Does It Matter

Bible Book: Romans  16 : 17-20
Subject: Bible Truth; The Word of God; Doctrine

Doctrine appears to be of little consequence in the mind of most church members these days. There are false teachers espousing false teaching in the church today, as there have always been. Does it matter? According to Romans 16:17-20, it does! We will use the six letters spelling out “i-t d-o-e-s” to form an acrostic outline for this message.

Paul the Apostle writes, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 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. For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Romans


I. IDENTIFICATION with the Family of God

Paul writes, “I . . . brethren” (Romans 16:17) thus identifying himself with the family of God. Can you honestly sing, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God”? By nature men and women are a member of the family of man but not a member of the family of God. Do you have positive identification that you are a member of the family of God? Look for the family likeness in characteristics and character. A believer is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and regenerated or re-gened. Just calling yourself a brother is not the same as being one. Merely changing the label on the bottle does not change the contents.

II. TEMPTATION for the People of God

Temptation for the people of God comes from one called “the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan” (Revelation 20:2).

Moses writes, “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’

Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman  saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?’ Then the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.’ And the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’ So the LORD God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, / You are cursed more than all cattle, / And more than every beast of the field; / On your belly you shall go, / And you shall eat dust / All the days of your life. And I will put enmity / Between you and the woman, / And between your seed and her Seed; / He shall bruise your head, / And you shall bruise His heel.’ To the woman He said: / ‘I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; / In pain you shall bring forth children; / Your desire shall be for your husband, / And he shall rule over you.’ Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: / ‘Cursed is the ground for your sake; / In toil you shall eat of it / All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, / And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread / Till you return to the ground, / For out of it you were taken; / For dust you are, / And to dust you shall return.’ / And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.

Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’— therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:1-24).

Matthew writes, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ / But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ Jesus said to him, ‘It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’”

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (Matthew 4:1-11)

These two accounts dramatically illustrate the three basic areas of temptation we face. John writes  in his first epistle, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

Paul writes to those in Corinth, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13).

The temptation to give up “the fight of faith”, to “go along to get along” is very great in these days when there is a call for unity in an unparalleled fashion with the exception of the days of the tower of Babel recorded in Genesis chapter 10 and 11.

The temptation is to “live and let live” and the watchword in many churches is “don’t rock the boat.”  Dr. Vance Havner states, “When Bible believers take a stand against false doctrine, they are accused of ‘rocking the boat.’ It is better that belief should rock the boat than that unbelief should wreck the boat.” In a similar way, Dr. Adrian Rogers states, “It is better to be divided by truth that united in error.”

There has always been a danger that the church will develop a toleration of error. All too often we put up with what ought to be put out of the church.

III. DECLARATION of the Word of God

Paul writes about “the doctrine which you learned” (Romans 16:17). Some people believe doctrine does not matter. Our doctrine or teaching must be according to the Bible, Paul writes in Romans 10:17 “. . . faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:1-5, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”

Paul also writes in 2 Timothy 4:1-4, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires,  because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”

Poisonous doctrines are being fed out to multitudes by those who do not know God and who do not abide in the doctrine of Christ.

IV. OBSERVATION in the Church of God

We find the word “note” in Romans 16:17. The Authorized Version renders it “mark” and it comes from the Greek word (skopeo) which means, “to look at, behold, watch, contemplate.”

Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, professional baseball player and manager, made a lot of interesting statements. For example, “Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel”; “You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you”; “The future ain’t what it used to be”; “95% of this game is half mental”; and “You can see a lot by observing.”

Hocus-Focus famous picture puzzles in the comic section of the newspaper provide an entertaining diversion with an educational twist. It is always interesting to see if you can spot the subtle differences between two pictures.

Someone recently shared that counterfeiters are producing twenty dollar bills that look so close to the real thing, it is difficult to tell the difference. Many aspects are identical but one element the counterfeiters did not master is the changing color on part of the bill as it catches the light in different ways. Sarah McGuire concludes her article titled “You can detect fake twenty-dollar bills and avoid being a victim of counterfeit by examining a bill's appearance, security features, and paper. Here's how;” “Familiarize yourself with the twenty-dollar bills currently in circulation and avoid being a victim of counterfeit by carefully examining each bill in order to verify that it has the correct appearance, security features, and is printed on U.S. currency paper.”1

We read in 2 Corinthians 11:5-15, “For I consider that I am not at all inferior to the most eminent  apostles. Even though I am untrained in speech, yet I am not in knowledge. But we have been thoroughly manifested among you in all things. Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might  be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself. As the truth of Christ is in me, no one shall stop me from this boasting in the regions of Achaia. Why? Because I do not love you? God knows! But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing  if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”

V. EVALUATION by the Spirit of God

Paul warns about those “who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned” (Romans 16:17).

We must remember that the same passage that begins with “Judge not” (Matthew 7:1) also says, “by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:15). In fact, Jesus commands us to “judge with righteous judgment” according to John 7:24.

We must not merely follow our feelings, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther (1483-1546), father of the Reformation, declares: “Feelings come and feelings go, / And feelings are deceiving; / My warrant is the Word of God, / Naught else is worth believing! Though all my heart should feel condemned / For lack of some sweet token, / There is One greater than my heart / Whose Word cannot be broken! I’ll trust in God’s unchanging Word / Till soul and body sever; / For, though all things shall pass away, / His Word shall stand forever!”2

In 1 John 4:1-6 we read, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

There will never be a contradiction between the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scripture.

