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Romans 16:17-20


Intro: Ever since the church was formed, she has been plagued by troublemakers. These people have desired to either see the church destroyed, or to see it shaped to their own will. This should not have been a surprise. After all, Jesus Himself predicted the rise of troublemakers in the church, Matt. 7:15, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." Even in the early days of the fledgling church, the Apostle Paul said this, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.", Acts 20:29-30.

Well, friends, after 2,000 years the troublemakers are still with us! That's right, there are still those within and without the church who work against the plan of God and seek to mold the church to their likeness! Now, lest you become concerned, this message is designed as preventative maintenance. As far as I know, there are no troublemakers here. However, the best offense is a good defense! Therefore, it will do us good tonight to hear what the Bible says about How To Handle Troublemakers In The Church. So that when trouble arises, we will be able to identify it and deal it a death blow before serious damage is done to the church of God! Another benefit of looking at a topic like this is so that we can avoid being used by the devil to cause trouble in the House of God. Let's look at what Paul has to say about How To Handle Troublemakers In The Church.


(Ill. Paul tells us that there are some tale tell signs associated with those who would cause trouble in the church. Their deeds prove them to be just what they are. Remember what Jesus said, "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.", Matt. 7:20.)

A. They Are Divisive - Paul uses two words here that describe what the troublemakers so in the house of God. The first is the word "divisions". It means "to splinter of cause dissensions." The other word is "offences", it means "to lay a trap or snare in the path of another to cause them to stumble." We get our word "scandal" from this word.

How do they do this? By deviating from the Word of God! They come in and begin to teach doctrines contrary to what the Bible says. They twist the word of God to teach doctrines that are not biblical and thereby lead people astray. They teach doctrines that resemble what one finds in the Bible. But, there are subtle differences! Differences that make all the difference! This is the tactic of the cults in our world. They teach doctrines that, on the surface, appear to be biblical and right, but which are, in truth, evil.

(Ill. There are some chemicals that look and smell just like water. But, if they are drunk like water, they will cause death. You had better know the difference. So it is in the church. Some things sound good on the surface, but you have better be so familiar with the real deal that you can tell the difference. The false doctrine will divide the church and send souls to Hell!)

These doctrines attract some and before long, there is a division in the church. The devil loves nothing better than this! He loves to introduce something into the life of the church that will divide the flock, then he can run in a cause massive damage in the midst of God's people.

Watch out for people who possess a divisive spirit! What out for those who would teach things contrary to the truth of the Bible.

B. They Are Dishonest - Verse 18 tells us that these people may pretend to have pure motives and the good of the church at heart, but there are two problems with their profession.

1.) Most are not even saved.

2.) They don't care about the church only about themselves, their power and their personal gain. These people love to amass a following. They want to be in a position of leadership and they crave prosperity. You see these people on the television and the radio all the time.

Paul mentions this kind of person again in Phil. 3:18-19. He tells us there that they are "enemies of the cross". He also says that they are living for themselves and for this world. These people are to be avoided!

C. They Are Deceptive - 18b - These people have a way with words and they use their ability to twist the truth the deceive the "simple." The word "simple" does not refer to stupid people. The word means "Fearing no evil from others, distrusting no one." It would speak of those believers who have not matured enough to know that everything that sounds good isn't always good. Many young believers are so eager to learn about the Lord and the Word of God that they are easy marks for the cults and other false teachers. They haven't grown deep enough in the things of God to be able to recognize a counterfeit when it appears before them.

(Ill. A young Christian gets into a debate with a cultist or someone from another belief system, and they get overwhelmed and flustered because they cannot answer every question and concern posed by their opponent. As they listen, they decide that what they are hearing doesn't sound all that bad and they can be lead astray.

It doesn't have to be that way at all! Just like people in banks study real money so that they can recognize a counterfeit bill when it appears, so the people of God should be so familiar with the real thing that when a counterfeit appears, we can recognize it and expose it for what it is.

There is no substitute for a steady diet of the things of God to mature you and insulate you against the deceptive tactics of the false religionists. More about that in a moment!))


(Ill. When these troublemakers appear, what are we who are saved to do about them? How are we to handle ourselves? How are we to handle them? Paul tells us in verse 17.)

A. They Are To Be Examined - Paul says to "mark" them. This word comes from the word "scopos". Obviously, we get our word "scope" from it. It means "to look at, observe, contemplate; to fix one's eyes and attention upon someone or something."

