Romans 16:17
Now I beseech you, brothers, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17-20) Here the Epistle would naturally end, but an afterthought occurs to the Apostle, His experience of other churches, especially those at Corinth and in Galatia, suggests to him that he should warn his readers against false teachers, though such had not as yet obtained any great hold among them.

(17) Cause divisions and offences.—Set traps in the way of the unwary, so as to entice them into false doctrine and schismatical practices.

Romans 16:17-18. Now I beseech Παρακαλω, I exhort you, brethren, mark them — Observe and point them out for the caution of others. The word σκοπειν, rendered to mark, signifies, to observe attentively and diligently, as those do who are placed on a watch-tower to observe the motions of their enemies. Who cause divisions — Or, separations, as διχοστασιας signifies, namely, by their false doctrine; and offences Τα σκανδαλα, stumbling-blocks, or occasions of falling, by their factious spirit and scandalous conduct. Dr. Hammond thinks the apostle refers to the Gnostics, to whom indeed the characters, given in the next verse, of those here meant, do well agree. It is more probable, however, as Theodoret says, that he intends, τους κακους του νομου συνηγορους, the wicked advocates of the law, namely, those who preached up circumcision, and the observation of the ceremonies of the law, as necessary to the salvation of the Gentiles: and Chrysostom, Œcumenius, and Theophylact, agree with Theodoret in this opinion. And it is certain that these men caused divisions and separations from others, as unclean and not fit to be conversed with, Acts 11:3; Acts 15:24; Galatians 2:12-13; Galatians 2:21 : and set up separate assemblies for the worship of God, (see Jdg 1:19,) on pretence of greater orthodoxy and sanctity than others, and who would admit none into their communion but such as joined them in their peculiarities, and who represented all others as erroneous and impious. Contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned — Of us, the apostles of Jesus Christ, or from me in this epistle. Many of the Roman brethren, probably, had heard the apostles and other inspired men in Judea and elsewhere, from whom they had learned the genuine doctrines of the gospel. Estius justly observes here, that the apostle intimates that even the common people, by the help of general principles, might discern the true doctrine, even that which was delivered by the apostles, from that which was false and not so delivered. But this could only then be done by comparing that which was declared by the apostles, and confirmed by their miracles, with that which was delivered as different from, or in opposition to it, and was not so confirmed. And this can only now be done by private Christians in general, by comparing all pretenders to the apostle’s doctrine, with those Scriptures which they wrote, under the influence of the Holy Ghost. And avoid them — Avoid all unnecessary intercourse with them. “It is worthy of notice,” says Macknight here, “that the apostle desires the faithful to mark them who caused divisions, not for the purpose of disputing with them, and far less for the purpose of apprehending and punishing them with fines, imprisonment, torture, and death; but that they might avoid their company, lest, by conversing familiarly with such, they should be infected with their errors and vices. For, as the apostle told Timothy, 2 Timothy 2:17, their word eats as doth a canker, or gangrene.” For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus; they have not his glory in view, whatever they may pretend: but their own belly — Their chief aim and design is to advance their secular interests, and gratify their carnal desires. And by good words Χρηστολογιας, by speaking kindly, or by plausible discourse, and fair speeches Ευλογιας, by blessings; by praying for, or pronouncing blessings upon their disciples, or by praising and flattering them; deceive the hearts of the simple Των ακακων, of the harmless, who, doing no ill themselves, are not upon their guard against them that do. The word denotes persons free from guile, upright and unsuspicious; but who have not discernment or prudence sufficient to enable them to see and avoid the snares which the wicked lay in their way.16:17-20 How earnest, how endearing are these exhortations! Whatever differs from the sound doctrine of the Scriptures, opens a door to divisions and offences. If truth be forsaken, unity and peace will not last long. Many call Christ, Master and Lord, who are far from serving him. But they serve their carnal, sensual, worldly interests. They corrupt the head by deceiving the heart; perverting the judgments by winding themselves into the affections. We have great need to keep our hearts with all diligence. It has been the common policy of seducers to set upon those who are softened by convictions. A pliable temper is good when under good guidance, otherwise it may be easily led astray. Be so wise as not to be deceived, yet so simple as not to be deceivers. The blessing the apostle expects from God, is victory over Satan. This includes all designs and devices of Satan against souls, to defile, disturb, and destroy them; all his attempts to keep us from the peace of heaven here, and the possession of heaven hereafter. When Satan seems to prevail, and we are ready to give up all as lost, then will the God of peace interpose in our behalf. Hold out therefore, faith and patience, yet a little while. If the grace of Christ be with us, who can prevail against us?Now I beseech you - One great object of this Epistle had been to promote "peace" between the Jewish and Gentile converts. So much did this subject press upon the mind of the apostle, that he seems unwilling so leave it. He returns to it again and again; and even after the Epistle is apparently concluded, he returns to it, to give them a new charge on the subject.

