Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 1 Peter 3:11
The main meaning of ensue—which you’ve probably already guessed—is pursue, meaning to follow after, but both ensue and pursue come from the Greek word diō meaning to flee. The most interesting thing about ensue is it has the same meaning as the word persecute in the KJV. Hmm. I guess it depends on how one ensues and who’s doing the ensuing!
On the other side of our word study is eschew, a funny-sounding word like someone sneezed. To eschew is to shun or avoid something. This is the see-saw to ensue. The opposite admonition, more or less, to following after.
I did not realize when researching these two words, the joyful rabbit holes I’d fall into and the rich layers of spiritual insight and discovery I would land in. I would be honored to have you join me.
Welcome to my KJV Bible Word Study Series!
I love the King James Version Bible. I believe it is the most accurate and beautiful translation we can read. Nevertheless, it is important for us to know that none of the translations we have today (including the KJV) is perfect. Only the original Hebrew and Greek texts from which they came are divinely inspired.
The KJV, its lyrical beauty aside, uses some antiquated words, and words that have changed their meanings over time, that might send us scrambling for the nearest dictionary or concordance.
In this series, I take words that we may be unfamiliar with outside their biblical setting or that may be confusing to our modern-day English sensibilities, and expound upon their original meaning within the context of the verse.
By using Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, it is my hope to bring clarity to, and broaden our understanding of, many beloved and obscure KJV Bible passages.
G#1377—to pursue (literally and figuratively), follow after, given to, (suffer) persecution, persecution, press forward
G#1578—to deviate (absolutely) to shun (literally or figuratively) or to decline (from piety), avoid, to out of the way
H#5493—to turn off, call back, decline, depart, leave undone, pluck away, put away, rebel, remove, revolt, take away, turn away, be without
[Underlining and words in bold are added for emphasis in Bible verses throughout this study.]
Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. Psalm 34:14
Psalm 34:14 above is an almost word-for-word rendering of what Peter said in 1 Peter 3:11, “Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.” The Hebrew definition of pursue (H#7291, to run after, chase, put to flight, hunt, persecute) gives the impression of running after something with hostile intent but, in this case, we are encouraged to seek peace with dogged determination; something that we don’t let up on.
There is only one instance of ensue and one of eschew in the New Testament. (Incidentally, the Middle English word sue used in the phrase “I’ll sue you and take you to court” means to follow, strive for, petition, and is akin to a Greek word meaning to follow.)
First Peter 3:11 says we should follow after peace determinedly and (by its very definition) suggests we may suffer persecution for it. Why is that and from whom? In this life, to wholeheartedly follow after the peace God gives is not easy. What is easy is to let frenzied emotions and bad attitudes take hold of us when things go wrong. People won’t understand our calm demeanor and meek and quiet spirit which in the sight of God is of great price (1 Peter 3:4) if we don’t react the way they would. Their response to us might be chiding and ridicule. Remember Job’s wife (Job 2:9).
What is this peace we are to follow hard after?
When we think of peace, we think of not having to deal with our cranky toddler, demanding spouse, or overbearing coworker. Can you say, “Calgon, take me away?”
Our notion of peace is a convenience for ourselves where our comfort zone is not invaded, and we are blissfully left alone. There is nothing wrong with a cozy blanket, a warm cup of tea, a quiet room and a book, and no demands for the moment. But our life in this world cannot sustain that.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27
On deeper reflection, what we think of when pondering the word peace is mere personal comfort and not the peace Christ gives.
Peace: H#7965, G#1515—from a primary verb meaning to join; by implication: prosperity—one, quietness, rest, set at one again
Prosperity, quietness, and rest. These three things sound quite peaceful, don’t they? But what does “to join” or “one” have to do with peace? I believe it goes back to who God is and what His purpose for his children are: that we become one with Him and His Son, Jesus Christ.
I and my Father are one. John 10:30
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. John 17:22–23
Paul urged us several times in the book of Philippians to be one with each other, to mind the same things, and to be of one mind with our fellow believers. Like a husband and wife become one, peacefulness is the result of joining, of being one, with God, our spouse, and fellow believers.
But what if your computer dies, you lose your job, your house floods, your health fails, your country succumbs to communism. So many things can go wrong to disturb you and cause you grief. How do you find Christ’s peace in these situations? What is Christ’s peace?
I believe it’s the ability (although I don’t do it perfectly) to accept misfortune and upheaval in your life and still breathe steadily without stress knowing God is in control of every detail of your life. The circumstances and stressors still exist, but Christ covers them, separates them from affecting your spirit negatively. Like He said in John 16:33, “I have overcome the world”! How else can poverty-stricken, war-torn, persecuted Christians around the world smile, laugh, and find joy while misery abounds? They must, like we, ensue peace.
