1 Thessalonians 5:23

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Abstain from every form of evil.
1 Thessalonians 5:22

The translation here gives a much better sense of what is being conveyed than that of the older King James Version. It says, “Abstain from every appearance of evil.” That gives the idea of the evil being projected outward from the person, as if we are to abstain from everything that “looks like” evil. Thus, one would be doing works in order to please men, regardless as to whether the person was engaged in evil or not.

If one thinks it through, one cannot abstain from everything that “looks like evil,” and this is not the intent. The words “form of” rightly explain what is meant. Evil comes in many forms – thoughts, actions, words, etc. These are things which are morally wrong, and with which the Lord would be displeased. Whatever “type” or “form” of evil is there, we are to abstain from it.

To demonstrate how “appearance” is incorrect, an example might be that of a person walking down a street where prostitutes congregated. Another person might see this and say, “Ooooh, that supposed ‘Christian’ is hanging out with prostitutes.” In fact, however, he was going down the street handing out tracts about Jesus. Thus “appearance” is a faulty idea here, and it actually matches what the leaders of Israel accused Jesus of. They were judging by appearance, and not by what actually occurred.

Forms of evil, or maybe better, “types of evil,” however, explains the thought. We are to keep ourselves from engaging in prostitution. We are to keep ourselves from being drunk. We are to keep ourselves from murder, adultery, backbiting, and etc. This is what Paul is admonishing us, and thus it is set in contrast to the words of the previous verse which said to “hold fast what is good.” In holding fast to good, then we will naturally abstain from every kind of evil.

Life application: There are times when it may appear we are engaged in evil when we are not. We stand or fall based on the Lord’s evaluation of our conduct, not in that of others. It is right that we should present ourselves before others in the best manner possible. In the end, however, people are fallible, and the Lord is not. When faced with doing what is right, even when it may be perceived as wrong by others, we are to choose the right.

Lord God, thank You for your wonderful word which shows us that we stand or fall based on Your judgment alone. Regardless of whether the world approves of our conduct or not, what matters is that You do. Others are fallible; You cannot err. And so when faced with the decision to do right in Your eyes, or to be perceived as doing wrong in the eyes of others, we should always choose the former. Help us to conduct our lives in a manner in which You approve. To Your honor and glory alone we pray. Amen.

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