“The minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace.”—Rom. 8:6.
1. In sending his own beloved Son to earth, what great change did Jehovah institute, and why?
BECAUSE Abraham’s natural descendants continually fell away from the righteous standard he set up to govern their conduct, Jehovah cast them away from being his special possession, and proceeded to gather together those who would form a new nation for his praise. Not by an ordinary human servant like Moses did he assemble the new nation of his worshipers, but this time he sent his own Son from heaven “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” (Rom. 8:3) In Jesus he furnished the means of ransoming men from the power of sin and death as well as a perfect model in whose steps other men might follow.—1 Pet. 2:21.
2. Jesus being “in the likeness of sinful flesh” meant what, and why was this appropriate to God’s purpose?
2 That his Son was “in the likeness of sinful flesh” does not mean that “the two absolutely opposite principles of human ignorance and imperfection, and divine omniscience and perfection,” met in Christ Jesus, as affirmed by the Roman Catholic Thomas Aquinas. No, for Jesus was no God-man. “He emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men,” but as such, we are assured, he was “guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners.” (Phil. 2:7; Heb. 7:26) As a perfect human Jesus was in position to be submitted to the same test of obedience and integrity as that to which Adam and Eve were subjected. The course he would follow would demonstrate his attitude toward Jehovah’s righteous standard.
3. Under what kind of dominion had humankind been subject prior to Jesus’ appearance?
3 When Jesus appeared the human race had been long under the despotic rule of sin. ‘Sin rules as king in their mortal bodies,’ is the way the Christian apostle Paul expressed it. (Rom. 6:12) And it hardly needs to be proved that the mortal bodies, with their feelings or sensations, can and do dominate the thinking and actions of most humans. Just think of the powerful influence on human lives that is brought to bear by the sense organs that govern touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing!
4. How do fleshly sensations tyrannize imperfect humans?
4 Fleshly sensations, given free rein, are capable of producing the glutton, the drunkard, and the lover of luxury and ease. There is the jealous eye that wants everything it sees and slave-drives its owner into the path of materialism. (Eccl. 4:8) The sense of touch, when permitted to dominate our thinking, can lead us into lewd and filthy practices. (Matt. 5:30) Even the ear can mislead us by seeking only the pleasurable sounds and shutting out those harsher notes that may come in the form of sober counsel and healthful discipline.—Zech. 7:11.
5. What was God’s purpose in furnishing his human creations with those sensory powers?
5 Of course, the all-wise Creator did not equip us with those sensory powers in order for them to dictate the course of our lives. Fully cognizant of the powerful influence that would be exerted upon men and women by the fleshly sensations, Jehovah made provision so that intelligence nourished by divine wisdom would act as a counterpoise. Thus in his Word he counsels: “My son, to my wisdom O do pay attention. To my discernment incline your ears, so as to guard thinking abilities; and may your own lips safeguard knowledge itself.”—Prov. 5:1, 2.
JESUS LEADS IN THE RIGHT WAY
6. (a) With what former experience in mind would the Tempter approach the perfect man Jesus? (b) What was the result?
6 Satan the tempter well knew how humans could be influenced through their fleshly senses, and so, in seeking to cause Jesus to break integrity with his God, he suggested to the hungry Son of God that he draw upon the miraculous power of his Father for the appeasement of his appetite. Would Jesus now mind the flesh, that is, pay attention to its demands with a view to obeying it? Or, would he mind the spirit, that is, pay attention to spiritual direction from his Father in heaven? To Satan’s chagrin he chose the latter, declaring: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.” (Matt. 4:4) Jesus submitted to the right moral standard.
7. How did Jesus show his accurate understanding of human weakness?
7 Showing his awareness of the dangerous influence the members and organs of our human bodies can have over our lives, Jesus warned: “I say to you that everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If, now, that right eye of yours is making you stumble, tear it out and throw it away from you. For it is more beneficial to you for one of your members to be lost to you than for your whole body to be pitched into Gehenna [from which there can be no resurrection]. Also, if your right hand is making you stumble, cut it off and throw it away from you. For it is more beneficial for one of your members to be lost to you than for your whole body to land in Gehenna.”—Matt. 5:28-30.
8. Why can we be sure that Jesus was not here teaching self-mutilation?
8 Manifestly, Jesus was not here teaching self-mutilation, something that would have been in opposition to the principles of God’s law to the Jews. But he knew that the eye is capable of kindling a covetous spirit and the hand can be used to manipulate matters for selfish gratification. At the same time, Jesus knew that the eye and the hand are useful for many godly activities when controlled by a mind nourished upon godly teaching. Instead of the fleshly members directing the thinking, the mind should have those members under control.
