The devil will test everything God tells you. No truth or promise will escape. Its always been that way. God gives a gift and the devil tries to take it. The process is predictable and frustrating, so sooner or later we find ourselves asking, Why does God let this happen? Why doesnt He protect me from these attacks on my faith? Did I do something to deserve this? In this brief pastoral warning which Paul tucks in at the end of his letter we find an answer. We hear him coach believers in Rome on how to handle the assault they were experiencing, but its obvious he is not at all surprised they were being attacked. Theres not a trace of shock in his comments. Never once does he imply they must have done something wrong or that God had failed to protect them. He simply tells them to hang on, and says if they refuse to compromise it will pass and God will be victorious.
One of the most dangerous things a believer can have is false expectations. We wrongly assume certain things will be true when we become a Christian, and then when it doesnt happen that way our faith is shaken. This kind of disappointment leaves us vulnerable to doubt and condemnation. We start questioning everything. Did we do something wrong or has God failed us? This passage will help us answer that question every one of us asks at times: Why is God allowing me to be tested like this?
What does Paul say? (Ro 16:17-20)
(v17) The very act of greeting people by name reminds Paul of how many dear friends he has in Rome, and that some are the fruit of his own ministry. His pastoral heart swells with concern for them because he knows theyre being tested. It seems like everywhere he has planted churches religious mercenaries came in after him (Ac 20:28-31). At first they would pretend to be friendly, but their fruit was bad. They taught a corrupt gospel and split churches into bitter quarrelling factions. Philippi (Php 3:2); Galatia (Gal 3:1-5) and Corinth (2Co 11:1-4, 20-22) had all endured this type of assault. And since their real motivation was to make money, it was certain that they would gravitate to a place like Rome with all its wealth and power.
(vs17-18) Paul warns the churches in Rome to watch out for these false teachers. In effect, he tells them The Lord didnt send these false teachers to you. Their motivation in coming to you is not to serve the Lord, but to use religion to feed themselves. Heres the technique they use: They come into a city and pretend to be very warm and friendly. They say theyve come to help you and they flatter you. Theyve proven to be very effective at deceiving naïve, unsuspecting people. Their goal is to pull away as many people as possible from your churches. They want to start a rival church which will not be based on the righteousness of faith, but will reintroduce elements of the Jewish Law. They want to put back in front of you the old stumbling-block of legalism. And of course, as soon as possible theyll take offerings to support themselves. What theyre doing is not harmless. Its not just another way of looking at Christianity. Its evil. Theyre serving Satan whether they know it or not.
(vs19) It appears from the way Paul words this statement that the believers in Rome had resisted all attempts by false teachers to gain a foothold. They had stayed true to the gospel and had refused to allow themselves to be divided. So Paul tells them their obedience was being celebrated by churches everywhere. Their example was an encouragement to others facing the same type of attack. And he added that he personally rejoiced over the report of their faithfulness.
But no sooner had Paul finished complementing them than he adds one more strong pastoral warning. Clearly the danger had not passed. They needed to stay vigilant, so he says,
I want you to be wise concerning that which is good, but pure, uncontaminated by that which is evil and full of deceit. They must rely on Gods revelation of the gospel and not listen to the legalistic logic of those trying to mislead them.
(v20) Paul reminds them that the spiritual battle they are fighting is not against people but against Satan himself (Eph 6:12). Satan tries to confuse people so they wont be able to comprehend the gospel (Mk 4:15; 2Co 4:4). He tempts and afflicts believers (Heb 22:31; 2Co 12:7; 1Th 3:5; 1Pt 5:8). He raises up false teachers and sends them to deceive the church (2Co 11:15). And he schemes in order to bring discord between believers (2Co 2:11). But Paul also reminds them that God is fighting for them. He assures them that Satan will soon be crushed (ground down to dust) under your feet, probably meaning that the spiritual assault that was trying to divide them would soon subside if they firmly refused to turn away from the sound doctrine they had been taught. The God of peace, would triumph by preserving their love for one another.
Truths we should know
1) (v17) God will allow our faith to be tested
2) (v18) People will try to lure us away from the truth of the gospel and put us into religious bondage
3) (v19) Compromise is no solution, we must keep the truth pure
4) (v20) tests dont last forever, there is a time limit, the pressure will pass if I refuse to compromise
God tests His people. He tests our resolve, not to discover what He didnt know, but to strengthen us, to set us free, to show us whats in our own hearts. The Bible is full of examples of such tests. Here are four:
1) Eden: Will I let Him say no to me when its something I really want?
Do I trust His heart that what He wants for me is good?
Whatever God tells me will be questioned, Indeed, has God said
? (Ge 3:1-5), and His loved challenged, Surely you shall not die!
2) Wilderness: Will I rebel when God delays?
Egypt, Red Sea, Marah (Ex 15:22-26), hunger (Ex 16:1-12)
10 Commandments, Moses went up on Mt. Sinai for 40 days (Ex 32:1-10), golden calf
3) Jesus is tempted: Will I wait for God or will I take matters into my own hands?
40 days in the wilderness
Temptations: bread for hunger, power to set up His kingdom, a miracle that will cause people to follow you (Lk 4:1-13)
4) Peter: will I deny Him to save my life?
I will never deny you in Caiaphas courtyard (Mt 26:69-75)
God doesnt tempt us (lure us to do evil), but He does test us (put us under pressure). Tests however open the door to temptation. When I grow weary waiting for God to answer, the devil suggests a way of escape, a solution which releases me from waiting any longer: testings always seem to confront me with the question, How long will I wait for God before I take matters into my own hands? How hungry must I get before I accuse Him? How thirsty before I become bitter? Or will I, like Jesus in the wilderness, keep waiting beyond the point where I thought I could no longer survive? Do I have the sufficient resolve to keep my blessing or will I let it be taken away? Do I believe this promise?:
No testing has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God is faithful who will not allow you to be tested beyond what you are able, but with the test will provide a way of escape, so that you will be able to endure it. (1Co 10:13).
What promise is the devil trying to take away from you? What truth does he want you to compromise? These Roman believers had false teachers trying to take away their trust in the righteousness of faith. Smooth, self-confident religious professionals were flattering them, sowing doubt and pulling them away from their brothers and sisters in Christ. But Paul says these were merely human instruments being used by Satan. The serpent, as he has always done, was asking, Has God said
The lesson Paul teaches us is clear. If well hold on to the truth Hes shown us, to the promise Hes given us, we will not be disappointed. There will come a moment when we pass the test, when our resolve is deepened, our confidence in God restored
even before the answer has arrived. And thats the victory. Thats when the God of peace crushes Satan underneath our feet.
1) Have you gone through a test recently, or are you in the midst of one now? If youre comfortable doing so please tell us what you are experiencing? What truth or promise are you having to hold on to?
2) How has God helped you when youre under pressure?