Monday, December 27, 2010

Romans 16 (A Final Warning and Task)

Paul closes out his most theological of epistles with the customary greetings. He starts by mentioning those brothers and sisters in Rome whom he knew. It is here that we see once again the nature of the work and the Church in this early day. This letter had not been addressed to “the Church” in Rome, but to the believers there, and here in the greeting we see that there are many churches meeting in homes in Rome. This is an insight into the nature of the church that Paul went about planting and that was normal in those days. The regular practice of believers in those days was to meet in small groups sharing life. They surely had a network amongst the churches and probably met together on occasion, but the way church was best lived out was in small fellowships.

At this point, Paul probably takes the pen from his secretary to write a personal word. He often closed out letters this way. Perhaps it was a thought brought to mind as he mentioned the house churches that he knew of, or maybe it was a thought that had been left out in all his effort to explain his view of the Gospel, especially as it related to the Jew-Gentile situation. In any case, his personal word at the end of this letter is a warning of supreme importance even today in the life of the Church. It is especially relevant to small groups meeting as the early church did:

Basically, be on your guard against false teachers and charlatans.

For some reason, the work of God in the world—the Church—is most often attacked from “within.” Yes, there is incredible persecution and pressure from without at times and in certain places, but the ever present danger comes from people posing as messengers from God. It is a shame that things are that way, but the Church’s number one activity on earth, aside from bearing witness to God’s activity, is to know the Word and sound doctrine and to guard against false teaching. Sadly, we are often not very successful on either account.

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