Keeping Strict Watch on How We Walk
“Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.”—Eph. 5:15, 16.
1. What is in our best interest today to do, and why should the fact of God’s kingdom dominate us while doing so?
WHEREVER we live on earth, it is in our best interest today to watch ourselves strictly on how we walk, that is, on how we conduct ourselves. One highly important fact ought to dominate us while we are ‘keeping strict watch on how we walk.’ This fact is that God’s kingdom rules, that it has been ruling during these past forty-five years since 1914. Why is that fact so important? It is because the main purpose of that heavenly kingdom is to see to it that God’s will comes to pass, as in heaven, also upon earth. (Matt. 6:9, 10) The wicked old world of today is fast approaching its end in the greatest tribulation of all history, because this world has never been in harmony with God’s will but is the biggest opposer of it. God’s kingdom is the enforcer of his will. His kingdom will introduce a new order made up of “new heavens and a new earth,” where God’s expressed will is certain to be the law. (2 Pet. 3:13) Nowhere can any of us escape this marvelous change. So wisdom dictates for us to give our wholehearted allegiance to God’s kingdom, that we may not be brought to an end when this old world ends. Allegiance to God’s kingdom means now bringing ourselves into full harmony with his will. His righteous will for us in this time of world perplexity is set forth in his written Word, the sacred Bible.
2. What can we describe these days as being, and what advice of Paul is therefore suitable for us today?
2 Looking around at the world’s religious and moral conditions and at the relationships between nations and between individuals, we are forced to say that these are wicked days. Hence the advice that the apostle Paul gave to Christians of his time is also most suitable for our time: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked. On this account cease becoming unreasonable, but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is. Also do not be getting drunk with wine, in which there is debauchery [and for which a Christian can be disfellowshiped from God’s congregation], but keep getting filled with spirit.”—Eph. 5:15-18; 2 Cor. 5:9-13.
3. (a) Before any of us dedicated ourselves to God, how did we walk? (b) Since our dedication, how should we be walking, and what personal question should we ask on this?
3 Throughout the earth today over a half million persons have made a full self-surrender or dedication of themselves to Jehovah God through Jesus Christ, and they have publicly symbolized that dedication by being immersed in water, just as Jesus Christ himself was baptized. (Matt. 3:13-17; 28:18-20) In times past, before any of us made a dedication to God, we all walked a certain way. We “walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit [Satan the Devil] that now operates in the sons of disobedience.” We went on “walking just as the nations also walk in the unprofitableness of their minds, while they are in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the insensibility of their hearts. Having come to be past all moral sense, they gave themselves over to loose conduct to work uncleanness of every kind with greediness.” (Eph. 2:2; 4:17-19) Now we dedicated ones should have ceased to walk that way. By our dedication to God we have willed to walk according to God’s will, that thereby we may ‘walk with God.’ (Gen. 5:22-24; 6:9) Because of the wickedness of the times it is most wise and urgent for us to keep strict watch on how we walk. It is high time for us to ask ourselves: Have we gone back to walk with this world, or are we walking more closely with God? To answer this question, we have to perceive what God’s will is. This calls for our study of God’s written Word.
4 In his Word this brief statement of his will is found: “This is what God wills, the sanctifying of you, that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in covetous sexual appetite such as also those nations have which do not know God; . . . God called us, not with allowance for uncleanness, but in connection with sanctification.” (1 Thess. 4:3-5, 7) One’s “own vessel” is one’s own body; and when we make a dedication of ourselves to Jehovah God, we thereby dedicate our vessels, our own bodies, to God through the righteousness of his Son, Jesus Christ. Jehovah is no sex-god, like Priapus, a false god of Grecian and Roman mythology, nor is he worshiped with any kind of sex orgies, as the false god Baal of Peor was.—Num. 25:1-13.
5. What will of God for his organization puts a difficult task on its members, but how are they helped?
5 We dedicated ones have been brought together and formed into a theocratic organization. God’s will is that He should have a clean organization, one that is sanctified for his use in an honorable way. To keep the theocratic organization clean in the midst of this immoral, sex-minded world and during these wicked times is quite a difficult task for us earthly members of it. But God’s spirit is with us, to help us, to sanctify us for God’s purposes.
