Vol.IX No.XI Pg.3
January 1973

Men To Mark

Dan S. Shipley

According to the New Testament, Christians are to mark two different classes of men. They are to be marked in the same manner but for different reasons. In Rom. 16:17, Paul speaks of certain bad men who are to be marked in order that they might be avoided; In Phil. 3:17 he writes of marking good men for the purpose of imitating them. Doing as Paul says naturally involves an understanding of the word mark. (Incidentally, herein is once more illustrated the necessity for understanding words in order to understand passages. The very meaning of these verses turn on one word, as is often the case.)

So then, how do we comply with the admonition to mark certain men? Simply by observing them. As Thayer says, this mark (from Gr. skopeo) means, to look at, observe, contemplate (p.579), with which Vine agrees, adding only behold and watch. Accordingly, Moffatt renders the Roman passage, keep your eye on those who stir up dissensions and put hindrances in your way, while the RSV says, take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties. All seem to imply the idea of thoughtful observance involving the intellect as well as the eye. (Note: This term is not to be confused with the Greek stigma, a brand, Gal. 6:17).

So, Paul is saying to keep an eye on such men as would cause divisions and occasions of stumbling—and, in doing so, puts his finger on a prevalent cause of problems and division in the Lords church as being things contrary to the doctrine. Unity prevailed among the Roman brethren until some contrary things were introduced. They had a unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3) based on Spirit-revealed doctrine but with contrary things came division. Right relationships with men and God are predicated on right doctrine (2 Jn. 9; 1 Jn. 1:1-4). Therefore, any addition to, deletion from, or alteration of Divine doctrine affects scriptural unity. No wonder, then, Paul admonishes Christians to take note of those who would thusly depreciate the doctrine of Christ. It is easy for such contrary things to tip-toe in without arousing slumbering brethren. They may come in subtly through devious teachers or unintentionally through unthinking brethren, but always with a threat to the unity of Gods people. And that is why alert Christians must continue to insist upon a thus saith the Lord—even at the risk of reprisal and division.

But God wants his people to keep an eye on the good and faithful among them as well. Brethren, be ye imitators of me, and mark them that so walk even as ye have it for an ensample writes Paul. Elders, evangelists, teachers—all Christians must strive to be examples worthy of imitation (1 Pet. 5:3; l Tim. 6:12; Rom. 2:21). When we imitate a good pattern we set a good pattern. Your light does shine and with effect. Marking and following good men makes it easier to mark and avoid bad men. And remember, both good and bad are under the continual surveillance of the all-seeing Eye—all are marked men with God. He sees those who lead others to Him— or away from Him and He bids us to see and act accordingly.