Jehovah’s People “Renounce Unrighteousness”
“Let everyone calling on the name of Jehovah renounce unrighteousness.”—2 TIM. 2:19.
1. What occupies a special place in our worship?
HAVE you ever seen the name Jehovah inscribed on a public building or on a museum artifact? Surely your reaction was one of keen interest and excitement. After all, God’s personal name occupies a special place in our worship—we are Jehovah’s Witnesses! On a global scale, no other group of people today is as closely associated with the divine name as we are. Yet, we know that the privilege of bearing God’s name comes with responsibility.
2. Our privilege of bearing God’s name comes with what responsibility?
2 Using the divine name does not in itself bring us Jehovah’s favor. We must live in harmony with his moral standards. For that reason the Bible reminds us that Jehovah’s people must “turn away from what is bad.” (Ps. 34:14) The apostle Paul clearly stated this principle when he wrote: “Let everyone calling on the name of Jehovah renounce unrighteousness.” (Read 2 Timothy 2:19.) As his Witnesses, we are indeed renowned for calling on Jehovah’s name. But how are we to renounce unrighteousness?
“MOVE AWAY” FROM BADNESS
3, 4. What scripture has long intrigued Bible scholars, and why?
3 Consider the Scriptural background of Paul’s words found at 2 Timothy 2:19. This text refers to “the solid foundation of God” and then mentions two proclamations imprinted on it. The first proclamation, “Jehovah knows those who belong to him,” is evidently a quote from Numbers 16:5. (See preceding article.) The second proclamation, “Let everyone calling on the name of Jehovah renounce unrighteousness,” has long intrigued Bible scholars. Why?
4 Paul’s wording suggests that he was quoting from another source. Yet, there appears to be no text in the Hebrew Scriptures that matches Paul’s quote. So, what was the apostle referring to when he said: “Let everyone calling on the name of Jehovah renounce unrighteousness”? Immediately preceding this statement, Paul quoted from Numbers chapter 16, which relates the account of Korah’s rebellion. Could the second proclamation likewise be related to the events surrounding that rebellion?
5-7. What events in Moses’ day provide the background for Paul’s words recorded at 2 Timothy 2:19? (See opening image.)
5 The Bible says that Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, joined Korah as leaders of the rebellion against Moses and Aaron. (Num. 16:1-5) They were openly disrespectful to Moses and rejected his God-given authority. Those rebels continued to dwell among Jehovah’s people, endangering the spiritual health of faithful ones. When the day came for Jehovah to make a distinction between his loyal worshippers and the rebels, he gave a clear command.
6 The account reads: “Jehovah then said to Moses: ‘Speak to the assembly and tell them, “Get away from around the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram!”’ Then Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel went with him. He told the assembly: ‘Move away, please, from the tents of these wicked men and do not touch anything that belongs to them, so that you may not be swept away in all their sin.’ They immediately moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, from every side.” (Num. 16:23-27) Jehovah then put to death all who had rebelled. Conversely, loyal worshippers—who by moving away renounced unrighteousness—were preserved alive.
7 Jehovah reads hearts! He perceives the loyalty of those who belong to him. Still, his loyal ones had to take decisive action, separating themselves from unrighteous ones. It is possible, then, that Paul was referring to the account at Numbers 16:5, 23-27 when he wrote: “Let everyone calling on the name of Jehovah renounce unrighteousness.” Such a conclusion would be in harmony with Paul’s words: “Jehovah knows those who belong to him.”—2 Tim. 2:19.
“REJECT FOOLISH AND IGNORANT DEBATES”
8. Why is using the name of Jehovah or belonging to the Christian congregation not enough?
8 By referring to those events of Moses’ day, Paul was reminding Timothy of the need to take decisive action in order to protect his precious relationship with Jehovah. In itself, belonging to the Christian congregation was not enough, just as merely calling on the name of Jehovah was not enough in Moses’ day. Faithful worshippers must decisively renounce unrighteousness. What did this mean for Timothy? And what lessons can Jehovah’s people today derive from Paul’s inspired counsel?
9. How did “foolish and ignorant debates” affect the early Christian congregation?
9 God’s Word gives specific advice concerning the types of unrighteousness that Christians must renounce or reject. For instance, in the immediate context of 2 Timothy 2:19, we find that Paul tells Timothy “not to fight about words” and to “reject empty speeches.” (Read 2 Timothy 2:14, 16, 23.) Some members of the congregation were promoting apostate teachings. Also, it appears that others were introducing controversial ideas. Even if the latter were not directly unscriptural, they were divisive. They resulted in bickering and arguing over words, creating a spiritually unhealthy atmosphere. Hence, Paul stressed the need to “reject foolish and ignorant debates.”
10. How should we respond when confronted with apostasy?
10 Today, Jehovah’s people are not often confronted with apostasy within the congregation. Still, when exposed to unscriptural teachings, regardless of the source, we must decisively reject them. It would be unwise to engage in debates with apostates, whether in person, by responding to their blogs, or by any other form of communication. Even when the intention is to help the individual, such conversation would be contrary to the Scriptural direction we just considered. Rather, as Jehovah’s people, we completely avoid, yes reject, apostasy.
