Cleansed as a People for Fine Works
“Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear.”—2 CORINTHIANS 7:1.
1. What does Jehovah require of those who worship him?
“WHO may ascend into the mountain of Jehovah, and who may rise up in his holy place?” King David of ancient Israel raised that thought-provoking question regarding worship that is acceptable to Jehovah. He then provided the answer: “Anyone innocent in his hands and clean in heart, who has not carried My soul to sheer worthlessness, nor taken an oath deceitfully.” (Psalm 24:3, 4) To be acceptable to Jehovah, who is the very embodiment of holiness, one must be clean and holy. Earlier, Jehovah reminded the congregation of Israel: “You must sanctify yourselves and you must prove yourselves holy, because I am holy.”—Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2.
2. How did Paul and James emphasize the importance of cleanness in true worship?
2 Centuries later, the apostle Paul wrote to fellow Christians in the decadent city of Corinth: “Since we have these promises, beloved ones, let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) This once again makes the point that to have a relationship with God and to receive his promised blessings, one must be clean and free from physical and spiritual defilement and corruption. Likewise, in writing about worship that is acceptable to God, the disciple James stated: “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.”—James 1:27.
3. For our worship to be acceptable to God, with what must we be seriously concerned?
3 Since being clean, holy, and undefiled are such important factors in true worship, anyone desiring to gain God’s approval should be seriously concerned with measuring up in this area. Because people today have widely differing standards and concepts regarding cleanness, however, we need to understand and abide by what Jehovah considers clean and acceptable. We need to find out what God requires of his worshipers in this regard and what he has done to help them to become and remain clean and acceptable to him.—Psalm 119:9; Daniel 12:10.
Clean for True Worship
4. Explain the Biblical concept of cleanness.
4 To most people, being clean simply means to be free from dirt or contamination. In the Bible, however, the idea of being clean is denoted by a number of Hebrew and Greek words that describe cleanness not just in the physical sense but more often in the moral and spiritual sense. Thus, one Bible encyclopedia states: “‘Clean’ and ‘unclean’ are terms seldom related to mere questions of hygiene, but are mainly religious concepts. As such the principle of ‘cleanness’ affects almost every aspect of life.”
5. To what extent did the Mosaic Law regulate cleanness in the Israelites’ life?
5 Indeed, the Mosaic Law included rules and regulations on practically every aspect of the Israelites’ life, outlining what was clean and acceptable and what was not. For example, in Leviticus chapters 11 to 15, we find detailed instructions relative to cleanness and uncleanness. Certain animals were unclean, and the Israelites were not to eat them. Childbirth would cause a woman to be unclean for a specified period of time. Certain skin diseases, particularly leprosy, and discharges of the male and female organs would likewise cause a person to be unclean. The Law also specified what should be done in situations involving uncleanness. For example, at Numbers 5:2, we read: “Command the sons of Israel that they send out of the camp every leprous person and everyone having a running discharge and everyone unclean by a deceased soul.”
6. For what purpose were the laws on cleanness given?
6 Undoubtedly, these and other laws from Jehovah reflected medical and physiological concepts far ahead of their time, and the people benefited when they followed them. Yet, these laws were not given merely as a health code or to serve solely as medical guidelines. They were a part of true worship. The fact that they touched on people’s daily life—eating, giving birth, marital relations, and so forth—simply emphasized the point that as their God, Jehovah had the right to determine for them what was proper and what was not proper in all aspects of their life, which had been exclusively dedicated to Jehovah.—Deuteronomy 7:6; Psalm 135:4.
7. By keeping the Law, what blessing would the nation of Israel receive?
7 The Law covenant also protected the Israelites from the defiling practices of the nations around them. By faithfully keeping the Law, including all the requirements for remaining clean in Jehovah’s eyes, the Israelites would be fit to serve their God and to receive his blessing. In this regard, Jehovah told the nation: “If you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples, because the whole earth belongs to me. And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”—Exodus 19:5, 6; Deuteronomy 26:19.
