by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 3 Study # 2 March 22, 2015 Dayton, Texas
15 See that none render evil for evil unto any [man]; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all [men].
16 Rejoice evermore.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
19 Quench not the Spirit.
20 Despise not prophesyings.
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
1901 ASV Translation:
15 See that none render unto any one evil for evil; but always follow after that which is good, one toward another, and toward all.
16 Rejoice always;
17 pray without ceasing;
18 in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you-ward.
19 Quench not the Spirit;
20 despise not prophesyings;
21 prove all things; hold fast that which is good;
22 abstain from every form of evil.
I. Paul's Insistence Upon the Pursuit of "The Good".
A. The imperative is a verb that has several nuances of meaning.
1. It can be a reference to literal, with-the-eyes, "seeing" (1 John 1:1) with an implication of at least some degree of "seeing how things fit together" (a mental activity of some kind of understanding) as in John 4:45.
2. It can also skip the actual "with-the-eyes-seeing" step and be used as a reference to having a certain level understanding without that first step (1 John 4:20).
3. Then it can move from the "understanding" level to the ability to "do" what that level of understanding promotes.
4. And, then as Paul uses it now, it can actually have the meaning of "insisting upon a certain kind of activity that is inherent in the reality that, if it could be seen, it would naturally have".
B. The actual description of the inherent reality.
1. Its setting in this verse: the imposition of "evil".
a. Matthew uses the term to indicate a level of "evil" that deserves capital punishment (21:41) and deliberately ties this level of "evil" to the reckoning of "hopelessness" so that the denial of Hope leads to "evil" treatment of others (24:48).
b. The "synoptics" all record Pilate's use of this term to question the demand of the mob that Jesus be subjected to capital punishment (Matthew 27:23; Mark 15:14; and Luke 23:22).
c. Clearly, though, Paul is not necessarily referring to capital crimes in this text (the word is used of lesser "evils" as in Luke 16:25), though he may be. It would certainly enhance his imperative if the setting was that particularly severe of an experience.
2. Its impact is upon the "response" that is to be "given back".
a. The verb "to give back", or "to render", means to return to someone what belongs to him/her. As such, it is a legal term that claims that one "deserves" a "return" commensurate with what he/she has dished out.
b. The restriction: NOT "evil against evil".
c. The exhortation: "always pursue the good".
1. First in the family (of God) setting -- one to another.
2. Then in the larger setting -- to all men.
C. At Issue: "The Good".
1. The word is used when the focus is upon some contribution that moves a thing toward a beneficial result in the true sense of benefit ("gifts" can be "good" even though given by those who are "evil: Matthew 7:11). "The Good" edifies (Ephesians 4:29). Alternatively, the word is also used when the description indicates a composition that is uncorrupted (a "good" tree that cannot produce "worthless" fruit: Matthew 7:18).
2. Always in mind is the final impact (from an eternal perspective), but without the tendency of man to make the end justify the means (Romans 3:8). It can be like a painful surgery that necessarily introduces severe physical pain into the mix, but has an ultimately healthy end result.
3. Care must be taken in our understanding by including the reality that sometimes a totally destructive thing to one person is a great good to another and the one who "does the good" is often seen as doing something horrible.