9. On another occasion, how did Jesus identify the worst kinds of defilement and their source?
9 On another occasion Jesus assured his followers that “not what enters into his mouth defiles a man; but it is what proceeds out of his mouth that defiles a man.” (Matt. 15:11) In response to their request for clarification, Jesus explained: “Are you not aware that everything entering into the mouth passes along into the intestines and is discharged into the sewer? However, the things proceeding out of the mouth come out of the heart, and those things defile a man. For example, out of the heart come wicked reasonings, murders, adulteries, fornications, thieveries, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things defiling a man.”—Matt. 15:17-20.
10. How do bad things come to be in the heart, and with what terrible result?
10 Bad things, in turn, come to be in the heart and mind of the man through his sensory organs, the eye, the hand, the tongue, and so on. Not that those organs are bad in themselves, but, rather, they usurp control of the thinking abilities and crowd out of the mind the fine counsel from God. Then the creature is likely to be led off into an immoral course, a law-defying course, for “the minding of the flesh means enmity with God, for it is not under subjection to the law of God.”—Rom. 8:7.
11. How does Bible writer James explain the process leading to death, and what, therefore, becomes vital for each God-fearing person?
11 James, one of God’s inspired Bible writers, outlines the process leading to this lawless and death-dealing course: “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn, sin, when it has been accomplished, brings forth death.” (Jas. 1:14, 15) So the evil way finds its root in the heart (seat of affection) influenced by the body’s sensation-loving members. How vital, then, to guard our hearts and nourish them with the precious thoughts of our God, thoughts he has generously made available to us in his written Word!
APOSTLES MAINTAIN THE TEACHING OF JESUS
12. What is the counsel of the apostle Paul, and in view of what inclination of the flesh?
12 For those who would keep themselves free from the defilements and immoralities now so rife in this world, the apostle Paul recommended filling the mind with good things, including “whatever things are chaste.” (Phil. 4:8) This certainly means giving more and more time to the study of the Bible, for it is the contents of that unique Book that are “beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16) In view of the evil inclinations of the flesh, we all need such reproof and discipline applied continuously.
13. In what way is it proper to be babes, and in what way is it preferable to be adult?
13 Again pointing to the need for a well-nourished mind, the apostle offers this excellent counsel: “Brothers, do not become young children in powers of understanding, but be babes as to badness; yet become full-grown in powers of understanding.” (1 Cor. 14:20) It is true that we are born into this world with the handicap of imperfection and waywardness inherited from our ancestors, but we do not need to develop to manhood in the ways of this wicked world. We can become weaned from the ways of the world by accepting the direction of God’s spirit-filled Word.
14. Against whom does the apostle Paul warn fellow Christians, and why?
14 The apostle was also mindful of the effect associations would have in directing us toward either “the minding of the flesh” or “the minding of the spirit.” He warned fellow Christians: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33) How true this is, whether we are in physical company of persons whose god is their belly, or keeping company with them through the printed page or the movie screen! (Phil. 3:19) Certainly, if we are obedient to the exhortation to stop associating with those whose appetite for fleshly gratification has become their god, then we cannot read what they have to say or watch their actions, for fear that some of their thinking should rub off on us.
15. Explain why it is perilous to consider oneself strong enough to be exposed to bad associates?
15 Nor should we ever entertain the idea that we are spiritually strong enough to expose ourselves to worldly associations without danger. The apostles not only warned younger fellow Christians to flee from idolatry and youthful lusts, but they themselves avoided such dangers, and the apostle Paul warned: “Let him that thinks he has a firm position beware that he does not fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12) Even in maturity the apostle still recognized his own limitations, and speaking of the reward for faithfulness, he says: “Brothers, I do not yet consider myself as having laid hold on it.” No, he himself had to beware of inducements to unfaithfulness and immorality.—Phil. 3:13.
16. What counsel does the apostle Peter offer, raising what pertinent questions?
16 Peter, another of Jesus’ apostles, had experienced the fact that one who makes up his mind to submit to the direction of the spirit of God rather than to that of the flesh and its desires will become like a stranger to fleshly-minded persons. So he could appropriately exhort fellow worshipers of God “as aliens and temporary residents to keep abstaining from fleshly desires, which are the very ones that carry on a conflict against the soul.” (1 Pet. 2:11) Fleshly desires, therefore, must always be suspect. Do they conflict with righteous principles? Do they obstruct your service of Jehovah? Do they form an inducement to sexual looseness? For our own protection these desires need to be under close surveillance.