6. In that respect, upon whom does a special responsibility weigh down, and by such ones what restoration promise has God fulfilled?
6 Of course, there is a personal responsibility resting on each dedicated one to join in keeping the organization clean and sanctified for Jehovah’s use. However, a special responsibility weighs down on those who have been made overseers within the organization. Particularly since the spring of the year 1919 we have been living in the “times of restoration of all things of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.” (Acts 3:21) Nineteen centuries ago in the first days of the Christian congregation, during the life of the twelve apostles of the Lamb Jesus Christ, Jehovah raised up faithful overseers to declare his judgments and to give forth His counsel. Those faithful overseers passed away, after which a great “falling away” from the apostolic faith occurred. So concerning the “times of restoration” now, Jehovah made this promise: “I will bring back again judges for you as at the first, and counselors for you as at the start. After this you will be called City of Righteousness, Faithful Town.” (Isa. 1:26) By means of the conscientious overseers whom Jehovah has installed today under his appointed Judge and Wonderful Counselor Jesus Christ, he has fulfilled his promised restoration and he keeps his organization clean, righteous and faithful.—Acts 17:31; Isa. 9:6.
7. Because of having to render an account for what charge do the overseers need to keep strict watch on their own walking?
7 Today the overseers of the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses bear considerable responsibility. They are set forth as “examples to the flock.” Besides their influence as right examples, they also wield considerable authority in the local congregational organization or in the circuit, district or Branch territory or in the zone in which they serve. As overseers, they have to deal with lives, “souls” dedicated to Jehovah God, so that “they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account.” (1 Pet. 5:3; Heb. 13:17) What kind of account they will render over these dedicated souls is going to determine what God’s judgment will be of the overseers. If anybody needs to, the overseers need to keep strict watch on how they walk in their responsible office.
EXAMPLES OF HOW TO WALK
8, 9. (a) How was the power of good overseers for a righteous organization illustrated in Joshua and his associates? (b) How is that fact clear from what happened to Israel after those overseers died?
8 The great power that overseers who are strong morally and spiritually wield for a faithful, righteous organization is illustrated in Moses’ successor, Joshua, and in the older men of Israel that were associated with Joshua. Regarding the good influence that these had we read: “When Joshua sent the people away, then the sons of Israel went their way, each to his inheritance, to take possession of the land. And the people continued to serve Jehovah all the days of Joshua and all the days of the older men who extended their days after Joshua and who had seen all of Jehovah’s great work that he did for Israel.”
9 The observant, informed, faithful older men of Israel acted as a theocratic bulwark against the invasion of heathenism into Jehovah’s national congregation. This fact is clear from what happened to the congregation of Israel after those theocratic overseers died. Then the new generation that did not know Jehovah or the work that he had done for Israel arose and did not have the helpful example and the counsel and watchcare of those overseers. The Bible record tells us: “The sons of Israel fell to doing what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah and serving the Baals. Thus they abandoned Jehovah the God of their fathers who had brought them out of the land of Egypt and went following other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were all around them and they began bowing down to them, so that they offended Jehovah.” After Jehovah had raised up godly judges by whom he rescued them from heathen oppressors, they quickly forgot what the judges had done for them as Jehovah’s servants: “Even to their judges they did not listen, but they had unfaithful intercourse with other gods and went bowing down to them. They quickly turned aside from the way in which their forefathers had walked by obeying the commandments of Jehovah. They did not do like that.”—Judg. 2:6-8, 10-12, 17.
10. Like those overseers, against what did Christ’s apostles act as a bulwark in their day?
10 Like the faithful judges and associated overseers of ancient Israel, the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ acted as a bulwark. As long as the apostles lived, they acted as a restraining power against the “falling away” of the congregation and against the revealing of the “man of lawlessness,” “the son of destruction,” as in control of the congregation.—2 Thess. 2:2-12.
11, 12. (a) What developed religiously after the apostles’ death, and what facts show whether we have been recovered from this? (b) Nevertheless, why does each one need to keep strict watch in walking?
