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Chapter 6

The River of Love - Applied Christianity -

Moving Graciously to Every Area of Life,
as the Spirit of the Lord Flows into
the Ways and Works of the Christian
Pursuing Romans 12-16

We return to Romans 3, where the pith of the Gospel had been presented, ending with the apostolic impact that PRIDE and SELF-WILL, SELF-ESTEEM and all that function of egotism is as irrelevant as it is corrupt. "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law" - Romans 3:27-28. The Lord is NOT the God of the Jews only, and He can by the Gospel justify, acquit, accept people whether they be circumcised or not. IS THAT to void the law? (3:31). Not at all, said Paul.

He proceeded, as we recall, in Romans 4 to point out the faith criterion which, being operative in Abraham, is operative yet; noting that the law by no means circumscribed this, but was merely intensifying the awareness of sin. "If," he said, "those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect... Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that that the promise might be sure to all the seed..." (Jew and Gentile) - Romans 4:16.

From this Paul went on to the comparison of Abraham's ram caught in the thicket which the LORD PROVIDED, to its antitype in Jesus Christ, the deliverer, on account of whom and whom alone is justification. The surge of love we have followed from the start in Romans 4:23-8:9, with the lagoons still waiting in readily for those to whom they relate, to quench their spiritual thirst, in Romans 9-11. The prior exposure of the faults in the land of the human heart like giant cracks, we considered, duly given specialised study in Romans 2-3, where the Gospel came like a flight of jets into the arena; but these faults to which it ministered, were initially laid bare in their brutal folly in Romans 1.

Now we return to the scene, these things all done, to consider directly APPLIED CHRISTIANITY, the land of grace, the waterfalls of lovingkindness from which each Christian must drink, and being refreshed, find welling vigorously up within the heart, indeed moving throughout the whole being, plan, program and performance in life, in the love of the Lord. It is from Him, it is to others, it is flowing like a river (cf. John 4:14, 7:37) - and on ampler scope, see Ezekiel 47, a marvel of allegorical instruction.


Romans 12:1 proceeds to show us Paul beseeching us to make ourselves living sacrifices. God has BEEN MERCIFUL to us; so let us be instruments of mercy. God has been sacrificial for us, so let us be sacrificial IN HIM. THIS is our reasonable service. It is not spectacular, though it may at times seem so to this world; it is the norm, the appropriate, the spiritually harmonious thing to do in the presence of this God whom we acknowledge, who lives in us, and whose Son has died for us.

At once, Paul makes it clear that conformity is NOT the name of the game. Culture conformists, social conformists, psychological conformists who make up their battle plan on the selfish examples of their kind, following the strategic compulsions directed towards "winning" or finding oneself a nice fellow, or being thought one, or benefiting from that conception when people have it of us, or feeling happy within on the basis of such an illusion, ex-God: all this
constitutes a sorry spectacle, a competitively destructive spectacle, a wrongly directed competition, one not for excellence and achievement, beauty and loveliness, but for dominance and mirage.

NOT to the world is the Christian to be conformed; on the contrary, the process itself with the Christian is different in kind. It is a TRANSFORMATION which is required, declares the apostle in Romans 12:1. Not more of the same, but another dimension is required, benefiting from the personal knowledge of God. In this process, one's MIND is renewed, and one's experience is enabled to show, as the Lord moves and works on one like a coach and a view of scenic splendour combined, like a tutor, a counsellor, a friend, but above all, like the God who He is. What does it show ? This... what is that good and perfect, that acceptable will of God. Not in the dark, because you are walking in the light, you find the way open.

Such is his message on consecration, dedication, being a living sacrifice.


With "love without dissimulation" (12:9), unfeigned, hypocrisy-free, earnest and intense: there is humility, co-operation, collaboration under this same guidance and gracious counsel of the Lord. Romans 12:3-20 examines this, in two phases: the constitutive and the comradely.

a) Constitutive.

First, in true humility, not phoney psychological pretence, one is to accept what is the nature of one's gift, being sober. It is God who deals according to the measure of faith. The dynamics are His, the results are ours; and these are for service.

