The verses that inspired our bible group were Romans 16:19-20 (ESV), “For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” A brother in our group asked, “Why does Paul say be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil? What does this mean?”
I said, “First, let’s look at the structure of Romans 16.” Romans 16:1-16 consists of greetings to people in the Roman church; verses 17-20 are words of exhortation; verses 21-23 are more greetings from Paul and others that were sent to people in the Roman church; and verses 25-27 are Paul’s summary of the gospel. When Paul wrote his letters, he probably wrote on parchment. In his day, there were no computers or even paper, so we can imagine it was very inconvenient to write a letter. The greetings in verses 1-16 and 21-23 are naturally indispensable in the last chapter. We can assume that what appears in the last chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans must be his burdensome words since he took the time to write more. Paul’s summary of the book of Romans in verses 25-27 seems to be very important, but why is his exhortation in verses 17-20 so important that it was placed in the last chapter?
One of the difficulties of the Roman Church was the societal conflict between the Jews and Gentiles, which may have led to the conflict between Jewish and Gentile believers within the Roman church. These societal challenges were just external causes of conflict. Those who taught differently within the church are what Paul refers to as the internal causes of conflict. Paul said in verses 17-18 (ESV), “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.”
It is evident to us that Paul knew that some people in the church in Rome were “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” They did not consider the interest of the sheep or the flock as the most important thing. Rather, these persons deceived believers out of self-interest. This situation was not only present in Paul’s time, but it also exists among churches today. Upon hearing of the situation, Paul’s first natural reaction was to blame these “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” At the same time, he reminded the innocent believers to be “wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.” The direction to stay away from evil and be “innocent as to what is evil” is easy to understand. No Christian is willing to or should do evil. But the good deeds of Christians are sometimes taken advantage of by the enemy. For example, we may recall the story of the farmer who saved a snake out of goodwill. Unfortunately, this goodwill was certainly done without wisdom because the snake bites the farmer, and he dies (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Farmer_and_the_Viper.)
Throughout the ages, there have been many cults and heretical persons who deceived Christians. If you observe carefully, you will find that among them are also many innocent people who simply love the Lord. I will use an example from the religious cult known as the Eastern Lightening. There are many Eastern Lightening believers in my hometown in China. Once, I went back to my hometown and I heard Christians telling stories about this group. One story claimed that they kidnapped Christians, confiscated their Bibles, and then locked them in a specific place for brainwashing. As part of their brainwashing tactics, the Eastern Lightening would not beat or scold a person but rather wash their feet and care for them to falsely gain their trust. Gradually, some people became brainwashed. The believer who told me this story said that one of his relatives who had been kidnapped was a mature Christian and knew the Scriptures very well. After being kidnapped, the Eastern Lightening were not successful in brainwashing him with inerrant teaching because of his knowledge of biblical truth. Eventually, he was released. Now, I’m not sure if this group really kidnapped this man or just forced him to go with them. Hearing the testimony firsthand, however, still shocked me.
I often have prophetic dreams. One night I had a strange dream related to the Eastern Lightening. In this dream, a mysterious man drove me to a place. When we arrived, there were many young people and they seemed to be having a training of some sort, like a Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) class training. In Chinese society, this kind of business model is often used as a scheme to cheat or deceive people. I later realized this training of young persons was symbolic of the evil intention of the Eastern Lightening to deceive its members, especially aiming at “innocent” as represented by the younger generation. When we got there, the mysterious man made a detour and drove toward the group. I got out of the car and went to meet these young people. During our conversation, I felt I received a revelation regarding them. While many people there were innocent, one of their leaders was not. He interrupted me in a very rude manner when I was conversing, and I understood that he came to hinder me. After some time, we left. The mysterious man confirmed what I felt—that many of these young people were very innocent, but some of their leaders did not allow them to accept help. I had not made a connection between the dream and the Eastern Lightening group until I saw the words “Eastern Lightening” written in Chinese in my dream.
