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Romans 16:17

ESV I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.
NIV I urge you, brothers and sisters, 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.
NASB Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.
CSB Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who create divisions and obstacles contrary to the teaching that you learned. Avoid them,
NLT And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them.
KJV Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

What does Romans 16:17 mean?

The end of Paul's letter to the Romans includes three different sections that could each function as a conclusion. After completing his list of greetings, he jumps back into some last-minute instructions before transitioning into a doxology and fully bringing the letter to a close.

These instructions begin with an urgent warning against divisions between believers. Paul is deeply concerned that all those who are in Christ remain unified as a single body. He aims some of the harshest language in his letter against people who would cause divisions, especially those who do so by false teaching.

Paul appeals to the Christians in Rome to keep looking out for anyone who joins them but begins to teach ideas that are different than what they've already been taught by him and other qualified apostles. This is a warning Paul gives, also in dire terms, in his other writings (Galatians 1:8–9; 1 Timothy 6:3–4).

These false teachers will seek to cause division, often by recruiting some to join them on one side or another of an issue. They will create obstacles to trip up the family of believers by pitting them against each other over new, false ideas about doctrine. By doctrine, Paul means an understanding of what is true about God, humanity, Christ, salvation, sin, etc.

The church at Rome may not yet have been infiltrated by false teachers, but Paul understood better than most that it would happen. He insisted that these believers keep looking for false teachers to show up. When they did, the prescription was simple: avoid them. Shun them. Don't give them a chance to make the case for their distorted version of truth; put them on "mute."
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