17. What is meant by ‘getting possesion of one’s own vessel,’ and failure to do so results in what?
17 Gaining control of the members of the body and directing one’s body in harmony with the right standard of conduct set up by God is also referred to as ‘getting possession of one’s own vessel.’ So Paul earnestly reminds those who would continue as genuine followers of Christ: “This is what God wills, the sanctifying of you [brothers and sisters], 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.” (1 Thess. 4:3-5) Failure to keep in mind such spirit-directed counsel has laid the majority of men open to the wily tactics of the Devil, who seeks to gain a hold over them, even as he sought to gain a hold on Jesus, by appealing to their fleshly desires.
NATIONS FLOUT CHRISTIAN MORALITY
18. On what do godless nations insist, and what is the fruitage of such a course?
18 Throughout the world during the past few decades crime and immorality have vastly increased. The fruitage is evident in the great upsurge of social disease, lying, stealing, murder and sex perversion. Just as in the days of the apostles, men of the nations proceed “in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries,” and fall into what the apostle Peter termed a “low sink of debauchery.” (1 Pet. 4:3, 4) Even a multitude of persons in many lands who profess to be Christians join in the general defiance of God’s righteous standard. They insist on doing just as they please. They want to get rid of what they consider to be old-fashioned standards of morality.
19-21. How is the rising generation of boys and girls affected by this world’s attitude toward Christian morality?
19 Recent interviews with a cross section of British boys and girls revealed the fact that one in five boys and one in ten girls had had sex experience by the age of fifteen. In a northern English city it was reported that 700 girls were suffering from gonorrhea. In a large industrial area of the country venereal disease has increased during the past decade by 58 percent in young men and 346 percent in girls. Throughout Great Britain two-thirds of all babies born to girls under twenty are conceived out of wedlock.
20 In Sweden studies indicate that some 80 percent of boys and 67 percent of girls under age eighteen have had sexual relations, and almost half of all firstborn children are born out of wedlock. In practically 90 percent of Swedish society it is now accepted that marriage engagement carries with it the privilege of sex intimacy. In Czechoslovakia one out of three firstborn children are conceived before marriage. In West Germany and Denmark the figure is reported to be one out of two. In the United States, according to the best available national statistics, from 40 to 65 percent of all girls have intercourse before they marry.
21 In many lands a large number of illegitimate births are forestalled by abortions. In Hungary legal abortions actually exceed the number of live births. In some parts of Greece it is estimated that the rate is as high as 50 abortions per 100 live births. In Japan a million mothers each year cut short unwanted pregnancies by legalized abortion. In the United States more than 1,200,000 abortions or attempted abortions are performed annually.
22-24. What are the clergy of Christendom doing in connection with the worsening moral conditions among the nations?
22 Flouting of the Christian standard of morality is not confined to self-confessed atheists of the East and the West. It is even encouraged and promoted by clergymen and other professional men who profess to be Christian. There is, for example, the Unitarian minister in the United States who claims “the state should not forbid or punish voluntary pre-marital intercourse between persons over the legal age of consent.” Then there is the professor of ethics at an Episcopal theological school who declares: “No sexual act between persons competent to give mutual consent should be prohibited, except when it involves either the seduction of minors or an offense against the public order.”
23 A study group of the British Council of Churches made a special report on “Sex and Morality,” in the course of which they refused to condemn adultery and adopted the view that casual sex can be “trivially pleasurable or mildly therapeutic.” On the subject of masturbation they state in the same report: “It is not at all clear to us that any harm need be done when it is used, in absence of other means, as a relief for physical tensions.”
24 In Sweden the editor of a religious magazine stated that “there are many young couples not yet married who are living together and are not acting immorally,” and at the same time indicated that he would have no objection to what he termed “premarital monogamy,” which is in fact living together as man and wife without benefit of marriage.
25. In what ways are men suppressing the truth in an unrighteous way, and with what result to themselves?
25 In all nations, today, the truth about the clean, righteous moral standard of God is being suppressed in one way or another. By some it is ridiculed as being old-fashioned, impractical in this modern age. By others it is beclouded with religious traditions that tend to discredit it. In still other countries it is flatly rejected as an authoritative guide. That is why, Paul the apostle declares, the wrath of God is upon those “men who are suppressing the truth in an unrighteous way.” Further Paul says: “That is why God gave them up to disgraceful sexual appetites, for both their females changed the natural use of themselves into one contrary to nature; and likewise even the males left the natural use of the female and became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another.”—Rom. 1:18, 26, 27.
