Keeping the Organization Clean
“Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?”—2 Cor. 6:14, NW.
1. Why is Jehovah interested in keeping his organization clean, and what does he want its members to be?
JEHOVAH is very much interested in keeping his organization clean and separate from this evil, wicked world in which we are now living. He has a reason for this. His servants belong to him, they stand for his name, they stand for his Word, and they stand for clean worship. Jehovah God wants them to be imitators of him. That is why he inspired his servant Paul to write in Ephesians 5:1, 2 (NW), “Therefore, become imitators of God, as beloved children, and go on walking in love, just as the Christ also loved you and delivered himself up for you as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling odor.”
2. (a) Whom did Jesus imitate and thus how did he himself set a pattern for imitation? (b) Through such imitation, in what way would his followers differ from the world?
2 Now when Christ Jesus was on earth he imitated his heavenly Father. What he was interested in was doing his Father’s will at all times. And so he was a sacrifice of sweet-smelling savor to Him. His footstep followers must be people of the same kind. They should offer to God sacrifices of sweet-smelling savor, and they can do this by imitating God, by imitating Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:18; 1 Pet. 2:5) Jesus showed love for his people. He laid down his life so that he might redeem them, and in showing his love for his people he wanted his followers to be different from this old world. He wanted them to come out from this decaying system of things and gain life. The old world is wicked. It is not imitating Jehovah God. God’s people must be different, different from this old world. The difference comes in their way of living, and that has to do with our love one toward another. In John 13:34 (NW), Jesus said, “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” This loving one another is so different from the way the world operates. The world operates on selfishness, hatred. Jesus introduced something entirely new, new to this world. It was a principle of love: people coming together in a congregation, loving one another, getting along with one another. This love is possible if we imitate God. If we do not imitate him, we are not going to have this love, because God is love.
3. On what basis is the congregation built up, and so what would be the general reason for disfellowshiping anyone?
3 We might wonder, then, since this congregation which God is developing or bringing into existence is based on love, why anyone should ever want to talk about disfellowshiping or putting people out of this congregation. There certainly must be some reason. Well, the reason for disfellowshiping is that some persons get into this congregation of God that do not love Christ. “Well, everyone, of course, loves Christ,” you say. But that is really a fact: they no longer are imitators of Christ or imitators of the Father, Jehovah God. They no longer walk in Christ’s footsteps. The whole purpose of bringing his servants, his people, into an organization is to keep them clean from the Devil’s organization. As long as we walk in the way of the Devil’s crowd we cannot remain clean. So God has built his own organization. There are two organizations in the world today. One is God’s and the other belongs to the Devil, who is the “god of this system of things”. So the organization that Jehovah God is now building up for the vindication of his name and word is built up on love. This whole organization works together in unity. And thus we read at Ephesians 4:16 (NW): “From him all the body, by being harmoniously joined together and being made to cooperate through every joint which gives what is needed, according to the functioning of each respective member in due measure, makes for the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” There is your basis, love. Hence when one gets away from that principle of love and devotion one toward another in this congregation, it is time for that individual to be put out of the congregation.
4, 5. In this connection, with whom does the wrong lie, and why must there be a cutting of someone off from the Christian body?
4 The reason for disfellowshiping people is that of their wrongdoing. The congregation is not wrong, for that is God’s. But it is someone in the congregation now who is not imitating God or following out his principles of truth and righteousness. He is not being built up in love. He is no longer imitating Jehovah, or the Son, or the apostles. Therefore we are advised at 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 7, 11 (NW): “Now we are giving you orders, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to withdraw from every brother walking disorderly and not according to the tradition you received from us. For you yourselves know the way you ought to imitate us, because we did not behave disorderly among you. For we hear certain ones are walking disorderly among you, not working at all but meddling with what does not concern them.”
5 Here Paul is pointing out that he, the apostle, when he walked among them, was not disorderly, so it was not his misbehavior that was sending any of them in the wrong direction. Jehovah God does not misbehave. Christ Jesus does not misbehave. We have perfect examples to follow. We have good words of counsel from them that we can heed. So then, if this body becomes disorderly, or any part of the body becomes disorderly, it would mean that the body would get sick. It would not continue being built up in love. A correction has to be made. It may mean the removal of something. In the case of the body we are talking of, the congregation of God, it may mean the removal of an individual because he is disorderly, not being built up in love.
