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Romans 16:17

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Mark them which cause divisions - Several MSS. read ασφαλως σκοπειτε, look sharply after them; let them have no kiss of charity nor peace, because they strive to make divisions, and thus set the flock of Christ at variance among themselves; and from these divisions, offenses (σκανδαλα, scandals) are produced; and this is contrary to that doctrine of peace, unity, and brotherly love which you have learned. Look sharply after such that they do you no evil, and avoid them - give them no countenance, and have no religious fellowship with them.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Now I beseech you - One great object of this Epistle had been to promote “peace” between the Jewish and Gentile converts. So much did this subject press upon the mind of the apostle, that he seems unwilling so leave it. He returns to it again and again; and even after the Epistle is apparently concluded, he returns to it, to give them a new charge on the subject.

Mark them - Observe attentively, cautiously, and faithfully Philemon 3:17; be on your guard against them. Ascertain “who are” the real causes of the divisions that spring up, and avoid them.

Which cause - Who make. Probably he refers here to “Jewish” teachers, or those who insisted strenuously on the observance of the rites of Moses, and who set up a claim for greater purity and orthodoxy than those possessed who received the Gentile converts as Christian brethren. The Jews were perpetually thus recalling the Christian converts to the Law of Moses; insisting on the observance of those rites; troubling the churches, and producing dissensions and strifes; Galatians 3:1; Galatians 5:1-8; Acts 15:1, Acts 15:24.

Divisions - Dissensions; parties; factions; 1 Corinthians 3:3; Galatians 5:20. The very “attempt” to form such parties was evil, no matter what the pretence. They who attempt to form parties in the churches are commonly actuated by some evil or ambitious design.

And offences - Scandals; or that give occasion for others to fall into sin. These two things are different. The first means parties; the other denotes such a course of life as would lead others into sin. The “Jew” would form parties, on the pretence of superior holiness; the Gentiles, or some hold Gentile convert might deride the scrupulous feelings of the Jew, and might thus lead him into “sin” in regard to what his conscience really forbade; see Romans 14:15. These persons on both sides were to he avoided, and they were to refuse to follow them, and to cultivate the spirit of unity and peace.

Contrary to the doctrine - To the “teaching” which you have received in this Epistle and elsewhere; the teaching that these divisions should cease; that the Jewish ceremonies are not binding; that all should lay aside their causes of former difference, and be united in one family; see 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 John 1:10; Galatians 1:8-9. That is, avoid them as “teachers;” do not follow them. It does not mean that they were to be treated harshly; but that they were to be avoided in their “instructions.” They were to disregard all that they could say tending to produce alienation and strife; and resolve to cultivate the spirit of peace and union. This would be an admirable rule if always followed. Let people make “peace” their prime object; resolve to love all who “are” Christians, and it will be an infallible guage by which to measure the arguments of those who seek to promote alienations and contentions.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
How earnest, how endearing are these exhortations! Whatever differs from the sound doctrine of the Scriptures, opens a door to divisions and offences. If truth be forsaken, unity and peace will not last long. Many call Christ, Master and Lord, who are far from serving him. But they serve their carnal, sensual, worldly interests. They corrupt the head by deceiving the heart; perverting the judgments by winding themselves into the affections. We have great need to keep our hearts with all diligence. It has been the common policy of seducers to set upon those who are softened by convictions. A pliable temper is good when under good guidance, otherwise it may be easily led astray. Be so wise as not to be deceived, yet so simple as not to be deceivers. The blessing the apostle expects from God, is victory over Satan. This includes all designs and devices of Satan against souls, to defile, disturb, and destroy them; all his attempts to keep us from the peace of heaven here, and the possession of heaven hereafter. When Satan seems to prevail, and we are ready to give up all as lost, then will the God of peace interpose in our behalf. Hold out therefore, faith and patience, yet a little while. If the grace of Christ be with us, who can prevail against us?
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 334

Brother J received from Elder K a false theory of sanctification, which is outside of the third angel's message, and wherever received destroys the love for the message. I was shown that Elder K was upon dangerous ground. He is not in union with the third angel. He once enjoyed the blessing of God, but does not now, for he has not prized and cherished the light of truth which has shone upon his pathway. He has brought along with him a theory of Methodist sanctification, and presents that in front, making it of the highest importance. And the sacred truths applicable to this time are by him made of little consequence. He has followed his own light, and been growing darker and darker, and going further and further from the truth, until it has but little influence upon him. Satan has controlled his mind, and he has done great injury to the cause of truth in northern Wisconsin. 1T 334.1

It was this theory of sanctification which Sister G received of Elder K, and which she tried to follow out, that carried her into that dreadful fanaticism. Elder K has bewildered and confused many minds with this theory of sanctification. All who embrace it lose to a great extent their interest in and love for the third angel's message. This view of sanctification is a very pretty-looking theory. It whitewashes over poor souls who are in darkness, error, and pride. It gives them an appearance of being good Christians, and of possessing holiness, when their hearts are corrupt. It is a peace-and-safety theory, which does not bring to light evil and reprove and rebuke wrong. It heals the hurt of the daughter of God's people slightly, crying: Peace, peace, when there is no peace. Men and women of corrupt hearts throw around them the garb of sanctification, and are looked upon as examples to the flock, when they are Satan's agents, used by him to allure and deceive honest souls into a bypath, that they may not feel the force and importance of the solemn truths proclaimed by the third angel. 1T 335.1

Elder K has been looked up to as an example, while he has been an injury to the cause of God. His life has not been blameless. His ways have not been in accordance with the holy law of God, or with the spotless life of Christ. His corrupt nature is not subdued; and yet he dwells much upon sanctification, and thereby deceives many. I was directed to his past labors. He has failed to bring out souls into the truth, and to establish them upon the third angel's message. He presents a theory of sanctification as a matter of the utmost importance, while he makes of but little importance the channel through which God's blessing comes. “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth.” The present truth, which is the channel, is not regarded, but is trampled underfoot. Men may cry, Holiness! holiness! sanctification! sanctification! consecration! consecration! and yet know no more by experience of what they talk than the sinner with his corrupt propensities. God will soon tear off this whitewashed garb of professed sanctification which some who are carnally minded have thrown around them to hide the deformity of the soul. 1T 335.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, 167

There is at the present time great need of caution. “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” James 1:19. Let us heed the warning: “I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, ...and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” Romans 16:17-19. 8T 167.1

“I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10. This is the will of God concerning us. Shall we obey it? “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? ...For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” Verses 18-24. 8T 167.2

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