Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. -- Romans 16: 17 (KJV)
There are three important instructions contained in this one verse. The first consideration is that this verse specifically spells out for us what causes division within the body of Christ. We see often that defenders of false teachers will accuse those who are properly discerning as "sowing discord" or "causing division." Not according to this verse. What causes division? That which is contrary to correct doctrine! Our unity must be in correct doctrine or it is a false unity. This month we will see countless people gathering in Washington DC (Together 2016) for an ecumenical gathering under the guise of praying together. Of what fellowship does light have with darkness beloved? NONE. If one of your primary speakers considers himself the Vicar of Christ here on earth, count me out. Then you mix in the horrifically heretical Hillsong along with suspect Christian artists and false teachers and what exactly are we standing together for again because it sure is not what God said.
So when Joel Osteen preaches that this is your best life now it is that teaching that is bringing division into the body of Christ because it is oppositional to the Gospel. When Perry Noble rewrites the Ten Commandments it is that teaching that divides the body of Christ because it is oppositional to Scripture. Secondly from this verse we are commanded to "mark them" that cause such division. Barnes Notes on the Bible defines this as "Ascertaining who are the real causes of division." Other translations say to watch out for them. We are to be vigilant in our guarding of the Word of God beloved. It ought to be the most precious thing to us that we should be offended if someone tried to rewrite any portion of it! When someone tries to manipulate the Word of God to sell us earthly prosperity it should disgust us! Why? Because the purpose of the Gospel is the salvation of men not the enriching of fig trees with pretty leaves and no fruit. So we mark them beloved. We mark them so we know who they are. Remember, a diseased tree cannot bear good fruit. Sure they may say something here or there that is correct but when you peel those leaves back there is nothing. We mark them for the third point -- to avoid them.
Do we get that today? We are not to play with wolves. We are not to eat the meat and spit out the bones. We are to avoid them! That is why we mark them! We are not repost their Facebook quips. We are not to retweet them. To do so is to tacitly lead sheep directly to wolves. We are not to buy their books and go to their book signings. We are not to minimize their mangling of the Word of God that saved us! Mark them! Avoid them! It is their false doctrine that is dividing the body of Christ! These are the instructions for us as believers but for leaders in the church, even more is expected:
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. - Titus 1: 9 (ESV)
Once again we see three very explicit instructions for those who fancy themselves leaders in the church. The foundational instruction is that we must hold firm to the trustworthy Word of God. It is our plumb line. It determines our path. It saved us and it will save our hearers, as Paul once instructed Pastor Timothy. Unfortunately, the Purpose Driven breed of pastors does not rely upon the Word as their foundation. Instead it is their schemes and marketing plan. Their vision, which they convince themselves, is from God. Sure they pay lip service to the Word. They use it to "proof text" what they want to say. That means they come to the Bible with their agenda instead of listening to what God might want to say. Once they establish their premise, they scour the Bible for texts that "prove their point." Who cares if they are ripped out of context? Who cares if that is actually not what God was saying? While they hold firmly to their carnal vision of larger building funds, the true church leader will hold firmly to the trustworthy Word of God alone.
Secondly, we must be able to give instruction on sound doctrine. Do we notice what this does not say? It does not say that we must give instruction on self-help. It does not say that we must motivate people to feel better about themselves. It does not say that we must give relevant instruction. None of the mantras of the Purpose Driven Church movement. Give instruction on sound doctrine, you know, the thing that makes you a jackass to a false teacher. So we are to hold firm to the Word and give instruction in sound doctrine. The final exhortation is the one that most leaders fail at. We must rebuke those that are false. In fact, one cannot get around the fact that leaders in the church who do not rebuke those who are false are in violation of Scripture. When we consider the shepherd analogy Jesus constantly used, it makes perfect sense. These are wolves beloved whose only goal is to slaughter the sheep of the Lord. We are not called to pray for them, play with them, or in any way pretend they are our brothers and sisters. As shepherds we are to beat them away with the rod, while directing the sheep away from them with the staff. The Bible says that narrow is the way the leads to eternal life and few are those who find it. This is one of the reasons why. Leaders who are more concerned about carnal wolves than they are with vulnerable sheep. These wolves are not my brothers and sisters. I have a biblical responsibility to rebuke them and guide the sheep away from them. I have been given this responsibility from God because the diseased tree that shows leaves but bears no fruit ought to be cursed. For it is lying that it contains the Gospel as a mirage lies that it has the water a dying man needs in the desert. The lost are out there beloved and they need the Gospel because it alone has the power of God to save them. They are crawling through the desert wasteland of this world. We need to stop propping up wolves who only lead them to a mirage and when they pull back the leaves make them drink the sand.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- July 12, 2016