Context Matters: Abstain from All Appearance of Evil

“And how does Paul want people to express their dependence on the Spirit? How can they show their regard for those verbal prophecies? Is it by shutting off their minds and swallowing wholesale whatever is spoken in the name of the Spirit?”

(Peter Krol – Knowable Word)  Perhaps you’ve heard the injunction to avoid the appearance of evil. You won’t find the phrase in most modern English Bibles, as it’s a holdover from the King James translation of 1 Thessalonians 5:22. The ESV commands us to “abstain from every form of evil,” and the CSB simplifies it further to “stay away from every kind of evil” (1 Thess 5:22, CSB). This verse could be called upon to support just about any set of personal prohibitions, including interacting with someone of the opposite sex, dining at a tavern, choosing one’s friends, and forming political alliances, to name a few.

But is that what the Apostle Paul had in mind?

Context matters. If we learn to read the Bible for what it is—and not as a collection of independently assembled proverbial sayings—we’ll discover that some of our most familiar passages don’t actually mean what we’ve always assumed. View article →