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We Interrupt This Letter ...

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
February 14, 2024 12:00 am

We Interrupt This Letter ...

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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February 14, 2024 12:00 am

Listen to the full-length version of this message or the other messages in this series here: In Romans 16:17-18, the Apostle Paul interrupts his letter of commendation to warn the Church about false teachers. It's a warning as relevant to us today as it was to those Christians in Rome. So let's join Stephen in this message as he gives us the marks of a false teacher.


Watch out for man-centered, man-exalting, self-absorbed, sin-denying, Scripture-diluting, ego-flattering teaching. Paul warned Timothy of this very thing when he said, The time will come when men will become lovers of whom?

Themselves, their world, their relationships, their career, their money, and not God. And you would never think that that could ever slip into the church. Frankly, it is the American church today.

Wake up to that truth. There are many people who seek out pastors or teachers who make them feel good. If you only seek out teaching that tickles your ears or makes you feel good about yourself, you're heading toward trouble. The depravity that we see in the culture around us can also creep into teaching that claims to be Christian. When false teaching thrives, destruction is the result. Today on Wisdom for the Heart, Stephen has a warning for you from Romans 16. The warning is this.

Watch out for false teaching. Grab your Bible because here's Stephen Davey with today's Bible message. If you have been with us these past weeks, the letter of Paul to the Romans has been sort of clipping along with one greeting after another. And then all of a sudden, almost rather suddenly, Paul stops and begins to dictate a warning, a severe warning that is filled with passion and pathos.

It's in Chapter 16. Let's look at verse 17, where Paul interrupts his greetings with these words. Now, I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you have learned and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ, but of their own appetites, their own belly.

And by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. The report of your obedience has reached to all. Therefore, I am rejoicing over you. But I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent and what is evil. And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. And then on Timothy, my fellow worker greets you.

And so does Lucius and Jason. He just clips right back into his greetings. It's as if Paul says, we interrupt this letter for an emergency siren situation with life and death implications for all of you in Rome.

Certainly all of us to this day in our churches today. Now, it's so sudden this warning that there are some who believe that it wasn't part of the original letter, that it was sort of dropped in later, sort of squeezed in between greetings. However, there isn't any reason to doubt that Paul here at this moment of greeting his beloved friends and fellow workers, is compelled out of love to stop the progression of thought and the names he's running through in his mind as he dictates at all the churches. And he perhaps takes the quill in his own hand and with intensity writes his own warning.

And it's a severe one. It's as needed today, though very unpopular today, as it was then. I think it's like Paul, frankly. He was always warning the church. And I don't think he would have been very popular if he preached today. He warned the church in Ephesus. He said to the elders as he left them after three intense years of teaching, be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood. I know that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. And from among your own selves, men will arise speaking perverse or errant things to draw away the disciples after them.

Therefore, be on the alert. Acts chapter 20, verses 28 to 31. The tragedy of that warning is that it for the most part went unheeded before the apostle John is even dead and on his way to heaven. The last living apostle, the church in Ephesus, is being challenged to repent. They've left their first what?

Love. Paul warned the Galatian believers with strong words regarding their slide back toward justification by works. He wrote, I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting him who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel. Galatians one, six. Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church ended with a final warning to watch out for those who didn't love the Lord. First Corinthians 16, 22. Paul's final words to Timothy warned him that people will naturally gravitate to those who make them feel better about themselves rather than challenging them to pursue holy living. Second Timothy, four, three and four. So it isn't unusual to me that Paul will interject a serious warning to the Roman believers at the end of his letter.

And Paul is basically warning them of false teachers. Why? Well, two reasons.

First, because they divide the body. Verse 17. And secondly, because they deceive the believer. Verse 18. He begins in verse 17 with familiar language. He says, Now I urge you, brethren.

We've encountered that word already. It means literally I beg you. I beseech you. Earlier in the prior chapter, he said, I beg you to pray for me. I beseech you. Pray for me. In Chapter 12, he said, I beg you deliver, present your bodies, a living sacrifice to God. This is your reasonable service. This is the most reasonable thing you could do if you want to worship God.

Give him your body. I beg you to do that. This word was used of the commanders during the days of Paul who would challenge their troops just before they went into battle. This is sort of the ultimate speech.

And the difference can be life or death. So be careful of false teachers. Be alert, he says.

Wake up. False teachers do not announce themselves. They do not hand you their business card and underneath their name, write heretic. They don't crash through the front door. They sneak in the back door, just as they did with Ephesus. And they attempted to do in the church in Galatia and in Corinth. Paul says, this is an emergency warning to my beloved friends.

Be alert for two things. Paul gives them in verse 17, two things about these false teachers who will divide the body. They bring dissensions and they bring hindrances. Now the words dissension and hindrances are far more serious than some hair splitting over minor interpretations or some immature spat between believers who are divisive over some issue.