Mark them - Observe attentively, cautiously, and faithfully Philippians 3:17; be on your guard against them. Ascertain "who are" the real causes of the divisions that spring up, and avoid them.

Which cause - Who make. Probably he refers here to "Jewish" teachers, or those who insisted strenuously on the observance of the rites of Moses, and who set up a claim for greater purity and orthodoxy than those possessed who received the Gentile converts as Christian brethren. The Jews were perpetually thus recalling the Christian converts to the Law of Moses; insisting on the observance of those rites; troubling the churches, and producing dissensions and strifes; Galatians 3:1; Galatians 5:1-8; Acts 15:1, Acts 15:24.

Divisions - Dissensions; parties; factions; 1 Corinthians 3:3; Galatians 5:20. The very "attempt" to form such parties was evil, no matter what the pretence. They who attempt to form parties in the churches are commonly actuated by some evil or ambitious design.

And offences - Scandals; or that give occasion for others to fall into sin. These two things are different. The first means parties; the other denotes such a course of life as would lead others into sin. The "Jew" would form parties, on the pretence of superior holiness; the Gentiles, or some hold Gentile convert might deride the scrupulous feelings of the Jew, and might thus lead him into "sin" in regard to what his conscience really forbade; see Romans 14:15. These persons on both sides were to he avoided, and they were to refuse to follow them, and to cultivate the spirit of unity and peace.

Contrary to the doctrine - To the "teaching" which you have received in this Epistle and elsewhere; the teaching that these divisions should cease; that the Jewish ceremonies are not binding; that all should lay aside their causes of former difference, and be united in one family; see Romans 14; 15.

And avoid them - Give them no countenance or approbation. Do not follow them; compare 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 John 1:10; Galatians 1:8-9. That is, avoid them as "teachers;" do not follow them. It does not mean that they were to be treated harshly; but that they were to be avoided in their "instructions." They were to disregard all that they could say tending to produce alienation and strife; and resolve to cultivate the spirit of peace and union. This would be an admirable rule if always followed. Let people make "peace" their prime object; resolve to love all who "are" Christians, and it will be an infallible guage by which to measure the arguments of those who seek to promote alienations and contentions.

17. Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned—"which ye learned."

and avoid them—The fomentors of "divisions" here referred to are probably those who were unfriendly to the truths taught in this epistle, while those who caused "offenses" were probably those referred to in Ro 14:15 as haughtily disregarding the prejudices of the weak. The direction as to both is, first, to "mark" such, lest the evil should be done ere it was fully discovered; and next, to "avoid" them (compare 2Th 3:6, 14), so as neither to bear any responsibility for their procedure, nor seem to give them the least countenance.

He shuts up the Epistle with a seasonable admonition, which he reserved to the last, that it might be the better remembered: it is, to beware of those that

cause divisions and offences. By the former, some understand those that corrupt the doctrine of the church; by the latter, those that violate the discipline thereof: others refer divisions to faith, and offences to manners. There are that like neither of these distinctions, but, think he only cautions them against church dividers; and mentions scandal or offences as the effect or fruit of church divisions. He seems to aim more especially at those who, together with the Christian faith, did obtrude upon believers the ceremonies of the law, as necessary to salvation; of these he often complains as enemies to the gospel and cross of Christ: see Galatians 1:7 Philippians 3:2,18,19 Tit 1:10.

Contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; i.e. that you have learned from those that first taught you and converted you to Christ: q.d. You have been instructed in the true doctrine of Christ; and there are some that would innovate and teach another doctrine, that broach opinions that are contrary, or, at least, beside the doctrine which is pure and apostolical, and so make divisions and factions amongst you: of such as those he speaks what follows.