11 After the twelve apostles and their faithful fellow overseers died, the “falling away” from pure Christian faith and practice moved quite rapidly and the “man of lawlessness” class came into control of the religious organization. We today have been recovered from this religious “falling away” and from domination by the “man of lawlessness” class in Christendom. We have been theocratically organized into the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses. With us invisibly is the Greater Joshua, Jesus Christ, to lead us into the coming new order of “new heavens and a new earth.” With us is also the “faithful and discreet slave” class, whom the Greater Joshua appointed in charge of all his earthly belongings in the year 1919.
12 The Greater Joshua and his anointed slave class act as an impassable bar to any intrusion by the spirit of apostasy and by the “man of lawlessness” into the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses. (2 Pet. 3:13; Isa. 65:17; Matt. 24:45-47) Nonetheless, each dedicated Christian needs to heed the apostle Paul’s solemn advice to keep strict watch on how we walk. Whereas this world and its god and ruler Satan the Devil can no more take the entire congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses captive, yet the world and its god Satan keep trying to contaminate the organization and to enslave as many individual members of it as possible. The ancient Israelites, even with the prophet Moses among them, furnished us a warning example that individuals in the organization can be overreached to their destruction now during the invisible presence of Christ. How?
13. What warning example do we have from the Israelites while Moses was up in the mountain?
13 It was shortly after Jehovah God had miraculously declared the Ten Commandments from the top of Mount Sinai on the Arabian Peninsula. When Moses was still in the neighborhood, but on top of Mount Sinai for forty days out of their sight, the Israelites had the golden calf made and proceeded to worship it along with noisy loose conduct. Now the first and second and seventh of the Ten Commandments that the Israelites had agreed to keep declared: “I am Jehovah your God, who have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves. You must never have any other gods against my face. You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion. . . . You must not commit adultery.” (Ex. 20:2-5, 14) But when many Israelites saw that the eyes of their national overseer Moses were not fixed on them, they threw off restraint. Yes, within but forty days after Moses’ ascent, many Israelites were ready to forget the Ten Commandments and enjoy a wild time with idolatry and sex orgies.—Ex. 32:1-35.
14. What other warning example do we have from the Israelites when encamped on the plains of Moab?
14 Forty years later they were just across the Jordan River from Canaan, on the plains of Moab, and were just about to realize the miraculous fulfillment of Jehovah’s promise to lead them into the Promised Land. Yet thousands of the new generation of Israelites turned their eyes the other way to look at the heathenish daughters of Moab. In their lust for immoral relations with them, those selfish-hearted Israelites were agreeable to joining those decoy women, servants of the Devil, in worshiping the false god, Baal of Peor. Israelite chieftain Zimri was even so brazen as to bring the Midianite woman Cozbi into the holy camp of Israel and into his own tent. Only zealous action by Phinehas the priest against Zimri and Cozbi to execute them caused the plague to halt that had laid low twenty-four thousand defiled Israelites. (Num. 25:1-9) Moses was still alive and in the camp at the time, and yet the passion-controlled Israelites did not care. They forgot the holiness to which they were called. They forgot Jehovah’s righteous commands and gave themselves over to unbridled passion in immoral relations with pagan women, even though that meant worshiping a false god, Baal of Peor, and exciting the true God, Jehovah, to jealousy.
15. How does an apostle refer to those cases as warning examples for us, and what fact does the warning example from the Israelites make certain?
15 The Christian apostle Paul referred to those historic cases of falling away from holiness as warning examples for us, saying: “Now these things became our examples, for us not to be persons desiring injurious things, even as they desired them. Neither become idolaters, as some of them did; just as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to revel boisterously.’ Neither let us practice fornication, as some of them committed fornication, only to fall, twenty-three thousand of them in one day.” (1 Cor. 10:6-8) If anyone who is dedicated to Jehovah, as all the nation of Israel was, lets his heart go bad, then he will seek to satisfy his heart’s desire under any and all circumstances, as soon as a convenient opportunity offers itself. The warning example of those destroyed Israelites makes this fact certain.
