Keeping “Clean from the Blood of All Men”
1. By what saying did Paul indicate there was another way in which Christians must keep clean respecting blood?
ASIDE from literal blood of man, beast and bird, those who do not desire to displease God and deserve punishment from him have to be alert to another way in which they must keep clean from blood. The apostle Paul indicated this way when he said to the Christian overseers from the city of Ephesus in Asia Minor: “And now, look! I know that all of you among whom I went preaching the kingdom [of God, AV; Vg; Lamsa] will see my face no more. Hence I call you to witness this very day that I am clean from the blood of all men.” (Acts 20:25, 26) Of all persons, how could Paul say that? And how are his words and example a warning to us today?
2. How did the one known as Paul start a career of persecution?
2 Paul was once known as Saul of the city of Tarsus in Asia Minor. He bore a heavy bloodguilt for a while. At the time that the Jewish Supreme Court of Jerusalem had the faithful Christian witness Stephen stoned to death, this Saul of Tarsus watched and stood guard over the outer garments of the stoners who carried out the execution. In this way Saul openly showed he approved of this murderous deed. His own head bore some responsibility for Stephen’s blood. (Acts 7:58; 8:1; 22:19, 20) Thus he started a career of persecution. “Saul, though, began to deal outrageously with the congregation. Invading one house after another and dragging out both men and women, he would turn them over to prison.” Except the apostles, the Christians were scattered from Jerusalem.—Acts 8:3.
3. What confession of persecution did Paul make before Festus and Agrippa?
3 “Saul, still breathing threat and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus [Syria], in order that he might bring bound to Jerusalem all those he found who belonged to the Way, both men and women.” (Acts 9:1, 2) When testifying before Governor Festus and King Herod Agrippa II, he said: “I, for one, really thought within myself I ought to commit many acts of opposition against the name of Jesus the Nazarene; which, in fact, I did in Jerusalem, and many of the holy ones I shut up in prisons, as I had received authority from the chief priests; and when they were to be executed, I cast my vote against them. And by punishing them many times in all the synagogues I tried to force them to make a recantation; and since I was extremely mad against them, I went so far as to persecuting them even in outside cities.”—Acts 26:9-11.
4. Under what did Saul thus come, and why did it become important for him to change his occupation?
4 By this mad course Saul came under a heavy bloodguilt, a guilt for innocent blood. How did he get free from it? By accepting divine mercy. On the road to Damascus to extend his persecutions there, Saul was halted by the very one whom he was really persecuting. The resurrected, glorified Jesus appeared to Saul miraculously and rebuked him, saying: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Then the Lord Jesus set before Saul a change of occupation, that of “an attendant and a witness both of things you have seen and things I shall make you see respecting me; while I deliver you from this people and from the nations, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light and from the authority of Satan to God, in order for them to receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those sanctified by their faith in me.” (Acts 26:12-18; 9:3-6) Now the question was, Would Saul change his occupation from persecutor to attendant and witness of Jesus Christ? His present life depended upon it, for his then heavy bloodguilt deserved death. Also his eternal life depended upon it.
5. What course of action did Saul then undertake, and what public evidence did he give of this immediately?
5 Saul now saw that he deserved to die, but, according to God’s mercy through Christ, he did not need to die for his extreme bloodguilt. During the three days of his miraculous blindness in Damascus, he confessed his terrible sin and repented and appealed for mercy through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He converted or turned around, away from his murderous course of persecutor as a Jewish Pharisee, and he dedicated himself to Jehovah God as a follower of His Son Jesus Christ. Thus deciding to do God’s will for him, he accepted the assignment of work that Jesus set before him. As soon as his sight was miraculously restored on the third day, Saul got baptized in water to give public evidence of his dedication to God as a follower of Jesus; and he received the washing away of his sins through the precious blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. (Acts 9:17-19; 22:12-16) Immediately after that he began to act as a witness like Jesus Christ.—Acts 9:19-26.
6, 7. (a) By God’s exercising of what was Saul relieved of bloodguilt? (b) What does he say for persons feeling likewise burdened today?