11. What could give rise to ‘foolish debates,’ and how can Christian elders set a good example?
11 There are other things besides apostasy that have the potential for disrupting the peace of the congregation. For instance, differences of opinion regarding entertainment can result in “foolish and ignorant debates.” Of course, when individuals promote entertainment that violates Jehovah’s moral standards, Christian elders should not tolerate such behavior simply to avoid controversy. (Ps. 11:5; Eph. 5:3-5) Still, elders are careful not to promote their personal views. They loyally adhere to the Scriptural admonition given to Christian overseers: “Shepherd the flock of God under your care, . . . not lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.”—1 Pet. 5:2, 3; read 2 Corinthians 1:24.
12, 13. (a) What is the position of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding choice of entertainment, and what Bible principles apply? (b) How do the principles discussed in paragraph 12 apply to various personal matters?
12 In the matter of entertainment, our organization does not review specific movies, video games, books, or songs in order to rule on what we should avoid. Why not? The Bible encourages each individual to train his “powers of discernment . . . to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Heb. 5:14) The Scriptures set forth basic principles that a Christian can weigh when selecting entertainment. In all areas of life, our goal should be to “keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:10) The Bible teaches that family heads have a measure of authority, so they may choose not to allow certain entertainment in their household.a—1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 6:1-4.
13 The Bible principles discussed above do not apply only to our choice of entertainment. Opinions about dress and grooming, health and nutrition, and other personal matters may also trigger controversy. Accordingly, if no Scriptural principle is being violated, Jehovah’s people wisely abstain from arguing over such matters, “for a slave of the Lord does not need to fight, but needs to be gentle [tactful, ftn.] toward all.”—2 Tim. 2:24.
AVOID BAD ASSOCIATIONS!
14. What illustration did Paul use to highlight the need to avoid bad associations?
14 In what other way may those “calling on the name of Jehovah renounce unrighteousness”? By avoiding close association with people who practice unrighteousness. It is noteworthy that Paul followed his illustration of “the solid foundation of God” with another illustration. He wrote about “a large house” with “utensils not only of gold and silver but also of wood and earthenware, and some for an honorable use but others for a use lacking honor.” (2 Tim. 2:20, 21) He then admonished Christians to ‘keep clear of,’ or separate themselves from, the utensils that are used for a purpose “lacking honor.”
15, 16. What can we learn from the illustration of “a large house”?
15 What is the meaning of this illustration? Paul’s metaphor compares the Christian congregation to “a large house” and individual members of the congregation to “utensils,” or household implements. In a house, some utensils may become contaminated by dangerous substances or unsanitary conditions. The householder will keep such implements separate from clean utensils, such as those used for cooking.
16 Likewise, Jehovah’s people today, striving to live clean lives, should avoid intimacy with individuals in the congregation who persistently disregard Jehovah’s principles. (Read 1 Corinthians 15:33.) If this is true of some inside the congregation, how much more should we “turn away” from having close association with those outside the congregation, many of whom are ‘lovers of money, disobedient to parents, disloyal, slanderers, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, and lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God’!—2 Tim. 3:1-5.
JEHOVAH BLESSES OUR DECISIVENESS
17. How thorough were loyal Israelites when taking their stand against unrighteousness?
17 The Bible makes specific mention of how decisively the Israelites acted when told to “get away from around the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.” The account says that “they immediately moved away.” (Num. 16:24, 27) There was no hesitation or procrastination. The scripture also alludes to the thoroughness with which they complied. They “moved away . . . from every side.” Loyal ones were not about to take any risks. Their obedience was not partial or halfhearted. They took a clear stand for Jehovah and against unrighteousness. What lessons can we learn from this example?
18. What was the spirit behind Paul’s words when he admonished Timothy to “flee from youthful desires”?
18 When it comes to protecting our friendship with Jehovah, we must act swiftly and decisively. This is the spirit behind Paul’s words when he admonished Timothy to “flee from youthful desires.” (2 Tim. 2:22) At the time, Timothy was already a grown man, possibly in his 30’s. Still, foolish “youthful desires” are not always restricted by age. When confronted with such desires, Timothy was to “flee” from them. In other words, Timothy was to “renounce unrighteousness.” Jesus conveyed a similar message when he said: “If your eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it away from you.” (Matt. 18:9) Today, Christians who take this counsel to heart deal decisively with spiritual threats, without hesitation or procrastination.
19. How have some today acted with decisiveness to protect themselves from spiritual dangers?
19 Some who had problems with alcohol before becoming Witnesses have made the personal choice to abstain from alcoholic beverages altogether. Others avoid certain types of entertainment that are not in themselves wrong but that can fuel personal moral weaknesses. (Ps. 101:3) For example, before becoming a Witness, one brother enjoyed the immoral atmosphere of the dance parties he frequented. But after learning the truth, he has completely avoided dancing even at Witness gatherings for fear of awakening improper desires or thoughts from his past. Of course, Christians are not required to abstain totally from alcohol, dancing, or other things that are not wrong in themselves. We are all expected, however, to take decisive and thorough action to protect ourselves from spiritual dangers.
20. Although it might not be easy to “renounce unrighteousness,” what gives us confidence and comfort?
20 The privilege of bearing God’s name comes with responsibility. We must “renounce unrighteousness” and “turn away from what is bad.” (Ps. 34:14) True, doing so is not always easy. But how comforting it is to know that Jehovah will always love “those who belong to him” and who adhere to his righteous ways.—2 Tim. 2:19; read 2 Chronicles 16:9a.
a See the jw.org article “Do You Ban Certain Movies, Books, or Songs?” under ABOUT US > FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS.