This is part one of a four-part sub-series within the article series, “Preparing for End-Times.” Within this sub-series, we will consider the definitions of evil and good, how Jesus teaches us to overcome evil with good, and what this has to do with end-times preparedness while considering Romans 12:14-21, which is the scripture that inspired this article. Part one considers the definition of evil and why evil cannot overcome itself.
What is Evil?
If we were to look at the Strong’s definition of evil in the passage above, we will see the transliteration kakos which means, “inner malice.” What is malice? I went to Titus 3:3 to get a definition for malice, and the definition is “wickedness.” The same is true for many other passages in which “malice” is found. What does “wickedness” mean? Well, this made me laugh. This word is a transliteration of kakia which, you guessed it, is another way of saying “evil” or “malice.” So, if evil means inner malice and malice means wickedness and wickedness means evil, what do we do with this!?
The key thing I take away from this is the differentiating word “inner” that we find from kakos. My mind immediately goes to the understanding which states, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12).”
Why is that? It is important to understand what it is we fight against when speaking of evil — or malice, wickedness, corruption, darkness — I think most of us have some idea of what evil means. This is hard-wired into us beginning at the garden of Eden. Though, we can corrupt evil by calling it good, or rather, corrupt good by calling it evil. We will get into that in Part 2.
Back to Ephesians 6:12. Think of it this way. When a person does evil, where does this evil action begin? According to the teachings of Jesus during the Sermon on the Mount, as well as teachings of the apostles, evil action begins in the heart (or we could say in modern terms, the mind). All evils proceed from an evil heart. What makes an evil heart—or rather, an evil mind?
Evil thoughts make an evil mind. Evil thoughts are generated from evil ideas, usually leading to evil action. Evil begets evil, and it begins in the mind, continues through to action, and breeds when the evil action corrupts the mind of those abused by the evil action. It is a cycle that perpetuates itself.
I realize that I do not go into the obvious here. Satan (the adversary), also known as the devil (the accuser) is the father of all lies. His lies are the very ideas that corrupt us. Therefore, we could also define evil as lies. Goodness is truth, as the Spirit of Truth. Evil is lies, brought by the father of lies. Satan kills, steals, and destroys. His lies bring sin. Sin causes death, and therefore the just result of sin is death. More could be said about Satan, however, overcoming evil is the focus. Focus on that which is good and true is most profitable. Focusing on Satan and what is evil can corrupt us. Therefore, I only make brief mention of Satan.
It is important to draw a clear distinction between the person and the evil idea.
We are responsible for our actions, this is true. Yet, all actions are outward manifestation of inner corruption. “Out of an abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” is a good example of that (Matthew 12:34, Luke 6:45, Proverbs 4:23, Proverbs 10:11, and more). You could also say that evil actions are fleshly manifestation of the spiritual corruption. The realm of flesh is a tangible manifestation of that which is spirit. Jesus is a kind of example of this, being God in the flesh, though this example is oversimplified. The trinity can be difficult to describe.
We should treat individuals as one who is possessed with an evil idea rather than one who simply chooses to do evil or is themselves evil. Mankind is wicked, this is true. Yet, for the purpose of reaching others and overcoming evil, we must show compassion and understanding, always separating the sinner from their sins while treating sin as a sickness — a sickness of the spirit and mind that begins in the realm of ideas — ideas that kill, steal and destroy. These ideas are lies. We fight lies with truth.
We should also remember how strong sin has clung to us, the mercy of the Lord that leads us to repentance, and that we will be judged by the same judgments we make. If we want compassion and mercy for our sin, if we want to be treated as one who is sick rather than defiant, then we should strive to treat others this way also.
So, to overcome evil, should we retaliate with evil?
If we follow this thought through while understanding that evil begets evil, then the answer is no. We might also remember when Jesus was accused of casting out devils by the power of the devil, an accusation that Jesus rebuked and said:
“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you (Matthew 12:25-28).”
So then, we overcome evil with good, right? What kind of good? Is harping on the outer behavior going to work? Is law going to work? Or, do we need to attack evil at the source by overcoming the ideas that pervert the mind?
Jesus taught that the letter kills, and the Spirit makes alive. The letter is the law. Laws do not deal with the inner-self, but rather attempts to govern behavior. Laws do not make a person actually righteous, but they can create an appearance of righteousness that leads to “making the outside of the cup clean” while the inside is filthy (Matthew 23:35, Luke 11:39). This is hypocrisy, and Jesus teaches that the hypocritical cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 23:13). We need inner-change. How does this happen?
We overcome evil by applying that which is nurturing to the spirit, healing the sinner at the source by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit of God—the spirit of Truth and what is the ultimate path towards what is good (See John 14-16 for more on the Holy Spirit).
This is The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven!
I cannot resist bringing this around towards the gospel. After-all, encouraging a better understanding of the gospel is what KindlingTruth is about. Look back to the scripture from Matthew 12 cited above.
With the Holy Spirit within, “the kingdom of heaven is within you” (Luke 17:21). The Holy Spirit “writes the laws of the kingdom in our heart,” thereby changing our nature at the source, ridding us of evil ideas as we learn what is true and good, then “renewing our minds” so that we are no longer bound to the kingdom of sin and death, but rather, we are free within the kingdom of heaven presently (Jeremiah 21:33, Hebrews 8:10, Romans 2:12). Jesus died to atone for our sin, he was raised as a promise of life, and after his ascension the Holy Spirit was made available to us (John 16:7).
He will return and establish his kingdom after he overthrows antichrist, so there is a coming kingdom. However, we must be “good and faithful servants,” “wise virgins” and have a “wedding garment” as one who had “seed sown on fertile ground.” Jesus taught many parables that go against the teaching of a “one-time declaration of faith” or recital of “the sinner’s prayer” as sufficient for salvation. These can be the beginning of our conversion, however, salvation does not end there.
We must be fruitful in our faith. To be fruitful means we grow in the things of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control — “against such there is no law” to condemn us. These are fruits of life and grace-given freedom from sin. Salvation does not minister (or bring-about and condone) sin. Salvation is literal freedom from sin as we are saved by grace through faith.
Salvation is fruitful if our faith is not dead, and this is a continuing work that is only accomplished in fullness when we are resurrected bodily from the grave (See Matthew Chapters 7, 13, 18, 20, 21, 24, 25 for parables of the kingdom).
This is part 1 of 4. Part 2 will consider the definition of good. Part 3 will consider Jesus as an example of overcoming evil with good, and Part 4 will wrap all of this up and consider how this applies to “end-times” preparedness. This sub-series is located within the series, “Preparing for End-Times.”
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