26. “The minding of the flesh,” then, is leading the nations to what?
26 All those nations have preferred to ‘mind the flesh’ rather than to ‘mind the spirit’ and so must be prepared to forgo life and peace. Death is their ultimate destiny. By following the dictates of the flesh they have put themselves at enmity with God, the only source of life and peace. The time of God’s toleration of their filthy and degraded practices is running out. The destruction of an immoral generation by the great deluge in Noah’s day stands as a pattern of what Jehovah will do to the debauched generation of today.
ENSURING FOR OURSELVES LIFE AND PEACE
27. What wrongful course must all of Jehovah’s approved ones now completely avoid, and how may they be aided to do so?
27 How vital it is, then, to separate ourselves from the immoral attitudes and practices of those doomed nations! That is the only way to avoid sharing their calamity. And it means that we must cleanse our minds of any unhealthy ideas we used to share with fleshly-minded people of the world. The apostle Paul knew that many who were converted to Christianity “at one time walked according to the system of things of this world,” and formerly practiced sexual vices and other sins. Now he exhorts, “be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”—Eph. 2:2; Rom. 12:2.
28. What fine example may they pause and consider in every situation and under every circumstance?
28 As followers of Christ we must follow his steps closely, doing and saying and thinking as he did while here on earth. As each difficult situation confronts us, as each issue demands a right decision on our part, the way of success is to ask, “How would Jesus react? How would he decide?” For example, when speaking the comforting message of the Kingdom to the woman at Sychar, did he whitewash or minimize her failure to lead a chaste life? No, he stood firmly for God’s righteous standard.—John 4:16-18.
29. How did Jesus forthrightly express Jehovah’s requirements as to married persons?
29 Note, too, how positively Jesus spoke of married persons as being “no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.” No room here for quibbling about excuses for divorce. “I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication, and marries another commits adultery.” (Matt. 19:6-9) Furthermore, says Jesus, “he that marries a woman divorced from a husband [for any other reason besides fornication] commits adultery.” (Luke 16:18) In no way did Jesus ever countenance any watering down of Jehovah’s just standard of marital faithfulness.
30. How can the two great commandments of life be adhered to?
30 Summing up the whole of the Mosaic law and the teachings of the prophets of God, Jesus stressed the keeping of the two great commandments: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind. . . . You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37, 39) The way to love God and demonstrate that love is not by ignoring and violating his righteous standard for human conduct. No, rather, it is by adhering strictly to the way of life exemplified by Christ Jesus. It is by paying more attention to the guidance of God’s holy spirit than to the desires of our imperfect flesh.
31. How can we determine who is our neighbour?
31 And lest we should somehow get a very limited view of who constitutes our neighbor, Jesus gave the illustration of the Good Samaritan. At its conclusion he asked the pertinent question: “Who of these three seems to you to have made himself neighbor to the man that fell among the robbers?” (Luke 10:36) So it is a matter of making ourselves neighbor to all our fellow creatures, all of whom are in need of our succor in one form or another. By indulging in fornication or adultery, what kind of neighbor are we to someone’s father, or brother, or husband? And what kind of neighbor do we make ourselves to the person whose self-respect we steal by such illicit sex relations? Surely the answers are obvious.
32. Can there be any doubt about the true moral standard for Christians?
32 God’s own Son, while in the flesh, demonstrated by his way of life the moral standard to be observed by his followers. It is useless for anyone to call himself “Christian” and pursue a different course. He only makes a hypocrite of himself. To teach and practice what is contrary to the teaching that Jesus received from his heavenly Father is to bring oneself into enmity with God, and only death can be the end of such a course.
33. How do Jesus’ followers become holy, even as their God is holy?
33 On the other hand, if we have come to know the mind of God and of Christ we should wisely give heed to the earnest exhortation: “Quit being fashioned according to the desires you formerly had in your ignorance, but, in accord with the holy one who called you, do you also become holy yourselves in all your conduct, because it is written: ‘You must be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:14-16) Despite our inheritance of sin from Adam and the weaknesses of the flesh, we can become holy. God does not demand of us the impossible. And if, with his help, we continue to ‘mind the spirit’ we can enjoy peace with God now and attain life and peace in his New Order.
[Picture on page 55]
The Flood, a pattern of what God will do to this immoral generation