What does 1 Thessalonians 5:22 mean?
ESV: Abstain from every form of evil.
NIV: reject every kind of evil.
NASB: abstain from every form of evil.
CSB: Stay away from every kind of evil.
NLT: Stay away from every kind of evil.
KJV: Abstain from all appearance of evil.
Paul has indicated that Christians ought to test spiritual claims before accepting or rejecting them (1 Thessalonians 5:20–21). Believers should also apply Scripture to lifestyle practices.
Paul calIs upon the Thessalonian Christians to "abstain from every form of evil." The Greek word apechesthe literally means "abstain," or "to keep away from." The same root word appears also in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, where Paul commands believers to abstain from sexual immorality. If an action violates Scriptural commands or principles, believers should avoid it.
The Bible is a faultless authority not only for what we believe, but also for how we ought to behave. Paul called upon the Christians at Philippi and us to "… be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life …" (Philippians 2:15–16). God's Word helps us choose what is morally acceptable and reject what is a form of evil. Psalm 119:9 asks: "How can a young man keep his way pure?" The answer: "By guarding it according to your word." Also, the psalmist wrote, "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11).
First Thessalonians 5:12–22 gives the Thessalonian believers a series of exhortations. As children of the day, who were anticipating the Lord's return, they needed to live righteously. As a church, they needed to relate well to their leadership. Paul calls upon them to treat all their fellow believers kindly and patiently and to do good to one another. Paul admonishes the believers to be joyful at all times and to keep on praying. Constant thanksgiving was to mark their lives. Further, Paul tells his readers not to quench the Holy Spirit or to have a negative attitude toward prophetic ministries. However, they were supposed to keep a firm grasp on teachings that they tested and found to be true. Lastly, Paul directs his readers to avoid every kind of evil.
First Thessalonians chapter 5 reiterates that the rapture will occur quickly, catching the unbelieving world unprepared. In contrast, Paul presents faithful Christians as those who are aware and ready for this event. This passage uses the contrast of day versus night to highlight those differences. Paul also completes his letter by offering various practical instructions. These include the need to be peaceful, hardworking, and forgiving. He also commends constant prayer and an attitude of joyfulness, before closing his letter with a command for this letter to be read aloud.
The end of chapter 4 discussed the nature of the rapture: a sudden, physical ''taking away'' of believers from the earth. Here, Paul continues to refer to this event's sudden and dramatic nature. A key analogy used in this passage is that of daytime versus darkness, and the concept of being awake and alert. As with many of Paul's letters, practical instructions make up the bulk of his closing statements. In particular, Paul adds a command that this letter be read aloud among all of the people of the Thessalonian church.
The apostle Paul's second missionary journey included a visit to the prominent Greek city of Thessalonica. This stood alongside a major land route and boasted a busy seaport. A number of individuals believed Paul's message (Acts 17:1–4), but an angry mob forced Paul to leave the city after his brief stay. Later, while in Athens, Paul received a glowing report: the believers at Thessalonica were growing spiritually and serving God fervently. However, they had questions about the Lord's return, including what happens to a believer who dies before that day. And, as all churches do, they had some areas in which they were falling short. In Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, written about AD 51, he addresses these developments. Paul expresses gratitude for the Thessalonian believers' spiritual progress, and frequently makes references to Christ's impending return.
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