Vol. 2 - No. 1
"Because His Own Works Were Evil"
by H. L. Bruce
The word “evil” from “poneros” communicates the idea of that which is “wicked” or “bad.” (Thayer)“Poneros is essentially antithetic to chestos, kind, gracious, serviceable; hence it denotes what is destructive, injurious, evil.” (Vine). Arndt & Gingrich use such words as “wicked, evil, bad, base, worthless, vicious, degenerate, vile and spoiled” in their definition of “poneros.”
Cain's motive for killing his brother, Abel, is used by John to illustrate “poneros” in showing the antithesis of love. “For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.” (1 John 3:11-12).
Cain slew Abel not because of any wrong that Abel did! Abel was righteous! Cain was the spoiled one. His own works being evil constituted his motive. He had contempt for his brother and his good. Oh, what a motive! How impure! But the practice of such action is quite wide spread.
Herod and Herodias
It was not any sin on the part of John that caused him to be beheaded. The evil, rather was on the part of his oppressors. Herod and Herodias were in adultery. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her.” (See Matthew 14:1-12). They in essence did to John the same that Cain did to Abel: they slew him BECAUSE OF THEIR EVIL WORKS and JOHN'S RIGHTEOUS REBUKE! It was right for John to rebuke them. It was evil for them to be thus together.
“Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him ...and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.” (See 1 Kings 16:30-33). Elijah, the prophet of God, a righteous and courageous man, met with Ahab's disfavor. Jezebel, Ahab's wife was, without doubt, the most wicked woman that ever lived!
In demonstration of her wickedness she slew the prophets of the Lord. To offset this wicked, evil, base and ungodly effect, Elijah hid a hundred men of the Lord's prophets by fifty in a cave and fed them with bread and water. (1 Kings 18:13). When Elijah met Ahab face to face, Ahab said to him, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” Elijah had obviously troubled Israel by preventing Ahab and Jezebel from murdering the prophets of the Lord. Elijah placed the blame for this evil where it belonged when he answered, “I have not troubled Israel; but thou and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and have followed Baalim.” A contest ensued which resulted in triumph for God and defeat for the prophets of Baal.
But Jezebel was not satisfied! She sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” (1 Kings 19:2). The story continues, but the question is, Why were Ahab and Jezebel pursuing Elijah? Was it because of what he had done that was wrong, or, what they had done? Obviously, they were threatening him because their works were evil and his were righteous.
Paul was threatened, his speech was accused and his life was on the threshold of eradication. But why all of this apprehension? Paul was an outspoken critic of the sins of his time. He reproved, he rebuked and condemned. His sacrifice was tremendous. There were many who were unappreciative. Many of those whose works were evil were vindictive and antagonistic. (see 2 Corinthians 10:10; Acts 14:19-20).
Examples could be multiplied in confirmation of the motives of the evil doers. But there is tremendous consolation that their actions fail to draw the final picture. Jesus said, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:1-12). The apostle Peter exhorted: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as a evil doer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.” (1 Peter 4:15-16). “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.” (1 Timothy 2:12).
The names, lives and reputation of the persecutors go down in infamy, while the names of such devout persons as Elijah, Abel, John and Paul continue to live in honor! Beyond this there is hope to those who so live that faithfulness unto the end will be rewarded with a crown of life. (Revelation 2:10).