The body is itself a team; and when we consider many people in one bond of faith to Christ working together, this is a larger, a broader conspectus than the merely anatomical body we all possess, itself; but this broader team is still a body of which it is HE who is the head. Now each Christian is part of the body of Christ (cf. I Corinthians 12:13, this being the Biblical 'baptism of the Spirit' into the body of Christ, in parallel with John 6:51-56 where reception of the Lord means He is in you and you are in Him, occurring at conversion, though there may be many refreshings, fillings). This body of Christ is one which has many members, the Spirit of God reaching all, so each individual Christian is like an organic totality (like kidney, lungs or liver) with many channels of interchange, functions within the broad scope of the whole body. These organs, like individuals, each alive, work together as one whole.

To change the figure, it is like a garden of oak trees - the whole functioning as a wind-break and place of beauty; yet each oak must first itself have a heart of oak (NOT as in the case of Ezekiel 16:30 'How weak is thine heart!', but rather with strength as in Ephesians 3:16). It is then that the individual oak branches out with delicate sensitivity, as seen in the delicate, hanging tassels in Spring (cf. Philemon 20). Strength however is in the trunk, genetic structure is accorded it (and for the Christian, this is by the word of God, as in I Peter 1:23), the branches swaying gently or gracefully as the need of co-operation in jointly meeting the wind arises, the trunk exercising constraint, the very tiny branchings being covered with the leaves of sculptured craftsmanship in the field of labour. Indeed, the individual oak, in its turn, could be conceived in terms of one whole of which these minor elements are the part.

All this is illustrative of the point that there is a qualitative as well as a quantitative outreach, or to change the image to the jeweller, there is a facet by facet gleam and polish and sparkle which in turn is integral with the heart, not superficial but shining with the reality of the inner heart, life, and for the Christian that is - with Christ (Colossians 1:27). It stops - nowhere that is good!

Thus is there this integral, this organic, this many-sided totality, this deft and mobile inter-relationship of those gifted in the Lord, operative in the Lord, working together.

In this situation, we act on what we are given (Romans 12:6-8). Prophetic interpretation of the word of God ? if that is the gift, let it be used to its full extent. Service - like that of Dorcas or Stephen in the early chapters of Acts - fine! In whatever dimension it is given, let it be done. Is it perhaps to encourage others, that they might either avoid some evil or achieve some good, seek more closely the Lord ? let such exhortation occur; or is it a liberality which enables other, or a capacity to give a lead, to be merciful and to cement people with a cheerful grace that is abundant in giving? Let it all be done with realism and relish.

Indeed, says Paul in Romans 12:9, LET LOVE BE WITHOUT HYPOCRISY. Here we see explicit the emphasis on the love of God, which has already been shown so deeply throughout the Epistle to the Romans, and here in chapter 12, it is in two dimensions, the consecrative and the demonstrative, the inward and the outward. Under dedication, we looked at the first; and now we have considered the structure for the second, the constitutive, we are free to ponder the functions to be found here in detail. With Paul, to this we now turn.

b) Comradely.

This love now is considered in its direct action in the body of Christ. "Be kindly affectionate to one another" - Romans 12:10. NOT in competitively usurping what may be usurped, but in empathetically considering the fellow member of that body which is Christ's is faith's work to be found. The exhortation ? This: Be diligent, fervent in spirit, and ensure that it is the LORD whom you serve. Be responsive to the situations of others, so that you can rejoice with the happy, and sorrow with the grieved. So the love of God is seen spreading through the body, following the open channel for it found in consecration and dedication, and the harmonious wholeness found in the corporicity, in functional enterprise. It is this body which the Lord directs.

Vengeance ? THAT is outmoded, for that is the Lord's own prerogative (12:19). "Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good" - so the work of love pursues the maximisation of good, in harmony with the mind of Christ, even to the point that it directly overcomes the evil options which seek to entice.


In Chapter 13, the response to secular powers, to governmental authority is considered, as the river of love moves on from the tsunami to which Paul first has exposed us in the Gospel, in its various depths and dimensions, times and timings.

GOD, says Paul, has instituted governmental authority for correction and encouragement, so obey. "You must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience's sake" - 13:5. Respect and decent behaviour, not making use of the grace of God for rudeness, but showing proper manners, these are things flowing in the river of love. In general, realise the good work needed and aid it. "LOVE DOES NO HARM TO A NEIGHBOUR: THEREFORE LOVE IS THE FULFILMENT OF THE LAW" - the apostle declares. We should have the core of the matter within, however astray governmental authorities may be (I Peter 2:18-25), and be seeking the proper end of government, its rightful aims. Law-breaking ravings and self-indulgences should automatically be dismissed. Pay taxes, be reasonable.

