The trouble with Troublemakers
From today’s epistle in Romans 16:17-20 we can see that
ever since the church was formed, she has been plagued by troublemakers. These people have desired to either see the church destroyed, or to see it shaped to their own will. This should not have been a surprise. After all, Jesus Himself predicted the rise of troublemakers in the church, Matt. 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Even in the early days of the fledgling church, the Apostle Paul said this, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”,
And even yet after 2,000 years the troublemakers are still with us! That’s right, there are still those within and without the church who work against the plan of God and seek to mould the church to their likeness! Now, lest you become concerned, this message is designed as preventative maintenance. As far as I know, there are no troublemakers hunting me? However, the best offence is a good defence! Therefore, it will do us good today to hear what the Bible says about How to trouble the Troublemakers in the Church. So that when trouble arises, we will be able to identify it and deal it a death blow before serious damage is done to the church of God! Another benefit of looking at a topic like this – is so that we can avoid being used by the devil ourselves to cause trouble amongst the people of God. Let’s look at what Paul has to say about
How To Trouble the Troublemakers in the Church.
First of all … let us consider
THE DEEDS OF THE TROUBLEMAKERS
Paul tells us that there are some tale tell signs associated with those who would cause trouble in the church. Their deeds prove them to be just what they are. Remember what Jesus said, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” Matt. 7:20.
Paul says that they are Divisive – he uses two words here that describe what the troublemakers do in the house of God. The first is the word “divisions”. It means “to splinter or cause dissensions.” The other word is “offences”. It means “to lay a trap or snare in the path of another to cause them to stumble.” We get our word “scandal” from this word.
How do they do this? – By deviating from the Word of God! They come in and begin to teach doctrines contrary to what the Bible says. They twist the word of God to teach doctrines that are not biblical and thereby lead people astray. They teach doctrines that resemble what one finds in the Bible. But, there are subtle differences! Differences that make all the difference! This is the tactic of the cults in our world. They teach doctrines that, on the surface, appear to be biblical and right,
but which are, in truth, evil.
We all know that there are some chemicals that look and smell just like water. But, if they are drunk like water, they will cause death. You had better know the difference. So it is in the church. Some things sound good on the surface, but you had better be so familiar with the real deal that you can tell the difference. False doctrines have divided the church and taken folk into error, fear and bondage.
The devil loves nothing better than this! He loves to introduce something into the life of the church that will divide the flock, then he can run in and cause massive damage in the midst of God’s people.
Watch out for people who possess a divisive and argumentative spirit! What out for those who would teach things contrary to the truth of the Bible. Be careful that you sit under those who Preach the Word of God – the Bible.
Then Paul suggests that they are Dishonest – Verse 18 tells us that these people may pretend to have pure motives and the good of the church at heart, but there are two problems with their profession.
1.) Most of them are not even saved. (not true believers) and 2.) They don’t care about the church only about themselves, their power and their personal gain.
(and be very careful of those who are always talking about money)
These people love to amass a following. They want to
be in a position of leadership and they crave popularity. Paul mentions this kind of person again in Phil. 3:18-19. He tells us there that they are “enemies of the cross”. He also says that they are living for themselves and for this world –
And they are to be avoided!
We see too that they are Deceptive – v18 – These people have a way with words and they use their ability to twist the truth and they deceive the “simple.” The word “simple” does not refer to stupid people. The word means “Fearing no evil from others, distrusting no one.” It would speak of those believers who have not matured enough to know that everything that sounds good isn’t always good. Many young believers are so eager to learn about the Lord and the Word of God that they are easy prey for false teaching.
They haven’t grown deep enough in the things of God to be able to recognize a counterfeit when it appears before them. For example when a young Christian gets into a debate with a cultist or someone from another belief system, they get overwhelmed and flustered because they cannot answer every question and concern posed by their opponent. As they listen, they decide that what they are hearing doesn’t sound all that bad and so they can be lead astray.
It doesn’t have to be that way at all! Just like people in our banks study real money so that they can recognize a counterfeit note when it appears, so the people of God should be so familiar with the real thing that when a counterfeit appears, we can recognize it and expose it for what it is.
