14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain (Philippians 2:14–16, NKJV).
Just as the influence of light removes darkness, Christians diffuse sin’s darkness when we “do all things without complaining and disputing” (v. 14). We are to live in peaceful unity, maintaining the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:1-8). By doing so, we avoid “complaining” (grumbling, murmuring against others, James 5:9) and “disputing” (arguing over words that ruin the hearers instead of strengthening them, 2 Tim. 2:14; 1 Tim. 1:3-4). Like the first century saints, we live in the middle of a generation that is immoral, “crooked” (warped), and “perverse” (distorted, corrupt). By contrast, children of God are “lights in the world,” refusing to participate in sin with the world (v. 15). We are to be (1) Blameless (free of censure, 1 Thess. 3:13), (2) Harmless (“unmixed,” guiltless, Rom. 16:19), and (3) Without fault (unblemished, blameless, not needing a reprimand, 2 Pet. 3:14). Christians are lights in this dark, sinful world. Do not extinguish your light (influence) by becoming part of the problem, sinning with the world. Like the Philippians, we will be victors when Christ returns if we hold “fast the word of life” delivered by the apostles of Christ (v. 16; 1 John 5:3-4).
17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple (Romans 16:17–18, NKJV).
Unfortunately, a significant number of Christians do not like this passage. It seems “too unloving,” “too harsh” to them. Yet, it is exactly the action the Holy Spirit directed us to take when a person is causing “divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine” taught by Christ’s apostles (2 John 9). Failure to do so enables this person to continue deceiving hearts and overthrowing faith (v. 18; 2 Tim. 2:16-18). False teaching and immorality cause divisions and stumbling blocks. Without repentance, spiritual turmoil results. Often, this disruption begins surreptitiously before coming out into the open (Jude 4; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Rev. 2:14-16, 20-23). So, Romans 16:17 commands two things. (1) Note the divisive, offending person. Some versions translate the word (skopeo) as “mark” (KJV) or “keep your eye on” (NASB). First, the person must be identified. He is sinning by his teaching or conduct (Gal. 5:20). A wolf in sheep’s clothing endangers the flock (Matt. 7:15; Acts 20:29). We identify predators in the pasture, even more so among God’s flock (Acts 20:28). (2) Avoid the divisive, offending person. Second, deny him fellowship (2 John 10-11). Thus his unrepentant conduct is exposed as the darkness it is (Eph. 5:11). It is not a pleasant task to mark and avoid the divisive. But it is necessary to protect God’s people from spiritual danger. And by doing so, the erring Christian is warned to repent while there is still time.
For the Lord brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had encouraged moral decline in Judah and had been continually unfaithful to the Lord. (2 Chronicles 28:19, NKJV)
The Lord allowed the kingdom of Judah to be oppressed by enemy states during the 8th century B.C. Assyrians, Edomites and Philistines plundered Judah because king Ahaz was “continually unfaithful to the Lord,” and because he “encouraged moral decline in Judah” (2 Chron. 28:16-18). It is undeniable that our country has been encouraging moral decline for a very long time. The “sexual revolution” of the 1960s promoted fornication and adultery, fracturing the home and paving the way for accepting the homosexual lifestyle as normal and natural (which it is not, cf. Rom. 1:24-28). Alcohol and other drugs decimates lives and destroys families (1 Pet. 4:1-5). Pornography has captured and corrupted souls – fueled by passion and internet accessibility on cell phones, tablets and computers. “Sin is a reproach to any people,” and America is no exception (Prov. 14:34). The Old Testament shows that God does not long endure any nation that mocks faith in Him as it rushes headlong into immorality. Now is the time for our nation to heed the warning God gave Israel: “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezek. 18:31-32)