Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.Romans 16:17(NASB)
Paul became increasingly aware that after his departure, the enemy would not only seek to divide the Church through false teachers and demonic doctrines, but would also use internal dissentions and disunity to cause havoc and distress among Christians and divide the Body of Christ.
As he brings his long and instructive Roman epistle to a close, the one message Paul was prompted to leave with these dear people was about discord among the saints, "keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned," he warned, "and turn away from them."
His final comments to the brethren in Rome concerned the dangers of internal conflict and contention. Wrangling and strife among Christian brethren and internal bickering is at variance to the gospel of grace and destroys the unity of the Spirit.
In his final comments, Paul greeted twenty-six people in the Roman Church by name. Was he implying that some of them might be contentious or was he warning them to watch for others who might cause disunity among the saints? In either case, Paul knew the great damage caused when conflict and strife is allowed to permeate the Christian Church.
False teachers and destructive doctrines infiltrating the Body of Christ was the biggest danger about which all the apostles warned in their letters, and in Acts 20 we read that Paul knew that vicious wolves would come into the Church, twist the truth, and scatter the flock of God after his death. But during his life-time we see Paul addressing internal strife among Christians.
Conflict between believers was a deep concern that Paul challenged unrelentingly in a number of his epistles, because once murmuring, bickering, squabbling, and disunity, is allowed to percolate - the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace is destroyed, and contrary to the teaching of the Word.
False teachers and heretical doctrines have become an increasingly serious problem in church communities and Christian fellowships today... but too often they are conceived by those who cause division and disunity - and we should be ready and willing to turn away from all who have this destructive spirit of division and discord.
Drifting from biblical truth into apostasy or the deliberate infiltration of heretical teachings are a serious problem in any Christian fellowship, but let us never forget that they are often spawned from internal disagreements, division, and disunity... and should be dealt with before the witness of Christ is tarnished.
The enemy of God is the same evil one that comes to steal our peace, kill our hope, accuse the saints, and destroy our testimony. He not only comes as a roaring lion but also as an angel of light, and just as individual members of the Church in Rome were exhorted to diligently identify those who caused division within their own congregation and turn away from them - we too should be prepared to address disunity within our own churches and quickly deal with those that cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching of God's Word.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the truth of Your Word. I realise how easily division and disunity can infiltrate the Body of Christ. I pray that I would walk in spirit and truth and not allow myself to be drawn into any dissentious discussions with brothers and sisters in Christ, but quickly turn away from those that display any spirit of disunity and discord. I pray that I may grow in grace and keep the eyes of my heart on Jesus, and that you would give Church elders and leaders wisdom to identify and deal with any internal strife quickly and with wisdom, for Your greater glory. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.