“Observe the Commandment in a Spotless and Irreprehensible Way”
SEVERAL years ago a heavyweight boxing champion knocked out his opponent, but he lost the title because he struck a foul blow. In the last Olympic games one of the runners in a race was disqualified because he got out of his lane. The apostle Paul likened a Christian to one competing in an athletic contest, a fight or a race, saying: “Do you not know that the runners in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may attain it. Moreover, every man taking part in a contest exercises self-control in all things. Now they, of course, do it that they may get a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one. Therefore, the way I am running is not uncertainly; the way I am directing my blows is so as not to be striking the air; but I browbeat my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.”—1 Cor. 9:24-27, NW.
An athlete in training refrains from certain foods and activities, and at the same time makes sure that other foods are on his menu and certain exercises are faithfully performed. He adheres to a rigid self-control that amounts to a browbeating of his body so that he can run or fight at peak efficiency and effectiveness. If he slacks off, his athletic performance will suffer and he will not gain the approval that comes to the victor. Similarly, one who runs the Christian course must stay in the narrow and cramped lane that leads to life. He must not get out of line, must not waver or wobble or run uncertainly, because if he does get off the course marked out in the Bible he is disqualified, regardless of any burst of speed he might show in field service. The Christian engaging in godly warfare does not swing wide of the target and hit only empty air, nor does he become guilty of striking low or foul blows that would result in his being disqualified and disfellowshiped. He runs straight and true to the Christian course and his blows land clean and hard on the Scriptural targets.
THE TRAINING RULES
Jehovah God teaches and trains and disciplines those who run for him and fight for his cause. He sets forth the rules in the Bible and applies them through his organization. We must conform to them to win. He commands us to study, to make our minds over, to oust the bad and fill them with the good, to meditate on his teachings day and night. Do you? He tells us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, that he is in the midst of his assembled people. Through his visible organization he provides training sessions, such as book studies, Watchtower studies, ministry school sessions and service meetings. He commands us to attend and be trained for preaching activity. Do you? If we do not train according to his rules, our spiritual muscles will be soft and flabby, and when we get out into the field of competition of religious ideas we shall not be properly conditioned. We may waver and be uncertain in our words. When we encounter false doctrine our verbal blows against it may miss the point or may be landed in an unfair and tactless way, instead of with clean but crushing force on the key issue. We may return from the service with our untrained spiritual muscles battered by Satan and bruised by the persecutions we encounter, and the enemy may knock us out of effective victories that are the lot of the well-trained theocratic witness of Jehovah.—2 Tim. 2:15; Rom. 12:2; Phil. 4:8; Ps. 1:2; Heb. 10:25.
Just as there are rules commanding certain things, so there are regulations prohibiting other things. The Christian is forbidden to gossip, to strive, to murmur, to complain, to be always finding fault with his brothers, or his congregation, or his servants, or the visible organization and the spiritual provisions coming through it. He is forbidden to fear men, for that would entangle him in the snare of fear and hamper him in running the race. He must not fear persecution, for that would scare him out of the fight. To become heady or conceited or go off on the tangent of seeking worldly riches or fame is not for those in training for Christian warfare. As in the case of athletes, Christians must watch their eating and drinking, not going to the point of gluttony or drunkenness. Deeper and deeper this old world is sinking into the mire of immorality, but those training for life in Jehovah’s new world of righteousness must side-step such quagmires and never become bogged down in them. Such uncleannesses would cause Christians to become disqualified; such wavering off the true course and such low and foul actions would eliminate them from the Christian contest of faith and right works.—1 Tim. 5:13; Rom. 16:17; Jude 16; Prov. 29:25; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Tim. 6:10; 1 Pet. 4:3, 4.
