“Keep Yourselves Clean”!
“Turn away, turn away, get out of there, touch nothing unclean; get out from the midst of her, keep yourselves clean, you who are carrying the utensils of Jehovah.”—ISAIAH 52:11.
1, 2. (a) What facts show that cleanliness is appreciated by most people? (b) Why is physical cleanliness vital?
“CLEANLINESS is, indeed, next to godliness.” So says a proverb of this old world. Yes, most people appreciate physical cleanliness. That is why supermarkets and drug stores feature soaps, detergents and deodorants. And that is why we have laundries, cleaning services and sanitation departments. Why, suppose you went to a fine restaurant and the tablecloth was stained, the dishes were dirty and the waitress wore a soiled dress! Would you not lose your appetite? Undoubtedly you would because uncleanness is offensive.
2 But cleanliness is not merely a matter of aesthetics. Uncleanness is a common denominator of many diseases. According to some medical authorities, the increase in the life span of modern man has largely been due to progress made in sanitation. More than that, leading ecologists state that uncleanness in the form of pollution is threatening the very existence of the human race.
Jehovah and His Organization, Holy and Clean
3, 4. (a) How does Jehovah God view spiritual uncleanness? (b) As the holy God, what does Jehovah require of his people?
3 Although physical cleanness is important to most people, spiritual cleanness is even more important. In the first place, spiritual uncleanness offends Jehovah God. It is an insult to his awesome majesty, a rebellion against his righteous standards. In essence, it constitutes disloyalty to him as a Person. Spiritual uncleanness, whether doctrinal or moral, is divisive and corrupting. It causes confusion and results in death. No wonder Jehovah God is so strongly opposed to it! That is why he commanded his ancient people, the Israelites: “You must prove yourselves holy, because I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44, 45) That, too, is why God demanded spiritual cleanness of his liberated people who were going from Babylon to Jerusalem, carrying along utensils for use in his worship. In words of prophetic import also to Jehovah’s Witnesses today, God declared: “Turn away, turn away, get out of there, touch nothing unclean; get out from the midst of her, keep yourselves clean, you who are carrying the utensils of Jehovah.”—Isaiah 52:11.
4 Jehovah God commands that we, as his witnesses, keep ourselves clean, that is, holy and pure, righteous and chaste. Is that not the way Jehovah himself is? Why, time and again he is referred to as “the Holy One of Israel”! (Isaiah 12:6; 29:19; 41:14; Jeremiah 51:5) And, fittingly, we read at Revelation 4:8: “Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah God, the Almighty.”
5. (a) As to holiness, what is true of Jesus Christ, the righteous angels, God’s active force and his Word? (b) So, what command does Jehovah God lay upon his servants here on earth?
5 Moreover, is not God’s Son, Jesus Christ, called “the Holy One of God”? (John 6:69) Are not God’s heavenly ministers termed “holy angels”? (Mark 8:38) Is not God’s active force called his holy spirit? And is not God’s Word rightly referred to as “the holy writings”? (2 Timothy 3:15) Clearly, then, as Jehovah’s Witnesses we must also be clean and holy, even as we are commanded at 1 Peter 1:15, 16: “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.’”
6. (a) How are Christians made clean in the first place? (b) Why is it imperative that Jehovah’s people remain holy and clean?
6 By reason of our repentance, conversion and faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we have been made clean in God’s sight. (1 Corinthians 6:11; Revelation 7:14) We must preserve this condition if we want to continue in God’s favor. (Psalm 15:1, 2) More than that, we must keep clean so as to be able to appeal to all lovers of truth and righteousness who are distressed because of the wicked, unclean conditions they see upon the earth. (Ezekiel 9:4) Furthermore, it is absolutely imperative that we stay holy and clean so as not to stumble any of our fellow believers. As the apostle Paul reminded the Philippian Christians: “This is what I continue praying, that your love may abound yet more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment; that you may make sure of the more important things, so that you may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ.”—Philippians 1:9, 10; compare Matthew 18:6.
7, 8. (a) What shows that some have not appreciated the need to keep clean as God’s servants? (b) This underscores the importance of what warning?
7 Sad to say, some of our former associates have failed to keep themselves clean, holy, as bearers of Jehovah’s utensils. Hence, they have been expelled from the Christian congregation for various Scriptural reasons. Others have been reproved for failing to live by Bible principles. Included among all such have been quite a few children of ordained ministers, as well as some overseers and ministerial servants.
