Cleansed and Zealous for Fine Works
‘Jesus Christ gave himself to cleanse for himself a people peculiarly his own, zealous for fine works.’—TITUS 2:13, 14.
1. Why must witnesses of Jehovah be clean and zealous?
JEHOVAH is holy, good and upright. He and his Son also accomplish superb work with zeal. (Leviticus 19:2; Psalm 25:8; John 5:17) Hence, all witnesses of Jehovah must be clean and zealous for fine works.
2. (a) How did the apostle Paul link cleanness with zeal? (b) What questions will we now consider?
2 The apostle Paul mentioned both cleanness and zeal when he wrote that by God’s undeserved kindness Jesus “gave himself for us that he might deliver us from every sort of lawlessness and cleanse for himself a people peculiarly his own, zealous for fine works.” (Titus 2:11-14) What is required of those Jesus has cleansed? For what fine works are we to be zealous? And what blessings do cleansed and zealous witnesses of Jehovah enjoy?
Spiritual Cleanness Vital
3. (a) What standard of cleanness must Jehovah’s servants maintain? (b) How was the need for cleanness stressed when Jewish exiles were released from Babylon?
3 Jehovah’s servants must maintain a high standard of physical, moral and spiritual cleanness. (Exodus 30:17-21; Deuteronomy 23:12-14; Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 Corinthians 7:1) This basic point was stressed in the sixth century B.C.E., when Jewish exiles were freed from Babylon. (Ezra 1:1-4) Soon they would head for their homeland, joyfully carrying along the holy utensils that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from God’s temple in Jerusalem. How vital that those sanctuary items be carried only by clean worshipers of Jehovah! Fittingly, then, they were told: “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) Those carriers had to be cleansed of all defilement from Babylon’s religious and moral uncleanness.
4. In harmony with 2 Corinthians 6:14-17, what is required of all witnesses of Jehovah?
4 The apostle Paul applied that demand for cleanness to anointed Christians who abandon Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. He wrote: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? . . . ‘Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing.’” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17; Revelation 18:4, 5; Jeremiah 51:45) Indeed, Jehovah requires spiritual cleanness of Jesus’ anointed followers and their companions, the “great crowd.”—Revelation 7:4-9.
“Repudiate Ungodliness and Worldly Desires”
5. According to 2 Corinthians 4:2, what should be true of our ministry?
5 Among other things, those serving as spiritually clean witnesses of Jehovah have been called upon to “repudiate ungodliness and worldly desires.” (Titus 2:11, 12) As Paul said elsewhere: “We have renounced the underhanded things of which to be ashamed, not walking with cunning, neither adulterating the word of God, but by making the truth manifest recommending ourselves to every human conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2) Like the apostle, present-day Christians must prove blameless in their ministry, free from any legitimate charge of corruption or deviousness in their dealings. (2 Corinthians 8:20, 21; Psalm 101:1-8) They must not be guided by the world’s wisdom and selfish, sinful spirit, or actuating force.—1 Corinthians 1:21; 2:12; 3:19; Ephesians 2:1, 2.
6. What can be done if we are struggling against such tendencies as deviousness and improper fleshly desires?
6 To attain their objectives, people having a worldly spirit often resort to devious methods. But if a professing Christian does this, he has not ‘repudiated ungodliness’ and enjoys no intimacy with Jehovah. (Proverbs 3:31, 32) And if a person is dominated by unclean fleshly yearnings, he has not ‘repudiated worldly desires.’ (Galatians 5:19-21; 1 John 2:15-17) But what if we are struggling against such unspiritual tendencies as deviousness and improper fleshly desires? Then it would be fitting to pray as did David, who said: “Create in me even a pure heart, O God, and put within me a new spirit, a steadfast one. Do not throw me away from before your face; and your holy spirit O do not take away from me.” (Psalm 51:10, 11; John 15:19) If we pray in such a way and take full advantage of the help available through God’s Word, spirit and organization, we will be able to correct our thinking and can serve faithfully as Jehovah’s clean worshipers.
7. Why must unrepentant wrongdoers be disfellowshipped?
7 If some among us unrepentantly pursue a grossly unclean course, they must be disfellowshipped so that Jehovah’s name is not profaned, his organization is kept clean and his faithful servants are protected and impressed with the gravity of serious wrongdoing. (Leviticus 22:31-33; Deuteronomy 13:6-11) Years ago, God’s people realized that an unrepentant wrongdoer no longer merited their fellowship. For instance, in 1904 the Watch Tower Society’s first president, Charles Taze Russell, wrote: “The Church is to withdraw from him its fellowship and any and all signs or manifestations of brotherhood.” (The New Creation, page 290) Today, too, Jehovah’s people follow Scriptural counsel to “remove the wicked man” from their midst.—1 Corinthians 5:9-13.