And avoid them; here are two precepts with respect to innovators and church dividers. The first is, that they should be marked. The word signifies such a marking, as a watchman useth that standeth on a tower to descry enemies; he marketh diligently all comers, and giveth notice accordingly, for the safety of the place. The second is, that they should be avoided, or declined: the like counsel is given, 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14 1 Timothy 6:3-5 2 Timothy 3:5 Titus 3:10 2Jo 1:10. The sum is, the church should excommunicate them, and all sound Christians should turn away from them, and shun their society, that they may be ashamed. Now I beseech you, brethren,.... The apostle being about to finish his epistle, and recollecting that he had not given this church any instructions about the false teachers, who had been the cause of all their differences and uneasiness, inserts them here; or he purposely put them in this place, amidst his salutations, that they might be taken the more notice of; and very pertinently, since nothing could more express his great affection and tender concern for them; and these instructions he delivers to them, not in an authoritative way, as he might, and sometimes did, but by way of entreaty, beseeching them, and with the kind and loving appellation of brethren, the more to engage them to attend to what he was about to say to them:

them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned. The men he would have taken notice of were such who divided them in their religious sentiments, introducing heterodox notions, contrary to the doctrine of the Scriptures, of Christ and his apostles, and which they had learned from them; such as justification by the works of the law, the observance of Jewish days, and abstinence from meats, enjoined by the ceremonial law, and that as necessary to salvation; to which some gave heed, and others not, and so were divided; whereas the doctrine of faith is but one, the Gospel is one uniform thing, all of a piece; and those that profess it ought to be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment: hence their minds were alienated from each other, and they began to despise and judge one another, yea, to go into factions and parties, being unwilling to receive and admit each other to communion; and thus by these men they were divided in sentiments, affection, and worship; and which must needs cause offence to the church and the godly members of it, as well as cause many so to be offended, as to stumble and fall from the doctrine of faith, and profession of it, and greatly stagger and distress weak believers, and bring a scandal on religion, and the name and ways of Christ among the world, as nothing does more so than the jars and discords among Christians: wherefore the apostle advises to "mark" such persons, look out for, narrowly watch, strictly observe, and diligently examine them: the metaphor is taken from watchmen, who look out from their watch tower, and observe who are coming, or pass by, and take up suspicious persons, and carefully inquire who they are, and what they are about, and whether friends or foes. So both ministers of the Gospel, and members of churches, should not be asleep, which is the opportunity false teachers take to sow the seeds of false doctrine, discord, and contention, but should watch, and be upon their guard, and look diligently, that none among them fail of, or fall from, the doctrine of grace, or any root of bitterness, error, or heresy as well as immorality, spring up, which may be troublesome, and defile others; they should observe, and take notice of such who are busy to spread false doctrine, should watch their motions, follow them closely, take them to an account, examine their principles according to the word of God; and if found to be contrary thereunto, note them as false teachers:

and avoid them; shun their ministry, drop attendance on it, depart far from them, have no private conversation with them, receive them not into their houses, nor bid them God speed; with such do not eat, have no communion with them at the Lord's table, withdraw from them as disorderly persons, who act contrary to the doctrine and order of the Gospel, and after proper admonition reject them from all fellowship with you.

{2} Now I beseech you, brethren, {f} mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

(2) As by describing by name those who were worthy of commendation he sufficiently declared whom they ought to hear and follow, so does he now point out to them whom they ought to take heed of, yet he does not name them, because it was not necessary.

(f) Watchfully and diligently, as though you should scout for your enemies in a watch tower.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 16:17. Σκοπεῖν] to have in view, in order, namely, to guard against; comp. βλέπετε, Php 3:2; but σκοπεῖν, speculari, is stronger, comp. also Php 3:17.

τὰς διχοστ.] comp. Galatians 5:20; 1Ma 3:29; Dem. 423. 4; Plat. Legg. i. p. 630 A; Dion. Hal. viii. 72. The article denotes those anti-Pauline divisions and offences, σκάνδαλα,—i.e. temptations to departure from the true Christian faith and life, well known to the readers,—which at that time arose in so many quarters in Pauline churches, and might readily threaten the Romans also.

