Paul encourages Greek Christians in Rome to greet one another with a holy kiss and tells them that the churches outside of Rome greet them as brothers and sisters. While I understand the need to teach teenagers to side-hug and the reservation adults have when interacting with one-another, we learn in Scripture that the Christian faith is an intimate brotherhood and sisterhood. It’s not inappropriate, but it is intimate. Affection naturally follows considering others to be more important than self. So, appropriate public displays of affection will be present as Christians gather together. It will manifest in different ways, but it is nonetheless encouraged. Hug one another. Greet one another with a holy kiss. Put your arms around one another. Act like you love one another. Be brothers and sisters.
I think we too often get caught up in what should be, why people are trying to change things or keep them the same, what the music sounds like, why someone behaves this way or that, and neglect the community aspects of our gatherings. Don’t forget to show people you love them. Greet one another with a holy kiss—not an unholy kiss, a holy kiss.
Paul warns soon-to-be incorporated brothers and sisters to keep their eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching they have learned, and turn away from them. “Them” specifically refers to teachers or those who present themselves as teachers (v. 18). They are those who show false affection, flattering others with their words in order to deceive (whether wittingly or unwittingly). So, we pay careful attention to what is being said by those who present themselves as teachers. If it (1) causes dissensions in the body of Christ, we turn away from those teachers. If it (2) causes hindrances contrary to the teachings of Scripture, we turn away from those teachers. For instance, if a “teacher” is judgmental and treats others with contempt because they eat or drink or worship on a different day (cf. Chapter 14), we simply turn away from that teacher. We have biblical license to reject fear-mongering, divisive speech, and teaching that makes people jump hurdles before they can get to the gospel.
A person’s motivations are not always clear. There is a difference between a false teacher and a person who may be called to teach but misunderstands the gospel. Paul describes such false teachers so they can be surely identified. Such men are slaves of their own appetites rather than Christ. I think of the preacher who preaches prosperity (smooth words) to his congregation but, in reality, he is the only one getting rich because he is taking advantage of people’s greed and selfishness for his own gain. I think of the “pastor” who sermonizes about morality in order to sound holy but misleads his congregation into legalistic living rather than the gospel of Christ because he hungers for control or to have an audience. I think of the man who politics his way into leadership because he sees status as something to be sought after. Paul is clear, turn away from these types of people.
Paul, and the churches beyond Rome, has heard about the obedience of the Roman believers. Paul rejoices. Though he rejoice, he wants them to be wise and innocent. Following the example, here, we constantly rejoice over one another, showing brotherly and sisterly affection. Yet, we do not neglect discipleship and admonishing in the love of Christ.
Paul asserts that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under the feet of the First-Century Roman believers. “Soon” means soon for First Century Christians. This is true for every new Christian. When we come to Christ, Christ gives us victory over Satan. Satan has no power. Satan cannot lead us. He is currently bound according to the teachings of Christ (cf. Matthew 12:22-29) and John (cf. Revelation 20:1-10), and we walk on him as he eats the dust (cf. Genesis 3:14). Contrary to some teaching, Satan has no power in the current age, period. He is not leading the whole world to deny Christ. He cannot oppress Christians. He is an oppressed demon. He is oppressed by God through the church. We live in joyous victory because Christ finished His work on Calvary and did not fail.
Paul names a few others who greet the believers in Rome, including Tertius—who is Paul’s amanuensis (secretary). He blesses the soon-to-be incorporated believers, wanting them to be full of God’s grace.
Finally, Paul praises God as the one who is able to establish the unincorporated—bring them together as a local church—according to the gospel and preaching of Christ and according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past. Paul explained that mystery in the first 11 chapters. It is the gospel. The gospel is manifested in Christ and has been made known to all nations through the Scriptures and the Prophets (the Old Testament), and is, in the First Century and following, leading all nations to obedience of faith.
We here find some difficult concepts in the current theological atmosphere. Paul teaches that the Great Commission has been completed (v. 26). Not only have all nations received the Gospel, but it is producing the obedience of faith in all nations. The text does not say that everyone in every nation will have this obedience of faith. Among the nations, people have received the Gospel, are coming to faith, and are becoming obedient by faith to God. Satan has no power to deceive the nations; he is bound. Christ actually claimed victory at the cross and actually reigns in heaven and on the earth (cf. Matthew 28:18-20).
Therefore, Paul praises God as the only wise one. To God alone be glory through Jesus forever. Amen.
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