The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
May 16, 2010


1) Sick and Tired? (Norman E. Sewell)
2) "The Appearance of Evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22) (Dick Blackford)
3) News & Notes


Sick and Tired?
by Norman E. Sewell

How often have we felt tired and frustrated, as though things just never work out right for us? What's that old song from Hew Haw, "If it weren't for back luck, I'd have no luck at all"?  Perhaps all of us feel this way sometimes, and certainly Christians are no exception.  Then comes the confusion over the 28th verse of Romans chapter 8 which reads, "And we know all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Does this verse promise us that things will always go well for us in this life, and that there will be no pain or heartache or trouble? It really doesn't say that, but many have misunderstood it to mean just that. When you study that verse in its context it becomes clear that Paul was dealing with the blessings to be found in Christ, and how God cares for His people, and that He was not promising heaven here on earth.  

The 8th chapter of Romans begins by saying, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Here is the relationship, "in Christ." And in the next three verses Paul shows that what the law could not do God did in Christ, making us free from the law of sin and death. In the next several verses Paul explains that we must meet the condition of walking after the Spirit and not after the flesh, and that this is done by setting our mind on the things of the Spirit (the revealed word of God -- 1 Cor. 2:10- 11; Eph. 3:3-5) and not on the things of the earth. In the 14th verse Paul affirms that those who are thus led by the Spirit are the sons of God; that the Spirit bears witness with our spirits to this fact, and that as children we must expect to suffer with Christ in order to inherit. But that suffering is nothing compared to the glory that is to be revealed (v. 18). In the next few verses Paul shows that all of the creation suffers in this life, but that when we who are the children of God don't even know what we should pray for the Spirit helps "with groanings which cannot be uttered" (v. 26). It is then because of this relationship that we have with the Christ, and God's blessing of us through His Spirit that He can say to us, "and we know that all things works together for good to them that love God" (v. 28). And finally Paul ends the chapter by showing "if God be for us, who can be against us?" (v. 31).  

The fact that all things WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD does not mean that all things ARE good. Earlier in the Roman letter Paul wrote: "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:3-5). Even James says, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (James 1:3-4). There is something to be learned, and something to be gained even by trouble and hard times and yes, even by temptation. This doesn't make these things any more enjoyable, but they work together for good to produce in us steadfastness and a stronger faith. James wrote: "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him" (James 1:12). The ones "that love him" here in verse 12 are the same ones described in Romans 8:28 for whom "all things work together for good."

How do I know if I love God? Jesus said it well in John 14: "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me" (John 14:23-24). If you love God it will be shown in your obedience to whatever God has asked of you in His word. So it is to those who obey God that this promise is made, that all things work together for good.  

As long as we live in this world we will have pain.  There will still sometimes be periods of frustration and disgust with ourselves as we struggle with properly applying God's word in our own lives. But once we begin to get this all in perspective, remembering that whatever we may suffer here is nothing compared to eternal life, then we begin to more quickly resolve the frustration and get on with living. Paul told the Corinthians, "for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17-18). It's only when we let our sights drop down so that we are focused on the problems of this life and failing to look at the goal, the big picture, that we allow frustration and distress to overrun our lives. Keep your eyes on the goal, and remember that whatever may come in this life that for those who love God and obey Him "all things work together for good."

-- Via Searching the Scriptures, March 1992, Volume 33, Number 3


"The Appearance Of Evil"
1 Thessalonians 5:22

by Dick Blackford

"Abstain from every form of evil." "Hold yourself aloof from every form of evil." "Shun every form of evil." "Continue to abstain from every sort of evil." "Steer clear of evil in any form."

These five translations of 1 Thessalonians 5:22 are from the American Standard Version, The Epistles of Paul by W. J. Coneybeare, The Twentieth Century New Testament, Williams Translation, and J. B. Phillips Translation. This passage is made clearer by observing and comparing other renderings. They all bear the same message. This, of course, it not to say that the King James Version is inaccurate in rendering the passage, "Abstain from all appearance of evil." However, some erroneous conclusions have been drawn from the word "appearance" not intended by the Holy Spirit. Some interpret appearance to mean "the outward aspect of anything." But a thing is not evil just because someone thought it looked that way. The passage means whenever evil (the real thing) appears, abstain from it.  

Add to these five translations of 1 Thess. 5:22 Thayer's definition of eidos ("appearance"): "from every kind of evil and wrong" (p. 172), and Nestle's Interlinear: "from every form of evil, abstain." This shows the verse is not talking about what may "look like" evil or what someone may associate with evil.  

That becomes subjective, for what some may associate with evil may not "look like" evil to others.  It is in the eye of the beholder. For example, some suspicious minds accused Jesus of being a glutton and a wine bibber because he ate with publicans and sinners (Mt. 9). "Guilt by association." He also spent some time with a woman who had had five husbands (Jn. 4). It astonished his disciples and to some it may have had the outlook of evil. Was Jesus wrong or were the suspicious minds in error? If we are not careful we may put ourselves in the position of reading other people's minds and of falsely accusing them.  