6. Why must we not be hasty in putting anyone out, but what does Paul admonish us to do toward the disorderly ones?
6 However, we do not have to be hasty about the matter and, because we hear of someone doing wrong, just take action and put him out of the congregation. There is a possibility that these persons who do wrong will repent, changing their course of action. And so it is stated in 2 Thessalonians 3:13-15 (NW): “For your part, brothers, do not give up in doing right. But if anyone is not obedient to our word through this letter, keep this one marked, stop associating with him, that he may become ashamed. And yet do not be considering him as an enemy, but continue admonishing him as a brother.” So, then, all of us in the congregation of the Lord have a responsibility toward those that may be disorderly. All of us in the congregation must keep on doing right for the benefit of the others. We may be able to benefit some of those that are a little disorderly. We keep on doing the right thing, regardless of their course of action, but if they keep on going in the wrong way they must be marked. We must stop associating with them, because they are not clean. They are not working in the defense of Jehovah’s name and his Word. They are not working in the interest of building up this body in love. They are working against the organization.
7. Are we to coerce any erring one into a right course, and how are we to use our freedom as God’s people?
7 However, we may be able to save a brother, and he may start out on the right course again if he heeds the admonition, if he heeds the correction that is given him. We are free people. We may use our minds the way we want to. We are not coerced or forced or browbeaten into the course of action we take, but we have been made free because of Christ Jesus’ purchasing us. And that is why Peter said in his first letter, 1 Pe chapter 2, verses 16, 17 (NW): “Be as free people.” Do your thinking, but you must still be an imitator of God, for you are free to think along the lines that are based on truth. The wicked world will take you into the grave; the truth will give you life. So, “be as free people,” says Peter, “and yet holding your freedom, not as a blind for moral badness, but as slaves of God. Honor men of all kinds, have love for the whole association of brothers, be in fear of God, have honor for the king.” So we see we must remember the congregation of our brothers and keep it clean. We cannot come into this organization with some reservation in our heads for the sake of moral badness. We are not free to do the things we want for the gratification of the flesh and our own pleasures. We are in this congregation for a purpose, to honor Jehovah’s name and his Word.
8. (a) What things may make a congregation unclean? (b) What action did Paul take toward the unclean and why?
8 Well, now, if we are going to keep the organization clean, what are some of the things that might make it unclean? What are the things which we may observe going on in the congregation that we should clear out of the congregation? Since there are spiritual grounds and moral grounds for disfellowshiping, some of these things are adultery, fornication, stealing, and drunkenness. Just let us touch on the one of fornication for a moment. Paul had to do with that in his letter when he was writing to the Corinthians. There was a young man there who had taken his father’s wife in fornication. Paul in his letter said: “Actually fornication is reported among you, and such fornication as is not even among the nations, that a certain man has a wife of his father.” Strange, but the congregation paid no serious attention to it. They looked on it as a cause for fame through notoriety. Paul said, ‘You are puffed up about the matter; you are proud because this thing has taken place in your midst. You should be mourning, you should be worried about the situation that is existing in the congregation of the Lord, this corruption that is brought in.’ But Paul, an apostle of the Lord, had authority to take action, and he took action. He disfellowshiped that one. He did not ask the congregation: “Now give me authority or vote on what I’m doing.” Paul, a servant of God, saw to it that that one was removed. He had the authority to do so. That is why he said he had already judged the man and ordered them to “hand such a man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh”. (1 Cor. 5:1-12, NW) Such an individual has no place in the clean organization or congregation of God. He should go back to the wicked group that he once came from and die with that wicked group with Satan’s organization.
