Series: Followers of Jesus
Message: In the Blessing
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Jessyka Dooley
Live Adventure: Jessyka Dooley
Live Purpose: Vanessa Rivera
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 16:17-27 in the New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: I have several books that I have picked up on one of those weekend getaways Becky and I take to Portland, Oregon, where we always visit Powell’s City of Books. These books are from random genres that simply intrigue me. They are narratives that teach and challenge me. I enjoy books that are hard to read because they make me weep so much—and yet I can’t put them down. Examples are When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi or Tell My Sons by Lt. Col. Mark M. Weber. These powerful stories remind me that life is short and our words and deeds matter. Perhaps today might be the day that I should pull out a fountain pen, rinse out the nib, fill it with fresh ink, dust off the fine linen paper and matching envelopes, and find a quiet space to write a real letter to someone I love. Maybe one of my children, a parent, a friend or enemy. Maybe I should send a blessing to them in the name of Jesus. Maybe you should too.
After all, that is what Paul was hoping we would do. He wanted us to be part of a breathing, living, moving community made up of men and women who are in Jesus. He had just finished encouraging us to greet each other with deep affection in Romans 16:16. When he now warns us right away to “stay away from them,” as our translation states today in Verse 17, it seems harsh. Surely this goes against the power of the other words of affirmation? Surely it goes against the ministry of reconciliation? Against the essence of the Gospel?
We need to remind ourselves that Paul had seen the hard and horrible side of broken humans whose motive was simply to do damage. As Michael F. Bird, in his commentary on Romans for this passage, shares:
We must bear in mind that during the course of his mission, Paul had to fight a number of running battles against “opponents” of several different shapes and sizes. The most militant was a faction connected with the Jerusalem church who insisted that Paul’s converts be circumcised and be made to keep the Torah as a condition for entry into the people of God and thus for salvation (see Acts 15:1-5; Gal. 2:11-14; 3:1- 5; 5:1-5; 6:12-13; Phil. 1:15-18; 3:2). Paul calls these folks “false believers” (Gal. 2:4), “agitators” (Gal. 5:12), “those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh” (Phil. 3:2), and “false apostles, deceitful workers” (2 Cor. 11:13). Paul is worried that such a faction, who often followed him around, might have Rome in its sights next. Paul hopes that the Romans would not be tricked into abandoning the “teaching” that they have learned thus far (see Rom. 6:17). Paul is concerned because, as he wrote elsewhere, false teaching of this kind intends to stop them obeying the truth (Gal. 5:7). They should be alert to it lest they end up adhering to a “different gospel” (Gal. 1:6 – 7) or receiving a “different Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4) other than the one they received. Paul has one bit of advice should such persons appear on the scene: “Keep away from them.” In other words, avoid them like the plague.
Recalibrate: Are there people we need to avoid? How do we prevent ourselves from simply avoiding people we don’t like as opposed to avoiding those who will hurt us?
Respond: Pray for insight into the motivations and behavior of those around you.
Research: Read Galatians 2 to provide context for this passage.
Remember: “To the only wise God, through Jesus the Messiah, to whom be glory to the coming ages! Amen” (Romans 16:27, KNT).
Japhet is senior pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, and was co-founder of the One project. Originally from southeast London, he served in the South England Conference for nine years—as a pastor and later as conference youth director—before moving to the United States in 2006. He is married to Becky and they have two sons, Joshua (18) and Jonah (14).
Make a special snack today for your child. Paul tells us that the people who we should avoid want to feed their own appetites. When we eat food, we are feeding our tummy’s appetite, and when we want to feed our heart’s appetite, we need to fill it with Jesus. Spending time as a family around a meal and time as a family with Jesus are important to a healthy diet and life.
Do you know what an appetite is? We usually talk about appetite when it comes to the foods we really like to eat. What is one of your favorite foods? Ask for some help to make your favorite food today. Paul also talked about appetite. He said that the people who don’t like to play by the rules just want to feed their appetites and do what they want to do, even if it hurts others. What are some other things that you can have an appetite for that aren’t food? Can you have an appetite for Jesus and learning more about Him?
I recently started watching the television show Riverdale because all of my teenage clients constantly refer to the characters and plot points of the show. Riverdale, probably like many teen dramas, centers around a group of friends and enemies who are continuously creating drama and problems between one another. Of course there are major cliffhangers at the end of each episode to get you hooked on the show. I will watch as the drama evolves and, at certain points, I’ve found myself yelling at my TV (or should I say smartphone) in my frustration at all of the mess these characters create for themselves. Romans 16:17 asks us to identify the people in our lives who are up to no good. And while I would consider myself something of a fan of Riverdale, let’s face it, this cast of characters is up to no good. So who are the people in your life who are causing division? Paul urges us to avoid them. When I read that advice, I remember my parents telling me the same thing when I was a teenager. I remember thinking they were exaggerating so much. I want you to think about why Paul would give such a bold instruction. Have you had a parent or guardian tell you something like this? How have you reacted? How do you react to reading this verse in the Bible?