal issues, pride,
jealousy and selfishness. These were believers who thought
themselves to be godly and walking in the spirit, but in reality
they were walking in the flesh. Paul lists this in Galatians 5:20
as one of the evident deeds of the flesh. Jude 18,19 tells the
character of these who cause divisions as those who follow their
own ungodly lusts for they are worldly-minded, devoid of
Paul also tells us to keep our eyes on those who cause
hindrances. This is skavndalon /
skandalon, which is the trigger on an animal trap. Figuratively,
the idea here refers to those things that cause someone to
stumble into error or sin or would impede a person in their
Paul is specific here that the divisions and hindrances he is
talking about are arising because there are those that are
contrary to what Paul and the other apostles have taught. There
are people that make professions of faith in Christ and become
part of a church. They can even exhibit a lot of good qualities
and could become part of the church leadership. But there is a
problem within their hearts and minds. They love themselves more
than the Lord Jesus Christ and His people. They think themselves
to be wiser than the word of God. They pervert Biblical doctrine
and twist the scriptures to fit their own desires. They end up
being contentious to one degree or another and try to persuade
people toward their personal view.
This can happen over important Biblical doctrine, in which
case the person causing division and hindrances is usually rooted
out fairly quickly because the heresy they promote is easier to
recognize, expose and deal with. But it can also happen over
issues of no significance or non-Biblical issues. Many churches
have problems with this. That does not make it acceptable, but it
does shows the real danger that Paul was warning about here.
Paul is not saying that all divisions are unnecessary.
Divisions should not be made over personality issues or issues of
personal preference, but there are things over which there must
be a division made between those seek the Lord’s will and
those seeking their own will. All of us quickly understand the
importance of dividing between truth and error. There needs to be
division over heresy. Division must occur when there are
significant issues of doctrine or holiness. In 2 Cor 6:14-18 Paul
says, "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for
what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what
fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ
with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are
the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I will
dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and
they shall be My people. 17 "Therefore, come out from their
midst and be separate," says the Lord. "And do not
touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. 18 "And I
will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to
Me," Says the Lord Almighty." There is to be a
clear distinction between those who are following the Lord and
those who are not. This particular section not only touches on
doctrinal purity, but also on the common activities of life.
Obviously a Christian and a non-Christian cannot worship God
together, because the non-Christian is not worshiping the same
God. The same is also true between Biblical Christianity and many
sects, cults and denominations which deny the Bible as the final
authority. They may claim to have the same God, but the reality
is that they do not. A false gospel presents a false Christ and
that results in a false salvation. The truth of Jesus Christ can
set you free from sin, but lies leave you under sin’s
condemnation. Paul told the Galatians, who were being disturbed
by some who were distorting the gospel, "8 But even
though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel
contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be
accursed. 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any
man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you
received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8,9)
Paul tells us here in Romans 16:18 the character of these
people and their method of spreading their dissension and
hindrances. They are not slaves of Christ, as every Christian
should be (Rom. 6:22). They are slaves of their own appetites.
They want to satisfy themselves. They want their world to fit
their desires instead of God’s, and usually they are
self-deceived into thinking that their will and God’s will
are the same.
Their manner of operation is to use smooth and flattering
speech to sway people to accept their view. They seem so kind and
reasonable and they say the things people want to hear. Their
purpose is to deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. Proverbs
gives some stern warning about flattery. Prov. 29:5 says, "A
man who flatters his neighbor Is spreading a net for his
steps." Prov 26:28 adds, "A lying tongue hates
those it crushes, And a flattering mouth works ruin." Beware
of those who flatter.
. The Bible gives many additional warnings about false
teachers. Peter was very direct in saying there will be "false
teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive
heresies" (1 Peter 2:1). Their false teaching is often
brought in quietly so that it can spread and begin its
destructive work before those who have the responsibility for
protecting the flock are even aware of what is happening. The
real tragedy is that there are so many that want to have their
ears tickled, so they quickly turn from the truth to a false
teacher (2 Timothy 4:3).
In Colossians 2:8 Paul tells the means by which these
destructive heresies are often introduced. "See to it
that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty
deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the
elementary principles of the world, rather than according to
Christ." Too often people pay more attention to these
things which are at best the foolishness of the wisdom of men and
at worst the doctrine of demons than they do to the Word of God.
Such people disgusted Paul. In his warning Philippians 3:2, he
calls them not only evil workers and the false
circumcision, but also "dogs."
As believers we are in the world, but we are not to be of the
world. We are not to be bound together with those who follow the
world’s system. There is to be a separation from such
people. We will explore this subject more in depth in July and
August, but for the moment, please understand that holiness is a
serious matter. Jesus was a friend to sinners, but He never yoked
Himself to them. We are to be the same. We reach out to the
non-Christian with the hope of the gospel and demonstrate
God’s love to them, but we do not tie ourselves into
relationships with them in ways that will end up either swaying
us from holiness or make us responsible for their sin.