What was the first thing Jesus Christ said to His disciples after his ascension? “Peace be unto you.” That’s what He wants for all of us. Supernatural peace that transcends our earth-bound understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Let us therefore follow after the things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. Romans 14:19
Follow after (G#1377) found in Romans 14:19 above is the same word diōkō as, you guessed it, ensue. But what makes for peace? If we pursue peace, if we pursue what makes for peace, we must actively live by God’s love. If we pursue godly love, peace will naturally follow. It’s all connected. You can’t have peace or find it without living by love.
It might seem strange that our initial, purely selfish desire for peace, requires an unselfish surrender to live by God’s love before we can find it. It’s an evolving process—the more we love others like Christ loves us, the more His peace settles upon us.
Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 1 Peter 3:11
Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. Job 1:1
In all three instances of the word eschew (H#5493) found in Job, each is paired with the phrase “one that feared God.” Job didn’t merely turn away from evil, he first feared God. He regarded God in the most highly esteemed way not wanting any possibility of offending Him or sinning against Him. This is seen by his actions in offering burnt offerings for his grown children JUST IN CASE they may have sinned in their hearts. He understood who God is: righteous, holy, and worthy of praise. Job feared and took seriously the God of the universe and the giver of life and actively turned away from any appearance of evil (Ephesians 5:11).
To eschew is to shun, turn your back on something, and run from it. When we think of evil—ugly, dreadful, frightful evil—the first inclination we Christians have is to quickly run the other way. We know it comes directly from Satan and his demons and want nothing of it. But often we don’t realize we harbor evil thoughts, evil intentions, evil deeds in our lives. We gloss over these things as part of who we are and think nothing of it.
Rage, doubt, impatience, stubbornness, pride. These are all evil. The opposite of God’s character. But everyone has exhibited these characteristics at one time or another. The key here is do we ask God to reveal these tendencies in us, so we can repent and turn away from them? Or do we accept these traits in ourselves as just who we are and not that bad? The world wants us to embrace who we are and revel in it, certainly not conform to who God is.
I Samuel 15:23 is an eye-opener. “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” Wow! We know that witchcraft is evil and would never engage in that. And we know idolatry is evil and wouldn’t take part in that either. But here these two evil practices are equated with rebellion and stubbornness. Two actions every one of us has done and might still be doing without realizing it.
- Do we refuse to give God our full submission, holding back a part of ourselves?
- Do we ignore certain parts of God’s Word because it doesn’t feel right?
- Do we doubt that God will care for us during our worst times and indulge in worrying over our circumstances? “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12).
These are rebellion and stubbornness. Evils we should eschew as quickly as we would if we walked into an ominous alley in the dark of night.
Who we should eschew and why
Romans 12:18 tells us if it is possible, as much as depends on us, to live peaceably with all men. But sometimes it isn’t possible. To live by the love of God and live in peace sometimes requires drastic measures. If we are to eschew evil (anything contrary to God’s Word) and seek peace and pursue it, we may have to change who we associate with. For the sake of peace and our own spiritual integrity, we may need to cut all ties with certain family members and friends (Romans 16:17–18).
God wants us to live in peace, but not at the expense of our faith. If we accept the watering down of God’s Word by others (especially those who call themselves Christians) so we won’t have to deal with the emotional conflict our speaking up may cause, this is merely a false peace and puts us in dangerous waters.
True godly peace is not a big group-hug moment of toleration. “Why can’t we all just get along?” is not the answer and will not usher in peace. Getting along with the world’s ideology of “anything goes” for the sake of peace makes you a partaker of their evil deeds (even if you don’t do the same things). You forfeit your child-of-God status for a few social invitations, phone calls, pats on the back, and smiling clan photos that amount to nothing on the scale of eternity.
Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore. For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off. Psalm 37:27–28
Although eschew is only used three times in the Old Testament, the word depart (H#5493) is found numerous times and is the same Hebrew word (sûr) as, you guessed it again, eschew. I love how Psalm 37 above outlines the path to peace beautifully.
In its simplest form, the Bible teaches us to turn away from (eschew) evil in all its forms and follow after (ensue) good things: righteousness, faith, love, and peace. It’s a life-long pursuit to live holy. And the reward is peace in the presence of God forevermore.
I love a good word study, don’t you? I hope you’ve gleaned, along with me, some additional insight into the rich words used in the KJV Bible.
If you would like to read more posts in this series, please check out my KJV Bible Studies page.
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