9 But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. 10 Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.
(Notes: Paul is telling Titus as well as the other church leaders on Crete to stand aloof so that he will avoid foolish unprofitable and worthless speculations. Those who taught these things listed below not only polluted and corrupted the churches but, by their sinful lifestyles hindered the credibility of the gospel. How does this type of leaven corrupt the church? The NT gives several effects of false teaching — It unsettles the soul (Acts 15:24), shipwrecks faith (1Ti 1:19), leads to the ruin of the hearers (2Ti 2:14-note), produces ungodliness (2Ti 2:16-note), and spreads “like gangrene” (2Ti 2:17-note).
2 Timothy 2:16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.
(Notes: Paul is commanding young Timothy to
turn yourself about so that you will avoid worldly, empty talk. Continually place yourself at a distance from it and stand aloof from it. It is unprofitable for the things of eternity and in fact actually leads to ungodliness!)
Acts 25:7 And after Paul had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him which they could not prove;”
(Notes: Acts 25:7And when he was come>>
the Jews which came down from Jerusalem;>>
along with Festus, perhaps the high priest with the elders, and Tertullus the orator, as before:
stood round about;>>
either the Apostle Paul, or the judgment seat; the witnesses and accusers were to stand, as well as the person accused;
And laid many and grievous complaints against Paul; which they could not prove;>>
for his moral conversation, both before and after conversion, was very strict and conformable to the laws of God and man; and yet as pure and inoffensive as he was, he was not exempt from the calumnies of men; and these many and very grievous; but it was his happiness, and to his honour through the grace of God, that his enemies could not make good anyone thing against him.)
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
(Notes: Watch Out for Those Who Cause Divisions
The first command in verse 17 is to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles or stumbling blocks. “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles.” So it is clear from this command that Paul is concerned about unity. He wants to promote unity. Watch out for those who cause divisions. These are enemies of unity. Watch out for them. I don’t want them to have that effect on you.
The second command in verse 17 is to avoid these people. The last phrase in the verse: “Avoid them.” Stay away from them. Now the reason I said these two commands sound contradictory is that the first one is driven by a passion for unity: Watch out for those who cause divisions. And the second one is, in fact, a call for division. When you spot such a division-causing person, divide from him. Avoid him.
The Dividing Line of Doctrine
What is it then between these two commands that helps us see how they are not in fact contradictory? It’s Paul’s reference to doctrine. Verse 17: “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught.” The issue here is not the same as in chapter 14 where Paul is dealing with different convictions about non-essential things. There he said, in verse 5, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” There was no talk in chapter 14 about avoiding people. The whole point was to help the strong and the weak Christians live together in mutual respect and understanding.
But now here in Romans 16:17, the approach is dramatically different. Here Paul says: Avoid them. Divide from them. Why? Because they are promoting doctrine contrary to what they had been taught. Now Paul’s response to this could have been: Well, nobody has all the truth, and everybody has a piece of it, and unity is more important than truth, and so don’t divide. And we would say: That impulse would not be all bad, would it? Unity is a good thing. Paul cares about it. His first command is: “Watch out for those who cause divisions.”)