This is far more serious. Notice how Paul in verse 17 connects the dissensions and hindrances down to the bottom of the verse where he talks about this is that which brings the dissensions and hindrances. It's contrary to that which you have been taught or contrary to the teaching.

Definite article. It refers to the faith, the doctrine, the body of truth which you have been taught. Follow them, Paul warns, and they will bring hindrances to your faith.

They will divide the Orthodox family, so to speak. The word hindrance is a word we've also encountered, scandalon. It gives us our English word scandal.

Doesn't refer to scandalous behavior or moral scandal. The word refers to the bait stick of a trap. The bait would be tied to the stick and that stick was the scandalon.

And whenever that was tripped, the trap would fall. Paul is sounding the warning that there are those that will pull away from you the underpinnings of the truth. And if you allow them to do that, the trap will be sprung and you will suffer in your Christian walk because of doctrinal error.

And that warning, by the way, sounded in the first century, must be sounded in every century and certainly in the 21st century, though the soundings have for the most part been silenced. Whether it is the warning to someone trapped within Catholicism, believing in the works of penance and mass that must be added to their merit for salvation. Or perhaps the Protestants who sprinkle their babies to ensure their place in the covenant. Or the Church of Christ that insists you have to be immersed underwater in order to ensure your salvation. Or the seventh day Adventists that say you must worship on Saturday and those of you worship on Sunday are following the mark of the beast. You must have this worship experience in order to ensure your salvation. Those who do not are condemned and on and on and on.

I'm sure you know, the harshest words of Christ were toward religions and the religionists of his day. In fact, those from within his own people during the days of the Old Testament, as you know, the law required unblemished sacrifices for those coming to the temple. But by the time of Christ, the temple had instituted inspectors who were to examine the animals. And in our current economy, you would have to pay a fee of about five dollars to have the inspector, the mamunca, inspect your animal.

And all would be well. However, the system was corrupt. And as a practice, the inspectors rejected the animals, finding some fault with them, thus forcing the pilgrim to the temple to buy livestock from that which was raised by the temple or the priestly system. And the problem with that was the exorbitant cost of temple livestock.

Outside the temple system, an ordinary pair of turtle doves would cost in our economy between 15 and 20 dollars. But if that was rejected in the temple, the court of the Gentiles, where the animals were sold, a pair of turtle doves would cost you 400 dollars. And no doubt, many worshippers were sent home.

They didn't have the money. It was nothing less than extortion in the name of God. It was the bartering of grace. It was the selling of forgiveness. Little wonder that the first thing Jesus did when he arrived at the temple was fashion a whip and clean house.

Right. And he said to them, as he's doing it, you have turned my father's house into a den of what? Thieves. You are selling access to God. You are stealing from those who want to worship God. You are charging for forgiveness. You know what's so amazing about grace is that it is free.

We can't come up with that. Only God can. And so the religions of that day and our day sell it.

They barter with it. And they bring great harm to people who want to worship God. Not only is Paul deeply concerned over false teachers who have departed from the truth, he is deeply concerned over false teachers who misrepresent the truth and deceive the body. Notice verse 18. He says, For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ, but of their own appetites. And by their smooth and flattering speech, they deceive the hearts of the gullible or the unsuspecting. They are literally he calls them smooth talkers. An interesting phrase.

Christa legea. They use fair speech. They use positive speech only. No negatives, no comments of sin, hell, death, judgment. It's all positive.

It's all good. Peter added his warning when he wrote, There will be false teachers among you who follow their sensuality. And because of them, the way of the truth will be maligned. And in their greed, they will exploit you with false words.

Oh, there will be words and plenty of them, but evaluate them. They will be false. Second Peter two, three. Paul told the Corinthians these false teachers will talk about Jesus, but they are really preaching a different Jesus. Second Corinthians 11, verse four, like the false teaching of Mormons who claim to be the newest Protestants or evangelicals, who would tell you today that they have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as savior. Same name, different Jesus, not the incarnation of God in the flesh. The one true and living God, but one God of many gods.

And you can be one God to a different Jesus. These false teachers, according to Paul, are slaves, not of the Lord, but their own agenda, their own desires, their own belly, literally their own appetites. They are driven by self-interest, self-gratification, sometimes for fame, sometimes for power over their followers, always for financial gain. Many of them enjoy pretentious lifestyles.

Sexual immorality is no longer the exception, but it is the rule. Paul wrote of them to the Philippian church and said their end is destruction. Their God is their appetite. Their glory is their shame. They set their mind on Earth. Philippians 3, 18 and 19. Their entire message is how you can get everything you want on Earth. It's all having to do with Earth.