8. Why should Christians today pay attention to what is said in the Law about cleanness?
8 Since Jehovah set out such details in the Law to instruct the Israelites on how to become clean, holy, and acceptable to him, does it not behoove Christians today to consider carefully how they measure up in this regard? Even though Christians are not bound by the Law, they must bear in mind that, as Paul explained, all the things set down in the Law “are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ.” (Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 10:1) If Jehovah God, who says “I have not changed,” viewed being clean and undefiled as such an important factor in true worship back then, we today must take seriously the matter of being clean physically, morally, and spiritually if we want his approval and blessing.—Malachi 3:6; Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11, 31.
Physical Cleanness Recommends Us
9, 10. (a) Why is physical cleanness important to a Christian? (b) What comments are often made about the conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
9 Is physical cleanness still an important element of true worship? While physical cleanness alone does not make one a true worshiper of God, it is certainly fitting that a true worshiper be physically clean as far as his circumstances permit. Especially today, when many people pay little attention to keeping themselves, their attire, or their surroundings clean, those who do are often noticed by people around them. This can lead to positive results, just as Paul told the Corinthian Christians: “In no way are we giving any cause for stumbling, that our ministry might not be found fault with; but in every way we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers.”—2 Corinthians 6:3, 4.
10 Time and again, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been commended by public officials for their clean, orderly, and respectful conduct and habits, seen particularly at their large conventions. For example, about a convention held in the province of Savona, Italy, the newspaper La Stampa commented: “What immediately stands out when one walks through the facilities is the cleanliness and orderliness of the people who use them.” After a Witness convention at a stadium in São Paulo, Brazil, a stadium official told his cleaning crew supervisor: “From now on we want the stadium cleaned the way Jehovah’s Witnesses did.” Another official at the same stadium said: “When Jehovah’s Witnesses want to rent the stadium, we are concerned only about the dates. Nothing else worries us.”
11, 12. (a) What Bible principle should we bear in mind when it comes to personal cleanness? (b) What questions can be asked about our personal habits and way of life?
11 If cleanness and orderliness in our place of worship can be a source of praise to the God we worship, certainly manifesting these qualities in our personal life is equally important. However, in the privacy of our home, we may feel that we have the right to let go and to act as we wish. And as far as dress and grooming are concerned, surely we have the freedom to choose what we feel is comfortable and appealing! Yet, to a large degree, all of this is only relative. Recall that in discussing one’s choice to eat certain foods, Paul cautioned his fellow Christians: “Keep watching that this authority of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to those who are weak.” Then he stated a valuable principle: “All things are lawful; but not all things are advantageous. All things are lawful; but not all things build up.” (1 Corinthians 8:9; 10:23) How does Paul’s counsel apply to us in the matter of cleanness?
12 It is reasonable that people should expect a minister of God to be clean and orderly in his way of life. We should, therefore, be certain that the appearance of our home and its surroundings does not detract from what we profess to be, namely, ministers of God’s Word. What kind of witness, or testimony, does our home give about us and our beliefs? Does it show that we genuinely long to live in a clean and orderly new world of righteousness, which we so strongly recommend to others? (2 Peter 3:13) Likewise, our personal appearance—whether during leisure time or in the ministry—can either enhance or diminish the appeal of the message we preach. For example, note this comment by a newspaper reporter in Mexico: “Truly, young people are a large part of the members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and what stand out are their haircuts, cleanliness, and proper dress.” What a joy to have such young people in our midst!
13. What can we do to make sure that all aspects of our daily life are clean and orderly?
13 Of course, making sure that our person, our belongings, and our home are always clean and orderly is easier said than done. What is needed is, not a lot of complicated and expensive equipment or gadgets, but good planning and consistent effort. Time must be set aside for cleaning our body, our clothes, our home, our car, and so forth. Being busy with the ministry, meeting attendance, and personal study—in addition to caring for other obligations in daily life—does not excuse us from the need to remain clean and acceptable in the eyes of God and men. The familiar principle that “for everything there is an appointed time” applies equally well to this part of our life.—Ecclesiastes 3:1.
