In Romans 16:17 the apostle Paul instructs us to mark those who cause divisions. This is indeed a noble commandment and a warning that his often not heeded. There are many individuals found throughout the Bible that in times past have been marked correctly as ungodly and evil doers. For example Paul tells Timothy about the man Demas, who had left the faith for the world. (2 Timothy 4:10). Jesus himself practiced the art of marking individuals as well as groups of people. Recall that Jesus spoke against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matt 16:6, 12. Jesus knew the importance of knowing who was involved in sinful practices. Elijah marked Ahab when he told the truth that Ahab had forsaken the commandments of the Lord and followed Baalim. (1 Kings 18:17-18).
Students of the Bible realize that this must take place today as well. Those who refuse to walk after the doctrine of Christ or who stir up division must be marked and avoided. Paul even tells us why this should take place ‘for they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly.” He goes on to say that they can even draw away the innocent. But what does it mean to mark them? The word mark as used in Rom 16:17 carries the idea of looking upon, observing, or taking note of. Therefore we learn that we must be observant as Christians. The same idea is expressed in Phil 2:4 where we are exhorted to “Look not every man on his own things but every man also on the things of others.” and in Gal 6:1 “considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” So we see the need for Christians to be aware of themselves and of what is taking place around them. With a watchful eye coupled with a knowledge of the Bible that comes from diligent study we can be sure we are properly marking those who work against Christ and his church.
Yet in another verse we are also told to “mark them”, but for a reason other than avoiding. It is found in Phil 3:17. The apostle Paul gives the instruction to mark them who are examples. He encourages us to be on the look out for Christians who are walking according to truth. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1 Co 11:1. But how many of us heed this command? We are quick to look for the bad deeds of others. We seem to like pointing out what others are doing that is wrong and contrary to the word of God. But let us be reminded that we are to also mark them that are pressing toward Christ. Not only are we to look and we aware of these godly individuals but we are instructed to follow there example.
Look around you to see if you can observe women who are following the Lords command to be homemakers. (1 Tim 5:14; Titus 2:4-8) Look around you to see if you can observe men who are teaching their children the ways of God. (Eph 6:4) Look around you to see if you can observe aged members who despite physical aliments faithfully attend the services of the congregation. Look around you to see if you can observe a man or woman who remains faithful to God even though married to one who is not a Christian. Look around you to see if can observe Christians who have overcome great obstacles to serve the Lord. Once these have been seen or observed, encourage them to continue and imitate their faithfulness to the Lord. Beware of your steps, you too are being marked.