A Voice in the
Greet the saints. Receive them into your house. Fellowship with them. The greeting of society, the kiss, let it be holy. (vs16) If you hug, let it be holy. And a whole list of -names- is given. Individuals. Groups associated with those individuals. Believers. And if we remember that in Acts they went "house-to-house" in fellowship, partaking bread and exhortation; notice that a "church" [assembly, gathered for meetings] existed at Priscilla and Aquila's -house-. (vs5) While the Jewish missionaries would always seek out synagogues, first, when coming to a new place, and thus fulfilling Jesus' command starting "in Jerusalem" to Jews (Acts1:8); when they spread out to people of the "end of the earth" (Gentiles), we never hear of 'building programs'.
"For you are a temple of the living God, even as God said, "I will" dwell in them and "walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." (2Cor6:16) Years ago when my father was still alive, he and a couple of his siblings met for a reunion, and my wife and I were invited to visit. At one point I happened to be sitting next my uncle's wife, and she said, "We got a new church since you were there last..." (Years earlier I had sung one of my concerts there.) Not thinking what she meant, but knowing what I understood the word "church" to mean, I responded back asking something like, "Oh, what church are you fellowshiping with now?" And a couple words from her, it was then obvious she meant that her church had built a new -building-.
The church is not the "building". St.Peter's is a building. The Mormon temple is a building. The Dome of the Rock mosque is a building. Hollywood depicts the "quaint" concept of the "little Baptist church down the road" as a building. In various places there are little tiny buildings, barely big enough for 2 people to sit... "wayside chapels" or "prayer chapels". Buildings. And sadly, for most (nominal) "christians", when they hear the word "church" they think of that -building- they go to. They -go-to- church. They -have- church. Church -starts-. Church -ends-. Churches are -places- to be married and buried. [Ed: that last sentence spawns a witticism in my mind, from which I will refrain at the moment!]
"..that He might present it to Himself as the glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such things, but that it be holy and without blemish." (Eph5:27) The Church is the worldwide group, collectively, of Believers. PEOPLE. Those that Jesus has redeemed with His Own blood when He loved her and gave Himself for her. (Rev1:5, Eph5:25) The Church is that living, breathing, mutually caring "Body" in/of Christ. (Rom12:5)
Paul speaks of "not having spot or wrinkle". Jude speaks of "hating even the garment having been stained from the flesh." (vs23) John speaks of the "purity" which results from the one anticipating Christ's return at which time we become "like" Him. (1Jn3:2-3) Jude's vigilance is expressed as, "snatching them out of the fire."
Jesus warns, "See that not any leads you astray. For many will come in My name..." (Mt24:4-5) "If anyone says to you, Behold, here is the Christ! Or, Here! Do not believe. For false christs and false prophets will rise up. And they will give great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I tell you beforehand." (Mt24:23-25)
Peter exhorts us -how- we should be careful. "Be sensible, watch, because your adversary the devil walks about as a roaring lion seeking someone he may devour; whom firmly resist in the faith.." (1Pt5:8-9)
But, while the devil may be likened to a "roaring lion" in his -mission-, he doesn't appear to us that way in his -methodology-. His workers are "deceitful workers transforming themselves into apostles of Christ." (2Cor11:13) Satan didn't appear to Eve as a grotesque dragon with pitch fork. He came as the most beautiful creature in the garden. If Satan can "marvelously transform himself into an angel of light...it is not a great thing (no big deal) if also his ministers transform themselves as ministers of righteousness.." (vs14-15)
As we say repeatedly, if Satan came through the "obvious" avenues of heathenism, occult, witchcraft...he would not win many. Satan comes -through- the church. His methods appear to be "christian". That's why it's called "deception". It -looks- like the real thing, but is not. Notice that Paul says they transform themselves into "apostles of Christ".
Dear Believer: Are your eyes open? What is the current push? "Apostles" are rising up all over. And they operate in the realm of "signs and wonders". Notice that Paul names their -label-, and Christ gave their -methods-. What did Jesus say their goal is? IF POSSIBLE... to deceive the elect. While, in a most prophetically/historically stringent sense "elect" refers to Israel, in a broader sense in other passages it also refers to Believers. Who is satan after? The world? Not hardly! He's already GOT them! But the ones he doesn't have are the Faithful. And he would certainly like to have them, too.
And for you who still believe that "Eternal Security" (Rom8:33-39) is the same thing as "Once save-Always saved", think again. If there were no possibility for a Believer to "draw back" (Heb10:38-39), why would there be so many warnings about being deceived?
But notice that Paul warned "Because of this watch, remembering that I did not cease admonishing each one with tears night and day for three years." (Acts20:31) Notice, "WITH TEARS"! He says, "because of this". What is "this" that he is referring to?
Near the end of his missionary journeys, Paul gathered the Asia Minor church leaders...and after all those years of ministry, his primary message on that occasion was "warning" against the "wolves" (Act20:29) He says "take heed to yourselves and to the flock". (vs28) "Take heed" means to be vigilant, be on the lookout, stand guard, be careful, be alert. And as he is speaking to the leaders he warns them to watch out, not only for themselves...but also "to the flock".
