Mark and Avoid

Text: Romans 16:17-18

At the close of his letter to Rome, Paul told the brethren to “mark” and “avoid” certain people. Why would he tell them to do this? What was this to accomplish? And what about the one being marked? In this lesson, we will seek to answer these questions from the word of God.

Reasons Why This Might Be Done

  • One is causing division (Romans 16:17-18) – contrary to the teaching of Christ (cf. John 17:20-21); not necessary division (1 Corinthians 11:19), but unnecessary (1 Corinthians 1:10); to be rejected (Titus 3:10); must be marked because they will deceive the unsuspecting (Romans 16:18)
  • One has sinned publicly and refuses to repent (1 Corinthians 5:1-5) – “reported” means it is publicly known; not to associate with one in this condition (1 Corinthians 5:9, 11); not referring to non-Christians (1 Corinthians 5:10); those who are “within the church” and refuse to repent must be removed (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)
  • One has sinned against another and refuses to repent (Matthew 18:15-17) – this sin is private at first; to be dealt with privately at first; if this is unsuccessful, then others are made aware of it
  • One refuses to follow apostolic instruction (2 Thessalonians 3:6) – these are the Lord’s commandments (1 Thessalonians 4:2); we must observe His commandments (Matthew 28:18-20) and follow the pattern (2 Timothy 1:13); cannot continue in fellowship with those who do not remain in fellowship with God (1 John 1:3, 6-7)
  • One is a false teacher (2 John 9-11) – “to go further than is right or proper” (Thayer); not remaining within the confines of Scripture (cf. 1 Peter 4:11; 2 Timothy 1:13); not to receive him or give him a greeting because doing so would be supporting / fellowshipping evil

Purpose for Doing This

  • To keep the church pure (1 Corinthians 5:6-8) – the Lord wants the church to be spotless (Ephesians 5:27); if sin is tolerated, it will spread within the church (1 Corinthians 15:33)
  • To warn others (1 Timothy 5:20) – this influence can spread, especially if it is not addressed; those who are deceived are those who are unsuspecting (Romans 16:18); therefore, warnings are appropriate (cf. 1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:17-18; 4:14-15)
  • To save the one in sin (1 Corinthians 5:5) – some do not mark and avoid because they believe it is too “harsh” or “mean”; yet the motive is not to harm the one being marked and avoided, but to save; it is an act of love (2 Corinthians 2:8); to get the one who was marked to repent and be right with the Lord (James 5:19-20)

Responsibility Toward the One Who Was Marked

  • Pray – good to pray for one’s repentance (cf. Luke 22:31-32; Romans 10:1-3); we pray to make our requests known (Philippians 4:6); this repentance must certainly be our desire
  • Admonish – the sin has already been brought to this one’s attention by this point (cf. Matthew 18:15-17); though repentance was refused, we must still admonish (2 Thessalonians 3:15) when possible / appropriate
  • Keep no company (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14) – not to cut off all contact (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:15), but normal social interaction is not to continue (1 Corinthians 5:11); the relationship must be different; to put him to shame (2 Thessalonians 3:14), hopefully to get this one to repent (2 Corinthians 2:6-8; cf. 2 Corinthians 7:10)


  • It is good and pleasant for brethren to have unity (Psalm 133:1) – never pleasant to have to do this
  • Yet it is sometimes necessary – to keep the church pure, to warn others, and to hopefully save the one being marked
  • Let us always seek the good of others (even when it requires “tough love”) and always remain faithful to the Lord and encourage others to do the same

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