8 Keeping Jehovah’s organization clean is a matter of great concern to appointed elders. Of course, they must be merciful where there are ‘fruits befitting repentance,’ even as Jehovah extends mercy when this is proper. (Luke 3:8; Psalm 86:15; 130:3, 4) And if a fellow believer takes a false step before he realizes it, those having spiritual qualifications must try to readjust him “in a spirit of mildness.”—Galatians 6:1.
How Elders Can Help
9. What are two of the ways in which elders can help other Christians spiritually?
9 How can overseers help other Christians to keep clean spiritually? One way is by giving upbuilding discourses. Another is through personal discussions and shepherding calls. (1 Peter 5:1-4) At such times, elders appropriately use the Bible to teach, remind, exhort and even reprove fellow believers.
10. (a) What attitude should elders have toward public speaking? (b) Why should spiritual shepherds be ardent students of the Bible?
10 The need to teach was stressed when Paul urged his co-worker Titus to “keep on speaking what things are fitting for healthful teaching.” (Titus 2:1) Humble Christian elders are not seeking glory as public speakers but are eager to use the Bible properly to teach. (Proverbs 25:27) Interestingly, onetime U.S. president John Quincy Adams said: “I have for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year.” Each king of Israel was to make a copy of God’s law and “read in it all the days of his life.” Joshua followed similar instructions. (Deuteronomy 17:14-20; Joshua 1:7, 8) Without the knowledge thus acquired, how could such men of ancient Israel have acted wisely or helped others spiritually? So if you are an appointed elder, have you read the entire Bible, perhaps many times? Undoubtedly this would enhance your ability to counsel others, including dedicated Christians who may themselves have read through the Scriptures often. Those serving as spiritual shepherds must be ardent students of God’s Word, the basis for “healthful teaching.”
11. (a) What Scriptural reminders were needed by first-century Christians in Crete? (b) As regards Biblical reminders, what should appointed elders be qualified to do?
11 Paul also told Titus: “Continue reminding them to be in subjection and be obedient to governments and authorities as rulers, to be ready for every good work, to speak injuriously of no one, not to be belligerent, to be reasonable, exhibiting all mildness toward all men.” (Titus 3:1, 2) Those specific reminders were needed by first-century Christians on the island of Crete. Similarly, when a problem arises today, elders should be able to point to appropriate Scriptural reminders. And may we always be grateful when Jehovah’s reminders are drawn to our attention.—Psalm 119:99, 129.
12. (a) What does it mean to exhort? (b) With what attitude should exhortation be given?
12 Titus also was told: “Keep on exhorting the younger men to be sound in mind.” (Titus 2:6) To exhort means “to urge strongly; advise or warn earnestly.” (The World Book Dictionary) Because of his genuine love and concern, Paul did not hold back needed exhortation. In fact, he could say to the elders of Ephesus: “Keep awake, and bear in mind that for three years, night and day, I did not quit admonishing [exhorting] each one with tears.” (Acts 20:31; compare The Riverside New Testament.) Present-day elders who manifest the same attitude, and who give fitting admonition or exhortation, are indeed a blessing to the congregation!
13. (a) To reprove is to do what? (b) With what attitude should elders give reproof?
13 Paul also mentioned reproof, urging Titus: “Keep on reproving them with severity, that they may be healthy in the faith, paying no attention to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn themselves away from the truth.” (Titus 1:13, 14) To reprove is “to call attention to the remissness of usu[ally] with a kindly intent to correct or assist,” or “to express disapproval of” a person for his words or actions. (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary) Paul spoke of reproving, but with a noble purpose—“that they may be healthy in the faith.” Likewise today, elders avoid unchristian harshness. Unlike complaining apostates, true Christian elders do not try to be “masters” over the faith and lives of other believers but serve as stewards and fellow workers for their joy, helping them to stand firm in their faith.—2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Corinthians 4:1, 2.
14. What will help us to remain spiritually clean?
14 Heeding Biblical teaching, reminders, exhortation and reproof will help us to remain spiritually clean. This makes us suitable for God’s sacred service. But with what spirit should we perform that service?