Now this leaves untouched just here , it might seem, the whole issue of ANTI-CHRISTIAN laws, devilish judges and destructive government. Paul faced this, and was perhaps beheaded; Christ was crucified. We recall of course the instance of Philippi, where Paul, wrongly imprisoned and later asked to leave, demanded that the magistrates who had erred, come directly and ask him to do so. This they did, and he was openly vindicated. Presumably this was to clear his name, and so prevent a warped view of the things of Christ having any chance of using the wrong done to him, to foster confusion (Acts 16:35ff.).

What then may be said of the particular case of a governmental ruling which would require you to break the word of God: in a word, to sin ? Now of course, as the apostles elsewhere make so clear, when for the sake of ONE, you show favour or obedience to ANOTHER, then clearly this does not include the favour of attacking the first authority on whose behalf you are being active, in being respectful to the second. You do not, in short, "obey" your Colonel, who tells you to be obedient to the Lieutenant, by attacking the Colonel himself, or attacking his laws, or departing from his rules. If his rules matter so that you obey the Lieutenant, they matter in themselves intrinsically, and it goes without saying that you neither attack the rules nor the person of the Colonel: not simply because he has told you to obey the Junior Officer. It is structured obedience.

The authority of the Colonel is the ground of such obedience to the lesser officer. Therefore, as the ground, it cannot be used to supersede him whose the ground is. The Lieutenant's orders automatically are annulled when he contravenes the rules of his superior. As to the Colonel, he is in a parallel position relative to the General.

It is therefore obvious in principle, and noted dramatically in Acts 5, that such is the case. The lower authority is not able to claim justice in having you obey him/her, by appeal to the higher one, when the authority of the latter would be overthrown by such 'obedience'. Thus in this instance noted in Acts, Peter and John were wrongly imprisoned. They bore this, being "subject to the higher powers" as Paul stipulates in the river of love treatment in Romans 13. But this very phrase puts Emperor over Governor and God over both. You cannot OBEY others for God's sake, when the obedience is SIN against God. This is what Paul's phrase, just quoted (and conduct), together with the words of Peter and John attest. Which words ? These, in Acts 5:29. "We ought to obey God rather than men".

On that occasion, the higher powers (vested in the priestly officers) had told Peter and John that they had disobeyed earlier orders, having already been instructed NOT to teach in the name of Jesus Christ. Remonstrating with them, they protest: YOU HAVE FILLED JERUSALEM with this! Is that obedience! This was the thrust of the confrontation of Peter and John with the higher powers, and the case is precisely that in which we are interested... which higher power wins when they differ ?

The answer: the highest. Hence the apostles' answer - "We ought to obey God rather than man." THERE, in Him, is more than mere duly constituted authority. His is constitutive authority, eternal authority, undying authority, the authority which made us all, and that of Him who will judge us all. To disobey Him is to flout the whole concept of obedience, to rout authority from its source. In effect, the apostles are saying, You speak of obedience, then let us by all means follow it to its heart, and obey God preferentially above all! That being so, we are wholly unable to obey you in this matter, and that is how we are being obedient, following the matter to its source and original!

Indeed, these same apostles had already given some such answer to the authorities. In Acts 4:19-20, we read: "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."

Thus neither CONTRARY TO FACT nor CONTRARY to God should anything be done, for anyone, high or low, exalted or feeble, pretentious or pompous, subtle or seditious, arrogant and enthroned or quietly serpentine. Not for one, not for any should it be done. God sends us the Spirit of Truth, and the spirit of lying is a wholly different domain suitable only for the devil, who is prince of it and supporter. Thus Jesus Christ Himself said this:

  • "I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father" - John 8:38...

  • "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of you father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me" - John 8:44-45.

This having been said, one observes that the examples and words of all the apostles, and the Lord, agree clearly in this: that if it is merely suffering or payment, it is to be rendered. If it is lie or untruth, if in any way it involves disobedience to The Highest, it is NOT, it is NEVER, it is NOT AT ALL on any occasion, to any degree or for any reason, to be done. It is indeed of much interest how adroitly, in this very special case, the apostles Peter and John turned the matter of authority back on itself: "We ought to OBEY God rather than men." It is not a question of forsaking obedience, of being disobedient; it is a question of the proper schema of things, of seeing which is the appropriate authority to follow, when authorities diverge, or contradict. The right one is the highest, the Most High. It is for HIM it is all done, so obviously it is never FOR HIM that one disobeys Him!