6 Saul tells us that he was relieved of his heavy bloodguilt by God’s loving-kindness through Jesus Christ, who appeared to him even after his ascension to heaven: “Last of all he appeared also to me as if to one born prematurely. For I am the least of the apostles, and I am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the congregation of God. But by God’s undeserved kindness I am what I am. And his undeserved kindness which was toward me did not prove to be in vain, but I labored in excess of them all, yet not I but the undeserved kindness of God which is with me.” (1 Cor. 15:8-11) In his ignorance Saul fanatically piled up bloodguilt upon his head. For persons today who likewise might feel the unbearable weight of the same kind of bloodguilt Paul says:
7 “He considered me trustworthy by assigning me to a ministry, although formerly I was a blasphemer and a persecutor and an insolent man. Nevertheless, I was shown mercy, because I was ignorant and acted with a lack of faith. But the undeserved kindness of our Lord abounded exceedingly along with faith and love that is in connection with Christ Jesus. Trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance is the saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am foremost. Nevertheless, the reason why I was shown mercy was that by means of me as the foremost case Christ Jesus might demonstrate all his long-suffering for a sample of those who are going to rest their faith on him for everlasting life.”—1 Tim. 1:12-16.
8. So, like Saul, what steps may we take to be cleansed from terrible bloodguiltiness and be assigned to Christian service?
8 By confessing his grievous sins, by repenting of them, by converting or turning away from this confessed course of sin, by humbly and gratefully accepting God’s undeserved kindness through his Son Jesus Christ, by dedicating himself to God to carry out God’s will as revealed, and by symbolizing this dedication in a water baptism, Saul of Tarsus undertook his assigned service as a Christian clean from the blood of the Christians whose execution he had brought about. Today we too may in this same way be cleansed from terrible bloodguiltiness. Then we may keep God’s law concerning the sacredness of blood by keeping ourselves free from blood and from things killed without draining their blood.
9. As indicated by Paul, how does a person dedicating come under a new liability respecting the blood of other persons?
9 However, what is this keeping “clean from the blood of all men” that Paul later speaks about? In becoming a Christian does the person who dedicates himself come under a new liability toward the blood of other men? Yes; because other men stand in danger of death at God’s hands as we ourselves once did, and we now know how they may escape such a death. So we become responsible to use our knowledge in their behalf. We are not the only sinners whom Christ came to save by shedding his blood. He was proclaimed to be the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”—John 1:29.
10. For others to profit by the means of salvation what obligation rests upon those already shown mercy as indicated by Proverbs 24:11, 12?
10 How, though, could others of the world be saved by his sacrifice for sins if they did not hear about it and have the opportunity to accept it and profit by it? Salvation is thus possible to countless more persons than us present saved ones. Those already shown mercy are made responsible to show mercy and acquaint others with the means of salvation. If we fail to do so, should not the failure of others to attain salvation be charged to a greater or less extent to us who have neglected or failed to give out the needed information? This is particularly true in a time of divine judgment, when an execution of judgment is scheduled and due to take place. Showing our responsibility in this matter, Proverbs 24:11, 12 says: “Deliver those who are being taken away to death and those staggering to the slaughter, if you would be spared. In case you should say: ‘Look! we did not know this one,’ will not he himself that is estimating hearts discern it and he himself that is observing your soul know and certainly pay back to earthling man according to his activity?” That is how Paul viewed the situation. He had been shown boundless mercy; hence he had to show mercy to others, seeing that he himself lived by mercy from God through Christ.
SHOWING THE WAY OF ESCAPE
11. In Paul’s day what question was timely regarding Jerusalem, and so Paul felt under pressure to do what in order to keep clear?
11 The apostle Paul is an example for us today. He desired to keep clear of responsibility for the execution of others by the great Judge Jehovah, as that execution would mean a destruction of body and soul in Gehenna. (Matt. 10:28) In Paul’s day the Jews were living in a period of divine judgment. The Lord Jesus had said that Jerusalem was facing a horrible destruction, because she had not discerned the time of her being inspected by God’s own Son. (Luke 19:41-44) The question was, Who will perish with Jerusalem? Who will stay under the bloodguilt that those who demanded Jesus’ death asked to rest on them and on their children? Paul therefore felt under pressure to sound the warning and to show the way of escape and of salvation to everlasting life. Accordingly, he preached, giving attention first to the endangered Jews. This conscientious desire to keep clear of responsibility for the destruction of others showed itself in what Paul said in Corinth.
