17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.
Verse 17 begins the final statements of Paul to the Roman church (16:17-27).
Verses 17 to 20 are a warning against enemies of the gospel. These people were interlopers. This danger will continue until God crushes Satan under the feet of believers (16:20).
17 Now I urge you, brethren,
“Urge” is a term of appeal, not a command. Paul invited his readers to listen to what he said.
In the midst of a series of greetings, Paul now broke that pattern with a warning to those who caused divisions in the church. He gave two admonitions about the menace the church faced:
The Roman church was to “note” those who caused divisions and offenses.
The church was to “avoid” these people.
The word “note” denotes to pay close attention to something. The Roman church was to watch out for troublemakers in their assembly. They were to search out thoroughly what false teachers might say. They were to keep an eye on false teachers and mark them as such. People need to know false teachers for what they are.
Ph 3:17, Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.
those who cause divisions and offenses,
Later, when Paul wrote the book of Philippians, he mentioned some who preached the gospel with other than pure motives (Ph 1:15-17).
We find the word “divisions” in Galatians 5:20, where it indicates a work of the flesh. The Greek says “the divisions”; that is, well-known divisions were occurring in the church. The “divisions” in this context are doctrinal divisions.
An “offense” is an obstacle, a skandalon (scandal). These offenses were the false teachings themselves. This may not be a stark false teaching but an emphasis that is not in the Bible. Again, the Greek says “the offenses”; that is, well-known obstacles to the Roman church were going on presently. “Offenses” were the hindrances to the progress of and maturity of the believer.
contrary to the doctrine [teaching]
However, those in this group went into false doctrine. The divisions were doctrinal divisions. False teachers sought to have people follow them and break the church into small warring groups. These were leaders who put self-interest ahead of the interests of the church.
which you [emphatic] learned,
Paul warned about people who undermine teaching from the Word of God, apostolic teaching. The “you” is emphatic, giving the force of Paul’s point—there are religious people out there who will defect from the Word of God.
and avoid [stay away from] them.
Have nothing to do with people entrenched in false teaching, Paul instructed—“avoid them.” The Greek says to “keep turning away from them.” Paul did not tell the Romans to discuss their teaching with the false leaders or to debate them. He said ignore them. He told believers to keep on staying away from such groups (present imperative). 1 Co 5:9,11; 2 Th 3:6, 14; 2 Ti 3:5; Ti 3:10-11
There are religious teachers who sound very plausible, but this apparent plausibility will lead astray those ignorant in the Word of God.
Jesus denounced false teachers (Mt 23). The Word of God is our only absolute. We must have a wary attitude toward people who claim they have special knowledge of God.
Inerrancy of Scripture is a crucial issue among today’s evangelicals. Some want to accommodate truth to culture. In doing so, they undermine the inerrant Word of God. Once evangelicals lose commitment to infallible, inerrant Scripture, they lose much of what they believe. True Christianity always rests upon the Word of God.
Ga 1:8, But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
It is not enough to have values but no ultimate value, truths but no ultimate truth, purposes but no ultimate purpose. If we possess no ultimate truth, all we have is a world of chaos. Pluralism of our culture stands in stark contrast to biblical truth. We have a pluralism in the church wherein evangelicals are afraid to assert certainty of the Word of God. No church can welcome different kinds of truth. Our diversity has unity under the Word of God. There is essential unity in God’s fundamental truth.