Often vehicles in prophetic dreams represent ministry. According to James Goll, an American prophet, the Holy Spirit often appears in our prophetic dreams as a mysterious person with no face. I believe the mysterious person in this prophetic dream was the Holy Spirit. This prophetic dream afforded me a different perspective toward young persons indoctrinated into the Eastern Lightening. I now have a compassionate heart towards the innocent ones in Eastern Lightening who are generally regarded as heretics by Christian standards. I think that there are people in this group who are innocent in their intentions and simply without knowledge or discretion; therefore, they are easily deceived. I didn’t feel particularly burdened for these people at first, but after this dream, I began to feel burdened to pray for the deceived ones within their cult. Moreover, I know God was speaking to me that I must prepare myself well and spread the truth in order to help many others who are being deceived.
I recall several verses related to this. Jesus taught us to be faithful and wise. Matthew 24:45 (ESV) says, “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?” Three examples are cited below to illustrate what it means to be faithful and wise.
The first example is found in the story of Matthew 24:47-51 (ESV). An evil servant says, “My master is delayed” (v. 48). The wicked servant begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards. The verses continue, “the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This is an example of unfaithfulness, which is not doing what God wants us to do.
The second example is the story of the foolish virgins and the wise virgins in Matthew 25. The foolish virgins had lamps but had not brought enough oil to keep them lit for the unexpected delay that occurred. The wise virgins took both lamps and sufficient oil. The foolish virgins are neither faithful nor prudent. The wise virgins are both faithful and prudent.
The third example is a story found in Matthew 25:14-30. There were two talents and five talents given to servants. Each servant duplicated their gifts making two talents and five talents more. They were called faithful servants by the Lord. But the man who took one talent and buried the gift was called a wicked servant by the Lord and was thrown into darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“Faithfulness” as termed in the third story includes being “faithful and wise.” We know that many people are “faithful,” but not necessarily “wise.” For example, Paul said in Romans 16:19 (ESV), “Your obedience is known to all,” which means that they were very faithful. In the latter part of this verse, however, Paul specifically tells them to be “wise as to what is good,” which means that they must also be wise. In other words, Paul meant that even though separations and deceptions come to make us stumble, if the believer is obedient but still lacks wisdom to judge, the believer himself is responsible for his own deception. This sentence is an exhortation by Paul to ordinary believers urging them to learn how to judge others’ teachings and resist blindly following just anyone.
In the age we live in today, apart from being faithful to God, believers and church leaders need to be wise. Take the example of US election. What is God’s will for the election? Is it Trump or Biden? This question not only tests whether we are faithful to God, but it also tests whether we are wise.
There is a well-known leader and Evangelical Christian in the United States who actively supported Trump to be elected. After the United States confirmed the electoral vote on December 14, 2020, and the media announced the news of Biden’s victory, this leader announced and acknowledged Biden as the new President of the United States. Afterward, he was criticized by American Charismatic church leaders for acknowledging Biden’s victory too early. Many people with prophetic gifts claim that God told them that Trump will eventually win and continue to be president for four years. In this process, there will be a great battle, but eventually, God will interfere in the US election allowing Trump and the conservative forces he represents to win. In the end, the purpose of this triumph would be so that the United States could return to its Christian foundation and continue to spread the gospel to the world.
Aside from these prophets, there are other so-called prophets who prophesied Trump’s victory, but after finding out that Trump did not win, they apologized and admitted that their prophecy was wrong. These people have received criticism for following the crowd and not speaking from a place of truly hearing God.
Among Christians, different perspectives and attitudes about the election emerged. Some Christians did not clearly see that this election represented a life and death battle between God’s righteousness and the evil power of Satan. They, therefore, held an indifferent and powerless attitude. They said, “It’s in the hands of God anyway. Whosoever God chooses, let it be.” This attitude shows that such persons are not sure what God’s will and choice are. Other Christians strongly believed the prophets’ messages that Trump is the “chosen one.” That is, he is chosen to accomplish God’s will for the United States and God wants to use Trump to: (1) save the United States from a falling trend; (2) bring the United States back to God; and (3) deal with other nations through his leadership so as to create conditions for the world’s greatest revival. Of course, lastly, there are some Christians that oppose Trump and support his opponent.