12. Because of his preaching activity in Corinth, what crisis developed, and what did Paul say and do in meeting it?
12 In this Grecian city Paul worked as a tentmaker with a Jewish believer, Aquila, the husband of Priscilla. Every Jewish sabbath day, however, he gave a talk in the local synagogue and succeeded in winning over to Christianity a number of Jews and Greeks. When Paul’s traveling companions finally joined him here, he “began to be intensely occupied with the word, witnessing to the Jews to prove that Jesus is the Christ.” Then a crisis developed. It called forth from Paul an expression that showed why he was taking the matter so seriously. We read: “After [the Jews] kept on opposing and speaking abusively, he shook out his garments and said to them: ‘Let your blood be upon your own heads. I am clean. From now on I will go to people of the nations.’ Accordingly he transferred from there and went into the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was adjoining the synagogue. But Crispus the presiding officer of the synagogue became a believer in the Lord, and so did all his household. And many of the Corinthians that heard began to believe and be baptized.”—Acts 18:1-8; 1 Cor. 1:14-16.
13. How may unbelieving Jews in Corinth have shared in the judgment executed on Jerusalem, and why could Paul not be held responsible?
13 Paul knew that the Jewish nation was in a time of judgment and that the destruction was due to befall Jerusalem inside the then living generation. Jews from all parts of the earth, “from every nation of those under heaven,” went up to Jerusalem for the annual celebrations or festivals of the Jews. Doubtless some of the Jewish synagogue at Corinth, who opposed Paul there about A.D. 50/51, went up twenty years later to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover in 70 (A.D.). There they were trapped when Roman General Titus led his legions against the city and bottled up all the celebrants of the Passover. Death by siege, famine, pestilence and internal civil strife befell the majority of them. Only the small number who survived were led away captive into all parts of the Roman Empire. Had those Jews turned Christian and been baptized by Paul as Crispus and his household had, they would have stayed far away from Jerusalem and Judea, especially after Roman Cestius Gallus had surrounded the doomed city with his armies for a short siege, in 66 (A.D.). They would thus have heeded Jesus’ words in Luke 21:20-22, and would not have perished with the eleven hundred thousand Jews as stubborn, willful opposers of Christ and refusers of salvation through him. Yet, whether they perished at Jerusalem or not, those Jews died as obstinate enemies of the Savior of mankind. However, Paul could not be held responsible for their dying outside of God’s provision for salvation through Jesus Christ.
14. Why on turning away from the Jews in Corinth could Paul disclaim any bloodguiltiness toward them, and to whom then did he turn?
14 Paul could conscientiously shake out his garments and disclaim any bloodguiltiness toward those Corinthian Jews. He was clean, innocent, in the matter. He had even preached in their synagogue on their rest day. When his companions Silas and Timothy joined him, he occupied himself more intensely with the word, that is, the spoken word, by preaching and teaching. This no doubt obliged him to devote less time to tentmaking. But he felt obliged to do this because of the responsibility he bore toward the Jews who were directly on judgment before their God Jehovah, hence in danger of everlasting destruction. After they kept opposing the message of salvation and speaking abusively about Jesus Christ, it was a waste of time and a misdirection of effort to talk to them further as a community. He could now in all good conscience leave them to the consequences of their willful, antichristian course, without carrying away even a tiny stain of bloodguilt. So now he turned to his other responsibility, that of serving as an “apostle to the [non-Jewish] nations.” (Rom. 11:13) They also were within the range or possibility of being saved, provided they heard the message. Hence Paul notified the abandoned Jews of Corinth: “From now on I will go to people of the nations.”
15. What proved that Paul’s course in this matter was right and that he was clean from the blood of Jewish opposers?
15 Was this the right course, and was Paul really clean and the Jews’ blood upon their own heads? The Lord showed yes. How so? Well, after Paul turned exclusively to the pagans there in Corinth he got a message from heaven. We read: “Moreover, by night the Lord said to Paul through a vision: ‘Have no fear, but keep on speaking and do not quiet down, because I am with you and no man will assault you so as to do you injury, because I have many people in this city.’ So he stayed set there a year and six months, teaching among them the word of God.” (Acts 18:9-11) The “many people in this city” that the Lord had must have been non-Jews, who became Christians. The opposing Jews then attempted to make Paul’s preaching a legal-court case before proconsul Gallio as judge. This failed. The case was thrown out of court. After he stayed quite some days longer teaching the non-Jews in God’s Word, Paul left Corinth peaceably and paid a visit to Jerusalem.—Acts 18:12-22.