To some Pentecostal groups it appears ("looks like") evil when you wear jewelry,  makeup, etc. In years past about the only place where billiards was played was in beer joints. Unable to see that it was the drinking that was wrong, not the billiards, some erroneously concluded that it was wrong to play pool even when drinking was not present because it had the "appearance" of evil and was therefore questionable. The same happened with dice, cards, and moving pictures on a screen. Though no drinking or gambling was involved, those who used dice and cards or watched a picture move across a screen, were pronounced "guilty by association." If I came to your home and saw you playing a board game with dice or a game of Rook (cards), I would have no right to accuse you of violating 1 Thes. 5:22.  

Certainly, a Christian should not try to see how close to evil he can get, or seek to make it look like he is doing wrong. Nothing in this article should be misconstrued as a defense of any sin named herein.  But this passage is not saying every time one is found in circumstances another might question that he has actually sinned.  

In some states the grocery stores sell beer and lewd magazines. If a Christian is seen in one of these stores, has he sinned by "the appearance of evil?" No, but he may have violated someone's misconception of 1 Thes. 5:22.  

While aboard a plane, the man sitting next to me ordered a cocktail and so did the people behind me. Rather than come under the scrutiny of a suspicious person who thought I violated 1 Thes. 5:22, I reluctantly decided not to jump out.  

Another example: a Christian may be present where cursing, lasciviousness, cheating and gambling are taking place, without sinning. There are two places I have in mind where these often occur -- at school and at work! Because one is present where these occur, is he guilty of "the appearance of evil?" If 1 Thes. 5:22 is teaching that we sin every time we are found in association with that which could be sinful, then the only possible solution would be as Paul states, "for then must ye needs go out of the world" (1 Cor. 5:10).  

It is possible that one may sin through impure thoughts when he sees others involved in sin. He may also sin when he sees murder, stealing, materialism, or lasciviousness on TV in his own home. Does one sin when he sees sin re-enacted on television? He may or he may not. He may have placed himself in a dangerous situation -- dangerous to his spiritual well-being. It may cost him dearly. He needs to beware of self-deception. He needs to ask: "What is my motive for watching this program?" He may have sinned terribly. All I am saying is that I cannot read his mind (1 Cor. 2:11).  I must avoid the temptation to become a mote hunter or to always put the worst interpretation on another's action or circumstances. We must "do good to all men, especially to those of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10).  Being charitable and using the Golden Rule applies here too (1 Cor. 13; Lk. 6:31).  

I have often heard this verse misquoted to the effect that we should "Abstain from the very appearance of evil." The word "very" is added to make it sound like it is wrong because it "looks like" evil to someone. "Very" is not in the text nor in any of over 30 translations I have checked. It is an addition which contributes to misunderstanding the verse.  

The misinterpretation of 1 Thes. 5:22 has caused no small amount of problems for brethren and congregations. This misinterpretation encourages mote hunting. Accusations are often made on suspicion and one may become guilty of speaking evil against a brother (Js. 4:11) when, in fact, he may have done no evil.  Dissension and division are often the result.  

Let us "judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (Jn. 7:24). Vine's Expository Dictionary points out that this is the only time the word appearance is used to mean "the outward aspect." It is from opsis, not eidos. Jesus plainly commanded us not to judge this way. He did not contradict Paul. He contradicted the misconception some have of 1 Thes. 5:22. Christians should be cautious of dangerous situations. Likewise, we should be concerned about one another. But let us not misinterpret 1 Thes. 5:22 or John 7:24. The consequences are disastrous.

(Adapted from 1972)

-- Via Searching the Scriptures, March 1992, Volume 33, Number 3.  


News & Notes

On May 10, my mother (Marian Edwards) departed from this earth life.  She was 86.  A long-time friend of the family was with her when it happened.  She said that as she held my mother's hand, there was a slight tear from my mother's eye; but also, at the same time, a little smile.  She then closed her eyes as if drifting off to sleep, and calmly passed away.  I appreciate all of you who had taken the time to pray for her, during her final days on earth.  She had been looking forward to eternity and heaven; and the comfort I have is in the hope that she has gone to a better place because of the love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness of God that is attained through Jesus Christ.

Let those of us who are Christians also continue praying for Agnes Shuff who has been having trouble with her heart and blood pressure, and for Eloise Craver who has had continual hip pain for several months.

I would also like to solicit prayer for my landlord's grandson (Joseph John Koczrowski IV).  He is only 9 months old, but is having to undergo several surgeries, due to intestinal problems.   

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

201 Rushing Road (at the Hampton Inn), Denham Springs, Louisiana 70726
Sunday services: 9:15 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 4 PM (worship)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://home.onemain.com/~tedwards/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://home.onemain.com/~tedwards/audioser.html (audio sermons)


Take the Denham Springs exit (exit 10) off of I-12.  At the end of the exit ramp, turn north.  Go about a stone's throw to Rushing Road.  (You'll see a Starbucks, Circle K, and two other gas stations; with each on each corner.)  Turn left on Rushing Road, and go less then 0.3 of a mile.  Hampton Inn will be on the right.  We assemble in its meeting room, which is very close to the reception counter.