Psalm 1 gives us the warning we need. "How blessed is
the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand
in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But
his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he
meditates day and night." You are to be a friend to
sinners just as Jesus was (Mt. 11:19), but such sinners are not
to be your counselors and confidants. In other words, you can and
should be a friend to the ungodly, but they are not to be your
best friend or even a close friend.
There are necessary divisions that must occur between
Christians and non-Christians. There is also to be a division
between true believers and those who falsely profess such belief.
Those are divisions that a Christian must make, even as we will
see in a moment at what Paul says at the end of the verse.
Paul’s first caution here in Romans 16:17 is about those
that cause division within the body of Christ because of their
quest for self importance and / or glory. Paul warned the
Ephesians elders in Acts 20:29,30 about "savage wolves"
that would speak perverse things seeking to draw away the
disciples after themselves. It is important to note that
Paul’s warning is that these wolves would arise from among
them. The danger would come from within those who were part of
the church and even from among the leaders of that church.
Sadly, some of us have experienced the ravages of such wolves.
I have seen it personally several times. Sometimes it does not
surprise you because the "wolf" has demonstrated a
contentious spirit for some time. That in itself is the warning
that the person is not qualified to be a church leader. I believe
one of the greatest problems in churches today is having
unqualified leaders. 1 Timothy 3:3 states that an overseer must
be someone who is gentle and not pugnacious or violent. They are
to be peaceable, not contentious or quarrelsome. Titus 1:7,8 adds
that the elder must be self-controlled and not self-willed or
quick-tempered. At other times, you think you are all working in
harmony together toward the same goal, and then you find out that
some of your co-laborers do not really share that goal. They are
actually seeking power and prestige for themselves. That
eventually erupts in division.
Paul’s warning here is to be cautious of those who are
contentious and causing hindrances and then deal with them before
they cause any serious harm to the rest of the body. This is not
"witch hunting" in trying to find fault, but it is
active and careful observation of what people are doing and
advocating. The only legitimate standard for this is the Bible
itself. Legalistic standards that go beyond the principles and
precepts of Scripture can create outward conformity, but they
cannot create the unity of mind, love, spirit and purpose that
Christians are supposed to have with one another (Phil. 2:2).
What should be done when such people are discovered? Here,
Paul says to "turn away from them." In Titus
3:10 says to "Reject a factious man after a first and
second warning, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning,
being self-condemned." This turning away or rejection is
an action on the part of the true follower of Christ against the
one with the false claim. This is not done rashly, for as Paul
says it is done only after and first and second warning. While
Christians are to be kind and gentle, they are also supposed to
be strong and firm toward those who would hurt the flock.
The attitude that Christians should have is expressed well in
Galatians 6:1-4. "Brethren, even if a man is caught in
any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a
spirit of gentleness; [each one] looking to yourself, lest you
too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill
the law of Christ." We are not to approach people from a
position of self-righteousness. We are to be humble, yet we are
to confront. The major purpose of that confrontation is given to
us in Matthew 18:15.
Jesus said, "And if your brother sins, go and reprove
him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your
brother." The goal is correct and to win the brother
back and restore him to fellowship, so the first step is go and
reprove him I private.
What happens if he does not respond? Verse 16 "But if
he does not listen [to you,] take one or two more with you, so
that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be
confirmed." These witnesses act as a protection by
establishing the truth by confirming the facts of what is said
and the responses. It prevents unfounded accusations from going
any further. They also bring additional pressure to bear on
someone who actually is in sin.
What happens if the one in sin still does not repent? Verse 17
"And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church;
and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you
as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer." Here at Grace Bible
Church, if such a confrontation needs to take place, if members
of the church leadership were not part of the witnesses in step
two, they will also deal with the one in sin privately before
bringing the matter to the attention of the church. That is just
to make sure that "those who are spiritual"
(Gal. 6) are involved in the process before it goes public. The
whole church can then pray for the situation and bring additional
pressure to bear on the one in sin. Only after the one in sin
still refuses to repent are they disfellowshipped, for their
refusal to turn from sin demonstrates that they do not share in
the same fellowship that we have with Christ.
Many churches refuse to do this for various reasons. But the
Bible is clear on the matter. It is also the loving thing to do.
The same principle applies here as does in raising our children. "He
who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him
disciplines him diligently" (Prov. 13:34) Confronting
someone about their sin is the loving thing to do. To leave them
alone and tolerate their sin is hateful.