In this way, one must be first responsible to God, and then responsible to government. It is simple, clear, statuesque straightforward, and allows NO PLACE FOR LUST, for mere desire.


What however of weakness in the body, of the case of those who cannot or do not fend well for their needs in some sphere, especially, if this be through lack of understanding, spiritual immaturity or other deficiency or inadequacy.

In Romans 14, having been told relative to Government, to "make no provision for the flesh", that is, to do nothing in the thrust or lust of intemperate, untempered, immoderate, thoughtless desire, we find this same sort of principle applied to those within the body of Christ, or within the Church and who may well be within His actual invisible body. Since the Spirit of God is invisible, though His effects as on the glowing face of Stephen and in his words may be felt readily enough (cf. Acts 7), and people may be duped, self-deceived or deceiving if in the grip of sin, we need in all love to cover both cases, not "judging", but hoping for the best (I Corinthians 13:7). We do not lightly assume a negative position for anyone professing Christ and an earnest desire to follow His word.

In what way however do we respond when someone obviously does not grasp the full significance of something, is tested and tried by it, and erroneously, as we might say, "goes off on a tangent" - or in the current terminology, is "weak", in the faith or in some point in it.

Clearly, there are two sorts of cases: the one is where the 'student' or immature party is humble enough, or self-controlled enough to learn. This is not always however the case. At times, there is an oppressive compulsion which may begin to develop, so that learning and advancement in understanding for the time is difficult. What is an appropriate response?

Obviously, if there in the love of Christ, the Christian concerned can be brought slowly or quickly to the necessary understanding, that is best. But what of the meantime, if this must be ? First, we do not press in on deep matters (Romans 14:1), let alone those which may be going beyond what the Bible actually says, as if we could surmise or guess. This is simply adding to the word of God, which is forbidden (Proverbs 30:6), and is in any case of the height of presumption (cf. Mark 7:7, Proverbs 30:6).

Now teaching is indeed one of the things we are commanded by Christ to do (Matthew 28:17ff.), but if there is a lapse or 'tightness', what then ?

First, we minimise judgment. If someone is super-sensitive about some 'special' day, for example, which it is desired to honour in some innocent way, we do not trample on that sensitivity. We may, as Paul himself does, point out that this is not a divine mandate; but in time. Like dye, sometimes the colour of a thing takes time to enter deeply into the cloth; it is not always wise to 'hurry' it on...

"None of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself," says Paul (Romans 14:7). Sensitive consideration is required here.

Paul uses several arguments. "If we live, we live to the Lord, if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's" - 14:8. In other words, we do not act on our own discretion, as if the other party in some way were our property, or indeed, as if we ourselves were our own property. We consider what may be best at the time, for the good and welfare of the other party, not of course prevaricating, but not insisting on things relatively indifferent. We specialise, then, in such cases of genuine confusion or difficulty, where it is not rebellion but inadequacy: specialise in what ? in this, avoiding acting as judges. We seek NOT TO PUT A STUMBLING BLOCK IN THE OTHER PERSON'S WAY (14:13).

Paul moves to food. If someone wrongly is immaturely concerned about certain foods, then while he/she is in this high and misled state of tension, do not merely eat the food that concerns this party, as if the person were less important than the freedom of your choice to eat at will. Consider the party for whom Christ died. Let us be peaceable and look at this aspect: "Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offence," Romans 14:20. These are the directions of the dynamics concerned, and these should be considered. While the outcome is not in our hands, we should act with that degree of responsibility which sees the trend, and avoids a false contribution to it.

In other words, you have to consider the admittedly tainted or tinctured error of the other person, in matters of limitations, so that you do not scar the work, the spiritual work, with your methodology, which is being wrought. Give it, like a wound, time to heal, and ointment.

Now this is not in the AREA OF REBELLION, of clearly departing from the word of God. It is a case of inadequate understanding so that, until a growth occurs, some party is in anguish and tension, either for you or him/herself. In such a case, mere self-control for the time being may temper the wind and allow the growth until the person is ripe to grasp more. In fact, the love which Paul recommends itself tends to reduce tension and increase trust, so that it may help to make readier, the aptitude for growth in the person of inadequate understanding, than might otherwise have been the case. This is part of being a living sacrifice, of being transformed, of having love with genuine depth, without hypocrisy, as Paul has been exhorted us to have.