If you are a Christian in the United States, or if you are a Christian from another country who cares about the US election, my question for you is, “How can you demonstrate being ‘wise as to what is good’?” I believe when some Christians vote, their purpose and motive are innocent and good because their intention is to serve the Lord and glorify God. However, what we choose and whether we are ‘wise as to what is good’ will bring different results.
There was a time when Christians in the United States believed that politics were strictly politics and the church should focus only on spiritual things. They thought that participating in politics was Caesar’s business, and they should let only Caesar do it. However, US leftists have taken advantage of the “unwise” attitude of the American church by gradually using democracy in American society to change the “vocal minority” into the majority, or at least to the point that it has almost an equal footing with the power of Christianity. Many people in the body of Christ experienced a spiritual awakening because of this. They realized that when the church did not participate in politics, it gave the US leftists and other groups a chance to grow. The leftists’ active participation in political elections and changes in education affected a complete generation.
The church was caught off guard by this group and began to pray eagerly to God about it. Over the years, I have followed this intercessory fasting movement in the United States. I believe I have a very clear understanding of these people’s prayers for repentance and confession for the United States. I believe that it was because of this prayer movement, including both repentance and confession, that God raised up Donald Trump. As he became the President of the United States, expectations were confounded. Many like myself believe that Trump’s initial presidency was a result of God’s answer to the prayer of the American church.
Eventually, many American churches pushed beyond the limitations of the past that said, “churches do not participate in politics.” Now, believers have begun to actively participate in American politics. Of course, we Christians also engage in spiritual warfare; therefore, intercession, fasting, and repentance remain the foundational pieces for fighting to bring things to pass. However, this does not mean that churches and Christians should not participate in politics. The United States is a democratic society and politics require democratic participation. Your non-participation is equal to you giving up your opportunity to influence others.
I believe the most critical thing that helped bring this shift to the American church is when it started to repent and call for God’s help, and God responded to this call. God has given me and many other Christians words and prophetic dreams that indicate there will be a great revival in the United States, China, and in other countries around the world. I personally reside among the group of people who still believe God will supernaturally intervene in the post-election process and bring Trump back to the White House. I believe this is part of God’s plan for America and the world. I also believe that Trump’s re-election is just the tip of the iceberg. God still has so many things to do and I think God wants to use Trump to continue to accomplish more things in the United States. This includes strengthening the country’s Christian foundation in order to rebuild and revive American churches. At the same time, the United States must remain salt and light and act as a role model for the world in matters such as protecting Israel and exporting the gospel.
My belief in Trump’s return is not only based on what I have heard others say about Trump and his re-election. Surprised by the election results on November 4th, I prayed asking God what was happening. On the early morning of November 5, I had the following dream about fishing. I saw a fish hooked on the end of a hook. A mysterious man and small child were playing with the fish by swinging the fishing lines. Then I heard something in my spirit: “They will continue to play for a while until they catch a bigger fish using this fish as bait.” My interpretation is that God still has everything in his hands, but there is a purposeful delay. My dream led me to believe that God will still turn things around.
While I believe that these are things God will do in America, He will also continue to expose deeds that are being done in darkness thereby getting rid of forces that oppose Him. This can be likened to when the Israelites were chased to the Red Sea. They were in despair, but God parted the waters for them to cross while drowning their Egyptian enemies. The current political situation in the United States is the same. Many people, including those with prophetic gifts, do not know exactly how God will bring His will to pass. Yet, many of us carry a certainty in our Spirit that God will turn things around. We should live in God’s peace now and celebrate God’s victory before we see it.