9. By disfellowshiping action, what must be saved among the congregation?
9 Let the wicked go his wicked way, for he cannot remain in the congregation of God, because that congregation must remain clean. It must stay clean, why? “In order that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” God’s holy spirit operates upon his people. It is his active force; it is his direction upon his congregation. We, the congregation, must have the same spirit of God. We must bear witness one to the other. That spirit that we get from the understanding of God’s Word must remain active, it must be preserved, it must be saved. And if this early congregation in Corinth had this man who had committed fornication remain in their midst, or if Paul had not taken action, then that little leaven would ferment and would corrupt the whole congregation, or the whole lump. “A little yeast ferments the whole lump,” said Paul. That is why Paul had to take action and clean it out, so that the spirit of God, this pure, holy spirit or active force of God, and the spirit of the congregation based on God’s Word, would remain and be saved, all to the honor of Jehovah’s name.
10. What moral corruption does Paul say debars one from the Kingdom, and what must a Christian do about such things?
10 In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NW) Paul says: “What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom. And yet that is what some of you were. But you have been washed clean, but you have been sanctified, but you have been declared righteous in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the spirit of our God.” Paul is pointing out that persons of these types of sinners have come out of the world into God’s congregation, but all of these types of sin may not remain in the congregation of God after those who once committed such sins have once been washed clean. When a person comes to God’s organization and dedicates himself to Him, he is cleaned up. From then on he ought to make straight paths for his feet and follow the Word of God. He should not be practicing these things, and the Lord forgives him for all those things that have been in his life in times past. Their stain is washed away, and he must not go back to them. If he does go back to them, then he is committing a sin that is worthy of disfellowshiping. He is in danger of corrupting the congregation of God, and that corruption must be taken out. It is moral corruption.
11, 12. (a) What spiritual grounds for disfellowshiping are there? (b) To have unity of mind in the congregation what must we do?
11 But there are also spiritual grounds for removing persons from God’s organization. Backbiting, bringing forth false doctrines, causing divisions; just as Paul wrote to the Romans: “Now I exhort you, brothers, to keep your eye on those who create divisions and causes for stumbling contrary to the teaching which you have learned, and avoid them.” (Rom. 16:17, NW) It is very plain. The true Word of God was taught to them by Paul. Now if anyone comes into the congregation to try to upset adherence to that true Word of God and causes stumbling or a division in the congregation, it is necessary to avoid that one. The best way to avoid him is to disfellowship that person, set him aside, get him out of the congregation, so that the whole congregation may remain clean.
12 Against division and disunity of mind, we read at 1 Corinthians 1:10 (NW), “Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” God’s thoughts must become yours. That is why we come together as a congregation to study the Word of God, so that his thoughts become ours. If we do not have God’s thoughts, if we do not meditate upon these things that the inspired disciples brought to the attention of the early church and that have been recorded for our learning now, if we do not learn these things, we are not going to have God’s thoughts; and only those who love righteousness are the ones that are going to inherit the kingdom of heaven. As he said, “Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom?” So in order to inherit that kingdom or the blessings of the new world our minds must turn toward God’s teaching, and not back to that other organization, the Devil’s organization, which is going to be destroyed.
13. Why do we today consider ancient Bible examples of disfellowshiping?
13 Now let us look at some examples from the Bible of Jehovah God’s casting out people, away from his congregation, getting rid of them because of their wrongdoing; for, just as he did it in times past, he will do it today, because he wants his representative people to be clean people that will be servants of his and will stand for his name and for his true worship. There are many examples in the Bible, but let us take just a few of them.
14. What lesson do we draw from the example of Korah and his allies?
14 Take Korah. There were some there in the time of Moses that became proud, three of them, in fact, that thought, ‘Well, we have just as good a standing with God as Moses has, being of the tribes of Israel. Why should he get all the credit to be the mediator?’ But they were talking against God’s representative. Moses came to the fore and made his statements very clear. He said, ‘Tomorrow morning we’ll see who is God’s servant and whom he is using to carry on his work now. What happens on the morrow is not going to be just the natural death of these people, but God is going to perform a miracle and clean out from the congregation Korah, Dathan, Abiram and all those associated with them.’ Next morning what happened? The ground opened up, and all of their property, their children, and their wives went down into this hole alive. And Korah and the 250 princes who offered incense were devoured by fire from Jehovah. Numbers 16:32, 35 (AS) says: “And the earth opened its mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. And fire came forth from Jehovah, and devoured the two hundred and fifty men that offered the incense.” God was showing his displeasure with people that blasphemed against him, who would not accept the arrangement that God made. So then, those that rebel against God he will disfellowship. He will get rid of them. He will clean them out of the congregation.
