I Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
God is good. He does not need to give a detailed list of things to avoid. He tells us what evil is and what good is. In Genesis 2 God gave Adam instructions for living in the Garden of Eden. He was not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam chose to disobey God. He ate of the fruit of that tree. Some people say that was an apple tree.
Apple computers have a symbol of an apple with a bite out of it on the cover of its computers and other items. It is interesting since the founder of Apple was not a Bible believer. He was a Buddhist. I suppose he used the symbol of a partly eaten apple to mock God. He knows better since his death. Sadly it is too late for him.
God’s children do not live by a list of do’s and don’ts. We live by faith. We have been changed from the inside and that change needs to be reflected in our actions. It is impossible to be a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ if we want to identify with evil.
The evil spoken of here is that which is wrong and sinful. It covers a broad spectrum of things that Christians cannot be involved in. The Holy Spirit indwells the true child of God and He shows God’s child how to enjoy His blessings. We know that every Christian will commit evil at times. That cannot be the norm for the true child of God. It is something that must be confessed as sin and forsaken.
We are commanded here to abstain. To abstain means “to hold oneself off or refrain”. The Christian life is a life of discipline. It is not self-discipline. That would lead to sin. It is discipline under God’s direction. The born again Christian has a new heart and nature. He is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit reminds the saint of the truth. The more the child of God memorizes God’s Word, the closer he or she will walk with the Lord. As we memorize God’s Word, we have a compass and a guide to keep us from falling.
Notice here that we are to abstain from all “appearance” of evil. There are no grey areas in the Bible. God’s Word is black and white. We can know what is evil and we can know what is good. God shows us that it is evil to disobey Him. The consequences of Adam’s disobedience were catastrophic.
We know as well that Cain’s disobedience to God was disastrous. Cain had an evil heart and thus he did not want to bring an acceptable sacrifice to God. He wanted to modify God’s holiness. God said no. Cain chose to add to his sin and he murdered his brother. He dug his hole deeper. He then lied to God and then accused God of being unjust. Cain was definitely evil.
Noah lived in a time of great evil. The wickedness was so great that God told Noah to prepare for the destruction of all living things. Noah obeyed God and he and his family were spared. After the flood, God warned Noah and his family that the imaginations of man’s heart from his youth are evil.
God knows this but He does not accept evil. God provided the way to deal properly with evil. God sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to die on the cross, shedding His blood to provide the only way to deal with evil. The heart of man must be changed in order to abstain from all appearance of evil.
Man cannot change his own heart. His heart is wicked. Only God can change that wicked heart. The only way that God can change that wicked heart is through the New birth. God has limited Himself to that way.
We live in a time when evil has been redefined by most religious groups. We now teach that professing Christians may be crippled by sin for the rest of their lives. Paul stated:
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Paul was not led to lie when he wrote that. God told him to write that. It is a true statement. Any time a Christian sins, he defies God’s law. He tries to bring down the righteousness of Christ. That is the law of the born again Christian. It is not law keeping. It is living under the righteousness of Christ. Jesus Christ never sinned. He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. The born again Christian can please God. He can abstain from all appearance of evil. Thus it is not just not consuming alcoholic beverages, but it also not purchasing them. It is not giving the impression that there is any agreement with those who want to consume this poison. It also means we need to refine our language to avoid the many slang words that were designed to disguise the more crude curse words of the world. A good dictionary will help you to know what those slang words are. The born again Christian needs to remove them from his vocabulary. It also refers to the increasing immodesty in clothing. Suggestive clothing is not acceptable to God. Christians are not trying to seduce others with their clothing. They want to glorify God.
The born again Christian is constantly examining his words and his actions. As Paul stated:
II Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
Verse 5 is of particular importance in what we are talking about. Doing this is not crippling for the true child of God. The indwelling Holy Spirit will be at work to prick the conscience of the born again Christian. At the first, there may be a need to say little until you refine your vocabulary. This will not take long for the true child of God. Attendance in a good church will help in all areas of life. There is so much benefit to being in a godly environment. A true local church will provide this.
In our earlier years I was not aware of any good true churches. We moved around to many different churches. It was not until I was at a New Evangelical Bible school that I discovered there were some much better churches around. Not because the Bible School was promoting them. It was because God led us to attend a church in that area that was a New Evangelical church, but the pastor was reading some good Independent Baptist material. He would give it to me to read as well. He would have been obedient to our text if he would have left that New Evangelical church and started an Independent Baptist church. He was tied to the pension he was being offered within his denomination and never left them. He chose to be around all appearance of evil.
I am thankful that God showed me the need to separate from this deception. We did leave that church and ordered the good material for ourselves. It took a number of years after that before I found a few Independent Baptist pastors. They told me of some good churches. We eventually broke away from New Evangelicalism. That was part of abstaining from all appearance of evil. At that time divorce and remarriage was becoming more of an issue in churches. More and more churches were accepting that sin. It was being normalized. The music standards were far from holy. The dress standards were becoming more evil all the time.
God moved us out of that environment. Our time within that environment had a negative effect on our children. Children are very impressionable. I should have and could have been more obedient to God than I was. I am thankful for the mercy and grace of God. He did not accept my disobedience, but He showed me the importance of obedience. He is still showing me that.
Obedience to God will cause divisions. The Bible says so. Those who know God and seek to follow Him will find that there are few who actually seek to do that. Most want one foot in the world and one foot in Christianity. That is modern day Christianity. God commands us not to love the world.
Moses understood that there are pleasures in this world that last for a season. He chose not to pursue that path. He saw the struggles his brethren were having and he chose to align himself with them. He discovered that they were not that spiritual either. God separated him from them for a time to train him how to walk in truth. When God brought him back to his people, they soon rejected him. He did not give them the physical comfort they wanted. His task was to work on the spiritual aspect of life and they did not want that.
New Evangelicalism is quite popular because it deceives people into thinking they can have the world and God and all will be good. They develop programs to distract people and keep their minds off what God is showing them in their hearts. Over time, the devil is able to lull most of them to sleep. They become well trained at shutting down the Holy Spirit, Who is working to convince them of sin, of righteousness and judgment. Then when death approaches, there are drugs that will dull the senses so that they cannot face reality.
Those who are saved need to take heed to God’s Word. Abstain from all appearance of evil. That is how we can help others to know God’s peace, which passeth all understanding.