The training rules forbid the works of the flesh, but there is no law curtailing the fruitage of the spirit: “The works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, hatreds, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. As to these things I am forewarning you, the same way as I did forewarn you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom. On the other hand, the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Moreover, those who belong to Christ Jesus impale the flesh together with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:19-24, NW) We cannot give fallen flesh the floor; if we do it will floor us and we shall be counted out of the New World society. If we start catering to the whims of the flesh we are finished, because the flesh has a dangerous appetite that is insatiable. It has a taste for sin from inheritance, and it will get us into sinful habits if we let it. The more we heed it the greater its control over us will become, until it crowds out of our lives the fruitage of the spirit. So for our protection we must impale its passions. We must not break training.
The apostle Paul said: “I give you orders that you observe the commandment in a spotless and irreprehensible way.” (1 Tim. 6:13, 14, NW) This commandment that was to be spotlessly observed embraced the whole Christian course, as shown by the context. It was not merely commanding a work of public preaching. It involved godly devotion, faith, love, endurance, mildness of temper, the shunning of riches and the pursuit of righteousness. It is not just the way we preach for a few or many hours a month, but the way we live, all the time. One might put in many hours preaching in the field service, revisit interested persons, conduct home Bible studies, bring sheeplike persons to the meetings and even train them to become ministers by taking them out in field service; and yet he might fall short. Remember Paul’s words quoted earlier: “I browbeat my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” If he did not beat down his bodily fleshly weaknesses, all the preaching activity possible would not prevent his disapproval. It is not just observing the commandment, but observing it “in a spotless and irreprehensible way.”
As the Bible states at 2 Timothy 2:5 (NW): “Moreover, if anyone contends even in the games, he is not crowned unless he has contended according to the rules.” So all the rules, whether they are the rules for training or for preaching or for daily living, must be observed to the best of our ability if we are to gain life in the new world. Where we fall short, even after sincere and earnest efforts on our part, we can ask for and receive Jehovah’s mercy and forgiveness. We show we are willing to obey, want to obey, and try to obediently conform to the theocratic rules. When we miss the mark because of inherited weaknesses Jehovah is not harsh and void of understanding and mercy. But he wants to see a good and honest effort now, to demonstrate that we will put forth every effort in the new world. If we refuse to try now, we shall not be miraculously reformed by Armageddon. Now is the time for our testing, to see what our course of conduct would be in the new world. If we have an uncontrollable urge now to gossip, or quarrel, or complain, or be heady or arrogant or selfish, or to let the lusts of the flesh take over—if we give in to such sins now it is likely that we would lean toward them then, in the new world. But if we fight against them now, we shall gain a complete victory over them in the new world. So we must try to live now as we hope to live then, observing all the divine rules.
There is a time for every purpose under the sun, and now is the time for clean worship. Now is the time for us to fight for Jehovah and his organization and our brothers, submerging the personal desires and passions of the flesh. Give everything to Jehovah now, and he will give everything to us then, in his new world. Talking about it is easy, living it is hard. The best sermons are seen, not heard; are lived, not spoken. If we do not take the time to practice them, we should not waste the time to preach them. The best prayers are sometimes not said on our knees, but in the conduct of our daily lives. If we will not make room for their fulfillment in our lives, we should not take time saying them on our knees. We should not pray one way, and act another. We should not pray for unity, and then gossip; or for peace, and then strive; or for spiritual food, and then privately speculate; or for organizational prosperity and increase, and then not preach; or for a clean organization, and then slip into immorality. What we pray we should mean, and be willing to browbeat our body into conformity with our prayers.
Hence, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the leader and perfecter of our faith, Jesus.” Christians are instructed: “To this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.” We must adhere to the rules as we contend for the faith. Runners must not break stride by looking back; neither should Christians look back instead of ahead. Paul said: “Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead, I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the calling above.” As we run we must not look back to the old world, or wobble or waver uncertainly out of course. As we fight we must not foul out because of dirty conduct, but land blows that are clean and hard. To do this we must study and assemble and work together, spotlessly observe the commandment together, and then by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness we will all win together. May he help us to that victory.—Heb. 12:1, 2; 1 Pet. 2:21; Phil. 3:13, 14; Luke 9:62; 17:32, NW.