From Today in God’s Word
1 Samuel 18; Romans 16
Paul gives final instructions today in the final portion of his Letter to the Romans. He takes the opportunity, in closing what is his most theological writing of all, to return us to the Garden and to exhort us not to make the same error as Adam. He does this in Rom 16:17-20 and he uses a reference to Gen 3:15 in v 20 that brings sudden clarity to his argument in this passage.
The Disobedience of Adam
In the Garden of Eden Adam allowed his bride to be fooled by the serpent, who came not to serve God but to serve his own interest (cf. Rom 16:18a). The smooth talking deceiver (cf. Rom 16:18b) brought contrary teaching (cf. Rom 16:17) and disguised his message as something good for them (flattering them). Adam stood by (Gen 3:6) and allowed his naive bride to be fooled and because he did not stand for the truth and assist her in walking obedient to God they both bore the guilt of sin. Obedience to a lie is disobedience to the truth. Therefore, trusting in the truth of God’s word is required for obedience. The LORD cursed all of creation because of this rebellion but in it he also ordained that there would be a rescue. He promised that a man would come who would do battle with this liar and he would prevail.
“15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”” (Genesis 3:15, ESV)
The Obedience of the Romans
Paul is describing how there are deceivers, like the devil, who are seeking their own gain and are bringing false teaching that is contrary to what God has revealed through the law, the prophets, and through his Son. Paul is exhorting them to keep to the teaching of the Apostles as they present Christ because blind obedience to a flattering message is not obedience to the truth. He recognizes that they indeed obey but he worries that they need to be wise as to only obey right teaching and not false teaching (cf. Rom 16:19). This is the wisdom he speaks of…knowing the truth and walking in it. Recall that foolishness is the opposite of wisdom and hear that Paul does not want them to be fooled by the deceivers. Be wise as to what is good, he says, and be innocent as to what is evil. Innocence is the opposite of guilt. Paul does not want the Romans to become guilty, like Adam, because they fell into foolish thinking and obeyed the lie. Right application of the true knowledge of good and evil is to choose to take God at his word and this will keep us from the guilt of sin.
The Obedience of Christ
Christ came as a man to walk obediently as we had failed to do (Rom 8:3-4). This second Adam (Rom 5:14, 1 Cor 15:22, 45) fulfilled the law and condemned sin in his flesh. It is the grace, or transforming power of God, through Jesus Christ that will not only save us but also transform us to walk obediently according to the truth (Titus 2:11-14). Paul’s source of hope for the Romans is that the God of peace will indeed crush Satan under their feet by the power of the one who lives in them (cf. Rom 16:20).
Putting it Together
So bringing this passage together we can see that Paul wants the Romans to be cautious and to always hold fast to the Apostles teaching in order that they will be wise to discern error and therefore keep from the guilt of obeying a lie. We should use the means of grace that God has provided in Bible intake, prayer, meditation, etc. in order to soak ourselves in the truth. May we always be cautious about what we listen to and may we reject, as a lie, anything that does not square with what God has revealed to us in his word, regardless of the promises and flattery and ease behind the lie.
Soli Deo Gloria!