Paul conveys, in his letter to the Romans, that he was very joyful because of the obedience of the Romans. Yet Paul chooses to alert them so that they are not complacent; he asks them to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
What does wise mean? As per dictionary.com, it is 1. “having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion.”
- “characterized by or showing such power; judicious or prudent: e.g. a wise decision”.
- “possessed of or characterized by scholarly knowledge or learning; learned; erudite: e.g. wise in the law”. To summarize, ‘wise’ is defined as having, experiencing, or showing “knowledge and good judgment.”
This is what Romans 16:19 says. “Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you, but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil”.
Let’s look at what different dictionaries say about the other word. According to Lexico, the word ‘innocent’ means “a pure, guileless, or naive person.” Merriam Webster refers ‘innocence’ to 1. “freedom from guilt or sin through being unacquainted with evil: BLAMELESSNESS,” 2. “lack of knowledge: IGNORANCE,” 3. “freedom from guile or cunning: SIMPLICITY,” and 4. “lack of worldly experience or sophistication.”
To bring matters into context, it is good to note that Paul asks Romans to be alert about those who cause divisions & place obstacles in their path. These people, by smooth talk & flattery, deceive the minds of naive people.
Paul goes ahead & concludes in verse 20 stating, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you”.
Where does God of peace crush Satan? It’s under your feet. So to summarize… your obedience brings joy, but you have to be wise about what’s good & innocent about what’s evil. In the process, you will be empowered to crush Satan under your feet.