Romans chapter 16

Smart enough to know better.

“I want you to see clearly what is right and to stay innocent of any wrong.” – Romans 16:19 NLT

We live in a world where right and wrong are often confused. There seems to be no consistent moral standard that governs behavior and it all seems eerily reminiscent of the period of the Judges when “each man did what he considered to be right.” Everybody is doing what they think is right, and even as Christians it can all become confusing. So Paul winds up his letter to the Romans by telling them, “I want you to see clearly what is right and to stay innocent of any wrong.” He wants them to be wise and skilled in righteousness, to be experts in what is good and right. He also wants them to be “pure of the mind, without a mixture of evil, free from guile, innocent, simple.” That’s the meaning of the Greek word akeraios that he uses in this verse. We are to be smart about doing good and innocent when it comes to doing wrong. Paul is simply echoing the words of Jesus when He said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 NASB). And this is not a new theme for Paul. He said virtually the same thing in back in chapter 12: “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9 NIV). Paul also shared this same thought with the believers in Philippi: “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8 NLT).

This isn’t about coming up with a list of dos and don’ts for us to follow. It’s not about the need to establish rules and regulations that everyone must adhere to. It is to be wise of knowledgeable about what is right, worthy, beneficial, honorable, and good. It is to think about these things and to make them a priority in your life. But it is also to “stay innocent of any wrong.” And we do that by concentrating on what is right. Too many of us rationalize our love affair with the world by claiming that we are just trying to be relevant and contextual. But we are called to be in the world, but not of it. We are NOT called to be ignorant of evil or to avoid it altogether, because we can’t hate what is evil if we don’t know what it is. But the best way to learn to hate evil is to learn to love what is good. The more familiar I become with the things of God, the more repulsed I will be by the things of this world. I won’t want to watch the same TV shows I used to watch. I won’t find the same movies as entertaining as I once did. I won’t feel comfortable with the habits that once marked my life.

The reason so many of us still struggle with the same old sins is that we are not renewing our minds, and our ignorance regarding what is good and right ends up showing through. Rather than being wise in what is good and able to clearly see what is right, we find ourselves confused and lacking focus. We become easy targets for false teachers whose “smooth talk and flattery” lead us away from the truth. Paul’s desire is that we be smart enough to know better. But that requires that we be in God’s Word. It  means we need to fill our minds with the things of God, not the things of this world. Or as Paul put it in Philippians: “filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” (Philippians 4:8 MSG).

Father, I want to be wise in what is good and innocent of what is evil. I desire for my life to be characterized by an obsession with those things that are true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, and gracious. I know that will only happen as I fill my heart and mind with Your truth. Continue to motivate me and drive me to Your Word. Surround me with brothers and sisters in Christ who desire the same thing. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men