The idea here is that we are to watch the enemy lest he slip in on us and cause problems in the church. We are to keep our eyes open against those who would infiltrate the church of God!

(Ill. When our dog sees other dogs or deer in the yard, she becomes agitated. She will run from window to window looking at them ,barking at them and trying to get at them. She wants to examine them. She wants to keep an eye on them. She wants to protect her territory from those who might try and take it away.

May we be as jealous over the church! May we keep our eyes open for those who would seek to hinder the work of God by teaching false doctrine or by hindering God's work through trouble.)

B. They Are To Be Excluded - Paul's second command is very clear. He says that we are to "avoid them". He is telling us that we are to have no fellowship with those who would cause trouble in the church! The word literally means "to turn away." It brings to mind a couple of thoughts. First, don't get caught up in arguments with false teachers, 2 Tim. 2:16. It is a waste of time! The best thing you can do is simply to turn away from them. So he says to avoid Communications with them. Secondly, the idea is here that we should avoid Communion with these people. 2 John 10-11 makes this crystal clear! Just as we would never open the door of our home and allow a rattlesnake in, so we should never allow a false teacher to enter the home or the church!

(Ill. Imagine a bird in the wild, which sees a snake nearby. Before that bird knows what has happened, it gaze has become fixed on the hypnotic stare of the snake. It stands there paralyzed as the snake draws ever nearer. It wants to flee, but it is trapped and before long it is lunch!

The same thing happens in the life of a believer whose roots don't go down very deep in the things of God. They will begin a dialogue with a false teacher with pure motives. They want to win them to Jesus, but before they know it, they are in over their heads and they find themselves trapped in an argument they cannot win. What they hear sounds good and they are drawn away from the things of God into a false system of worship. It happens all the time! Therefore, the best course of action when dealing with those who would divide the church is to avoid them!)

(Ill. By the way, this is true in any area where people cause trouble in the church! They are to be avoided! We must not allow anyone to show the seeds of discord in the house of the Lord. When a person gets to the place in their spiritual life where they are will to destroy the church to get their own way, the church is better off without them! I don't care who they are! This seems to be what the Bible teaches anyway, 2 Thes. 3:14-15. The goal here is to protect the church and to allow the Spirit room to open the eyes of this brother! The objective is his or her restoration to fellowship with the church!)


(Ill. There is a defense, an antidote if you will, against the work of the troublemakers in the church. Paul gives us three characteristics in verse 19 that should be true in your life and mine. These things will help us be better able to stand against trouble and troublemakers when they come.)

A. Be Committed To God's Word - Paul mentions the word "obedience". He is referring to their obedience to the commandments of the Word of the Lord. My friends, the surest defense against intrusions by false teachers and other people who would divide the church is a congregation that has grown strong in the Word of God! Our lives should be marked by a commitment to the Word of God! It is the "beans and taters" of the spiritual life!

There should be a commitment to:

1. Listen To It - That is to hear it when it is preached! When the word of God is declared to a church, that church should give their attention to the word. I do not think we realize how blessed we are when God sends a message through a man directly to our hearts. We have the opportunity to hear from Heaven! We should take advantage of that opportunity and glean all we can.

2. Learn it - It isn't enough to listen to a preacher preach, however. Scientists tell us that people only retain about 10% of what they hear. That means you are going to have to spend some time in the Bible on your own. Learn how to read and study the Bible. Learn how to "grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord." Learn how to "be strong in the Lord and the power of His might!"

3. Live It - There is another step. Unfortunately, this step is often left out by many Christians. It is not enough to listen to the Word of God, or to learn the Word of God, but the believer must go one more step and live the Word of God. This is what the Bible tells us to do, James 1:22.

(Note: if you will determine in your heart that you will listen well, learn well and live well, you will not be easy prey for those who would bring trouble into the church! In fact, they will have a hard time with you! You will be able to spot them early and to expose them easily. But, it takes a commitment to the Word of God.)

B. Be Christlike Toward Good Works - this second thought kind of goes hand in hand with the previous. Paul tells us to be "wise unto that which is good." The word "wise" means "skilled". He is telling us to be skilled in good living.

There is only one way to become skilled at anything. That avenue is through practice! The more you do something, the better at it you get. I think what Paul is trying to tell us is that we are to give our lives to knowing and doing that which is good. He wants us to be a holy people. This is what the Lord wants as well, 1 Pet. 1:16. Paul is saying that when we learn to walk like Jesus walks, we will not be an easy mark for the troublemakers!

