For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.Romans 16:19(NASB)
Paul had never been to Rome, but he longed to visit the Christians who lived there, because news of their exemplary faith and reports about their stoical obedience to the gospel of Christ was being spoken of throughout the world. The spiritual growth and maturity of these believers, who were living in the hub of the Roman empire, was a tremendous testimony to their spiritual growth, which caused Paul's heart to rejoice over them with great joy.
Paul not only wanted to enjoy mutual fellowship and encouragement with these fellow-believers in Rome, but he also wanted to develop their spiritual understanding and establish them, even more in the faith. And so he drew his epic epistle to its final conclusion by explaining, "because the report of your obedience has reached everyone, I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil."
Paul wanted these Christians to excel in doing what is good, while being unpracticed, and even naive, in the things that are evil. He was only too aware that there were false teachers and demonic doctrines infiltrating the Christian Church, which were designed to deceive the elect, divide the flock, and to shipwreck their faith, and so he encouraged them to be wise in respect to that which is good, while being guileless in respect to that which is evil.
Earlier in this chapter, Paul warned these believers to watch out for those who were causing divisions within their fellowship. He warned that engaging in these false teachings would cause them to stumble in their Christian walk, and fall away from their faith in God. The teachings of these unscrupulous men, were contrary to the teachings of Paul - for the preaching of the cross is an offense to those that are perishing, but to those who are saved, it is the power of God unto salvation. And so Paul was keen for each one to focus on the good and eschew the evil.
Wherever Paul went, there were those who opposed the gospel of the grace of God and sought to discredit his teaching. In the book of Galatians, Paul was so angry with the legalists who had crept in, and were twisting the gospel of Christ, that he cried out, "Let them be accursed. A curse be on anyone who teaches a false gospel." Paul was so deeply concerned that evil men would infiltrate the Church in Rome, that he left these closing instructions to them, exhorting them to to be wise to do the good, and to be innocent in what is evil.
Whether opposition to the gospel comes from moralists, religionists, Judaisers, legalists, or any other opposing body, all resistance to God's Word is designed to diminish the Person of Christ and His finished Work on the Cross, for salvation. Such apostate teachers with their heretical doctrines always insist that salvation requires something to be added to the Cross - that man must engage in some meritorious work, other than simply believing in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, for their salvation.
The problems Paul warned about in his epistle to the Romans are no less a problem in the churches of today, and so we should all take to heart the warnings he gives and the exhortations he makes, to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.
May we realise that the only way to honour the Lord Who bought us, is to be obedient to His Word and trust His promises. We are to stand fast in the truth, grow in grace, mature in the faith, walk in spirit and truth, and utterly abhor that which is evil, while clinging to all that is good.
Heavenly Father, keep me vigilant and circumspect in my Christian walk, knowing that there are many false teachers and deceptive doctrines that have infiltrated the churches, and which have caused many innocent believers to be deceived and defeated in their Christian walk. I pray that You would give me wisdom and discernment, concerning all that is good and wholesome, while being alert to the schemes of evil men, and the dangers of adopting a perverted gospel, that strays from the truth of God’s Word. I pray that I may be wise that which is good and display an innocence concerning things that are evil, and in Your power, may I live only for Christ, in Whose name I pray, AMEN.