There is no substitute for a steady diet of the things of God to mature you and insulate you against the deceptive tactics of the false religionists. More about that in a moment!
Consider next THE DIRECTIONS FOR THE TROUBLEMAKERS
When these troublemakers appear, what are we who are saved, truly born again into Gods family, what are we to do about them? How are we to handle ourselves? How are we to handle them?
Paul tells us here in verse 17.
That They Are To Be Examined – Paul says to “mark” them. This word “mark” comes from the Greek word “scopos”. Obviously, we get our word “scope” from it. It means
“to look at, to observe, contemplate; to fix one’s eyes and attention upon someone or something.”
The idea here is that we are to watch the enemy lest he slip in on us and cause problems in the church. We are to keep our eyes open against those who would infiltrate the church
of God! When your dog sees other dogs or cats in the garden or yard, he will become agitated. He may run from window to window looking at them, barking at them and trying to get at them. He wants to examine them. He wants to keep an eye on them. He wants to protect his territory from those who might try and to take it away or take over.
May we be as jealous over the church! May we keep our eyes open for those who would seek to hinder the work of God by teaching false doctrine or by hindering God’s work through trouble.
Next – Paul suggests that They Are To Be Excluded – Paul’s advise is very clear. He says that we are to “avoid them”. He is telling us that we are to have no fellowship with those who would cause trouble in the church! The word literally means “to turn away.” It brings to mind a couple of thoughts. First, don’t get caught up in arguments with false teachers, 2 Tim. 2:16. It is a waste of time! The best thing you can do is simply to turn away from them. So he says to avoid Communications with them. Secondly, the idea is here that we should avoid Communion with these people. 2 John 10-11 makes this crystal clear! Just as we would never open the door of our home and allow a rattlesnake in, so we should never allow a false teacher to enter the home or the church!
Imagine a bird in the wild, which sees a snake nearby. Before that bird knows what has happened, it gaze has become fixed on the hypnotic stare of the snake. It stands there paralysed as the snake draws ever nearer. It wants to flee, but it is trapped and before long it becomes lunch!
The same thing happens in the life of a believer whose roots don’t go very deep down into the word of God.
They may begin a dialogue with a false teacher with pure
motives. They want to win them to Jesus, but before they know it, they are in over their heads and they find themselves trapped in an argument they cannot win. What they hear sounds good and they are drawn away from the things of God into a false system of worship. It happens all the time! Therefore, the best course of action when dealing with those who would divide the church is to avoid them!
By the way, this is true in any area where people cause trouble in the church! They are to be avoided! We must not allow anyone to sow the seeds of discord amongst Gods children. When a person gets to the place in their spiritual life where they are willing to destroy the church to get their own way, the church is better off without them! I don’t care who they are! This seems to be what the Bible teaches anyway, in 2 Thes. 3:14-15. The goal there is to protect the church and to allow the Spirit room to open the eyes of the troublemaker. The objective is his or her restoration to fellowship within the church!
Thirdly, let us focus on THE DEFENCE AGAINST THE TROUBLEMAKERS
There is a defence, an antidote if you will, against the work of the troublemakers in the church. Paul gives us three characteristics in verse 19 that should be true in your life and mine. These things will help us be better able to stand against trouble and troublemakers when they come. We should
Be Committed To God’s Word – Paul mentions the word “obedience”. He is referring to our obedience to the instructions of the Word of God. The surest defence against intrusions by false teachers and other people who would divide the church, is a congregation that has grown strong in the Word of God! Our lives should be marked by a commitment to the Word of God! But be careful that your commitment is not to your Church Traditions first, and Gods word second, The Bible must always come first. Many of our Church traditions are good, but they are not always best. Gods word is the best authority that we can have … it is the “bread and butter” of the spiritual life!
There should be a commitment to:
Listen to it – That is to hear it when it is preached! When the word of God is declared to a church, that church should give their attention to the word. I do not think we realize how blessed we are, when God sends a message through a man or woman directly to our hearts. We have the opportunity to hear from Heaven! We should take advantage of that opportunity and treasure it all we can.