It's stuff here and now. The trouble is they pretend to speak for God. They pretend to speak for Christ. They seem to be interested in the gospel, but the truth is they are really only interested in themselves, their work, their name, their accounts, their writings, their power. Evaluate their speech in light of the truth, the faith, the body of doctrine, and they will be shown to be teaching, really revealing, speaking for a different Christ. This isn't the Christ of the Bible.

Ultimately a false hope. Their gospel might be positive, but it is pointless. Paul warned the Colossians, see to it that no one takes you captive through empty deception, empty words, empty speculation.

Colossians 2, 8. Jude said these false teachers will flatter people for the sake of gaining advantage. So they will tell you whatever you want to hear in order to gain an advantage. The televangelists form an easy target who are multiplying like rabbits in our generation. Their message is one of empty deception. All you need to do basically is claim your divine lottery ticket and you'll have everything you ever imagined. Of course the lottery tickets are printed back at their ministry, but if you'll send them money they'll send you a ticket. That's selling the goodness of God with your seed gift that is bartering the grace of God. Ladies and gentlemen, Jesus Christ is not some genie and you rub the lamp of some man's ministry and he hops out and he gives you whatever you want. The true gospel is not a call to self-fulfillment. The true gospel is a call to self-denial. And when we become great and big and all-important, we have a different gospel than when God becomes great and big and all-important, right? In Robert Shuler's book, Self-Esteem, the New Reformation, which was no reformation, he wrote, it is precisely at this point of self-esteem that classical theology has erred in its insistence that theology be God-centered rather than man-centered. If you can follow that thinking because theology is the study of God. He wrote, if we follow God's plan, we will feel good about ourselves and that is success.

That's the ultimate goal in life. He wrote further that the gospel isn't about being a sinner but about a low self-image. In fact, he made this comment and I quote him, once a person believes he is an unworthy sinner, it is doubtful he will ever be saved.

How twisted is that? How contrary to the truth is that? See, Christianity is no longer the giving up of everything for the pleasure of Christ. It is the getting everything for our pleasure and we use Christ to get what we want. The goal of God is no longer his glory. The goal of God is your happiness and mine. Two thousand years ago, Paul declared, he issued a warning.

Let me interrupt this letter with a warning. Watch out for man-centered, man-exalting, self-absorbed, sin-denying, scripture-diluting, ego-flattering teaching. Paul warned Timothy of this very thing when he said, the time will come when men will become lovers of whom? Themselves, not God.

When the focus of their attention will be themselves, their world, their relationships, their career, their money, their ego, and not God. And you would never think that that could ever slip into the church. Frankly, it is the American church today. Wake up to that truth.

It is. So he warns and the warning needs to be heard today again. It is little wonder that this false gospel could be so popular that man isn't really condemned. Man isn't really a sinner.

You do not use the words guilt. You do not talk of condemnation or hell. If you're not a sinner, you don't need a what? A savior. When asked on nationwide television if someone who doesn't believe in the deity of Jesus Christ is going to heaven, Osteen replied, I don't know.

He said that nearly 40 times, I don't know. I'm going to leave that up to God. Even when the talk show host Larry King pressed him, persistently asking him about people who deny the deity of Christ. Are they going to heaven? He would respond, I do not know. I'm going to leave that up to God.

Well, that may strike you as a positive, kind response. I believe it is a betrayal of the gospel in front of millions of people when the answer could have been yes. Men and women must believe in Jesus Christ or they will die and go to hell forever. That's the gospel.

So where is the warning? Where is the statement of the gospel? Did not God already speak it?

It is left up to him, but hasn't he told us what he says about it? He said it through Peter. He said it through John. He said it through Paul.

Peter said he, Christ, is the cornerstone, but he has been rejected, he said, to his people, which was unpopular. But there is no salvation in no one else, for there is no other name given among men under heaven whereby we must be saved. Acts chapter 4, verse 12. Isaiah said it, quoting God in chapter 43, verse 11. God declared centuries earlier this truth.

I, even I, am the Lord and there is no savior besides me. It's very clear, God has spoken. The problem isn't that preaching the gospel is confusing.

The problem isn't that the gospel is confusing. The problem is that now more than ever, preaching the gospel requires courage and that seems to have gone missing. You cannot preach the true gospel without the bad news of sin and hell and condemnation and the cross and guilt and bloodshed and death. So where are the leaders in our generation who will say with the apostle Paul, I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We will declare that.

We will say that. As a church, we will hold to that. For without it, our gospel is neutered. Our truth is diluted. We offer no one a savior.

We only offer them a self-help therapist. Well, Paul provides some practical advice and part of it I've already implemented. First of all, he says, identify false teachers.

The list is much longer than I could ever bring you, but be aware, be alert. Notice verse 17 again, I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those. Literally, mark them.