ἐκκλίνατε ἀπʼ αὐτῶν] turn away from them, shun them, go out of their way. Comp. 1 Peter 3:11; Psalm 119:102; Sir 22:11; Thucyd. v. 73. 3; more usually with the accusative. Grotius rashly concludes: “non fuisse tunc conventus communes aut presbyterium Romae; alioquin voluisset tales excommunicari.” Paul rather counsels a rule of conduct for each individual member of the church, leaving the measures to be adopted on the part of the church, in case of necessity, to the church-government there (which was one regularly organized, in opposition to Bengel, see Romans 12:6 ff.). The disturbers, besides, against whom they are warned, are in fact viewed not as members of the church, but as intruders from without. Comp. Acts 15:1; Galatians 2:4.

The reference to the doctrine received certainly implies a church having Pauline instruction, but not exactly one founded by Paul himself (Ewald), like that at Ephesus. Comp. Romans 6:17; Colossians 1:23.

Romans 16:17-20. A warning, added by way of supplement, against the erroneous teachers who were then at work. This very supplementary position given to the warning, as well as its brevity, hardly entering at all into the subject itself (comp. on the other hand, the detailed treatment in chap. 14 15 of a less important contrast), evinces that Paul is not here speaking, as Wieseler, following older interpreters, holds, against such as already were actually making divisions in Rome. He would have treated so dangerous an evil in the doctrinal connection of the epistle and at length, not in such a manner as to show that it only occurred to him at the close to add a warning word. Hence this is to be regarded as directed against an evil possibly setting in. Doubtless he was apprehensive from the manifold experience acquired by him, that, as elsewhere (comp. Galatians 3:6; Galatians 3:11 ff.; Colossians 2:8 ff.; Php 3:2 ff., Php 3:18-19; 2 Corinthians 11:13 ff.), so also in Rome, Jewish zealots for the law[48] might arise and cause divisions in their controversy with Pauline Christianity. This occasioned his warning, from which his readers knew to what kind of persons it referred,—a warning, therefore, against danger, such as he gave subsequently to the Philippians also (Philippians 3), to whom the evil must have been all the nearer. Paul might, however, the more readily consider it enough to bring in this warning only supplementary and briefly, since in Rome the Gentile-Christian element was the preponderant one, and the mind of the church in general was so strongly in favour of the Pauline gospel (Romans 16:19-20; Romans 6:17), that a permanent Judaistic influence was at present not yet to be apprehended. How, notwithstanding, an anti-Pauline doctrinal agitation took place later in Rome, see Php 1:15 ff. Moreover, the precautionary destination of our passage, and that in presence of the greatness of the danger, is sufficient to make us understand its contents and expression as well as its isolated position at the close. At least there does not appear any necessity for setting it down as an original constituent portion of an epistle addressed to a church founded by Paul himself, namely, to the church of the Ephesians (Ewald, Lucht).

[48] The brief indications, vv. 17, 18, do not suggest philosophical Gentile-Christians (Hammond, Clericus), but (see on ver. 18) Judaizers, against whom Paul offers his warning. Hofmann prefers to abide by the generality of the warning, whether the troubles might be of Gentile origin or might arise from doctrines of Jewish legalism. But this view does not satisfy the concrete traits in vv. 17, 18, 20. See the correct interpretation already in Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia. The latter says: λέγει δὲ περὶ τῶν ἀπὸ Ἰουδαίων, οἳ ἁπανταχόσε περιϊόντες τοὺς ἀπὸ ἐθνῶν πιστεύοντας τῆς νομικῆς ἔχεσθαι παρατηρήσεως πείθειν ἐπειρῶντο.Romans 16:17-20. Warning against false teachers. This comes in very abruptly in the middle of the greetings, and as it stands has the character of an after-thought. The false teachers referred to are quite definitely described, but it is clear that they had not yet appeared in Rome, nor begun to work there. Paul is only warning the Roman Church against a danger which he has seen in other places. There is a very similar passage in Php 3:18 f., which Lightfoot connects with this, arguing that the persons denounced are not Judaising teachers, but antinomian reactionists. It is easier to see grounds for this opinion in Philippians than here: but chap. Romans 6:1-23 may be quoted in support of it.17–20. Special warning against certain teachers of error

17. Now I beseech you, &c.] From this ver. to Romans 16:20, inclusive, we have a paragraph or section by itself. It contains a brief but earnest warning against an evil which everywhere beset and encountered the Apostle—the bold or subtle efforts of perverted and perverting teachers, Christians in name. We may gather that this evil was only just beginning at Rome; otherwise more of the Epistle would be given to it.