Though this be so, we must not over-rate this aspect, or turn it into a portmanteau, but see it in the limited field to which the apostle appoints it. Thus Christ DID say that He had many things to tell them and they could not at that time bear them, and this is clear. Not all things can be assimilated at all times, and some things may need to be grasped thoroughly before the next step becomes appropriate. Nevertheless, we must allow for sudden growth, as when Peter (recorded in Matthew 16) saw readily and declared the actual identity of Jesus Christ! It is an alert sensitivity which hopes for the best, but meets the worst in the best manner, if it does in fact arise. This is the need.

Thus, again, we do not ALLOW AN ERROR to be taught, for that has its own demise (Titus 3:10), but our practice does not exacerbate the troubles of the one who is not yet ready to grow in a specific dimension. We are dealing with weakness, not with blustering 'strength'. Yet for that genuine case of weakness, we must remember in particular the place of conscience, says the apostle, for if someone, though mistakenly, thinks that something is forbidden for eating purposes, and is not yet freed from such a misconception, then the very violation of faith which would be involved, would itself constitute his/her eating it at that time to be sin. This is NOT because IN ITSELF it is sin, but rather than it is a violation of a principle of acting in faith, which would confer a sinful quality upon it. Hence that conscience must not be recklessly intruded upon, but better things may be rightly sought.

This of course is not to make actions subjectively good or bad, as against objectively in general. It is merely a special case when a principle must not be violated from within, and that this needs satisfaction as well as the rest, so that like a person with a broken leg, though things ought to be stronger, when they are weaker, this is taken into account in terms of what that particular person can for the time being do, and in terms likewise of what is to be expected, and even at times what we may ourselves in the presence of that person, wisely do.


To Romans 15, we arrive as at a general meeting place. It is now a question of the strong and the weak.

This is so far from the antique oddity called 'survival of the fittest', riotously and unscientifically used as a mode of 'creation' (cf. That Magnificent Rock, Chs.1,6 SMR Ch.2, A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 1-9), that such 'survival' ethics and 'morality" are not worth dwelling on. It is NOT at all, not in a scintilla God's way to have the strong because strong, overthrow the weak. THAT is a judgment on the earth which neither socially nor biologically is the point. It works for a time, fails beyond a point, and then in the end can have violent after-effects which as history shows throughout the empires, render rather ironic the laughter of the 'strong' (cf. Nahum 3:17-19). To whatever extent strength is SELECTIVE, it is so of what is there, not of what is be brought there, and yet required to GET THERE; and it is not even selective creatively in that, for much that has potential is wrecked by the temporary and untrained, which in callow superiority may crush what might have been, before it could is ready. There is little delicacy in such things.

When God Himself is involved - not in the curse which brings such contests and barrenness, as well in some cases acting to drain out movements too far from type, but in the care of His own: then there is a singular situation, though not one so uncommon when one has eyes with which to see it (cf. John 12:40, Matthew 13:14). Of course as we have seen so often, multitudinous are the predicting actions where God what He shall do, and multitudinous are the effects, worked with precision into what is called history.

This happens so often that it makes the point. It happened in the case of Christ crucified, in the case of Hezekiah the king menaced by Assyria (Isaiah 36-37), and so often, as in recent predicted Israeli victories (cf. SMR Ch.9), that the point is clear. It is not to the swift or to the strong in that day, but the victory is to the word of God (Amos 2:13-16); and when this trial is over, itself reeking with judgment though much that is lovely is permitted in the Lord's graciousness to endure to this day, it will be seen that NONE will be exalted in that day, except the Lord (Isaiah 2:16-22).

Thus will this Age have its embarrassing culmination in a second breach of etiquette for the murderous strong who wish to run things. The first major thrust was in the resurrection of Christ, the second will be in His return. The days of Joshua were a fitting preliminary to all this. The aspects of this Age which routinely mirror the details of the Biblical prophecy have been rehearsed often (e.g. in SMR Chs.8-9)

These various elements, so often brought to light, and in much detail elsewhere on this site, is merely surveyed here to show the utter and complete contradiction of the attempts to wed Christianity to the survival of the fittest, conquest by the cutest, sort of syndrome which, with many allied features and figments, is progressively ruining this immoralised earth. It is brought in detail to light in this contradictory aspect in That Magnificent Rock, Appendix 1. These magical imaginations that either would dispense with the Almighty, or have Him characterisable by their follies: to the word of God and the work of history, they are as close as a turnip to a rose, a cabbage to a jet aeroplane and a moron to a genius. Their only comparison is in opposites, their sole unison lies in co-ordinated disjunction from the word of God and the facts of history.