HOW KEPT CLEAN?
16. According to travel accounts, to whom was Paul a witness, and what challenging statement did he make undisputed to the Ephesian overseers?
16 No less than Jehovah’s witnesses today, Paul was a witness to much of the inhabited earth, as much as he could reach, for the purpose of giving witness: to Syrians, Jews, Arabians, Cilicians, Cypriotes, Pamphylians, Galatians, Lycians, Asians, Macedonians, Grecians, Maltese and Italians, as far as we definitely know from Paul’s travels. Everywhere that this apostle went and had the opportunity to bear witness, he showed us of today how to keep “clean from the blood of all men.” How did he do so? The farewell address that he gave to the overseers of the congregation of Ephesus, the chief city of the Roman province of Asia, explains in particular how he did so. When Paul stopped at nearby Miletus on his final trip to Jerusalem he sent and called to him these older men of the congregation of Ephesus. To them he made the challenging statement: “Hence I call you to witness this very day that I am clean from the blood of all men.” (Acts 20:16, 17, 26) Could and did those overseers of Ephesus dispute this? No! Why not? Because Paul had thoroughly presented to them the message of salvation.
17. What did those Ephesians well know from the first day Paul stepped in among them, and what were the “profitable things” that he mentioned?
17 Let us check Paul’s words on this score. To those representatives of the Christian congregation at Ephesus he said: “You well know how from the first day that I stepped into the district of Asia I was with you the whole time, acting as a slave of the Lord with the greatest lowliness of mind and tears and trials that befell me by the plots of the Jews; while I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house.” (Acts 20:18-20) Let it be here remarked that the “things that were profitable” were the things that came from God’s Word and that had to do with their getting saved and staying in the saved condition. But how did Paul preach and teach publicly and from house to house in Ephesus? The record shows.
18. What work did Paul do “publicly” in Ephesus as regards the Jews?
18 After he left Corinth and while traveling to Jerusalem Paul stopped at Ephesus. What work did he do “publicly”? “He himself entered into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. Although they kept requesting him to remain for a longer time, he would not consent but said good-bye and told them: ‘I will direct my course back to you again, if Jehovah is willing.’” (Acts 18:19-21) After fulfilling his vow at Jerusalem Paul did come back to Ephesus. He again made a public appearance. “Entering into the synagogue, he spoke with boldness for three months, giving talks and using persuasion concerning the kingdom of God.” When the Jews began to object loudly, did Paul quit his public work? No, says the account. “But when some went on hardening themselves and not believing, speaking injuriously about the Way before the multitude, he withdrew from them and separated the disciples from them, daily giving talks in the school auditorium of Tyrannus. This took place for two years, so that all those inhabiting the district of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”—Acts 19:1, 8-10.
19. So what did Paul do for continued public speaking, and what effect did this have over the course of two years?
19 Thus Paul merely changed locations for public speaking, from the Jewish synagogue to the school auditorium. Here he gave Bible talks daily. He did do some secular work to provide for his own needs and even those of others; but he arranged his schedule to get in some Bible talking daily. Over the course of two years this had such a public effect that all inhabitants of the Roman district of Asia heard the Lord’s message, both Jews and non-Jews.
20. What happenings regarding demonism showed up what a public witness Paul had given, and how did this affect the word of Jehovah?