A Heart That Is Undefiled
14. Why can it be said that moral and spiritual cleanness are even more important than physical cleanness?
14 As important as it is to give attention to physical cleanness, it is even more important to be concerned with moral and spiritual cleanness. We come to this conclusion by recalling that the nation of Israel was rejected by Jehovah, not because they were physically unclean, but because they became morally and spiritually corrupt. Through the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah told them that on account of their being a “sinful nation, the people heavy with error,” their sacrifices, their observance of the new moon and sabbath, yes, even their prayers had become a burden to him. What should they do to gain God’s favor again? Jehovah said: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the badness of your dealings from in front of my eyes; cease to do bad.”—Isaiah 1:4, 11-16.
15, 16. What did Jesus say defiles a man, and how can we benefit from Jesus’ words?
15 To appreciate further the importance of moral and spiritual cleanness, consider what Jesus said when the Pharisees and scribes asserted that his disciples were unclean because they did not wash their hands before taking a meal. Jesus set matters straight by stating: “Not what enters into his mouth defiles a man; but it is what proceeds out of his mouth that defiles a man.” Jesus then explained: “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; but to take a meal with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”—Matthew 15:11, 18-20.
16 What can we learn from Jesus’ words? Jesus was pointing out that wicked, immoral, and unclean acts are preceded by wicked, immoral, and unclean leanings in the heart. As the disciple James put it, “each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire.” (James 1:14, 15) Thus, if we do not want to fall into the grievous sins that Jesus described, we must root out and keep out of our heart any tendencies toward such things. That means we must be careful about what we read, watch, and listen to. Today, in the name of free speech and artistic license, the entertainment and advertising industries are turning out an endless barrage of sounds and images that cater to the cravings of the fallen flesh. We should be determined not to allow any such ideas to take root in our heart. The key point is that to be pleasing and acceptable to God, we must constantly be on guard so as to maintain a clean and undefiled heart.—Proverbs 4:23.
Cleansed for Fine Works
17. Why has Jehovah brought his people into a clean state?
17 It is certainly a blessing and a protection that, with Jehovah’s help, we can enjoy a clean standing before him. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) Yet, we also appreciate that Jehovah has brought his people into a clean state for a specific purpose. Paul told Titus that Christ 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 2:14) As a cleansed people, for what works should we be zealous?
18. How can we show that we are zealous for fine works?
18 First and foremost, we should exert ourselves in declaring publicly the good news of God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 24:14) By so doing, we hold out to people everywhere the hope of living forever on an earth that will be free from pollution of any kind. (2 Peter 3:13) Our fine works also include manifesting the fruitage of God’s spirit in our everyday life, thus glorifying our heavenly Father. (Galatians 5:22, 23; 1 Peter 2:12) And we do not forget those not in the truth who may be ravaged by natural disasters or human tragedies. We keep in mind Paul’s admonition: “Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Galatians 6:10) All such services, rendered from a clean heart and with a pure motive, are well-pleasing to God.—1 Timothy 1:5.
19. What blessings await us if we continue to maintain a high standard of cleanness—physically, morally, and spiritually?
19 As servants of the Most High, we take to heart Paul’s words: “I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.” (Romans 12:1) May we continue to appreciate the privilege of being cleansed by Jehovah and do our utmost to maintain a high standard of physical, moral, and spiritual cleanness. Doing so will bring us not only self-respect and satisfaction now but also the prospect of seeing “the former things”—the present wicked and defiled system—pass away when God ‘makes all things new.’—Revelation 21:4, 5.
Do You Recall?
• Why were the Israelites given the many laws on cleanness?
• How does physical cleanness enhance the appeal of the message we preach?
• Why are moral and spiritual cleanness even more important than physical cleanness?
• How can we show that we are a people “zealous for fine works”?
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Physical cleanness enhances the appeal of the message we preach
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Jesus warned that wicked thoughts lead to wicked deeds
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As a cleansed people, Jehovah’s Witnesses are zealous for fine works