16. So near to realizing our hopes, yet what do some dedicated ones do, and what do they fail to remember while doing so?
16 So today, it matters not how near we are to realizing our Kingdom hopes, some dedicated ones relax their watch on how they should walk according to the Holy Scriptures. For the satisfying of their fleshly passions, they are willing and risky enough to take a fling at the uncleanness of this world. They do not check themselves with the reminder that this may mean not only their own destruction but also the bringing of reproach on Jehovah and contempt on his visible organization. Because they are not at the time under the direct watch and visual observation of the overseer of the congregation, they do not keep strict watch on how they walk or conduct themselves. They fail to remember that Jehovah God and his holy angels are watching, and that they cannot escape having their sin find them out or catch up with them.—Num. 32:23.
17. As in whose presence should we always walk, and to that end what constructive, determined course should we take?
17 We should always walk not just as in the presence of men, our earthly overseers. We must walk always as in the presence of God, for his eyes are in every place, keeping watch upon the bad ones and the good ones. (Prov. 15:3) “For the true God himself will bring every sort of work into the judgment in relation to every hidden thing, as to whether it is good or bad.” (Eccl. 12:14) We need to take a constructive course, a determined course, like that of the psalmist, when he said: “I have placed Jehovah in front of me constantly. Because he is at my right hand I shall not be made to totter.” (Ps. 16:8) Being positive in this sense, we shall always strive to please and honor Jehovah God in what we say or do, regardless of whether we are directly watched by our spiritual elders or our congregation servant or overseer.
18. Why should we never be overconfident about our firm position, and against what calamity should we be on watch?
18 We are never too near the new order of “new heavens and a new earth” after Armageddon, nor have any of us been long enough in the Bible truth or been through a sufficient number of temptations, so that we can relax our watchfulness without danger of falling. Referring to those Israelites who were saved out of Egypt but who perished in the wilderness, some of them even in the fortieth and last year, Paul commented: “Now these things went on befalling them as examples and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the accomplished ends of the systems of things have arrived. Consequently, let him that thinks he has a firm position beware that he does not fall. No temptation has taken you except what is common to men” and under which men have fallen. (1 Cor. 10:11-13) From the youngest to the oldest of us in the truth, from the average congregation member to the congregation servant or overseer, we all should never trust ourselves but should maintain a strict watch always on how we walk, that we may not fall calamitously. What a calamity it would be to be disfellowshiped from Jehovah’s congregation and suffer eternal destruction!—1 Cor 5:9-13.
UNDOING OF MINISTERS BY BAD MORALS
19. The need of vigilance is emphasized by what increase in the percentage of delinquents in North American congregations?
19 The need of constant, prayerful vigilance is emphasized by information from the Service Department at the Brooklyn headquarters of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society. This has to do with those dedicated baptized members belonging to the thousands of congregations in the United States of North America. For each of the five years from March, 1952, to April, 1957, there was an average of 500 members that were disfellowshiped for flagrant misdeeds that cannot be tolerated inside of Jehovah’s congregation. However, during the year from April, 1957, to April, 1958, the number rose sharply above that yearly average of 500, to 1,334 delinquent members, or more than two and a half times as many. We dare not dull the shock of this startling information by arguing that this may, in part, be due to the American congregations’ having at least 18,537 new persons associating themselves with the witnessing activities during those twelve months. That number of new ones is less than one twelfth of the 226,797 that proclaimed the Kingdom good news in America during April of 1958, about 65 percent of which proclaimers are dedicated and baptized. So what are 1,334 delinquents compared with more than 147,000 dedicated, baptized members? Less than 1 percent.
20. Though it be a matter of less than 1 percent, yet what fear-inspiring warning is thereby sounded to all of us?
20 Though 1,334 may be less than 1 percent, this sudden jump to that number definitely discloses that more than twice as many as in previous years have failed to watch themselves and act wisely during the wicked days of 1957-1958. With 3,718 or more congregations functioning in the United States of North America, about one out of every three congregations could be affected by 1,334 disfellowshipings. Hence the fact that so many congregations have been affected and the number of disfellowshipings has more than doubled during 1957-1958 sounds a fear-inspiring warning to all of us to beware that hereafter we be not the ones to fall.