Then there should be …
A commitment to Learn it – It isn’t enough to listen to a preacher preach. Scientists will tell us that people only retain about 10% of what they hear. That means you are going to have to spend some time in the Bible on your own. Learn how to read and study the Bible. Learn how to “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.” And learn how to “be strong in the Lord and the power of His might!”
And of course we must Live It – There is another step. Unfortunately, this step is often left out by many Christians. It is not enough to listen to the Word of God, or to learn the Word of God, but the believer must
go one more step forward and live the Word of God. This is what the Bible tells us to do, James 1:22
– for if you will determine in your heart that you will listen well, learn well and live well, you will not be easy prey for those who would bring trouble into the church! In fact, they will have a hard time with you! You will be able to spot them early and to expose them easily.
But, it takes a commitment to the Word of God.
There is only one way to become skilled at anything. That avenue is through practice! The more you do something, the better at it you get. I think what Paul is trying to tell us is that we are to give our lives to knowing and doing that which is good. He wants us to be a holy people. This is what the Lord wants as well. What I am saying is, that when we learn to walk like Jesus walked, we will not be an easy pushover
for the troublemakers!
This last phrase in the text is a real blessing! Paul adds, “simple concerning evil.” This carries the idea of being
naive or of being innocent. It means “free from guile, unsophisticated, untainted by evil.” It speaks of a person
who has not tasted of the fruits of the world.
Now, for many of us, it is far too late. I mean, the Lord saved many of us out of a gross sin and we are very familiar with the evils of the world. However, it is possible for a person to grow up free from the experiences of evil. That is, they never walked in the paths of wickedness and they are naive about the things of the world. That is a blessing!
You do not have to be experienced in sin to be against sin! You do not have to drink poison to know that it will kill you!
You don’t have to handle a rattlesnake to know that it will bite you. He which is caught in the current of the steam knows nothing of the force of the stream. But he that stands against the current of the stream – knows its force! It is not darkness that reveals and expels darkness, it is light!
There is a sense in which we need to be aware of all that is going on around us so that we are not deceived by it. But, there is another sense in which we should be very childlike concerning evil, having never experienced it and its power! May the Lord help us to walk so holy and so close to Him
that sin seems as strange as an Eskimo would in the
We must avoid evil like it was the plague, for it is! The best thing in the world is to come to Jesus at a young age and to live for Him for the rest of your life! There is nothing better! Praise God for lives that are untainted and unstained by sin! Of course, all are sinners, Rom. 3:23, but not all have plumbed the depths of depravity, and not all carry the
scars of sin!
Now this final word. as we consider
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TROUBLEMAKER
All troublemakers receive their energy from one source: Satan. Paul closes his thoughts by letting us in on the good news that there is coming a day when the father of all troublemakers will get what’s coming to him. Verse 20 speaks of the destruction of the Troublemaker.
Satan Will Be Vanquished – Paul tells these battling believers that there is coming a day when their battles will all be over.
Their enemy, the devil, will be bruised under their feet. The word “bruised” here means “to smash to smithereens.”
That is, Satan will be utterly destroyed one day soon!
Of course, right now he knows his time is short, Rev. 12:12. He is pulling out all the stops, trying to take as many souls to hell as possible. He is trying to do as much damage as he can in the time he has left. He is trying to destroy our homes and divide our churches. He is trying to wreck lives and steal our youth. He is trying to do all he can to tear down the kingdom of God. But, there is coming a day when he and all who follow him, will be brought low! The Bible says He will bow before Jesus and then he will go to the lake of Fire.
But Paul ends on a positive note that The Saints Will Be Victorious – Notice the phrase “under your feet”. The idea is that of the ancient practice of a victor placing his foot on the neck of his conquered foe to show that he has prevailed.
Paul is reminding believers that when the smoke has all cleared away and the dust of this life has settled down, when Satan has been consigned to Hell and sin and death have all been put away forever, we will still be standing! Our faith in Christ is sufficient to guarantee us an endless eternity in the presence of Almighty God.
Paul ends this verse with a prayer for grace. My friends, we need grace to make it day by day! If we are going to take our stand for Jesus against the troublemakers and the ultimate troublemaker, then we need grace. Ask God for the grace you need to stand,
and the grace you need to win. God Bless you.