The verse you are referring to is 1 Thessalonians 5:22 which says, “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”  Let’s examine this verse carefully.

To ‘abstain’ means to hold yourself off from or to restrain yourself.  This gives us the thought that we should put distance between ourselves and that which is evil.  So often we see something that is sinful and instead of immediately rejecting it, we think about it.  We allow it to take over our thoughts.  We imagine what the experience would be like.  We might even think, “How bad could it be to do this?”  Over time, we literally talk ourselves into participating in sinful acts.  We read in Proverbs 4:24, “Turn aside from thee a froward mouth, And perverse lips put far from thee.”  Here we have the sin of a froward mouth, or speaking of perverse things.  We are told to ‘turn aside’ and to ‘put FAR from thee’ this evil.  When we recognize something as being evil, we should put distance between us and the evil.

The word ‘appearance’ literally means a kind or a sort; and so the meaning seems to be that we are to abstain from all sorts, or every kind, of evil.  We are to abstain from all that is truly evil, even if it seems to be small.  The least, or smallest, of sin is dangerous.  It is often the small sin tolerated that leads us to the larger sin accepted.  Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.”  We are to HATE the evil things and to HOLD ON to the good things.  Let me ask you, dear friends, do you love what the Lord loves?  Do you hate what the Lord hates?

Next we need to consider the word ‘evil’.  The Greek word is ‘poneros’ and means that which is sinful, lewd, or bad.  In the New Testament, this word has been translated in different places as ‘bad’, ‘wicked’, ‘lewd’ ‘malicious’, ‘grievous’, and ‘evil’.  Here is where our responsibility to study God’s Word comes into place.  How do we know what is evil or sinful?  How do we know what is acceptable before the Lord?  There is only one sure and unchanging way to know, and that is through the Word of God.  We read in Isaiah 5:20, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”  We are living in a day where many things that God’s Word describes as evil, is being taught as being good.  Many things that God’s Word says is good, the world is calling evil.  I’m sure you can think of several things even as you consider this verse.  Notice that strong word of warning the Lord gives, “Woe unto them.”  As believers on the Lord Jesus Christ, we are all called upon to search God’s Word for instruction for our daily lives.  We MUST learn what is evil and hate it.  We MUST learn what is good and hold on to it.  Only then can we truly “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”  (181.5)