I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.Romans 16:17 NIV
Paul is here warning us about some who will come into the church, teaching things that are contrary to the Scripture. These folks cause division in the church, keeping us from being the unified body that Christ desired (John 17:20-21). Paul’s instruction about them is to avoid them. Do not give them a platform to share their ‘new’ doctrines.
Paul’s warning here can be challenging for us today. There is such a wide diversity of interpretations on many of the doctrines that we hold to. And most of them not new. Some of these differences are minor, not amounting to much. But others are much more substantial. I would not attribute deceitful motives to the vast majority of people who hold differing views on doctrine. And certainly not all who hold these varying positions cause division. But those differences are real, and they certainly can be a source of division.
Be Careful About Causing Division
I make no claim to being the ultimate authority on what the Scripture teaches. As a matter of fact, I am quite certain that I am far from having a perfect understanding of all it teaches. Some of what I believe I hold tightly to. But there are other doctrinal issues that I hold on to much more loosely. And on many issues I am open to a new and better understanding. But the last thing I want to do is to cause division within the church by arguing over some non-essential point of doctrine.
But that seems not to be true of everyone. I encounter people every day, especially on-line, who seem convinced that if I do not agree with them at every point of doctrine, there is something seriously wrong with me. And I believe Paul’s warning here is applicable to them. Watch out for them. And don’t get caught up in their arguments. This is especially true online where you have little, if any, relationship with them. Just learn to ignore them. Don’t allow disputes over non-core doctrines to cause division in the body of Christ.