20 Some traveling Jews tried to imitate some of the miracles that Paul performed. They said to demons that were obsessing certain victims: “I solemnly charge you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Not only those Jews knew what Paul publicly preached, but the demons did also. In one case a demon answered them back: “I know Jesus and I am acquainted with Paul; but who are you?” What then took place became known throughout Ephesus. We read: “Fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus went on being magnified. And many of those who had become believers would come and confess and report their practices openly. Indeed, quite a number of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them up before everybody. And they calculated together the prices of them and found them worth fifty thousand pieces of silver. Thus in a mighty way the word of Jehovah kept growing and prevailing.” (Acts 19:11-20) This latter course is the right one for those today to take who have practiced spiritism, which is demonism. Let them openly confess their past practices and ask God’s forgiveness and then destroy their demonistic books or reference works, no matter what the cost of them in worldly values. However, the main thing to note here is that, because of Paul’s teaching publicly, the talking about God’s Word kept growing and prevailing over pagan teachings and Jewish traditions in a mighty way.
21. Due to Paul’s public work outside the synagogue, among whom was opposition stirred up, and how did Demetrius the silversmith stir up a riot?
21 Because of Paul’s preaching in synagogues powerful opposition had been stirred up among the Jews. Now his public work apart from the Jewish synagogue succeeded to such an extent among the non-Jews that it roused up opposition among the pagans. Grudgingly confessing to the success of Paul’s public work, Demetrius the silversmith said to his fellow silversmiths who made silver shrines of Artemis, or Diana, whose magnificent temple was there at Ephesus: “Men, you well know that from this business we have our prosperity. Also you behold and hear how not only in Ephesus but in nearly all the province of Asia this Paul has won over a considerable crowd and turned them to another opinion, saying that the ones which are made by hands are not gods. Moreover, the danger exists not only that this occupation of ours will come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be esteemed as nothing and even her magnificence which the whole province of Asia and the inhabited earth worships is about to be demolished.” At this they stirred up a riot in Ephesus.
22. What evidence of the publicity that Paul had gained was shown in the case of public officials at the time of the riot?
22 As an evidence of the publicity that Paul had gained as a Christian minister, public officials tried to safeguard him from harm. The disciples would not let Paul go into the city theater to address the confused, shouting mob. We read: “Even some of the commissioners of festivals and games, who were friendly to him, sent to him and began pleading for him not to risk himself in the theater.” Finally the city recorder called the mob to their senses and dismissed the uproarious assembly.—Acts 19:23-41.
23. What indications are there of Paul’s teaching from house to house, and, significantly, who failed to deny such work by Paul?
23 How, though, had Paul taught “from house to house” in Ephesus? We have no striking record of this. However, when Paul first made this return visit to Ephesus he found some professed disciples, about twelve men. The record does not say he met these men in the Jewish synagogue. Reasonably, then, he found them in doing the house-to-house work, of which he later testified to the Ephesian overseers. As it does not say that Paul talked to these twelve professed disciples in the synagogue, he must have explained matters to them in a private house. They knew nothing about the holy spirit, which accounts for their not having it operative in them. They had been baptized in water; yet it was not in Christian baptism. It was “in John’s baptism.” But even John the Baptist told his disciples that they would have to “believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” So the twelve men got rebaptized, this time “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” and at Paul’s hands they received the holy spirit and its gifts of miraculously speaking with other languages and prophesying. After that Paul went to a public place, the synagogue. Furthermore, persons needing miraculous help sent to Paul from their homes. (Acts 19:1-7, 11) Also, the Ephesian overseers did not deny Paul’s statement that he had worked as a Christian teacher from house to house.—Acts 20:20.
“THE THINGS THAT WERE PROFITABLE”
24, 25. (a) What things did Paul teach publicly and from house to house? (b) How does information on this come to light?
24 The Ephesian overseers could not charge that the apostle Paul had held back anything that they needed for escaping destruction and gaining eternal salvation. What, then, had Paul taught publicly and from house to house? The truth about the real God, repentance of sinners toward God, faith in the Lord Jesus, the undeserved kindness of God through Jesus, the kingdom of God, the Word of God, the inheritance of God’s sanctified ones, and the imitating of Jesus in giving rather than receiving. This information comes to light as Paul continues to speak to the Ephesian overseers:
25 “I did not hold back from telling . . . But I thoroughly bore witness both to Jews and to Greeks [hence to all men] about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus. And now, look! bound in the spirit, I am traveling to Jerusalem, although not knowing the things that will happen to me in it, except that from city to city the holy spirit repeatedly bears witness to me as it says that bonds and tribulations are waiting for me. Nevertheless, I do not make my soul of any account as dear to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry which I received of the Lord Jesus, to bear thorough witness to the good news of the undeserved kindness of God. And now, look! I know that all of you among whom I went preaching the kingdom will see my face no more.”—Acts 20:20-25.
