Romans 16:17, 18
Now I beseech you, brothers, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned…
A bright galaxy of Christian stars has been enumerated in this chapter. In contrast with these "lights of the sky" are those wandering will-o'-the-wisps which lead men astray in the darkness; marshy exhalations conducting to quagmires of destruction. The only course to be pursued in relation to the latter is to avoid them as a plague, as moral lepers whose presence brings contagion.
I. PERSONS TO BE SHUNNED. Those "who cause divisions and offences." True Christianity ever makes for peace. There may be rending and outcries whilst the former evil spirit is undergoing expulsion; there are often searchings of heart and a forsaking of old companions and practices; but when Christ is acknowledged as King, tranquillity reigns in the breast, and peace and love spread their pinions over Christian fellowship. To break up "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" is a sure method of placing stumbling-blocks in the path of the unwary. More harm has proceeded from this source to the body of Christ than has ever resulted from outside attacks. Safety lies in withdrawal from those who walk disorderly, rudely disturbing the peace of the Church.
IX. WANTON PROMOTERS OF STRIFE HAVE A PERSONAL END TO GAIN. They "serve their own belly" Thus ruthlessly does the apostle analyze their motives, and he hesitates not to impute their action to a base desire for self-gratification. Perhaps they aim at notoriety, or they are jealous of the accepted leaders of religious life. The pugnacious see little chance of distinguishing themselves in seasons of serenity. The arm rebels against the governing head, and instead of counting it an honour to minister according to its functions, would rather force the rest of the frame to pander to its single indulgence. The simple are easily imposed on by specious professions and plausible protestations of a regard for the common weal.
III. JUDGE THE CONDUCT OF MEN BY THE STANDARD OF TRUTH. We are not left to our intuitive discernment. What is "contrary to the doctrine" of the apostles can never be allowed as a basis of division. Heavy is the responsibility those incur who initiate strife among Christians. Let them be certain first that what they bring forward as a test is truth, important fundamental truth. If it opposes the ethical rules or the elementary teachings on which the gospel is established, it carries its own condemnation. A speculative theory is not a sufficient reason for throwing a firebrand amongst the articles of faith. Such behaviour differs radically from a religious reformation like that of Luther, where it is a return to gospel simplicity that is contended for, and not an overlaying of sound words with superstition and ceremony. The apostle's warning applies, not to genuine seekers after truth, but to those who delight in making breaches in the Christian fortress. Discriminate between schismatics and dissenters!
IV. THE MAIN SECURITY AGAINST EVIL INFLUENCE AND THE CHIEF PRESERVATIVE OF HARMONY IS AN EARNEST DESIRE FOR THE GLORY OF CHRIST. "Serve our Lord Christ." As a wire introduced into a solution promotes crystallization, so really Christian thoughts and purposes and acts group themselves around the Person of the Saviour. Petty longings are subordinated to the one grand idea of doing the will of the Lord. The foe cares little about the damage inflicted on the kingdom; the servant grieves over every disruption of its peace and power. Even necessary departures from a corrupt Christian society have been deplored as evil in themselves by the good men who have felt constrained thus to prove their loyalty to conviction. - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.