Vol. 4, No. 2
For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore, I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. –Romans 16:19
The book of Romans closes with a biblical philosophy for our advancement in the Gospel. Jesus had coined a similar phrase: Be wary and wise as a serpent, and be innocent, harmless, guileless, and without sophistication as doves.–Matthew 10:16
Paul is communication with believers living in the capital city because it seemed that the world of the first century revolved around Rome.
Into the markets of Rome poured the multitudes of wealth, the merchandise of the world, and the diversity of the world. The citizens and nobles were a polished lot; cultured, proud, and holders of great wealth. They also possessed enormous power and had extensive privileges. In addition, there was abject slavery, as well as grinding poverty, and hopeless misery for many. Cruelty and oppression were a part of the pattern of the Roman life.
Can you imagine that in the midst of all this came the Christians. Many of the believers carried with them, from their past, a sophistication regarding evil, which, if remained un-crucified, could wreck and ruin even themselves in the local body life of the church. –John Phillips
Interestingly, our times are not much different. The needed balance of being wise concerning good and simple in regard to evil is a necessity. Bishop Moule of England stated it well: Be deep in the wisdom of humble faith; be contented to be unacquainted with a wisdom which has its roots in evil.
The world around us is saying just the opposite. Be simple concerning good; be wise in regard to evil. However, that is a fast track to failure.
Many mad dogs are shot; infectious diseases quarantined; most damaging drugs outlawed – the wise addresses the vile things of the world. The Scriptures caution us to be wise about goodness and give a loud response to the world’s penchant for worldly wisdom and immorality.
We need to be careful where we plant our feet. We should not go to some stinking alley and lift the lids off the grubby garbage cans to get a whiff – if you do – you will end up with the same offensive smell! Offensive odors of the world can hang heavy in the air around you.
Be wise as a serpent . . . be as uncontaminated as a dove!
Too good to deceive; too wise to be deceived –Grotius