8 Evidently, to an extent, all of these fell into a snare of Satan. By trying to bear Jehovah’s utensils while not keeping themselves spiritually clean, they were ignoring the command at Isaiah 52:11, and this they could not continue to do with impunity. (Compare Job 9:1-4.) How this underscores the importance of the warning found at 1 Corinthians 10:12: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall”!
Why the Problem?
9. (a) Remaining spiritually clean presents a challenge because of what three foes? (b) Why do Satan and his demons represent such a threat to Christians?
9 Why does keeping spiritually clean present such a challenge? Because we have arrayed against us three powerful foes—Satan and his demons, his visible organization and our sinful fleshly weaknesses. To begin with, there are Satan and his demons. Are they not unclean, corrupt? Yes, indeed. The demons are referred to as “unclean spirits.”—Matthew 10:1.
10, 11. What is there about Satan’s visible organization that makes it difficult for Christians to serve God in a holy, clean way?
10 Secondly, Satan’s visible organization is our foe. Without question, his religious world empire is spiritually unclean. So is the rest of the world lying in his power. (1 John 5:19; Revelation 16:13; 17:4; 18:2) For our worship to be acceptable to God, therefore, we must ‘keep ourselves without spot from the world.’—James 1:27.
11 Unclean, too, are many things presented in worldly newspapers, magazines, television programs and motion pictures. For instance, the makeup of many television programs is getting more unclean with the passing of time. Years ago, unclean movies were the exception; today they are the rule. Pornographic magazines keep proliferating like mushrooms. Truly, in these “last days” we are faced with “critical times hard to deal with.”—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
12. To keep holy, clean, Christians have to contend with what foe within themselves?
12 Making it even more difficult to stay clean are our own fallen fleshly inclinations. (Genesis 8:21; Romans 5:12) Therefore, all of us must struggle to do what is right and to remain clean as bearers of Jehovah’s utensils. (Romans 7:13-25) But what will help us to stay holy and clean?
Hate All That Is Bad!
13. What is one of the first things that we must learn to do if we are to keep ourselves clean?
13 Among the first things we must do to stay holy and clean as “lovers of Jehovah” is to “hate what is bad.” Yes, we need to “abhor what is wicked.” (Psalm 97:10; Romans 12:9) We must have strong feelings of aversion, of disgust, as to things that are bad, no matter how pleasurable they may momentarily be to our fallen flesh. We also need to keep telling ourselves that harm will come to us if we do not keep clean. (Galatians 6:7, 8) Moreover, we should bear in mind the harm that comes to others when we commit gross sins. Above all, we need to hate and avoid all that is bad so that we do not bring reproach upon Jehovah God.
14. (a) To keep clean morally, against what must we be on guard? (b) What obligation do sisters have in this regard?
14 To keep clean, we must also guard against such things as entertaining immoral ideas and flirting with individuals other than our marriage mate. As Paul counseled at 1 Timothy 5:1, 2, Christian men should treat their older spiritual sisters as mothers and the younger women as their fleshly sisters with all chasteness. But in all of this our sisters also have a responsibility, namely, “to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind.” (1 Timothy 2:9, 10) When women look into a mirror, doubtless they know whether they appear modest or whether their attire and bearing have sensual overtones. Modesty is the opposite of worldly sensuality.—Micah 6:8.
Be Conscious of Your Spiritual Need!
15. What positive steps must we take to keep clean?
15 However, hating what is bad is, at best, only a negative approach to keeping holy and clean. We must also take positive steps. At all times we must be conscious of our spiritual need. (Matthew 5:3) How vital that “lovers of Jehovah” regularly feed on his Word! (Psalm 119:105-112) We must take to heart the fine counsel at Philippians 4:8, filling our minds with clean, upbuilding things. Of great help is memorizing scriptures and the words of the Kingdom songs. These will then naturally come to mind during times of leisure, or at night when we may lie awake.—Psalm 63:6; 77:6.
16. How can association with our brothers be an aid in keeping holy, clean?
16 If we are conscious of our spiritual need, we will regularly attend congregation meetings, where we can incite one another to love and to fine, clean works. (Hebrews 10:23-25) Even as bad associates can make us unclean, so good associations will help us to keep spiritually clean. Watching our association in times of relaxation is also essential in keeping spiritually clean.—1 Corinthians 15:33.
