When Paul closed a letter, it was not uncommon for him to add some last minute instructions, exhortations, and words of encouragement for his recipients. We tend to read through these swiftly, but we shouldn’t; some of the most beautiful things Paul says are in those last few lines of his letters.
He begins by urging the Romans to be on guard and watchful of false teachers who invariably cause division. Paul has laid out the gospel as plainly as he can throughout this letter, a gospel which the Roman Church already knew and whose obedience to which was known to all. But even the most doctrinally sound churches can run off the rails when they tolerate someone to proclaim that which is false and counter to the apostolic word revealed in the New Testament. Such watchfulness requires first that we know the Scriptures ourselves and how to understand them. I add “how to understand them,” because even the devil can quote Scripture as he showed when he tempted our Lord (Matthew 4:6). These serve “their own appetites or bellies,” which I take to mean egos or selves. Paul also adds that they are quite smooth and flattering in their approach. Paul echoes our Lords words when he said, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16), meaning, we must understand and beware of evil when we see it, though never engage in it ourselves. To sum, we must know evil from the outside, but never the inside. We must not abide these out of some false notion of love; these must be admonished, but if they refuse to be corrected, the church cannot allow them to lead astray souls and divide the church (Titus 3:10-11). And lest a church grow weary of such constant vigilance against the evil one, Paul encourages her that “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet,” echoing Genesis 3:15.
Paul closes rejoicing over “the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed,” which is that all the nations be brought to the obedience of the faith (2 Peter 3:9). One day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord—better that such a confession be made now voluntarily than as a conquered foe on the way to damnation (Philippians 2:10). The Book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of that eternal and heavenly city in which “light will the nations walk” (21:24). It started with a promise to one man, Abraham, was accomplished in one man, Christ Jesus, and now reaches to the ends of the earth in God’s Church where men and women are brought to the obedience of the faith. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!