Have ‘Zeal for Fine Works’
15. (a) How can zeal be defined? (b) What is the finest work a Christian can do?
15 As an organized body of dedicated Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses are “zealous for fine works.” Zeal is “eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something.” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary) According to Paul’s letter to Titus, all Christians are to pursue a broad range of “fine works.” For instance, younger women should be chaste, workers at home and in subjection to their husbands. Titus was to be “an example of fine works,” showing uncorruptness in his teaching, using wholesome speech, and so forth. (Titus 2:1-14) Of course, the finest work a Christian can do is that of helping others to learn about God and serve Him. If you are a witness of Jehovah, are you really zealous in doing this ‘fine work’? First-century Christians displayed zeal for evangelizing, even in the face of persecution.—Acts 11:19-21.
16. (a) What is a basic reason for the existence of the Christian congregation? (b) What has been said about the evangelizing work of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
16 Despite the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses today, God’s spirit moves them to carry out the Kingdom-preaching commission—a basic reason for the existence of the Christian congregation. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20; Isaiah 61:1, 2) Like the early Christians, they zealously do the fine work of proclaiming the “good news” from house to house and otherwise. (Acts 5:41, 42; 20:20, 21) In his book Evangelism, Inc., G. W. Target discusses witnessing methods including “doorstep evangelism” and notes that “some people would even call it the most common method—especially after the latest visitation from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. . . . Others are catching on fast, but the Jehovah’s Witnesses lead the field.” Concerning the use of Bible literature, Target admits: “Once again, the Jehovah’s Witnesses [are] leading the field. . . . By comparison, . . . very few denominations actually publish evangelizing matter.” Indeed, Christian literature produced with the help of God’s holy spirit and available from Jehovah’s Witnesses for a contribution is helping sheeplike ones earth wide to learn and do the divine will.
17. How can it be proved that God has prospered the preaching work of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
17 Jehovah prospered the preaching work of the early Christians. Thus congregations were formed in one place after another—Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonica and elsewhere. Similarly, Jehovah is prospering the preaching activity of his modern-day servants, so much so that over 46,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses now exist worldwide. To God goes the credit for such marvelous growth.—Isaiah 60:22; 1 Corinthians 3:6, 7.
Our Many Blessings
18-20. What are some of the blessings we enjoy as God’s servants?
18 Many, indeed, are the blessings and benefits of clean and zealous service enjoyed by Jehovah’s people today. (Proverbs 10:22) For instance, as God’s cleansed servants, we have the satisfaction of pleasing him. (1 Peter 1:13-16) Divine truth has set us free from Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. (Revelation 18:4, 5) We are not the victims of superstition, fear of the dead and the like. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; John 8:32) The ‘peace of God guards our hearts and mental powers.’ (Philippians 4:6, 7, 13) Assembling regularly with clean worshipers gives us a sense of security, like that of “a flock in the pen.” (Micah 2:12) The possession of God’s holy spirit enables us to display its fruitage of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23) How all of this should make us rejoice!
19 As zealous Kingdom proclaimers, we are serving the Universal Sovereign—the finest privilege any human can have. Ours is “the holy work of the good news.” Why, no other earthly endeavor brings greater joy than does declaring the message of “the happy God” and helping others to learn about him!—Romans 15:16; 1 Timothy 1:11.
20 A close relationship with God is another of our many blessings. We can pray to him with confidence that he hears us. (1 John 5:14, 15) How wonderful to be so close to Jehovah! As the psalmist put it: “The drawing near to God is good for me. In the Sovereign Lord Jehovah I have placed my refuge, to declare all your works.”—Psalm 73:28.
21. As Jehovah’s cleansed and zealous people, what should be our determination?
21 In view of our many blessings as God’s cleansed and zealous people, then, let us be determined to remain spiritually clean and aglow with godly zeal. If we so remain, we can be sure that Jehovah will uphold and direct us as his witnesses. Moreover, cleanness and zeal in God’s sacred service in these last days will, by his undeserved kindness, open the way for us to spend eternity doing clean and zealous works to Jehovah’s praise.
How Would You Respond?
□ What is required for one to be part of Jehovah’s cleansed people?
□ How can appointed elders help others to keep clean spiritually?
□ For what fine work should God’s people especially be zealous?
□ What are some blessings enjoyed by Jehovah’s cleansed and zealous witnesses?
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Elders should be diligent students of the Bible and should use it to teach, remind, exhort and even reprove others