I recently saw someone applying Romans 16:17 using the claim, “That’s not what I was taught.”
The problem is that this surely well-meaning person has failed to do adequate exegesis on the passage itself. You see Romans 16:17 has nothing to do with what you or I were taught. It rather refers what the Romans were taught by the apostolic authority. And it doesn’t even really refer to all that the Romans were taught, but rather that part of the teaching that causes dissensions and hindrances. These, I believe, have very specific meanings that do not include what Brother So-and-So said.
In other words, the “what” of the “what you were taught” refers to apostolic teaching, not your Sunday School class, or your long time pastor, or your mentor, or your favorite blog (not even if it’s this one).
There is real confusion on the part of many as to what Romans 16:17 is teaching, and how it should be applied.
There appears to be some real resistance on the part of some to do real work on the text. Instead they jump to inherited application without much regard for what Paul actually said.
This, friends, is dangerous because it removes the authority of Scripture and substitutes it for the authority of tradition, even well-intended tradition.
One relatively prolific blogger, when asked to offer some substantive interaction with these types of passages begged off, claiming that he did not have the time to do such work.
Another person recently wrote an article posing the question of whether or not he should apologize for actions his church took more than fifty years ago.
Absurdity of the question aside, it misses the point because the reference point used was not the Scripture, but rather the actions of a church more than 1900 years removed from the apostolic authority.
As people of the book, we must be serious about what the book says.
We would do well to give Romans 16:17-18 more thoughtful interaction, such as Dave Doran did at the recent Preserving the Truth Conference where he dealt with this passage very carefully.
We must also recognize that there are various difficulties of application. We should stop short of claiming that those who disagree with our application (however well-intended it may be) are disagreeing with the Bible.