These things, of human imagination like wine, and of the word divine, separate. As darkness is driven far by the light, so the follies of this rudimentary magic of our Age, by which perhaps it seeks to make atonement for its materialism with witchery, are dismissed with contempt by the word of God. But what does IT declare is to be the conduct of Christian to Christian in the body of Christ, of member to member ?

Are you strong then ? Serve the weak in the resilience of the body of Christ. What is your strength for ? To boast of as if you made it who could have been born a moron ? or crushed by mad parents, or drunken, or drugged! Not only are "we who are strong" to be kind to the weak; we - in the body of Christ - are to "bear with the weaknesses of the weak". We are to consider what may please our neighbours FOR THEIR GOOD. Nor is it indirectly hedonistic morals, as if to give them merely and automatically, their desire; rather it is edification in morality, reality towards the glorious end of growth in grace and knowledge in the truth, in love in the Lord. It is body work unison and concern under the headship of Christ.

And Christ ? EVEN HE "did not please Himself" (Romans 15:3). In fact, "the reproaches of those who reproached You, fell on Me," was written of Him, says Paul, quoting from Psalm 69:9 - this being one of a family of Psalms depicting the ultimate penalty for Messiah rejection.

This unison and concern, this kindliness and sensitivity: it is like a choir (Romans 15:5-6), perhaps one reason why we tend to love the magnificently sculptured sound which comes from those whose harmonies and mutual susceptibilities are exploited in a deeply enriched whole, in fine choral work. We must seek to receptive and amenable, within the word of God, of one another. (As to the limitation, see Romans 16:17 and The Kingdom of Heaven ... Ch. 7, Separation). As to Jew and Gentile believers, Paul cites Psalm 18:49, Deuteronomy 32:43 and Isaiah 11:1 (and there are many more such verses) to show the collusion, the complementarity and the unity in the Lord of these two combining strands.

Paul then illustrates these mutuality principles by showing that he was obligated to edify in his letter, which we have been studying, so that "the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit" - and such is the richness of Holy Writ, that even in that apparently casual remark, he is close to quoting from Isaiah 66:18-20, where the crusade of the cross is prophetically shown occurring in a two-fold Jew-Gentile continuum. The apostle then gives grounds by the works God has done in him, for their considering what he says, and indicates from Isaiah 52:15 the prophetic obligation which he has, in bringing the gospel to those who needed it, as the word is amplified world-wide.

His prayer in Romans 15:30-32 has already been regarded in the Introduction, and again indicates the lissom mutuality which is so crucially important, and illustrates it!


After various greetings, Paul gives sage advice on the phenomenon of pollution. First you must be ALERT to look out for it, and not pretend it does not happen (as is the case with Australia's Sydney, needing to be most alert to a source of pollution threatening the water for 3 million plus people!). It may catch you unawares, so he says:

"Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions" (Romans 16:17). This is not generic. Paul is about to QUALIFY THIS STATEMENT, as we shall see. It is not wrong to cause any old division; after all, one party may be right and perhaps it would be necessary. Indeed, Paul himself in I Corinthians 11:19, "For there must also be heresies (deviating dissensions) among you, that those who are approved may be recognised among you." That however was in the midst of a contentious situation, where this resolution was necessary. It is not always so (I Cor. 11:17-18 - they are not here praised in this situation which requires such a solution). If however it comes to the point, the matter MUST be faced and resolved.

However it is good to avoid division unless the word of God demands it (cf. Matthew 10:32-35). Christ Himself will in the end create the ultimate division, in unifying those who will receive the truth.

If however someone causes a division CONTRARY to the DOCTRINE given (cf. II Thessalonians 2:15,3:6), to what has been apostolically taught, or by the scripture, then that is different. THEN the highest of powers is being disregarded by such a one, so that there is no room whatever for resilience: any more than there is for having potassium cyanide as part of your diet. It would be bad enough to have ANY, but not to seek to exclude it when it comes to your NOTICE that THIS pollution is occurring, would be folly.

