A Christian is someone who is obedient to God. We are different from others in contemporary culture, in that others relish their independence from God, whereas we relish our dependance on God. We reject the philosophy of Frank Sinatra’s famous song “I Did It My Way,” and instead strive to do things God’s way. We do what God tells us to do.
But at the same time we must not be naive and gullible. Just because we are gentle and patient does not mean that we should believe everything that preachers tell us. Just because someone invokes the name of God does not mean that he is a follower of God. The Bible warns us to avoid troublesome preachers who “cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned” who “by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18). Rather, we need to practice obedience without naivete as the Apostle Paul reminded the Roman church:
Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. (Romans 16:19 NIV).
Therefore, even though we are obedient to God we must be discerning. Our obedience must not be mindless: we must learn to tell the difference between the will of God and the will of man. We must study the Word of God to become experts of righteousness, becoming wise about what is good. But we must not be experts at sin, since this would require us to commit sin. We must be innocent about what is evil. We must know just enough about sin to know how to avoid it. Becoming wise in what is good will teach us enough to learn how to avoid evil.
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 [i]appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. (Romans 16:17-18 NIV)
Be wary of those in the church who are always tearing people down and destroying friendships. These people are not servants of our Lord Jesus Christ, but on the contrary, are slaves of their own appetites. No matter what they may say, or how much Scripture they quote, they are not concerned with furthering the cause of the gospel: they only care about their own careers. By their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. Yes, they are capable of saying nice things about people, but only as part of their agenda to advance their own career. They will not tell you the hard truth about yourself when you need to hear it, but watch out, because they will turn on you in an instant and slander you behind your back! These people should not be tolerated. They are a danger to the church.
As Christians we are supposed to be forgiving and loving to all people, especially towards other Christians. Nevertheless, we are not to be naive. Even though we love all people we need to be aware of the fact that some so-called Christians are simply trouble-makers, and they need to be kept in check. The Apostle Paul warns us not to let our guard down:
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. (Romans 16:17 NIV).
Believers need to be loving and unified. Unfortunately, though, there are some so-called Christians that will undermine Christian unity and brotherly love every chance they get. They may seem persuasive and friendly, but they cause dissensions and hindrances. These people should not be tolerated in the church, because this kind of disunifieing behavior is contrary to the teaching of the gospel. True Christians who display the fruit of the spirit are gentle, forgiving, patient, faithful, and joyful (Galatians 5:22-23). But those who display hatred, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, jealousy,and dissensions, are living contrary to the working of the Holy Spirit: they are manifesting the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). These troublemakers should not be tolerated in the church, no matter their credentials or how orthodox their doctrine might seem. We need to turn away from them until they repent. We should not tolerate them after they have already caused damage and viciously attack other believers. By giving them the right hand of fellowship we would only be giving them another chance to do more damage to God’s church. These people need to be rebuked and avoided.
Those Who Serve The Cause Of The Gospel Faithfully should be respected and honored by other Christians
Many American Christians are constantly complaining about things that happen in church. Rather than supporting and praying for those who work hard to serve them, they are constantly complaining about and exaggerating every single mistake the pastor, the deacons, the elders, or the missionaries make. But rather than constantly criticizing, we should respect and honor those who work hard for us and serve the cause of the gospel faithfully. In the book of Romans Paul lists some of those by names whom he considers worthy of honor, both men and women:
Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.
7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among[d] the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
8 Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord.
9 Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.
10 Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test.
Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus.
11 Greet Herodion, my fellow Jew.
Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.
12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord.
Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.
13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.
14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the other brothers and sisters with them.
15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the Lord’s people who are with them. (Romans 16:6-15)
The Book of Romans records that one time the Apostle Paul’s life was apparently saved by his friends Priscilla and Aquila who risked their lives for him:
Greet Priscilla[c] and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. 4 They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.
5 Greet also the church that meets at their house (Romans 16:4-5)
This selfless act by these two devout Christians gives us a practical measure of how much concern and care we should have for other believers. Sometimes it is appropriate for us to literally risk our lives for each other. I know believers who have felt called, for instance, to go and disciple churches in areas where it is illegal to be a Christian, where they might get killed by angry Muslim neighbors. Such actual killings happen all the time in the middle east and north Africa and other places. Sometimes believers need to be willing to reflect the love of Christ by literally dying for each other.
I do not claim to have enough love to do this, but I should. I pray that Christ will fill me up with what ever love I am lacking.
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. 2 I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. (Romans 16:1-2 NIV).
In this letter we learn of a woman named Phoebe, who was a friend of the Apostle Paul, apparently traveling with the party that brought his letter to the church at Rome. Paul calls her our sister because she is a fellow believer in Jesus Christ. She was a deacon from the church in Cenchreae. The word “deacon” means helper. I do not know if she was a formal “deacon” in her local church (there is some debate about whether or not women can be deacons according to Scripture) or if she was a “helper” in a more generic, unofficial capacity. Whatever her assistance was, it was significant enough for Paul to publicly praise her for it. He reminded the Roman church to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people. Furthermore, they were encouraged to give her any help she may need from you because she has been the benefactor of many people including the Apostle Paul Himself. The implication here is that she is worthy even of financial assistance, should she have the need of it. Perhaps Paul was writing this letter know that she was having trouble affording the expense of the trip, or she had some physical ailments that required her to seek assistance from others.
