“Abstain from every form of evil“
Abstain from every form of evil
The word “form” is something that strikes the eye, or which is out in the open. It is the external appearance or shape of something. Our passage probably carries the idea of “sort, kind“. There are many kinds of evil out there — including doctrinal error.
The word “abstain” means to hold oneself from (4:3). Invariably, this word refers to evil practices whether doctrinal or moral (Acts 15:20,29; 1 Timothy 4:3; 1 Peter 2:11). Christians are to keep themselves from foul doctrine. We should not play with evil teaching. We should distance ourselves from it.
The phrase “form of evil” is a contrast to the phrase in verse twenty, “hold fast what is good.” Christians are to avoid anything that smacks of bogus doctrine. They cannot do this if they have not examined the Word of God thoroughly. “Hold yourselves aloof from any prophecy that is not based in truth from the Bible.”
“Every form of evil” does not restrict itself to those things that appear evil. Rather, we must recognize that evil, including false doctrine, may manifest itself in any visible outward form. However, when evil clearly manifests itself, believers must keep their distance lest they be implicated in it (Numbers 16:26).
Christians should avoid anything that is a forerunner to false doctrine, seems like fake doctrine or is beyond the borders of truth.
God expects us to make a clean break with error when we become Christians. The worst form that evil takes is false prophecy or untrue religious teaching. Christians should not associate themselves with any religious organization that seems to endorse doctrine that has been proven unscriptural or dishonoring to Christ.
Christians should also avoid doctrine that may not be evil in itself, but does not appear right. Christians who flirt with false doctrine open themselves up to trouble. Once these Christians adopt bogus principles for living, they move into misery. We must live out our lives based on solid, godly principles evident in God’s revealed Word.