VI. SEPARATION from the Enemies of God

Related to enemies of God we are to “avoid them” (Romans 16:17). The word “avoid” is from (ekklino) which means, “to turn away from, to turn aside, turning away from those who cause offences and occasions of stumbling, turning away from division makers and errorists.”

When someone talks about having “good fellowship” with cult members and followers of various world religions that clearly deny the Lord Jesus Christ, they are deceived. We further note that even some mainline denominations are denying cardinal doctrines and fundamentals of “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Recently I read that some leaders of the “emergent church” movement are “observing” the Muslim month of Ramadan. Why? In 2 Corinthians 6:14 and following, Paul writes, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has  a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them / And walk among them. I will be their God, / And they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them / And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, / And I will receive you.’ ‘I will be a Father to you, / And you  shall be My sons and daughters, / Says the LORD Almighty’ (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Separation from the enemies of God is not a promotion of pettiness or peevishness. The Apostle begins his first epistle to the Corinthians in the following way, “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who   are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:1-2). The word “sanctified” means to be set apart.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner — not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”

Paul also writes in the sixth chapter, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Paul writes to the believers in Galatia, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26- 29).

Moses writes in Leviticus 20:22 and following, ‘You shall therefore keep all My statutes and all My judgments, and perform them, that the land where I am bringing you to dwell may not vomit you out. And you shall not walk in the statutes of the nation which I am casting out before you; for they commit all these things, and therefore I abhor them. But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples. You shall therefore distinguish between clean animals and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, and you shall not make yourselves abominable by beast or by bird, or by any kind of living thing that creeps on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. And you shall be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine” (Leviticus 20:22-26).

Separation to, is the ultimate goal not merely separation from.


Someone writes, “Most of modern Christendom has rejected the importance of doctrine and centrality of preaching in public worship. Correct doctrine was an obsession for Christ and His apostles (Acts 20:28-31; Rom. 16:17; 1 Tim. 1:3-4; 6:3-4; 2 Tim. 4:2-4; Tit. 1:9; Mt. 5:21-48; 7:15-27; 2

Jn. 9-11).” Many are unaware of the comprehensive nature of Scripture in that from it we discover a definition of God, Christ, salvation, ethics, sin and everything a person needs for faith and life as we read in 2 Timothy 3:15-17.

John records our Lord’s word to the seven churches of Asia Minor in the 2nd and 3rd chapter of the book of Revelation. We read in Revelation 2:1-3, “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: ‘I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those  who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.’”

Also we read about a compromising church in Revelation 2:12-15, “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: ‘I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.’”

Further we read in Revelation 2:18-24, “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: ‘I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.

Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. ‘Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden.’”

“A little leaven leavens the whole lump” as we read in Galatians 5:9. We also read in 1 Corinthians 5:1-8: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality  as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of  malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Some have presumptuously attempted to preach only a positive message, while eliminating the negative from their sermons. This is not “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), it is merely subtracting from it. It is also failing to preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

Note that J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) writes in Home Truths: ‘Beware of the very small beginnings of false doctrine. Every heresy began at one time with some little departure from the truth. There is only a little seed of error needed to create a great tree. It is the little stones that make up the mighty building. It was the little timbers that made the great ark that carried Noah and his family over a deluged world. It is the little leaven that leavens the whole lump. It is the little flaw in one link of the chain cable that wrecks the gallant ship, and drowns the crew. It is the omission or addition of one little item in the doctor’s prescription that spoils the whole medicine, and turns it into poison. We do not tolerate quietly a little dishonesty, or a little cheating, or a little lying. Just so, let us never allow a little false doctrine to ruin us, by thinking it is but a ‘little one,’ and can do no harm. The Galatians seemed to be doing nothing very dangerous when they ‘observed days and months, and times and years.’ Yet St. Paul says, ‘I am afraid of you.’”3

Jesus warns in Matthew 16 about “the leaven of the Pharisees” and “the leaven of the Sadducees”. He explains that “leaven” refers to their false teaching. The Pharisees add to the Bible and the Sadducees subtract from it. We read in Proverbs 30:5-6, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.” Also in Revelation 22:18-19 we read, “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

Dr. John Phillips shares in Exploring Proverbs: An Expository Commentary, "When John, the last of the apostles (and therefore the last person able to write Scripture), wrote these words, the gnostics were already adding to and subtracting from the Word of God. The Roman church has since added its traditions and ex cathedra pronouncements of its popes to the Word of God. The Mormons have added the nonsense concocted by Joseph Smith in The Book of Mormon. The so-called Christian

Scientists have added the writings of Mary Baker Eddy. The Spiritists have added the writings derived from demons. The liberals, on the other hand, have specialized in deleting great portions of Scripture. And so the tampering goes on, in spite of the warnings. In the end God will settle His own accounts with those He bluntly labels 'liars'."4

May the Lord give you the correct answer the next time someone asks, “Does it matter?”


1Sarah McGuire, “You can detect fake twenty-dollar bills and avoid being a victim of counterfeit by examining a bill's appearance, security features, and paper. Here's how.” Happy Living Magazine Available from: Accessed: 08/27/09

2Available from: Accessed: 02/13/07 3J. C. Ryle, Home Truths (Conrad, MT: Triangle Press, no date [c. 1857]), 3:119.

4John Phillips, Exploring Proverbs: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2002), p. 549