So with Christ. He is Lord and is not inclined to favour those who say, Lord, Lord! in their rhetoric and appearance, but FAIL TO DO WHAT HE SAYS (Luke 6:16). Perhaps none ever were more sharply rebuked, rationally and realistically, than those Pharisees who claimed great things but in fact circumvented the word of God, with multitudinous mouthings, allied with deeds drying up, while teaching for commandments the traditions of men (Mark 7:7, Matthew 23).

Indeed, as Isaiah 8:20 tells us, "To the law and the prophets. If they do not speak according to this word, there is no truth in them." That too is the same in implication with John 12:48-50,5:42-47. If you are going to follow God, one initial distinction which is required of you, that you should both recognise and act on it, is this: that between yourself and God! He? Almighty and Omniscient, Creator and Counsellor. You ? Sinner redeemed (if you have in faith called upon Him, in the name of Christ as described in this site so often), creature, counsellee, of limited power and in need of the divine power to work the works fitted to your construction and calling.

Thus, Paul in Romans 16:17 tells us what to do in such cases where the doctrine of the word and the Bible is left, or diverged from, is departed from, or is not IN PRACTICE the criterion. Indeed, it is proper to go further. He tells us what to do when DIVISIONS and OFFENCES are made by people going contrary to the word of God. We have seen the tolerance for the weak; but when it comes to vaunting strength against the very word of God, there is but one word, as shown indeed in Titus 3:10 quite summarily.

"AVOID THEM" (Romans 16:17).

The term, it is not difficult to understand, and this the more so when you consult and consider I Corinthians 5:11 (where the verb “eat” is present and so simply terminates any such practice).

So this requires concentration, purification, giving due honour to the Highest Power, who is also the best and the Redeemer; and separation. It is like silt in a harbour; it needs separation. Without it, to change from the maritime to the physiological, the love of God is forced through fatty arteries in the body of Christ, and the time comes when occlusion occurs. It is, at all events, forbidden. Love is not slackness; it favours purity; and, to turn now to the serpentine: it requires spiritual hygiene, not that slithering slipperiness, which slyly collides with His word and seeks to hiss over the differences, with forked tongue. In any and in all topics, use what term or imagery you will, the word of God separates the church from the world at once. If this is not heeded, it is calamitous and verging on hypocrisy at once.

There is no love in that. Love cares enough to maintain the purity of the word of God in the feeding of the flock, no additives, no subtractions. Revelation 22:17-20 gives us the closing message on the topic; and one can remember, as one reflects on the return of Him who IS LORD, that Peter did not last even seconds when he sought to diverge from the Lord in His teaching (cf. Matthew 16:23). To THESE THINGS what is Biblically authorised for addition, is ZERO (cf. Galatians 1:6-10, 3:1-13)..

Such is the stream of love through the meadows of consecration, the fields of dedication, the windings of corporicity, the uplands of responsibility, the lowlands of sensitivity, the open pastures of mutuality, the defiles of concentration, the lakes of purification and the beauty of separation, as the unspoiled water, not polluted as so little threatened to achieve for Sydney's vast water supply, but eminently drinkable, because it is of God, for God, through God and to the Lord.



The task is done. Paul now prepares to complete this intimate exhortation, this apostolic communication (Romans 16:24-27). His words are a sort of coda, an extravanganza of grace, a reinforcement and relish in, from and through the Lord to those naming the Lord Jesus Christ, at Rome, a preliminary of what he hopes, on arrival with them, to secure.

In the NASV translation and in Berkeley there are aspects of clarity in the translation of this benediction which help to make it readily comprehensible, but rendering from the Greek, we may present it as follows:

  • "Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ,
  • according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past,
  • but now is made manifest, also by the Scriptures of the prophets by order of the eternal God,
  • these things having been made known for obedience to the faith for all nations;
  • to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to be the glory forever. Amen."


First we need to be sure of the meaning. In the Greek there is a parallel in form between the "having been kept secret" (past), "having been manifested" and "having been made known". Thus it was hidden from the eyes in much of its depth and scope for long ages, but there is now command to make it clear, manifest, obvious. Even the prophets could wonder at what phase of history this Messianic marvel of grace would come to pass, finding it was for a future generation (I Peter 1:11-12); but in writing of these things, they were carried on a wave of inspiration which would know no rebuttal or interference, being at the direction of the Holy Spirit (II Peter 20-21) so that the matter was not at their own whim or caprice, will or thought. In their prophecies, they were under command. They were 'borne along' in their inspired writings with the force that knew no abeyance.