17. Why can prayer help us to remain clean?
17 Nor to be overlooked is the help we get from prayer. We are counseled to “persevere in prayer,” to “pray incessantly.” (Romans 12:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:17) Never should we be too busy for prayer. Let us pray for wisdom, for strength, for God’s holy spirit. Then, by working at what we pray for, we will enjoy the “peace of God” that will guard our hearts and mental powers and will enable us to remain holy, clean.—Philippians 4:6, 7.
18. How can keeping busy in Jehovah’s service help us?
18 Talking to others about God’s Kingdom, staying busy in Jehovah’s service, is another great aid in keeping holy and clean. Not a few who have become involved in bad conduct have done so while relaxing, as when on a vacation. What a warning example we have in King David! Why, it was spring, when kings generally went forth to war, and David stayed behind, taking it easy, as it were! That is when he got into trouble with Bath-sheba. (2 Samuel 11:1-4) Clearly, then, we must be on guard at all times if we are to continue as clean bearers of Jehovah’s utensils.
19. Why is self-control so important in keeping clean?
19 Self-control is vital if we want Jehovah God to keep on using us to bear his utensils. (Galatians 5:22, 23; 1 Corinthians 9:27) We must discipline our minds and guard our hearts, rejecting every temptation, deadening all inclinations to dwell on unclean things. As Jesus Christ put it, we must be willing to pluck out an eye or cut off a hand or a foot, figuratively speaking, if they tend to make us stumble. (Mark 9:43-48) Good counsel along these lines is given by Paul at Ephesians 4:29–5:5.
20, 21. (a) What role can love for Jehovah God play in helping us to remain clean? (b) How can love for our brothers and others help us to keep ourselves clean spiritually?
20 In particular will love for Jehovah help us to keep clean. Are we really “lovers of Jehovah”? Do we appreciate all he has done for us? Is it our determination to walk with him, as did the faithful men of old? (Genesis 5:24; 6:9) If so, loyal love for Jehovah God will help us to keep holy, clean. Yes, if we truly love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we will fear to displease him. So, as “lovers of Jehovah” may we never shrink back or let ourselves get spotted by the world or by our own fallen inclinations.—Mark 12:29, 30; Hebrews 10:38, 39.
21 Very helpful also in keeping clean and holy is sincere, unselfish love for our brothers. If we are truly interested in their spiritual welfare, we will be careful not to cause them offense or make them feel unclean by our own unclean talk, unclean looks, by our flirting or engaging in unclean conduct. Remember, love “does not rejoice over unrighteousness.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 6) Unselfish love for God and neighbor will keep us from sinning in these respects. It will cause us to exercise self-control, ‘making straight paths for our feet.’—Hebrews 12:13.
The Rewards for Keeping Clean
22, 23. What are some of the rewards we will personally receive for staying clean?
22 What are our rewards for keeping clean as bearers of Jehovah’s utensils? Among these are a “good conscience” and a “clean heart.” (1 Timothy 1:5) Peace of mind is another reward. By keeping ourselves spiritually clean, we will never feel the pain that a bad conscience can give—the unhappiness, the sleepless nights, the fear of being discovered or exposed. Yes, by keeping ourselves clean we will never be hypocrites trying to hide something. Freedom from such things certainly is a fine reward.
23 Another reward for keeping holy and clean is that we will have good relations with our brothers, our own families and outsiders. We will not have it on our conscience that we have stumbled someone. Moreover, by keeping clean we will be able to upbuild one another through love. (1 Corinthians 8:1) Thus we will experience the greater happiness of giving, of contributing to the spiritual well-being of others.—Acts 20:35.
24. What is the greatest and best reason for wanting to keep ourselves clean as Jehovah’s people?
24 Above all, by keeping clean as bearers of Jehovah’s utensils we will make glad the heart of our heavenly Father and will enable him to answer taunting Satan. (Proverbs 27:11) Surely, in view of all that Jehovah God has done for us, we owe this to him. So as Jehovah’s faithful witnesses, may we all keep clean, holy, as bearers of his utensils. To God’s glory, honor and praise, to the upbuilding of our brothers and our families, and with a view to our everlasting salvation, let us keep ourselves clean!
Can You Recall?
□ Since Jehovah is holy, what does he require of his people?
□ The fact that some have not remained clean as Jehovah’s servants emphasizes the importance of what warning given by the apostle Paul?
□ What three foes present a challenge to our remaining spiritually clean?
□ To keep clean spiritually, what positive steps must we take?
□ How can staying busy in Jehovah’s service help us to keep ourselves clean?
□ What is the greatest reason for us to keep clean as witnesses of Jehovah?