"The Bible says - 'abstain from every form of evil", speaking of some type of action that one, was doing, or hasn't done, which they will not now, or ever will do, which needs to become known to all who are within their earshot or email shot...:) "Legalism" is the exact opposite of the Gospel of Christ, it depends on the outward, works of the flesh, to commend itself to God. They look at themselves and see some sort of purity that is commendable because, "we don't do this or that". It is every bit of Pharisaical, you know white washed toomish, dead mans bonesish...that sort of commendation. It is what God doesn't accept and will not accept in place of His Son.
[Just a note, regarding the exegesis of this text, "The verse is banning the practice of sin/evil in whatever form it occurs—whether lying, stealing, murdering, etc." from the Apologetics Press. So you see that it is banning the "practice" of such things. Now, I can see that someone would say, "well that is what I'm doing, I'm abstaining because I don't want to practice those things." I would say to that, more power to you, BUT don't let it become an excuse for casting stones. This calls us to "reflection" and not "reaction". So the spirit of the letter, to those in Thessaloniki, is where I'm coming from.]
Now like some, I do not think that we should forget this portion of the Bible just because some want to use it in a fashion that is contrary to the original meaning.We need to define the parameters by "what is said" vs "what is not said".
What is said is that we need to be aware;
- There is evil and it is not distant from us but in us. Jesus said, to his disciples, "if you then who are evil", there were no exceptions, no standard of righteousness, outside of his, that got a pass. Jesus didn't then go on to say, "well let's not be harsh or overbearing, I know you do good and I don't want to dismiss that." No, Jesus like Jeremiah in the OT knew the heart of man, it was/is "desperately wicked".
- Evil is not evil according to our understanding of evil in the world. Evil is that we don't acknowledge God every second of our lives, that we would defame him in a heartbeat or leave Him for any number of reasons. I cannot become the objective bearer when it comes to evil. This is where many Christians, especially those in denominations who would rather beat you than correct or affirm in love. My formative years were spent in a denomonation that did nither, in fact the very opposite is what they did. The logic of their views astounds me now and I have come to embrace a fundamentalism that is God centered and more faithful to the Scriptures. Why? Just as I pointed out above and I don't think it is a 'straw man' argument, there is an outward appearance that is applauded by the people of your own sect. Within your lofty grandeur, you sweep away the detractors as penance for persecution suffered. I have one sentence you can concentrate on to overcome that, are you ready? GET OVER YOURSELF, God certainly has and so have I...:)
What it is not saying; as I stated above is that, "we" define the parameters of evil. God does. So just because someone drinks wine they aren't evil, just because someone smokes a cigar they aren't evil. This is where it gets so muddled because people define it in nefarious terms. Yes, evil is evil and nefarious but when I am the one defining it I can be a detractor from the original intent of evil. Yes, the intention of God to ordain that evil exists is so that he could be seen more gloriously. As I've heard just recently in a John Piper sermon, "we are not duelists". What does that mean? It means that we don't believe that there is, God on one side, and Satan on the other and they are going, back and forth, tit for tat. That inculcates a weak view of God. God controls all things and sustains all things for His own glory, including Satan and his minions. He (Satan) is nothing but a lackey on a leash. So more important than what I "practice" it is at the very heart of the question that legalism cannot answer. Paul did answer. So it is not saying that the evil that is "out there" is what we should be concerned about it is the evil within our own hearts.
But this is the beginning of the Gospel that before time began God predestined many to become his children, because of His own determination, for His own glory. You are made to display his glory, no matter who you are. No matter what color, creed, or socio-economic status that you come from, you were made for Christ and until you settle that matter in your heart you may end up like the religious people above trying to compare yourself with everyone and in the end, I would fear, feeling comfortable about where you are. We definitely were made for treasuring and adoring Him but that isn't what people choose, in fact the opposite is what we choose, we choose sin because it feels good. See John 3:19. It is our natural bent and we will fall prey to deception, to the point that we will call good evil and evil good, it happens all the time. But God is on a rescue mission to those who know that they are drowning and they aren't looking for an appendage, you know Jesus is good as long as I get the car, house, etc... They are wanting what only God can give, and if it be that I lose everything, so be it, I want Him - don't give me anything but Him.
The evil that we abstain from isn't our recommendation to God for our lives, I'm sure that there are evils that are currently holding firm in my life, but for the grace of God, as displayed through Christ, I'm not destroyed. If you can say yes to that then you can come with me. Look to the cross, He is mighty to save.
Your boasting friend,