The Final Touch of Grace.

Paul includes two unusual elements at the end of his letter to the Roman Christians. He gives a final instruction about protecting the health of a good church and closes with a 3-verse doxology. (He normally ends his letters with a prayer of benediction.) Though danger was not present in the Roman church yet, spiritual danger is always imminent. He warned the church in Rome so they would be ready.


Healthy families love to work together to protect the good that God is doing among them. Paul's use of the word "urge" in Romans 16:17 invites the Roman Christians to come alongside him. Grace creates camaraderie and motivates teamwork.


Romans 16:17-18 commands each individual Christian to take a clear stance of watchfulness. One commentator described this as the "mental process of paying attention in order to be prepared."

The people Paul warns them about seek to create division and cause believers to fight each other. The "hindrances" they create are described with the same word from which we get "scandals." The Gospel does divide, but for good purposes. It even presents an offense to unbelievers. (See 1 Corinthians 1:23, Galatians 5:11.)

Paul tells believers to "turn away" from these divisive people, not to debate or persuade them. The response seems harsh, but these are people who know Gospel truth. Though they claim to accept it, in reality, they have rejected it. Debaters are not usually interested in growing. Paul should know: he was this kind of person before he met Christ!

Dividers will be quieted by removing their audience. Don't give them anyone to argue with. The church must continue its mandate of reading, teaching, preaching, and living the Bible. God's Word is active and alive and will convict. A healthy church will demonstrate they are governed by the fruit of the Spirit. Separation from those seeking to divide believers can be a Gospel witness to them (Titus 3:9-11).

Paul calls divisive people slaves of their own appetites. They are dominated and controlled by sin (Romans 6:6). Though many authors take "appetites" to mean all human passions, it is our opinion that the word is used here in a religious way. These people are examples of the religious unsaved who can't let go of their former legalistic requirements (Ephesians). They will pound the table for part of the Bible without understanding all of it. They are pushy in their persuasive efforts. Lastly, they target the naive who don't suspect falsehood would be mixed with truth.


Paul commends the Romans for their obedience and far-reaching testimony in Romans 16:19. He praised the Thessalonian church similarly (1 Thessalonians 1:2-10). Both groups of Christians experienced the joy that comes from obedience (1 Thessalonians 3:6-10).

This personal reminder is followed with an exhortation "to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil." This verse is often quoted as a general principle. In the context, Paul is saying that the less you know about mere religiosity, the better. Instead of exploring religion, we should focus on the sufficiency of Christ.

In Romans 16:20, Paul shares an eternal reality as encouragement to keep fighting the spiritual battle, because it is already won in Christ.

In verses 21-23, he highlights the value of the spiritually mature. Paul has warm words of praise for Timothy in Philippians 2:19-22. Jason offered his home to the apostles in Acts 17:5-9 and endured great persecution that came to his city. Gaius traveled with Paul, offered hospitality and protection, and suffered alongside him (Acts 19:29, 20:4). The church should look to those who have been in the Lord the longest for leadership in the protection of spiritual health.

Application Points

  • Divisive people like those Paul describes in this passage are few. Though they not be active among us now, we must be watchful. How can you protect the spiritual health of your church?
  • Don't explore the practices and teaching of mere religiosity. Focus on learning and knowing what is genuine: Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:2-6 – Similar command to separate from divisive people.
  • 1 John 2:12-14, 1 Thessalonians 5:14 – Value and treatment of different spiritual ages in the church.
A Hymn to Encourage: “The Solid Rock”

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness hides His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.