C. Be Childlike Toward Guilty Ways - This last phrase is a blessing! Paul says, "simple concerning evil." It carries the idea of being naive or of being innocent. It means "free from guile, unsophisticated, untainted by evil." It speaks of a person who has not tasted of the fruits of the world.

Now, for many of us, it is far too late. I mean, the Lord saved us out of gross sin and we are very familiar with the evils of the world. However, it is possible for a person to grow up free from the experiences of evil. That is, they never walked in the paths of wickedness and they are naive about the things of the world. That is a blessing!

(Note: we all like to hear the gory and graphic testimony of those who have been saved out of sin. We like to hear about their exploits and their wickedness. But, far better is the person who can stand and say, "Jesus saved me when I was a small child and kept me out of sin and wickedness.")

(Note: you do not have to be experienced in sin to be against sin! You do not have to drink poison to know that it will kill you! You don't have to handle a rattlesnake to know that it will bite you. He which is caught in the current of the steam knows nothing of the force of the stream. But he that stands against the current of the stream knows its force! It is not darkness that reveals and expels darkness, it is light!)

(Note: There is a sense in which we need to be aware of all that is going on around us so that we are not deceived by it. But, there is another sense in which we should be very childlike concerning evil, having never experienced it and its power! May the Lord help us to walk so holy and so close to Him that sin seems as foreign as an Eskimo in the Mojave Desert.)

(Ill. If you ever experience the taste of sin, your purity is gone forever. A lovely girl in a white dress came visiting with a college group to a coal mine. And she said, "I want to go down and examine the coal mine. I want to see it, I've never been in one." And the superintendent said, "Lady, you'd better not do that. You'd better not go down there, young lady." She said, "Well, I'll just go down once. I just want to go down once. It won't hurt me."

And the superintendent said, "Yes, lady, you may go down once but, you see, that pretty white dress you've got on? You can go down just once and you'll go down white and pure, but when you come out, there'll be smut on you. Just one trip.")

(Note: Christian, avoid evil like it was the plague, for it is! The best thing in the world is to come to Jesus at a young age and to live for Him for the rest of your life! There is nothing better! Praise God for lives that are untainted and unstained by sin! Of course, all are sinner, Rom. 3:23, but not all have plumbed the depths of depravity!)


(Ill. All troublemakers receive their energy from one source: Satan. Paul closes his thoughts by letting us in on the good news that there is coming a day when the father of all troublemakers will get what's coming to him. Verse 20 speaks of the destruction of the Troublemaker.)

A. Satan Will Be Vanquished - Paul tells these battling believers that here is coming a day when their battles will all be over. Their enemy, the devil, will be bruised un their feet. The word "bruised" means "to smash to shivers." That is, Satan will be utterly destroyed one day soon!

Of course, now he knows his time is short, Rev. 12:12. He is pulling out all the stops, trying to take as many souls to hell as possible. He is trying to do as much damage as he can in the time he has left. He is trying to destroy home and divide church. He is trying to wreck lives and steal youth. He is trying to do all he can to tear down the kingdom of God. But, there is coming a day when he will be brought low! He will bow before Jesus and then he will go to Hell, Rev. 20:1-10.

B. The Saints Will Be Victorious - Notice the phrase "under your feet". The idea is that of the ancient practice of a victor placing his foot on the next of his conquered foe to show that he had prevailed. Paul is reminding believers that when the smoke has all cleared away and the dust of this life has settled down, when Satan has been consigned to Hell and sin and death have all been out away forever, we will still be standing! Our faith in Christ is sufficient to guarantee us an endless eternity in the presence of Almighty God.

Conc: Paul ends this verse with a prayer for grace. My friends, we need grace to make it day by day! If we are going to take our stand for Jesus against the troublemakers and the ultimate troublemaker, then we need grace. If we are to enjoy God's victory as we fight the battles of life, then we need grace. Thank God for grace sufficient from a supply that will never diminish, 2 Cor. 12:9.

Has the Lord dealt with your heart tonight? Are you saved? Have you been guilty of joining hands with the devil and causing trouble at the house of God? Are you living a life that insulates you against being caught up in the deception and wiles of the devil and his people? If there is a need, there is help in Jesus! You come to Him and He will give you what you need!

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