“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. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”Romans 16:17–20, ESV
This morning as I was getting into my car, I noticed a large weed growing at the edge of my front lawn. Not far was a large patch of clover that has continued to spread throughout my yard. As I began to look around, I began to notice more and more weeds. I take a bit of pride in my yard, and the battle against weeds seems to be never ending. I had a small shrub die recently, and I can’t figure out why, but I never tend to the weeds and they still flourish. All of this reminds me of the curse of sin.
As the Apostle Paul closed out his letter to the Romans, he thanked a litany of saints that had been a blessing and encouragement to him in the ministry of the gospel. However, in verses 17-20, after having thanked the hard workers in the church, Paul diverted his words to address the danger of false teachers who will work to break up that unity through their deceptive speech that makes it seem like they care for the church, but in reality they only care about themselves.
I don’t know of a pastor that hasn’t come face to face with a false teacher who has sought to divide the church, and many times under the guise of what is best, in their eyes, for everyone. As a pastor, it hurts to watch this poisonous deception spread like weeds in the hearts of those who listen to the smooth words of these liars. Paul had seen it happen, and he warned the church to watch out for this among themselves as well. He knew that when division comes, the work will stop. Satan knows this too.
Today I asked my wife to call a company to come and spray weed killer and fertilizer on our lawn. The weeds will be kept at bay while the grass will have time to thicken and grow stronger roots, enabling it to fight off the weeds as it grows more robust. But the fight against the weeds will never end…that is until the Lord Jesus returns.
Paul sees this as well. Paul wrote, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet…”(v. 20). The “peace” is the eternal peace given to the children of God through the atoning work of Christ. There will be no peace accord with the enemy. This God who brings peace through Christ will crush Satan, that serpent of old, not only under the feet of Christ, once and for all, but he will crush Satan under our feet as well. We will share in the victory that was won at the cross and which culminates at the Second Coming.
So for now, we fend off the brood of vipers, and we seek the welfare of the church through the fertilizer of the Word, knowing that it will help keep the liars at bay. But we also recognize that until the Serpent-Crusher comes to make all things right, we can take courage in knowing that he has already won the victory through the cross of Jesus Christ.