26. Besides what Jesus mentioned in Luke 24:46-48, what did Paul preach publicly and from house to house?
26 Paul was carrying out Jesus’ instructions given to his disciples when he said: “In this way it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from among the dead on the third day, and on the basis of his name repentance for forgiveness of sins would be preached in all the nations—starting out from Jerusalem, you are to be witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46-48) Paul taught more than the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, on the basis of which we may receive God’s forgiveness of our sins through our repentance toward him. He also preached God’s kingdom, in which Jesus Christ will be God’s anointed King and for which Jesus taught his disciples to pray to God: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will come to pass, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 6:10) In this heavenly kingdom, too, Jesus’ faithful disciples, “the sanctified ones,” are to have an inheritance. Over several years Paul thoroughly bore witness to all kinds of men, Jews and Greeks, concerning these profitable things, teaching them publicly and from house to house.
27. What did Paul say to the Ephesian overseers was his dominant purpose, and how did he pursue that purpose?
27 Paul’s dominant purpose was to finish his course in the way that a Christian should, yes, and to finish the witness work, the ministry that he had received of the Lord Jesus who met him in the way. Paul did this not only by public preaching but also by the more intimate, private, direct-contact house-to-house preaching.
THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF CLEANNESS
28. How did this tally up on Paul’s account before all concerned, and why could Paul feel the way he did about this serious matter?
28 Now how did this tally up on Paul’s account before God and before the people of Ephesus, and particularly before the Christian congregation there? It left Paul debt-free, owing nothing to the Ephesians. It left him with a consciousness of cleanness, “a perfectly clear conscience.” (Acts 23:1) So, after setting forth his well-known record before the Ephesian overseers, he went on to say: “Hence I call you to witness this very day that I am clean from the blood of all men.” He felt no bloodguilt toward the Jews or non-Jews in and about Ephesus. He stated the reason why, saying: “For I have not held back from telling you [as representatives of ‘all men’ in Ephesus] all the counsel of God.”—Acts 20:26, 27.
29. Besides instruction by word of mouth, what other attention did Paul give the Ephesians, and what idea does this give us about what he preached to them by word of mouth?
29 Besides the instruction that Paul gave the Ephesians by word of mouth concerning the full counsel of God, he gave them attention by letter writing. Years later, about A.D. 60, he sent them his so-called Letter to the Ephesians, from Rome, where he had time to write in prison. From this letter we can get some idea of what he had preached to the Ephesians, for his letter still talked about “release by ransom through the blood of that one, yes, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his undeserved kindness” and about our drawing near to God “by the blood of the Christ” and about how “through him we, both peoples, have the approach to the Father [God] by one spirit.”—Eph. 1:7; 2:13, 18.
30. (a) Despite referring to blood, what indicates Paul was not referring to the military question? (b) So what responsibility because of judgment was Paul thinking about when talking of blood?
30 When Paul talked to the Ephesian overseers he was around forty years of age. So when he spoke of keeping clean from the blood of all men he was not discussing the military question. Of course, he knew about Numbers 31:19. This verse said that even Jews who were made executioners of God’s enemies had to undergo a purification for seven days for having killed someone or for having touched the body of someone slain, in order to get free from bloodstain or contamination by blood. But Paul was talking about the responsibility that a dedicated Christian comes under for the blood of men aside from any responsibility for shedding a man’s blood in murder or by aiding someone else in killing or shedding blood in a loose, careless, indifferent, wanton manner. Paul was thinking about the coming judgment of God toward “all men.” He was thinking, too, about the execution of God’s judgment, which would mean death and destruction to human creatures who could have been benefited by the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ and by God’s kingdom. Such creatures can be saved from such death and destruction only by the message of salvation, the entire counsel of God. With this counsel the dedicated Christian is entrusted as a witness and minister.
31. Why is the bloodguilt that Christendom’s clergy bear a double one?
31 From this standpoint we can see that Christendom’s clergy bear a double bloodguilt, not only that for blood shed in international wars, but also for telling the people religious lies and not “all the counsel of God” as contained in his Word.—Jer. 2:34; Ezek. 35:6.
