Here, towards the end of his letter to the Romans, Paul gives the church a warning.
I urge you, brothers, 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. (16)
What exactly was Paul talking about? False teaching. It was a plague back then, and it is a plague in the church today. And Paul tells us to watch out for them.
The problem is that those who teach false things often sound so good. Paul wrote,
By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. (18b)
But in truth,
Such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. (18a)
And Paul tells us,
I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. (19b)
How can we safeguard ourselves against false teaching? I think Paul gives us the key identifying false teaching in verse 16. It is “contrary to the teaching you have learned.”
This is assuming, of course, that you are familiar with the true teaching of Christ. If you are not, then it will be impossible to be “wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.”
Rather, you will live in a naive manner, prey to any wolf that might come to devour you.
The Romans were, however, grounded in the Word of God, and because of that, Paul said,
Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you…The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. (19-20)
So ground yourself in God’s Word. Be hungry for the truth that is in it and you will never be deceived.
People who are trained to detect counterfeit money (like bankers) never start by studying the counterfeit. They start with studying and handling the real bills. And they become so familiar with the real bills, that when a counterfeit bill falls into their hands, they can almost immediately tell the difference, just by the feel of it, as well as other points.
In the same way, if you become real familiar with the truth in the Word of God, you will never be deceived.
So let us make it our goal to become familiar with what’s true and good. And “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” (20)