1 Thessalonians 5:22
Abstain from all appearance of evil.
The tendency is to place too high an estimate on appearances. Hence outward religion comes to be magnified at the expense of inward holiness. To guard against this great stress is laid in the Bible on piety in the heart: but this has lead people to say, "Appearances are nothing — it is with the heart God has to do." The object of the text is to give appearances their real importance It is therefore connected with several injunctions which relate to inward and practical Godliness and which issue in a prayer which shows that abstinence from the appearance of evil is an essential attribute of entire sanctification.
I. THE IMPORT OF THE PRECEPT. There may be the appearance of evil where evil is not intended and where there is no evil in fact.
1. In our actions.
(1) In our social intercourse we may aim to show a proper regard to men of the world for our improvement or for their own, but this association may appear to be the result of elective affinity.
(2) In our pursuits we may seem to ourselves to be merely diligent in business, while we may appear to be contravening the prohibition of laying up treasures upon earth.
(3) In our dress and furniture we may merely seek our own convenience, while to others we may appear conforming to the world.
(4) In our contributions and other expenditure we may seem to be merely liberal, but to others prodigal.
(5) In our intercourse with the other sex we may think ourselves only courteous, but appear to others amorous.Conversely —
(1) We may shun society for the purpose of avoiding its contamination, but appear to others to forget our social relations and duties.
(2) We may design to live above the world, but the world may think us negligent of business.
(3) We may intend to be plain in dress, but appear to others to make religion consist in plainness.
(4) We may be merely economical, but appear penurious.
(5) We may think ourselves correct in our bearing to the other sex, but they may think us morose. It is difficult to determine on which side of the happy medium the greatest evil lies, but as the least appearance of evil is injurious we should always be on our guard.
2. In our words.
(1) We may design to be free and pleasant and yet appear trifling.
(2) We may be in earnest only, and yet appear to be in a passion.
(3) We may be faithful in reproof and appear censorious.
(4) We may only intend to use plain language but it appears course and indelicate.
(5) We may be imparting instruction and be voted conceited.
3. In our spirit.
(1) Zeal may have the appearance of fanaticism;
(2) Elevation of mind, of haughtiness;
(3) Promptness of obstinacy;
(4) Calmness of stoicism;
(5) Humility of mean spiritedness;
(6) Deliberation of infirmity of purpose.
II. THE REASONS FOR THE PRECEPT.
1. Those which affect ourselves. Falling into evil appearances —
(1) Results from the want of a correct taste, a well disciplined conscience, knowledge, watch fulness, evils which will ripen into bad habits if not checked.
(2) Will mar our own enjoyment of religion when we find that it has done harm.
(3) Will ruin our usefulness which depends on our influence, which acts through appearances, and is estimated by them.
2. Those which affect God's glory. We honour God in proportion as we exhibit a practical illustration of the purity of the Christian character before the world. The ungodly associate our blemishes with our religion.
3. Those which regard the well-being of others. All example consists in appearances, and "no one liveth to himself"; we are contributing by our appearances to the formation of the characters of those around us, and any one of those appearances may make all the difference between heaven and hell.
1. That appearances are of high importance.
2. That appearances, and not what a man means, determine his influence as a member of the Church.
3. That the qualities which will enable us to avoid the appearance of evil should be sedulously cultivated — an accurate judgment, a tender conscience, perfect self-knowledge.
4. That the Scriptures which pourtray so minutely the appearances of evil should be diligently studied.
(G. Peck, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Abstain from all appearance of evil.