There are other reasons to carry out church discipline and to
reject a factious man. We have listed the
following in our constitution:
* To promote the proper fear of God (Acts 5:13-14).
Everyone in the church has a responsibility to "keep
their eye on those who cause dissension and hindrances,"
but the church leadership especially so. No wonder deacons are
required to "hold to the mystery of the faith with a
clear conscience" and elders are to "hold fast
the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that
he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute
those who contradict" (1 Tim. 3:9 ; Titus 1:9).
Final Commendation & Caution (vs. 19,20)
Paul gives the Romans a final commendation and caution in
verses 19,20. 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. 20 And the God of
peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our
Lord Jesus be with you. Paul rejoiced over the faithfulness
of the Roman believers to follow the Lord, yet even for those who
are doing well in their walk with the Lord, there is always room
to grow. Paul wanted them to be "wise in what is good,
and innocent in what is evil." Wisdom is the ability to
apply knowledge to the situations in life. Paul wanted them to be
very knowledgeable about what is good and apply that knowledge in
how they lived their lives. He also wanted them to be
"innocent in what is evil." To be "innocent"
(akeraioV / akeraios) is to be without
a mixture of evil, to be free from guile, to be simple. They were
not to have a great knowledge of evil. We do not learn to
recognize evil by studying it, but rather by knowing good so well
that can quickly tell when something is not good. The common
illustration of this is how people are trained to recognize
counterfeit money. They handle real money so much that they can
recognize a fake bill by just handling it.
Salutations ( vs. 21-24)
In verses 21-24 Paul includes greetings from his various
co-workers to the Roman believers. Timothy my fellow worker
greets you, and [so do] Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my
kinsmen. 22 I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the
Lord. 23 Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you.
Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother.
24 [The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.]
The comments about each of these people explains the reason
for including their greetings. The only one I want us to pay
special notice of is Tertius. The comment here is actually from
Tertius himself who was Paul’s amanuensis or secretary who
did the actual physical writing of the letter while Paul dictated
it. This may have been a common way for Paul to write given the
fact that in Galatians 6:11 Paul makes special mention that he
wrote that letter with his own hand.
Paul concludes the letter with a benediction that reflects his
introduction. 25 Now to Him who is able to establish you
according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept
secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the
Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the
eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, [leading] to
obedience of faith; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus
Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.
Paul wrote this letter to explain the mystery of the gospel
that God had finally reveled to man through Jesus Christ. This
message had been entrusted to Paul, among many others, to
proclaim to all nations. Paul assures them that this same God
would establish them in their faith and lives of godliness
through what God had revealed through the Scriptures. Paul says
that the gospel is a revelation of the manifold wisdom of God
(Eph. 3:10) so it is a fitting remark that Paul calls Him here
the only wise God.
The last phrase is the fitting conclusion to this book. Glory
belongs to God forever, and it comes through Jesus Christ who has
brought the reconciliation between God and man to all who believe
through the redemption purchased with His own blood. In this
letter Paul has explained how all this has come about and what
the ramifications should be in our lives. The only question left
is how we will respond. Your choice will be made in the decisions
you make in the daily activities of life. Will you give God the
glory He deserves through what Jesus Christ has done? Will you be
a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God? Or will you
withhold the glory that belongs to God because you walk in your
own wisdom to fulfill your own will instead of His? The former
fulfills the purpose for which God created you. The later results
in a vain life of chasing after the wind, void of eternal value.
I pray that you will choose to glorify God.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What is the context of Romans 16:17-20? What are
"dissensions"? What are "hindrances"? What
does it mean to "keep your eye on those" who cause
these things? What "teaching" is Paul referring to? Can
this be used to support the authority of church tradition? Why or
why not? In what manner should Christians turn away from such
people? Be specific as possible – give examples. Whose slave is
the Christian to be? Why? What does it mean to be a slave of your
"own appetites"? How do they deceive others to follow
them? What other warnings do the Scriptures give about such
people? Have you ever been swayed by such people? How did you
resist / overcome their persuasion? What character trait did Paul
commend in the Romans? How can you be wise in what is good and
also innocent in what is evil? Give practical examples. Do you
need to fear Satan? Why or why not? Who is Tertius? What did he
do? How does God establish His people? How has the gospel been
manifested? What is to be the result of this manifestation? Is it
having this result in your own life? If not, why not? What needs
to change? What does Paul conclude in verse 27 that belongs to
God? How are you giving this to Him?
Dealing with Dissension – Romans 16:17-27
Dealing with Dissension (vs. 17-18)
skopew / skope’ =
dicostasia /dichostasia =
skandalon / skandalon =
Divisions & Dividers
Steps of discipline
Reasons to discipline
Final Commendation & Caution (vs. 19,20)
Salutations ( vs. 21-24)