1Th 5:22-24 “Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”
As Paul brings to a close his list of how the Thessalonians were to live a godly life, he admonishes them to stay away (abstain) from anything that has the form of evil. The Greek word “ponēros,” which is here translated as evil, refers to the outcome or effect of an action rather than the essential character (see Strong’s). We do not want to be engaged in anything that could be a stumblingblock for our brothers and sisters in their faith and trust in Jesus (Rom 14:13, 1Co 8:9, Rev 2:14).
Even Christians newly come to faith in Christ generally know to shun the appearance of lawlessness or immorality. For that matter, many who do not openly profess to be Christian (or to believe in God at all) strive to be morally upright. To truly abstain from all appearance of evil, we must be willing to prefer our brethren before ourselves. Paul declared that if his eating meat was offensive to a brother, then he would abstain from eating meat.
We need to grow in grace to the point that, even if we have the right to do something, we would refrain rather than risk offending a weaker brother or sister (1Co 6:12, 1Co 10:23). If our choices are not edifying to ourselves or the kingdom, then we need to rethink our choices. Just because we are not doing something recognized as “wicked” does not mean we are not doing evil. If our words or our walk deny the sovereignty of God, then we are giving the appearance of evil.
Paul recognized that we are human, and we do not always make the best of choices regardless of our intentions. He, therefore, calls our attention to the One who is able to keep us from the appearance of evil. As Paul prayed for the very God of peace to sanctify us wholly, so we should pray for one another. Our strength alone is not sufficient to perform the simple tasks laid out in verses sixteen through twenty-two. We need the revealing grace of God to show us that our purification and consecration are in Him.
He alone is able to keep us wholly and completely blameless. Being preserved blameless does not imply that there is any danger of us losing our salvation which Jesus paid for on the cross. Notice that Paul prayed for the whole spirit and soul and body to be preserved (guarded) unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul is asking for preservation up to a certain event.
Knowing that if we are in the family of God we cannot be eternally lost (Joh 10:28-29), then this is not a prayer for final preservation. We need to pray and put our trust in God to keep us every day of our lives. We have been blessed over the years to witness the “coming” of Jesus in our Christian experience many times. It is our joyful anticipation every time we pray, lift our hearts in song, or assemble for worship that we have been preserved body, soul, and spirit to honor and glorify Him at His being near (see Strong’s definition for “coming”). Further, it is our hope that we may rejoice at His coming when we have reached the end of our days here.
Our hearts should rejoice greatly at the assurance of the twenty-fourth verse. The God of creation, who has called us with His holy calling, is faithful. When we fail, He is still faithful. When our strength is not sufficient, He is still faithful. When we realize that we cannot do it, God works in us to perform both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Php 2:12-13).
May we rejoice to see the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and look for Him every day!