PUT ON THEIR OWN RESPONSIBILITY
32, 33. (a) Besides warning the overseers of present dangers, what else did Paul do? (b) Why did he tell them to pay attention to themselves and God’s flock?
32 During the time that Paul lived and while he was present with the spiritual “sheep,” he had to watch like a shepherd over the “flock of God” to protect them from death by spiritual hunger or by wolfish enemies. He also had to think about after he left them or after he died and could not give them his direct, living oversight. For this reason he warned the sheep not only of the present dangers but also of the danger to confront them after he left.
33 As a member of the Christian governing body, Paul trained and appointed overseers for the “flock of God” under the guidance of God’s spirit. He also warned them of future problems and future dangers that had to do with their own safety and that of all of God’s flock. With his prophetic foresight and with the help of the written prophecies Paul was under obligation to give such warnings. He had to serve as a watchman and look ahead. Hence he told those Ephesian overseers: “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son. I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore keep awake, and bear in mind that for three years, night and day, I did not quit admonishing each one with tears.”—Acts 20:28-31.
34. What did Paul’s putting those overseers on their own responsibility mean, and why were they to be held more responsible?
34 Having cleared himself of responsibility for their blood, Paul had to put the spiritual shepherds on their own responsibility. If, now, any of those forewarned, fully instructed overseers got executed by the judgment of God and lost eternal life, it would not be Paul’s fault. He would not be accountable for their losing eternal life. The guilt for their blood if shed or life if poured out would be their own, not Paul’s. As trained, instructed overseers, they had got more teaching and attention and directing than the Jewish and Gentile public had got or even the general members of the congregation had got. Consequently they were more responsible, for they knew more and had had more advantages.
35. What did Paul finally say to them before praying with them?
35 Having conducted himself so faithfully as a Christian minister and overseer in Ephesus for the three years of his presence and activity there and having now given them this final warning, Paul was in proper position to say to the Ephesian overseers: “And now I commit you to God and to the word of his undeserved kindness, which word can build you up and give you the inheritance among all the sanctified ones. I have coveted no man’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands have attended to the needs of me and of those with me. I have exhibited to you in all things that by thus laboring you must assist those who are weak and must bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’” Then Paul prayed with them.—Acts 20:32-36.
36. How could Paul indeed commit those Ephesian Christians to God?
36 Paul could indeed commit the Ephesian overseers and congregation to God. He had taught them about Jehovah God as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ and had brought them into relationship with God. For at least three years by day and by night, he had not held back from telling them all the counsel of God. Doubtless, through Paul as an apostle the most of the congregation, if not all of them, had received the holy spirit and its miraculous gifts. (Acts 19:1-7) So, now having to leave them with no hope of seeing him again, Paul had to commit them to their ever-present, ever-living Caretaker, Jehovah God, to whom Paul had led them so that they became His “sanctified ones,” his flock of sheep.
37. How could Paul indeed commit them to the “word of God’s undeserved kindness”?
37 Paul could at the same time commit those Ephesian overseers to the “word of [God’s] undeserved kindness,” for he had taught God’s Word to them. He explained to them the Hebrew Scriptures from Genesis to Malachi. He also brought to them the words and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and also the revelations that he himself had miraculously received through Christ. He also wrote the Letter to the Ephesians, which has become part of the written Word of God. By efficient teaching methods Paul drilled God’s Word into their minds so that it would remain with them even though he left them for good. So he could safely entrust them to that Word and to its enlightening, preserving, protective, sanctifying power. It was sound, healthful, Scriptural doctrine, and he knew that it could build them up spiritually and help them to receive at last the heavenly kingdom, the promised “inheritance among all the sanctified.” Paul thus left God’s sheep in safe keeping.
NOT SILENCED BY BLOOD MONEY
38. As against what discharge of duty did Paul not hold his life dear to him?
38 The apostle Paul did not hold his physical life dear to him if only he could faithfully discharge his ministry and help others to escape everlasting destruction and gain eternal life. So his aim was not to make money by the good news of God. His aim was that he might keep clean from responsibility for other men’s blood that was threatened with being shed by the execution of God’s judgment.