I think the point that we need to take away from this passage is that God’s faithful servants are worthy of all kinds of assistance, including financial assistance, regardless of their official post in the church. As a woman she was barred from holding the highest offices in the church and from being a public speaker in a church service. But that does not mean that her ministry was any less important than that of the men, nor was she less deserving of financial assistance. Today we need to remember to be helpful to all servants of the church, even the ones without official titles. Sometimes it is appropriate and necessary to give money to some who are not on the official church staff.
As Christians, we are constantly conscious of the fact that God has the final say over whether or not the plans we have for our own lives will pan out or not. The Apostle Paul realized this, which is why he asked the Roman Christians to pray for his travel plans. He personally wanted to visit Rome after first accompanying a relief expedition to Judea:
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there,32 so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen. (Romans 15:30-33 NIV)
Paul asked for assistance in prayer from the Roman Christians that they join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. As Christians we need to care not only about our own plans, but the plans of others, and pray for each other. Particularly Paul asked that they pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there. Paul was concerned about two things happening in Jerusalem: 1, that the unbelievers would kill him so that he would never get a chance to visit Rome, and 2, that trouble makers among the Jewish Christians would try to have him rejected by the Jerusalem church. We find from the book of Acts that later when Paul visited Judea he did indeed face trouble from both unbelievers and certain Jewish believers in the church. The first group indeed tried to kill him, (Acts 21:31, 23:12), and the second group tried to discredit him (Acts 21:21).
God did indeed answer the prayers of Paul and the Roman Christians by keeping Paul safe from both groups of people. But God did it in His own way, using great trials and difficult circumstances to accomplish his will. Paul was not killed, but he was imprisoned unjustly for several years, which inevitably helped to improve his standing against the critics in the Jerusalem church. It became obvious to all the believers there that Paul’s faith was genuine. As for Paul’s desire to go to Rome, God granted this too, but he used Paul’s imprisonment to accomplish this. Paul came to Rome as a prisoner, to stand trial. This proved that Paul’s desire to go to Rome was also God’s plan for him, since he was brought there by circumstances that were clearly out of his control. What we can learn from this passage is that God is a great God who can and does give us the things we pray for (if He chooses to), but he does not always do it in the way that we imagine. The ways of God are not the ways of men.
Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the Lord’s people there. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings. (Romans 15:25-27 NIV)
In this passage the Apostle Paul explains that all the Gentiles in Greece and Macedonia were making large contributions to help feed the poor Jewish Christians in Israel. Of course Paul would be thrilled to assist in feeding any poor, but he is especially excited that the Gentile believers are so willing to help Jewish believers, because the Gentiles Christians recognize that God chose to send the gospel through the Jewish people, and are grateful for it.
Passages like this reveal that antisemitism has no place in Christianity. Us Gentile Christians owe the Jewish people a debt of Gratitude, because God’s blessing came first to them, and God used them to spread that blessing to us. We have all been blessed through the descendants of Abraham. And so I will always be careful to show love and respect to Jews, even though most of them are not believers in their own Messiah, Jesus Christ. I will pray for and support the prosperity of the Jewish people. “For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.”
It seems like there are a lot of people these days reposting articles on facebook that use a number in their title. Frankly, I find some of these posts slightly annoying. Here’s my 7 reasons why:
1. The numbers themselves seem really random. If you write an article entitled “7 things that are wrong with facebook reposts” you would think that means that there are only 7 things that are wrong with facebook reposts, and that the author has done a careful, exhaustive study of all of them. But if you take the time to read these articles you will find out that the author has actually put very little thought into his points whatsoever, and has probably missed some major points, while focusing on some minor points that don’t really fit the topic.
2. They are way too dramatic. Many of these articles, which appear to have taken the author only 30 minutes to write, are a sweeping critique of the author’s whole life and all the major decisions he’s ever made. It is as if he or she suddenly, now, in this last half of an hour, figured out everything that is wrong in their lives. Do we really believe them any more?
3. They oversimplify and use too many stereotypes. Every single blog that has ever been reposted on facebook makes this mistake. Present author excluded of course.
4. They are not fair or objective. These articles rarely present both sides of any case. They present little research or careful thought. They may be lengthy, but they usually don’t say much of substance. The authors have discovered that it is easier to get reposted by triggering impulsive emotions rather than by treating important topics with the care and research that they deserve.
5. They’re all wrong. Every one of them.
6. I really don’t have a number six. This is the empty space that I would normally fill up with repetitions of my previous points in order to make it to seven points.
7. They are not written by me. Instead, they are written by other people who are full of themselves and think they are some kind of experts when really, I am smarter than all of them.