For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
Note 2 at Ro 16:18: In this verse, Paul gave us some characteristics of the people he said to mark (Ro 16:17). These people are not truly serving the Lord Jesus Christ; they are serving themselves. That's what the terminology "their own belly" means.
This same description was used in the parallel account Paul gave on this same subject (Php 3:17-19). There, Paul said that their god is their belly. This is saying that their motive is not the selfless motive of love for God and others, but rather, they are motivated by a love for themselves. This is always at the root of all division (see note 6 at Mr 15:10 and note 4 at Lu 10:20). Php 3:19 gives the further explanation that these people glory in their shame and mind earthly things.
Paul said in this verse that these individuals use good words and fair speeches and deceive the hearts of the simple. This means that they flatter people (2Ti 4:3) and appeal to the same selfish desires that they themselves have, to draw people after themselves (Ac 20:30).
Note 3 at Ro 16:18: Paul said that the simple are those of us who are deceived by these sowers of strife. If we will quit being simple, we won't be deceived.
What did Paul mean by "simple"? The Greek word that was translated "simple" in this verse is "AKAKOS." It was only used twice in the New Testament, here and in Heb 7:26. In Heb 7:26, it was translated "harmless," meaning "without guile" or "fraud, harmless; free from guilt" (Thayer's Lexicon).
In this verse, the meaning of this word is "fearing no evil from others, distrusting no one" (Thayer's Lexicon). This is describing those whom today we would call gullible (Pr 14:15). Only those who lack discernment between good and evil will fall prey to this deceit.
How do we quit being simple or gullible? It's through God's Word. Many scriptures promise that God's Word will cause the simple to start being wise (Ps 19:7, 119:130; and Pr 1:4). A good understanding of God's Word is the greatest defense against deception (Joh 8:32 and 17:17).
The English word "simple" is only used twice in the New Testament (here and Ro 16:19, see note 4 at Ro 16:19).
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