15. How does Miriam’s experience illustrate the matter?
15 Now we can turn to another example in the Bible. Numbers 12 tells us about Miriam and Aaron. They got a little high-minded. Miriam was Aaron and Moses’ sister, but she became proud and foolish. Because she wanted to take the position of a man in the congregation and have something to say about the arrangements of the Lord among the Israelites, she was stricken with leprosy. She had to be disfellowshiped or put out of the congregation for seven days; and then only after the pleading of her brother Moses to Jehovah to save her life so He would not kill her with leprosy, she was cleansed and came back. She had acted proudly and foolishly. The Lord God was not going to have that kind of people in his congregation. She came around. She came back, but first she was punished, and Aaron learned his own place from this experience of his sister.
16. How does Achan’s experience show God will not tolerate thieves?
16 Then we have thieves, whom the Lord God will not tolerate in his organization. We have the example of Achan. When the children of Israel crossed the Jordan and took Jericho under the direction of Jehovah, he winning their battles for them, the instructions were given to the Israelites that all of the things that were in the city were devoted to destruction, except that the things of gold, silver, brass and iron were to be reserved for Jehovah. No one must take any of the spoil for himself. But Achan thought a little bit differently about that. When he got into Jericho he found a Babylonian mantle, 200 shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold 50 shekels in weight, and he said, ‘Well, I’ll just take that home and bury it and keep it for myself. No one will ever find it out.’ But he was in Jehovah’s congregation; now corruption was inside it. This had to be found out. They went on to battle at Ai and the Israelite armies were failing. They could not win. Joshua learned there was corruption in the congregation. It had to be gotten out, and according to Jehovah’s arrangement the evidence pointed to Achan as the corrupter. They found he had his spoil hid in his tent. Now what happened? God did not just throw him out of the congregation and put him away for seven days as he did Miriam. He had Achan stoned to death, and his family with him, because he was a thief.—Josh. 6:17 to 7:26.
17. How do the fallen “sons of God” illustrate disfellowshiping?
17 Centuries earlier, in Noah’s days before the flood, there were those angels in heaven, spirit creatures, who became disobedient. They saw that the daughters of men were fair, and they left their estate and came down to earth and took to themselves wives. In this they were disobedient. And so 2 Peter 2:4 (NW) tells us concerning them: “God did not hold back from punishing the angels that sinned.” No, but he threw them into Tartarus, delivering them “to pits of dense darkness to be reserved for judgment”. They were disobedient, they violated God’s law, and he barred them from his counsels. For a test of his faithful creatures they are still in existence, yes, but God’s judgments are written against them for their final destruction.
18. How does Jude show putting up a hard fight for the faith has a connection with this matter?
18 Finally we can go on to Jude’s letter. In it we are told that we must put up a hard fight for the faith. This faith was delivered to us by Christ Jesus; we have to fight for it. It is the faith that was given to the congregation of the followers of Christ Jesus, and he does not want that faith corrupted or changed in any manner. Anyone who tries to change it, whether he be rebellious, proud, thievish, disobedient or corrupt morally, is going to be cleaned out. He is going to be removed. Now we do see that evil men slip in, ungodly men, and these we must try to find and throw out of the congregation. Just as Jude says at the 8th and 16th Jude verses 8 and 16: “These men, too, indulging in dreams, are defiling the flesh and disregarding lordship and speaking abusively of glorious ones. These men are murmurers, complainers about their lot in life, proceeding according to their own desires, and their mouths speak swelling things, while they are admiring personalities for the sake of their own benefit.” Yes, these types of persons that have just been described are the kind we do not want in the congregation of the Lord, and if they are there then they must be removed by the congregation. Otherwise a little yeast ferments the whole lump.