It was by order that these writings came and by order do they continue, for they are the very word of God; and now the works of Christ to which they referred have actually been done, the matter is readily comprehended on all sides by those with hearts to receive the simple but profound realities of the gospel, age-old indeed, but not freely or fully grasped as be, and must be. This then is the thrust, taken together, of what the apostle is here saying.

This manifestation of it all, first in the enactions in history of Jesus Christ, and then in the gospel concerning it, is by order of the eternal God. It applies equally, both to the prophetic scriptures, long given and which contain the gospel and the depiction of the Messianic works, and to the fresh and immediate impact of the Christ who has just performed by His life, crucifixion and resurrection, the manifestation, the laboratory exhibition of the text which traced these things beforehand. For these reasons, and in terms of the divine command now out for making it all clear, nobody could now possibly be in any difficulty, whose eyes are not tightly closed, as these things sally forth into the world.

From these two sources, then, it comes: the one now recent history in Paul's time, and the other as long written but even obscured somewhat to the eyes of some of the disciples as late as the time shown in Luke 24:25-27. Christ affirmed these preliminary depictions of His saving work "in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms" (Luke 24:44). The divine order or command however now is to the effect that this whole combination of writings, actions and gospel based on Christ and His duly fulfilled and formerly prophesied actions, and all the glory of what He in fact did, should now become known among all the nations, not at all as a matter for some only, sages, experts, or those skilled in such matters, but throughout the whole world openly. In short, it is made triumphantly manifest which was long simply foretold; and it is now manifested in rich fulness and with direct simplicity.

The PATH by which the God of faith and grace and sacrificial reconciliation was to consummate and fulfil all His provisions throughout history since sin began (cf. The Everlasting Gospel, Item 17, Barbs, Arrows and Balms) is now floodlit. It is so not merely for the Jew, but for the Gentile; and at that, not only for the few, but for the many; and again, not only trickling to various nations, but impelled and directed like water from a fire hose to their very midst.

Paul ascribes glory to God, and we shall see further into his message here.

To the God who ALONE IS WISE, whose is wisdom, from whom it comes, with whom no one can compete in wisdom, whom none can teach it (Isaiah 40:14,18,26-27, 41:23-24-42:1), so that none has it without Him, to this God Paul exhorts and prays, be glory forever through Jesus Christ. There is the base and here is the way, it is forever by Jesus Christ as in Revelation 5:13, Colossians 1:17, Ephesians 1:10. It is by HIM that all things so much as CONSIST! It is IN HIM that there is to be the historical, eventual unity which will be that of the inhabitants of heaven.

One thing remains. In attributing glory to God through Jesus Christ for ever in this way (Romans 16:25-27), Paul ALSO refers to this same God as the One who is able to establish, confirm, make stably settled the people through the means, the Gospel in terms of Jesus Christ, the Gospel so made known and so long written. Indeed he starts by attributing the praise to come to the Lord, as that of the One whose power is apt so to establish the church. NOW TO HIM WHO IN POWER IS ABLE TO ESTABLISH YOU.... Thus he speaks.

In his epistle, Paul in this way ends in glorifying God amid the thrust of loving concern and the authorised assurance for the people, pointing to that infallible word, infallible Christ, authorised dynamic, that gospel which will overflow in blessing to those who believe it,

  • whom nothing will separate from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39),
  • who, having been justified shall be glorified (Romans 8:30),
  • for whom all things work together for good,
  • who having been acquitted through His blood, by the death of the Son of God, will much more be kept by His life from wrath (Romans 5:9-10).


The command of the only wise God has sent this Gospel of God manifest in the flesh, Christ crucified yes rather risen (Romans 8:34); and it has traversed the nations by land and sea, through air and radio, by satellite, in Web and telephone, through recording and word of mouth, through assiduous translation and tireless proclamation, through teaching and preaching, through great and small, by canoes in infested waters, through alliance with medical works, teaching works, agricultural works, by scholar and 'smuggler' who considers the orders of God for the Gospel to be from a Higher Power than that of any government, bringing the word of God to areas where it is prohibited. The time of the end is now drawing near; but the love of God is still nearer.