What does Romans 16:17 mean?
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 offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
NKJV: Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.
Verse Commentary:
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."
Verse Context:
Romans 16:17–23 includes last-minute instruction from Paul and greetings to those in Rome from the men with him in Corinth. Before closing the letter, Paul urgently warns his readers to be on the watch for false teachers; to avoid them. These people do not serve Christ and will deceive the naive with their distorted version of Christian truth, thus dividing the church. Paul sends greetings from Timothy, his longtime partner and student in ministry. Paul also sends greetings from his host in Corinth and several other friends and co-workers.
Chapter Summary:
The final chapter of Romans contains four sections intended to wrap up the letter. Paul commends the woman who will deliver the letter and then sends greetings to many people he knows in Rome. After last-minute, urgent instruction about false teachers, Paul sends greetings to the Roman Christians from those who are with him in Corinth, including Timothy. Paul closes out the letter with a hymn of praise to the God who has revealed to all the nations of the earth the gospel of salvation by faith in Christ Jesus.
Chapter Context:
Prior verses detailed Paul's plans to visit Rome and asked for prayer. This text concludes his letter to the Christians in Rome with four quick sections. He sends his greetings to a list of people he knows, or at least knows of, in Rome. Paul offers last-minute instruction about false teachers. He sends greetings from those who are with him in Corinth. And he closes out the letter with a beautiful praise hymn to the God who has revealed the mystery of the gospel of Jesus to all nations so that all might obey faith in Jesus.
Book Summary:
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
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