Bp Lightfoot, in his note on Php 3:18, gives good reason to think that the teachers specially in view here are not Judaizers, but their antipodes—Antinomians. “They (the persons in this passage) are described as … holding plausible language, (Romans 16:18,) as professing to be wise beyond others, (Romans 16:19,) and yet not innocent in their wisdom. They appear therefore to belong to the same party to which the passages Romans 6:1-23, Romans 14:1 to Romans 15:6, of that Epistle [to the Romans] are chiefly addressed.”[48]

[48] We think, however, that the opinions refuted in ch. 6 are not identical with those corrected in cch. 14, 15. In the former case, St Paul makes no compromise; in the latter, as regards abstract principle, he almost identifies himself with those whom he reproves. In the present verse, accordingly, we take the Antinomians whom the Romans are to avoid to be Antinomians in the fullest sense; rejecters of the moral (as well as ceremonial) law in all respects; heretics, in fact, of the type afterwards developed in some forms of Gnosticism,—holding, probably, that the acts of the body were indifferent to the soul. They thus may have coincided with the persons in view in ch. 16, but hardly with those in view in cch. 14, 15.

mark] watch; so as to avoid them. Cp. Php 3:17, where the same word is used with an opposite reference—“watch, so as to follow with them.”

divisions and offences] Strictly, and better, the divisions and the stumblingblocks. He refers to circumstances already well-known in various Churches, and beginning to be felt at Rome.

contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned] Lit. beyond the teaching which you (emphatic) did learn. (“Contrary,” however, rightly represents the Gr.)—The emphasis on “you” seems to indicate that the erring teachers were, or would be, visitors to Rome, not original members of the Roman Church.—“Did learn:”—at the time of their evangelization. On the question, when that time was, see Introduction, i. § 17, 23.

“The teaching they had learned” could admit no real compromise, just because it was, in its origin, “not the word of men, but the word of God.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13. Cp. Galatians 1:6-10.

avoid them] A peaceable but effective way of resistance.—Cp. 2 Timothy 3:5; 2 John 1:10. But these parallels are not exact; for the present passage seems to be specially a caution to individual Christians, not to go as learners to the erring teachers.Romans 16:17. Ἀδελφοὶ, brethren) While he is embracing in his mind, in Romans 16:16, the churches of Christ, exhortation suggests itself incidentally; for when it is concluded in the form of a parenthesis, they, who send salutations, are added to those, who receive them: Romans 16:21.—τοὺς τὰς) There were therefore such men at Rome. The second epistle to the Thessalonians, which was written before this to the Romans, may be compared, ch. 2—τὰς διχοστασίας, divisions) by which [what is even] good is not well defended.—ταʼ σκάνδαλα, offences) by which [what is positively] evil gains admittance.—ἐμάθετε, ye have learned) To have once for all learned constitutes an obligation, 1 Corinthians 15:1; 2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:9; Php 4:9; 2 Timothy 3:14.—ἐκκλίνατε) comp. στέλλεσθαι, 2 Thessalonians 3:6; παραιτοῦ, Titus 3:10; comp. 1 Corinthians 5:11; 2 John Romans 16:10. There was not yet the form of a church at Rome. The admonition therefore is rather framed so as to apply to individuals, than to the whole body of believers. There is however a testimony regarding the future in this epistle to the Romans, as the Song of Moses was a rule to be followed by Israel.Verse 17. - Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause the divisions and offences (τὰ σκάνδαλα, meaning "causes of stumbling." Both the words have the article, so as to denote things known of) contrary to the doctrine which ye learned; and avoid them; rather, turn away from them; i.e. shun them; have nothing to do with them. The allusion seems to be, not to persons within the Church, but rather to outsiders, who come with new notions to disturb its peace. Divisions - offenses (τὰς διχοστασίας - τὰ σκάνδαλα)

The article with each noun points to some well-known disturbances. The former noun occurs only in Paul.

Avoid (ἐκκλίνατε)

Better, as Rev, turn aside. Not only keep out of their way, but remove from it if you fall in with them.

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