Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them.
For they that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent.
For your obedience is come abroad unto all men.
I rejoice therefore over you: but I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple unto that which is evil.
And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.Romans 16:17-20 ASV
Paul had evidently received remarkably full and accurate reports on what was happening in Rome, and there were many things for which he was no doubt thankful; but his experience had taught him that the crooked zeal of false teachers would eventually reach Rome, hence this powerful warning.
I beseech you … is like the plea in Romans 12:1, and means “I beg of you, please.”
Mark them … means “identify them,” “watch out for them,” and “be on your guard against them.”
This means that the brethren should have no fellowship with them.
Apparently, at the time Paul wrote, the leadership of the congregations in Rome had been able to preserve unity; and Paul’s admonition here was given to strengthen their hands and warn them against heretical teachers already operating among the churches and sure to reach Rome in time.
The contrast here is between what the false teachers are and do on the one hand and what they pretend to be and claim on the other hand.
They were able speakers, with a ready flow of eloquent words; and impressive rhetoric and oratory were their stock in trade.
Their deceitfulness and wickedness were masked and guarded with every possible camouflage of pretended piety and devotion.
Intent upon causing division as a means of drawing away disciples after themselves, these false teachers are Satan’s attack forces (the shift to present tense is to focus on the problem as it still exists)
Not merely for the times and places known to Paul, but for all times and places, including the present now, here, today, in 2022!
The innocent … is Paul’s reference to the naive, unsophisticated Christian, who is inclined to receive any “good speech” as the gospel truth, no matter what sacred truth may be denied by it, and never pauses to question anything, especially if the speech is a good one, and who thus unconsciously falls into the net of the false teacher.
They are wolves in sheep’s clothing, being recognizable principally by their fruits.
The minister, or other teacher, who scatters the flock is a wolf, regardless of his pretensions. His sheepskin garb and pretended piety cannot disguise his true status as an enemy.
Paul, of course, rejoiced that until the time then present, the Roman leadership had preserved harmony and unity among the Christians; but, by Paul’s warning here, he prophetically alerted them to certain danger ahead.
Paul was careful, in giving such an alert, not to insinuate that the false teachers had already arrived there, hence the first clause of this verse; but it would have been folly not to warn them.
Their views were always “advanced,” allegedly, and were represented to be very learned and complicated, and thus contrasting dramatically with the great simplicities of the true religion of Christ.
As Paul wrote: But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity and purity that is toward Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).
Very well, Paul seemed to say in this place, I want you to stay simple with reference to the so-called erudition of the false teacher!
The following verse, with its reference to bruising Satan under their feet, dramatically recalls that scene in Eden where God foretold such a bruising, a thing also clearly in Paul’s mind in the verse just cited, above, and in which primeval event there existed the same element of the false wisdom still being promised by Satan and his workers.
This as an allusion to Genesis 3:15. “God of peace” in this place clearly has reference to God’s maintaining peace in the church, because of its particular relevance to the bruising of Satan.
The previous verses have in view the division caused by Satan’s instruments. It is God who bruises Satan and establishes peace in contrast with conflict, discord, and division. He is therefore the God of peace.
The assurance given in this verse is the encouragement to heed the admonitions. Each element is significant.
The apostle, in giving them the assurance of the effectual aid of God, calls him the God of peace.
Thus, the bruising of Satan is not something here promised for the remote future, but is a triumph over him to be won immediately and speedily by the Roman Christians who would have the effectual aid of God in maintaining the unity and peace of the Christians when they would be attacked by the false teachers.
The entire thrust of this whole passage is not forward to the eternal judgment, but retrospective to Genesis 3:15.