“Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord” (Isa. 52:11).

The role of Christian worker, be he minister, church officer, Sunday school teacher or engaged in some other specific work for the Lord is one of extreme sensitivity and grave importance.

Eternity alone will show how many have been impelled away from the Church by Christian leaders whose personal lives have belied the faith they would proclaim.

None of us fully realizes how many weak Christians are harmed by the inconsistent lives of men and women who stand in places of leadership.

One does not speak to the glory of God if his life is lived according to the world’s standards, for “friendship with the world” continues to be friendship with the camp of the enemy.

The prophet Isaiah was speaking to a matter of gravest importance. In this chapter he is speaking to God’s witnesses and to the “watchmen” who tell of His greatness. Then the prophet exclaims: “The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”

Then, speaking to the Lords servants, Isaiah says: “Depart ye, depart ye, go not out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.”

Does not God speak these words to us today? We live in a time when compromise is too often the accepted way of life—compromise with the ideals, the philosophies, and the ways of the world. And in conformity to the world’s standards we lose all hope of bearing an effective witness to the saving and keeping power of the Christ whose name we bear.

A Christian worker bears an awesome responsibility. In a very real sense he stands between the dead and the living. In his heart and on his lips there is the message on which man’s eternal destiny depends. How tragic then if this witness be compromised by an inconsistent life!

In Ezra 7:10 we find the secret of the life of that servant of God and an example which every Christian worker should follow today. We read: “And Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.”

Here we find a preparation of the heart: Ezra made a decision which made it possible for God to use him. While we all know that the dynamic of that decision was a work of the Holy Spirit, nevertheless Ezra could have rejected God’s call. This he did not do.

We note too that Ezra turned to the source of wisdom, authority, and power—the Law of God. Today we have God’s revelation in the Old and New Testaments. Woe to the Christian worker who turns to secular and human sources for his inspiration and guidance and neglects the Sword of the Spirit!

Article continues below

We know that Ezra’s approach was not a theoretical one. With his turning to the Law there was an obedient heart, determined to follow the teachings which he found therein. Today we have even a greater and clearer witness, for in the Bible we have outlined for us with wonderful clarity the way in which the Christian should walk. We too need obedient minds and hearts.

Finally we note that Ezra accepted his responsibility as a teacher and prepared to teach in Israel God’s holy statutes and judgments.

Little wonder that we are told of this man “… he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given”; and later we are told of his success, “according to the good hand of his God upon him.”

It is not necessary to remind ourselves that we live in a crucial time in history. Secular writers are reminding us of this every day and many of them are warning our nation in terms reminiscent of the prophets of old.

Recognizing that the days are evil and that the Christian witness is God’s answer to man’s dilemma, how important it is that those who bear the testimony of the Lord shall be “clean”!

We are not talking of any form of “boot strap religion” whereby, through good resolutions, we live to the glory of God. It just does not happen that way.

A Christian worker will be and remain “clean” only as he lives in close contact with his Lord through daily Bible study and prayer. Neglect these means of grace and the rust and erosions of this world inevitably creep in to destroy our witness.

One has but to look about him to discover the world’s standards emblazoned on every hand. And let us be honest about them—they destroy spiritual perception and power.

No minister can go from a Saturday night dance into his pulpit on Sunday morning and preach with power to save.

No Sunday school teacher can leave a degrading movie with spiritual witness undimmed and his ability to lead his pupils to know the Lord unmarred.

In the social order of which we are a part, “social drinking” has become a menace to all who indulge and nearly 6,000,000 alcoholics attest to that fact. How then can we exercise our “Christian freedom” with reference to liquor and hope to maintain an effective Christian witness as Church leaders? That this is apparently true abroad does not prove the case for America for we seem to go to extremes in so many things.

Article continues below

The issue centers on the peculiar position of the Christian leader. His example is watched, his words weighed, and his daily life is evaluated in the light of the Scriptures.

The apostle James makes this very clear: “Remember that we who are teachers will be judged by a much higher standard,” he writes. For the church worker there is a “higher standard” by which the world judges us whether we like it or not. For the Christian leader, be he ordained or not, there is a grave responsibility to be “clean.”

This is no plea for asceticism. Rather it is an appeal that we who stand in a special relationship to the church through the responsibilities we hold, whether we be minister, church officer, Sunday school teacher or what have you, need to live by God’s grace lives that will commend the Gospel which we profess.

That such is not the case in many places today accounts, in part, for the weak testimony of the Church and her lack of appeal to thoughtful young people.

By some strange quirk of reasoning some seem to think that they must compromise with the world in order that they may exert an influence for good on the young they are trying to reach. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unless Christianity is presented by those who show in their own lives the transforming and keeping power of the living Christ, the “witness” so borne will be hollow and the effort fruitless. “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord” is as necessary today as in the days of Isaiah.


Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.