Scapane gives us our verb scapea, which is attached to English words like microscope. Put them under the lens and look at them through the lens of scripture and analyze their teaching. Carefully observe or telescope. Watch them from afar. Don't be caught unaware.

Don't be duped. Every generation has false teachers, Christa legeia, smooth talkers that flatter audiences. But Augustine said centuries ago of these, beware the man who abounds in eloquent nonsense. Paul writes, watch out for them.

Now, would you notice, by the way, this is a command to the assembly, to the assembly. Certainly the believer, but the assembly. Guard the truth. We as a church body uphold the truth. We protect the truth. We studied the truth.

We haven't cornered the truth. We pursue it. We adhere to it. We love the words of God.

They bring life and liberty. So we pursue what he has to say for us. And in the assembly, we guard one another. Frankly, I can tell you that I lean on others who study the word as well to steer and to guard me. And I evaluate them in light of scripture as they should evaluate me according to scripture. Secondly, Paul says not only mark them or keep your eye on them. He goes further and he says in verse 70, turn away from them.

Avoid them. You evaluate them, but you're not influenced by them. Lenski writes that Paul's use of eclino means to incline away from them. You're listening, but at the same time you're listening, you're really leaning the other way. You're inclined away. You're pulled toward the scriptures lest you be pulled into the current of popular false teaching. Keep your guard up. Don't be like those that Paul refers to in verse 18.

Don't be among those who are deceived because of gullible or unsuspecting hearts. Paul interrupts his letter with an emergency broadcast signal for the saints. Let me warn you, he writes, why would he care? Because he loved them.

They were his beloved friends and we are beloved of God and we warn one another. Steve Farrar, who was with us this past summer in one of our summer series sessions, wrote in his book Standing Tall about a family who had taken shelter in the basement as a severe storm passed through their town. The radio warned that a tornado had been spotted. When the storm had passed by, the father opened the front door to look at the damage. A downed power line was emitting a shower of sparks in the street out in front of his home.

Before the father realized what was happening, his five-year-old daughter had ran near the edge of the lawn heading for that sparkling wire in the street. Lori, stop, he yelled. She kept going. Lori, stop. Lori ran right for the enticing cable. Lori, stop now.

Stop. He screamed as he ran after her, but Lori reached it first and grabbed it and was instantly killed. To her little mind, to her unsuspecting heart, it looked interesting. It seemed good. It looked like fun. It provoked her curiosity, but it was fatal.

And before it was fatal, it was dangerous. In this text, Paul effectively tells the church in Rome that we are, as it were, on our way to heaven, surrounded by downed wires. Be careful. Our mission is clear. We're rescuing people who are reaching for the wire with the truth of the gospel.

In the meantime, two things. Number one, the church needs discernment. He basically tells the church at Rome and us to wise up. Look around, be aware, think critically, don't believe everything you hear.

Just because it's pleasant and positive doesn't mean it is anything other than deadly in the end. The church needs discernment. Secondly, the church needs humility. He told the church to not only wise up, but in a way he said to listen up.

Listen up. Now, I don't know what the church did. But then after they read the letter, they gathered together and said, okay, now who would he be talking about? Who do we need to watch out for? Who is adding to the gospel? Who is diluting the gospel? Who seems to be leading people after themselves rather than leading people after the Lord?

They probably came up with a little list. But it takes humility to be challenged like that, doesn't it? It takes humility to hear a warning and be warned and thus change, but be warned. Listen up. Maybe God at this very moment through this passage of Scripture is interrupting your life, not with a warning about false teaching, but maybe it's a warning about false living.

Maybe you've reached for some cable and it's interesting. It promises excitement and you haven't listened to a word I've said because God's Spirit is performing surgery on your heart and all you heard was the word warning. And it has burrowed its way into your heart and you know God is warning you through this warning. Stop. Don't run there. Don't reach for that.

It may look good, but it's deadly. Discernment and humility receives a warning from God. Maybe the warning has come from your wife or your husband, your parents. Maybe it's a co-worker who's said a word of warning to you and you've responded with anger.

Maybe it's a clear passage of Scripture that you've decided not to read again for a while that says don't go there. Take the warning seriously regarding false teaching, regarding false living. The interruption, this one in particular, of an emergency signal could be the difference between life and death.

Stephen's working through a series called When the Roll is Called Up Yonder. Today's message is called We Interrupt This Letter. We heard from Damarius, who lives in Colombia, Central America, and listens to Wisdom for the Heart in Spanish on BBN. His translated note reads, You don't know how I delight in the Word through your teaching. The Lord has brought much spiritual growth and love for His Word through listening. Friends, we have Bible teaching resources in nine languages and you can learn how to access all of it at Tune in next time to discover more Wisdom for the Heart. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-14 00:43:13 / 2024-02-14 00:53:55 / 11

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