39. With what motivations was Paul rendering his life-giving ministry?
39 Paul therefore rendered his life-giving ministry cost-free, without charge to those seeking salvation. He was not using God’s Word as a means of income, thus commercializing it. At such times as he had to, he worked at secular occupation as a tentmaker, so that his service as watchman would not be a materially paid service as that of a hireling. No; but he watched as a Christlike undershepherd who loved both the Chief Shepherd and the Chief Shepherd’s sheep. Paul was one really desiring to see others live and enjoy God’s undeserved kindness along with himself. He really loved his neighbor and hence did not neglect his neighbor’s interests so as to become accountable for the blood of his neighbor if shed in God’s execution. He was a real lifesaver for the joy, privilege and good results of it. He appreciated the danger of his imperiled neighbor and felt obligated to do something about it with the means with which God had entrusted him. So he wanted to rescue his neighbor from perishing, if his neighbor would accept Paul’s help.
40. How did Paul set the pattern for us for gaining the happiness that Jesus enjoyed?
40 This sets the pattern for us today. If we proceed in this unselfish, self-denying way, at our own cost, in order that we may help others to gain eternal life, we learn to know how true Jesus’ words are that Paul quoted: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” To help the weak, there is refreshing happiness in giving of oneself, giving one’s own strength with which one has been made strong by God. There is no happiness in receiving what would amount to blood money, money that would silence our mouths from giving warning and from giving “all the counsel of God.” There is no happiness in bearing bloodguilt toward anyone, only a self-condemning conscience. Paul wanted happiness. We do, too.
OUR DUTY AND COURSE TODAY
41. Why are we anxious to help others get saved from death and destruction?
41 We lovers of salvation are eager to share salvation with others. Escaping from death and destruction at God’s hands, we are anxious to have others saved from such a calamity. Like Jehovah God, we as his ministers and watchmen say: “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked? . . . and not rather that he should return from his way, and live?” (Ezek. 18:23, AS) So, like God, we desire to help the wicked to return from his way and live. We do not enjoy the prospect of being stained with the blood of the perishing, for we know we should be called to account for this as lazy watchmen. We work for Christlike happiness, for this happiness means everlasting life.
42. Why do we live in a day in which we are liable for blood, and what, therefore, dare we not do?
42 As in Paul’s day, which was shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem and Judea and the dispersal of the Jewish nation, we today live at a time when the blood of our fellow nationals and our fellow creatures is involved. The “war of the great day of God the Almighty” impends, and at the battlefield of Armageddon the judgment of God against all who refuse and oppose the message of God’s kingdom will be executed. As a world community they will settle their blood account with God by their own blood, as Jerusalem did and as Babylon did. (Matt. 23:33-38; Jer. 51:3, 4, 48, 49) If we care to survive the judgment war and live into God’s new world we must keep “clean from the blood of all men.” It is not God’s will that this doomed world be left in ignorance, for which lack of knowledge they will perish. With our Bible knowledge, we dare not leave the people in ignorance, unless they choose to remain in it. We must warn them of Armageddon and of Gog of Magog who leads mankind to fight there against God and Christ. We dare not leave the people able to plead ignorance before God because of our having failed to exert ourselves to give them the message of salvation.
43. How earnest ought we to be about this, and how must we declare, without holding back, “all the counsel of God”?
43 Like Paul, we must be as earnest in warning and enlightening the people as if this were our last advice to the endangered ones. It is coming to that! Like Paul, we are charged by God through Christ to preach the good news of God’s kingdom, but now of God’s kingdom set up in power. (Matt. 24:14) We must do this for a witness and a warning, before the old world’s end comes. We must not hold back from telling “all the counsel of God.” Like Paul, who says to us: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ,” we must do this by preaching publicly and teaching from house to house.—1 Cor. 11:1.
44. If we do this, what shall we be able to say at the time of rendering account, and with what consequences to ourselves?
44 If we do so, then what? We shall, at the brink of Armageddon, be able to take up Paul’s words and to say unashamed to all the world: “I call you to witness this very day that I am clean from the blood of all men, for I have not held back from telling you all the counsel of God.” Thus we shall not die with any bloodguilt. With clean hands and heads and records we shall be ushered into God’s innocent new world of life and happiness for evermore.