A brother in our group commented that his own experience is like this. He feels he is not very aware of the political situation in the United States. He falls into the category of persons that verse 19 refers to: “obedience is known to all.” However, he lacks being “wise as to what is good.” After evaluating himself, this man concluded that being “wise as to what is good” is not simply a matter of good and evil but whether one can clearly hear God’s voice and understand what God’s will is.
He is right. The following story about David illustrates the importance of hearing God’s voice and obeying. The wives and children of David’s men were taken captive by the Amalekites. When David and his men returned and found out about this, they wept loudly. David’s two wives were also taken captive. Because of this, David’s men wanted to stone him to death. The Bible does not record David’s reaction in the flesh, but it does say that “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (ESV, 1 Samuel 30:6). Through the ephod brought by the priest, David inquired of the Lord if he would be able to overtake the enemy. The Lord said, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue” (ESV, 1 Samuel 30:8). David, therefore, brought people together to overtake the Amalekites in war. On their way, David ran into an Egyptian who had not eaten food or drunk water for three days and three nights. David gave him food to eat and water to drink and revived him back to life. It turned out that this man had been a slave to the Amalekites and was abandoned because he was sick. David promised to guarantee his safety, so the man took David to the Amalekites. God gave David favor and set the circumstances to bring him directly in confrontation with his enemy. In the end, David’s strategy to inquire of the Lord and obey was his reason for success in defeating the Amalekites. This is what it means to be wise—to inquire, hear, and obey.
In fact, the Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and that knowledge of the Holy One is insight (ESV, Proverbs 9:10). The Bible also instructs believers in this way: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (ESV, Matthew 7:7-11). If you are humbly seeking God’s will for yourself and this age, God will reveal himself to you. In most cases where a person is unsure, it is not likely that God is unwilling to reveal things to you but that you may not have sought enough.
Now that we have looked at what it means to be both wise and innocent, let’s discuss the rest of the verses of Romans 16 that talk about crushing Satan and living in peace.
Verse 16:20 (ESV) says, “the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet.” Note that it says, “under your feet.” Our God of peace does not only crush Satan under his feet, but also under our feet. When we are confronted with societal conflicts and it seems that Satan is winning, we must remember to live with God’s peace. God’s peace is the greatest weapon believers have in this world. As God shakes the world, his purpose if to move people’s hearts to be open to the gospel thereby bringing many people into His Kingdom. In this shaking process, believers should be steadfast people who know God’s will and live in God’s peace. They should not be swayed by rumors and tides like people in the world who go up and down like the waves. Christians should persevere in the face of obstacles just like the Lord Jesus did. A state of peace and rest does not indicate sleeping, however. Instead, Christians should work vigorously to impact society and have an external influence; in their interior, they live in peace by the Spirit of God that dwells inside them.
We may live this way because we know that God will prevail and will prevail greatly in the end. Romans 16:25-27 describes how Paul was able to live in peace and sincerely believe that the God of peace would crush Satan under his feet. Paul received God’s revelation that he would be entrusted with the gospel, so much to the point that he could even refer to it as “my gospel.” This mystery of the gospel—the message of the work of Jesus Christ—was a revelation hidden from many in past times but revealed to the prophets and apostles such as Paul. As Paul learned of his mission to preach Jesus Christ, he himself learned to live in peace amidst the many crises he encountered completing his mission.
While it was a shock for many that Biden was inaugurated on January 20th, some prophets still believe God will intervene and change this. We will observe what happens. I told the brothers and sisters attending our Bible Study that if I am wrong, then many of us who claim to believe in modern prophets including myself, will need to reflect on ourselves to consider if and how we have misheard God’s voice. If we are right, however, that Trump will be re-elected or brought back to the White House supernaturally, many Christians who do not believe in modern prophets would do well to reflect on how these prophets heard God’s voice, but they did not hear and believe their words. The final verdict regarding the upcoming election is a test for American society and a test for the prophetic movement and the gifts of prophecy.
Written by Jairus Bible World Ministries on December 20, 2020 and updated on February 5th, 2021.