21. How may one misapply James 4:4 to practicing the clean, undefiled form of worship and thus sin?
21 The New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses must keep practicing the clean, undefiled form of worship. The Christian disciple James plainly describes this for us: “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world. Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (Jas. 1:27; 4:4) It is a perverted idea for anyone to think that he can keep himself without spot from this world by not engaging in its politics and by maintaining his neutrality toward its conflicts and in this way not be a friend of the world and not be a spiritual adulterer and yet at the same time can commit literal physical adultery or fornication, thus sinning against his own body.
22. How may one take part in fulfilling Matthew 24:14 and yet pervertedly fall into a sin like that of Balaam’s?
22 It is likewise a perverted idea that just as long as one fulfills the prophetic command of Matthew 24:14 and reports much time at witnessing out in the field of service, one can indulge in bodily immorality with those of the opposite sex. Remember that the prophet Balaam was used by Jehovah as a mouthpiece to utter prophecy in a blessing upon the nation of Israel, but that later Balaam was killed for trying to promote sex worship and immorality in Israel at the close of forty years in the wilderness.—Num. 23:4 to 24:25; 25:1-3; 31:1-8, 15, 16; Rev. 2:14.
23. How did Paul show that Christian morality is a joint requirement with preaching?
23 Personal witnessing to God’s kingdom is indeed a requirement for eternal life, but Christian morality is also a joint requirement. Paul cried out: “Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!” but just some sentences later he added: “I browbeat my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow. . . . Neither let us practice fornication, as some of them [the Israelites] committed fornication, only to fall, twenty-three thousand of them in one day.”—1 Cor. 9:16, 27; 10:8.
24. By committing physical immorality, whose friend does one make himself, and hence what other kind of immorality is it also?
24 Let no one deceive himself: Committing adultery or fornication is a making of oneself a friend of the world. It is therefore a committing of spiritual adultery or fornication also. It certainly is not a making of oneself a friend of God or of his congregation. It is an imitating of this world, using the world as a model. It is a display of the spirit of the world. It is a proof of love of this wicked world, “because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father [Jehovah God], but originates with the world.” (1 John 2:16) Therefore, immorality demonstrates that the fornicator belongs to the world and is a misplaced person inside the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses.
25. By what two drastic acts did Jehovah illustrate what must be done with such immoral members of the congregation?
25 Jehovah cut off 23,000 fornicators from his congregation, not in a year, but in one day. Fornicators have to be disfellowshiped from his congregation. He even cut off, during the battle near Shiloh, the two priests, Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of High Priest Eli, because they would wickedly commit adultery with the women that were serving at the entrance of the tent of meeting, with reproach to Jehovah God.—1 Sam. 2:12, 22-25; 3:13, 14; 4:4-11, 17.
26. (a) What does Paul say to show whether there are other sins for which disfellowshiping is needed? (b) What should be the heart condition and the procedure of one who wakes up to his wrongdoing?
26 There are other sins besides fornication for which disfellowshiping is the need. Paul wrote the congregation: “I am writing you to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. . . . Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” (1 Cor. 5:11, 13) If anyone commits sin deserving of disfellowshiping but wakes up to the baseness of his wrongdoing and how far he has displeased God, what should be his heart condition? A grieved one; he should be painfully grieved and should repent. He should confess his sin not only to God, who already knows of it from observation, but also to God’s visible organization through its local theocratically appointed servants. It is a critical time to seek reconciliation with God and his people through Christ, appealing for mercy. In harmony with this, the Scriptural advice is: “Is there anyone [spiritually] sick among you? Let him call the older men of the congregation to him, and let them pray over him, rubbing him with oil in the name of Jehovah. And the prayer of faith will make the indisposed one well, and Jehovah will raise him up. Also if he has committed sins, it will be forgiven him. Therefore openly confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may get healed.” (Jas. 5:14-16) This course of self-humiliation and confession of spiritual need assists the sinner to reconciliation with God. It helps him to keep strict watch thereafter on how he walks before God.