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Begin with me then in verse He warns the Christians at Rome about a certain type of people. They are described here in verse 17 as people who cause divisions and offenses. The word divisions here talks about making factions in the church. People who separate and divide the church into different parties.

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The word for offense here is sometimes translated as a stumbling block. The point here is that these false teachers are bringing something theologically offensive that could trip you up; it could cause people to stumble over it. Think of how Jesus said in Mark that it would be better for someone to have a millstone tied around their neck and be thrown into the sea than for them to make someone stumble.

Look at verse They deceive. They use smooth words and flattering speech to deceive.

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This makes them sound like charlatans and swindlers. And notice particularly who they deceive. It says they deceive the simple. Who are the simple? Well, the book of Proverbs helps us to understand them because it uses that language too. In the book of Proverbs, you tend to find two big groups mentioned. The wise, and the fool. But there is another group mentioned from time to time that is somewhere in between. Proverbs says that the book of Proverbs is to give prudence to the simple and to the young man knowledge and discretion.

And so the simple here is someone who innocently is looking to do the right thing, but needs to grow into greater maturity and wisdom. The simple, in other words, are more prone to fall to the deceptions of these false teachers and heretics. The other way to look at it, is that these false teachers are essentially preying on the young and the weak. Paul further explains his reasoning here for why we should be so concerned about these false teachers. In verse 17, the clear point is that this is all contrary to the doctrine which they had learned. The literal grammar in verse 17 is saying something to the effect that these false teachers are bringing something alongside the right doctrine that they had already learned.

Many people today seem to have a low regard for doctrine, even among some who profess Christianity. But the Bible thinks doctrine is so important. Paul says in Galatians that if even he himself, or an angel, came and preached to them a different gospel, let him be accursed! We as Christians must not compromise on the fundamentals of the Christian doctrine.

We must insist on safeguarding the gospel from those who would set up contrary truths alongside it. Doctrine is important.

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And so look at how Paul describes their service: verse 18, they are not serving Jesus. Instead they serve their own bellies. That is likely referring to their motivations, and not so much a comment on what they were teaching. In other words, this is likely exposing their true intentions. They were looking to make money by coming in to this newly formed church and trying to steal away some of its young exuberant followers and extract money and benefits out of them.

They bring their strange doctrines in order to deceive, with the intent of making money. And so realize that Paul is not warning the church about the various confused saints in their midst who may struggle with some specific point of doctrine and are peacefully working through those. No, he has in mind those savage wolves among the sheep. The New Testament repeatedly warns us of such false prophets and false teachers.

And so Paul tells the church at Rome how to respond to such evil people. Two responses.

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Note them, and then avoid them. They need to be on the lookout for people such as these. They need to be on guard and looking out for the wolves that would come to prey on the sheep. They need to find them and identify them. And then they need to avoid them. The word to avoid them here in verse 17 can also be translated to shun them. It means that you purposely avoid association with them. If that sounds serious, you must remember that these are the people that would come into the church, not as an innocent inquirer.

These are the people who would come with malicious intent to cause trouble and pull away followers.

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The church is called to identify such people and not give them a venue for their evils. So our first point today has been to understand how Paul calls us to note and avoid those who cause divisions and offenses in the church. In verse 19, Paul says that he would have them to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. And so our next point will be to think further about that goal: being wise in terms of what is good and simple in terms of what is evil. Notice first in verse 19 that Paul begins with commending the Romans. They have in fact been doing good.

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Their obedience has become well known. No, in fact, as a young church they evidently have a good reputation. At the same time, Paul seems to be doing some preventative education here. Paul has seen these false teachers come in and wreak havoc in other congregations. He knows they are out there. Paul wants to warn them ahead of time of this threat.

You see, this is what the simple need. The young in the faith may be doing good, but they may not be that wise yet in the good. Wisdom is something to pursue and grow in.

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Because when a false teacher comes to you he is going to present his false teachings as good. The young in the faith may be more easily tricked because of a lack of wisdom with regard to what is good. They hear the persuasive words of the false teacher and is tricked into thinking some false doctrine is good. Wisdom is a safeguard, particularly wisdom with regard to what is truly good or not. This is what Paul is saying he wants them to grow in.

Yes, they are already doing good. But surely many of them are babes in the faith. They have a certain innocence about them in their newfound faith, similar to how a young child might have a certain innocence about them. Or when a youth leaves home they might have a certain innocence about them with regard to the ways of the world. Such are more prone to the deception of religious swindlers and spiritual charlatans. Again, Paul wants them to instead be growing wise in the good. And this will start by them realizing that there are some people out to get them, spiritually speaking. This is similar to the warning Jesus gave his disciples. The other side of this, of course, is Paul says here that he wants them to be simple concerning evil. This word of simple here in verse 19 is different than the one in verse This word for simple in verse 19 most literally means without mixture.

In other words, he wants them to not be mixed partially with evil. You see, they are on a good track right now. They are growing in the faith and in obedience to God. But when the false teachers come through they threaten to mix in some bad. The false teachers could work in a little false doctrine here and there and a little ungodliness here and there. The result would be this complex mixture of truth and error. And we know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump, Galatians A little mixing in of some evil, a little mixing in of some false doctrine, can have disastrous effects.

And so Paul would have them to grow in wisdom as to what is good, so as to not fall prey to the mixing in of such evil. Growth in spiritual maturity.

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Maturity that means they are more able to discern truth from error. That they become experts in the good and have nothing to do with the evil. Jesus said something similar in Matthew Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Wisdom that will give us prudence and discretion.

Wisdom as the book of Proverbs commends, and frankly all of Scripture. Well, in our final point for today, I want us to realize what it going on behind all of this.