There are some today who rebel against the concept of -a- "leader" in an assembly. But notice Paul says that "the Holy Spirit placed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased through His own blood." (vs28) Notice that these are not people the church "voted" for through their democratic process. It was the Holy Spirit who give the authority. And notice the nature of the flock. They are -precious- because Christ "purchased" each one of them with His own blood when He died on the cross as our Passover Lamb. Since they are under His blood, when God goes out in Judgment, He 'passes over' them and does not judge them. [Ed: again; 'pre-trib' Rapture] And so, the overseer's duty is an awesome one.
And Paul tells -where- the deception will come from. "Grievous wolves will come IN AMONG.." the assembly. (vs29) How do these wolves get in there? Well, sadly, in most cases in recent years, they have been "invited" in by the Believers. The excuse given is that they want to "win souls". But when these people make a "profession" it is false. They then get into leadership. In other cases, they are invited to assist in worship, even though they have never made a profession of Faith. Leaven. The "unholy". And of course, people in leadership tend to be "heard". When this happens, what do wolves beget? Sheep? No. More wolves. "..and out of you yourselves will rise up men speaking perverted things.." (vs30)
Now, also notice... he says "out of you yourselves.." He was speaking to supposed "Believers". Those whom he had, in many cases, personally appointed as leaders. How could this be? We have two scenarios: Some would be "drawing back" (Heb10:38-39) and would not be "[continuing] in the Faith" (Col1:23). And others would manifest themselves to HAVING BEEN unbelievers all along, and their departure would be proof that "but they left so that it might be revealed that they all are not of us." (1Jn2:19)
And so Paul ends Romans with more warnings. Notice -how- the wolves operate. They "make divisions and causes of stumbling contrary to the doctrine which you learned.." (vs17) In ch14 we considered the "stumbling" caused to a fellow-believer in the "gray areas". This is one thing we have seen over the past decades. The World has been brought into the assembly; from their not-so-'gray' Rock music, to nearly-naked women performing on stage, sensuously/provocatively gyrating as the world does; and the list is endless. These kinds of things have caused -many- to stumble and to be led away from Truth.
And once the senses were titillated with the flesh, of course the Bible had to "support" what they were doing. So they twisted the Scriptures (2Pt3:16) "to their own destruction", and the destruction of those following them.
And most recently they are totally -abandoning- Doctrine! They are busy "uniting" everybody (like Babel) with the methodology of "tearing down walls" (of Doctrine). They are taking God's Word and throwing it out the window. The new "apostles" do not proclaim from God's Word. When I've read prophetic utterances, whenever somebody sends me one, I have yet to see -any- Scripture in them. And what little 'hints' there are, are out of context and misquoted. Their "dreams" are not from God... "The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I did not send them and I have not commanded them, nor did I speak to them. They prophesy to you a false vision, and a worthless divination, and the deceit of their heart." (Jer14:14) ...but from themselves. Just like their master, "by smooth speaking and flattering they deceive the hearts of those [of simple understanding]" (vs18)
PLEASE NOTE THIS WELL! These who -claim- to be "uniting" everybody are actually the ones -CAUSING- the "divisions". What "division" is this? Dividing people AWAY FROM God's Word. Away from God's Doctrine. Doctrine is what brings "unity" to Believers. (1Cor1:10) So when they throw God's Doctrine out the window, they are dividing God's people. According to John ch17, which they all love to recite, the unity among Believers happens when Believers are "one" with God. (Jn17:21,23) When they ravenously rip and yank Believers away from God by seeking to destroy God's Word with their perversions which they call the "Bible", and further, by totally ignoring doctrine, they also cause divisions amongst Believers. DO NOT BE DECEIVED!
What is the Believer to do regarding them? Engage in 'dialogue' with a view to come to 'concensus' over the "broad doctrines we can agree on"? Agree on what are the "essential" doctrines, and agree-to-disagree on the "nonessentials"? Paul says, "..TURN AWAY FROM THEM". (vs17b) Do NOT become "united" with them. Do NOT work together in "joint" evangelistic campaigns. When they are "wolves" their evangelism does not produce "sheep". It produces more wolves.
In conjunction with his firmness, notice Paul's tenderness. As though to say, 'Now be careful... there's a good chap!' He says, "..your obedience reached to all..." (vs19) Everybody has heard of your faithfulness and obedience to God's Word. And he says, "I rejoice over you." This is wonderful..
But we daresn't let our guard down. While you're doing well, and you have a good testimony, don't be complacent. "But I desire you to be truly wise as to good, but simple toward evil." There are many so-called "discernment ministries" who concentrate on everything evil. They send out every bit of scrap of perversion of God's Word they can to their mailing lists. Some jump up and down with glee when they find yet another instance of rottenness. But Paul says, "be simple toward evil". Don't spend all your time with it. When bankers train to recognize counterfeit money, they don't spend a lot of time looking at counterfeits...but on the Real Thing. That way, when the counterfeit comes along, they know it does not match the real thing.
In the same way, we as Believers should be engrossing ourselves in God's Word. Getting to "know Him [Jesus Christ] and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, having been conformed to His death." (Phil3:10)
It is "the God of peace" Who will "bruise satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen." (vs20) The mysteries from eternal times is "made plain..by prophetic Scriptures". All we need to know is found in the Scriptures. (2Tim3:14-17) It results in "obedience of faith" for all people. (vs26)
"..to the only wise God" and "Jesus Christ...be the glory forever." (vs27)