The Memorial Supper was not instituted by Jesus to be merely a reminder of his life of dedication to the service of God, but more particularly as an expression of our resolve to shave this service with him. The bread and the cup are but empty symbols if their meaning goes unheeded in our lives.

Fifty-four years ago the late editor of The Dawn magazine, Brother Norman Woodworth, wrote and published this article, which speaks in a very practical way, of our continuing responsibilities to God, the Truth, and our brethren. We are happy to republish this VOICE FROM THE PAST.

Taking Heed Lest We Fall

“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” —I Corinthians 10:12

OUR TEXT IS but one of many in the sacred record which remind us of the possibility of falling away from the position of special favor with the Lord. The apostle’s words also indicate dearly that there is a very definite part we must play in maintaining this standing—a part which he describes by the expression, ‘take heed’. To take heed means ‘to give attention, to be warned, to observe silently, to watch, to look at’. Taking heed, to the Christian, means ‘to stop, look, and listen’ in his spiritual affairs, that he may know of the dangers ahead, and be prepared to cope with them.

The apostle indicates that the importance of our taking heed is in order that we may not ‘fall’. That there is danger of the Christian falling is prophetically indicated by the Spirit through the words of the psalmist, saying, “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.” (Ps. 91:7) A study of the prophet’s words, just quoted, indicates that the reason ascribed for some not falling is that they dwell “in the secret place of the Most High,” and have made his truth their “shield and buckler.”

Obviously no one could fall away from a standing with the Lord unless he had at one time enjoyed such a standing; so it is important to have dearly in mind just what it means to stand in order that we may intelligently take heed lest we fall. The Scriptures outline our standing from various viewpoints, and as we put together the various testimonies of the Word bearing on the subject we learn that to stand in God’s sight is a very definite and vital thing, and that to lose this standing would be indeed tragic for a New Creature in Christ Jesus.

Standing in the Lord

For example, Philippians 4:1 reads: “Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.” To stand in the Lord means to be trusting in the merit of the shed blood, and, through full consecration and immersion of our wills into his will, to be counted in as members of the anointed company of which Christ is the Head. What a blessed standing this is! It implies and requires humility in recognizing our need of the saving grace of God through the blood. It calls for the full and unqualified devotion of our wills to the doing of the divine will. And to take heed in maintaining this standing means a daily searching of our hearts to make sure that we have no cross-grained will of our own that is in opposition to the will of God as it is expressed through our Head, Christ Jesus.

But to stand in the Lord implies a standing along other lines, also. The Apostle Paul said, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” (I Cor. 16:13) The faith in which we are to stand is, of course, the “faith once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3) This faith has been almost entirely lost sight of by nominal churchianity. This is the faith which was first of all delivered to Abraham, and then to Isaac and Jacob, and to all the prophets. The great central theme of this faith is the Messianic hope of a future kingdom to bless all nations, and God’s high calling to the Christian to be joint-heirs with Christ in that kingdom. Are we standing fast in that faith? Or has it become a mere tale, that is old and uninteresting?

St. Paul indicated that it would require strength to stand in the faith. “Quit you like men, be strong,” he said. It has always required courage to stand in the pure faith of the Gospel. This is manifest by the rapid ‘falling away’ that occurred after the apostles fell asleep. It was not long before the pure doctrines of the faith were corrupted, and those who were seeking spiritual comfort were fed on Oriental mysticism, and emotionalism. And even now, there is a tendency on the part of some to feel that these Dark Age substitutes for the faith once delivered to the saints are the more desirable; the claim being that they bring us nearer to the Lord. But we should always remember that if we want to dwell dose to the Lord in our spirit of fellowship we must be interested in what he is doing, and spend our energy where he is working; and that is only possible as we stand fast in the faith of the divine plan.

If we are truly standing in the Lord, we will be standing in the liberty of Christ. We quote: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal. 5:1) To stand in the liberty of Christ means to have liberty to do everything that Christ would have us do. Liberty in Christ implies bondage to Christ, in that we are bondslaves to him. Such slavery to Christ means that we cannot be subject to the will of man, nor to manmade institutions. If we find ourselves in restraint to the will of man, and thereby being held back from saying and doing the things which we know to be pleasing to God and to Christ, then we are not wholly standing fast in the liberty of Christ. So let us ‘take heed’ along this line in order that we may not fall.

The apostle mentions still another important phase of our standing in the Lord, namely, that of standing fast “in one spirit.” He said: “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the Gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel.” (Phil. 1:27) There is a remarkable blending of important Christian principles set forth in these words. The apostle urges that we stand fast in one spirit, not by compromising the faith, but by striving together for that faith. How different is this from the modern recipe for unity of the spirit, so prevalent in nominal church circles, which advocates unity not by striving together for the faith, but by ceasing to strive or to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints!

It is in the spirit of the truth in which we are to stand together; and how can we stand in the spirit of the truth, unless we strive together for the truth? Obviously standing together in the spirit is very closely associated with standing for the faith; and to continue in such a stand will require courage, strength, fortitude, and the help of God to enable us to strive together, to contend, to fight the good fight of faith. This means that we must be “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”—Eph. 6:10

Pride Goeth before Destruction

There are various danger signals by which we may be forewarned of an impending fall—signals which are readily discernible if we are alertly taking heed. One of these is the spirit of pride. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall,” the Spirit testifies. (Prov. 16:18) And how easy it is for the spirit of pride to enter into our hearts, causing us to be haughty and self-important. The spirit of humility engenders meekness, gentleness, teachableness, patience, and forbearance. How important, then, that “none think of himself more highly than he ought to think.”—Rom. 12:3

Another danger sign is that of indifference toward the truth. The truth is God’s voice speaking to us; and if we are to maintain our standing in him, how alert we should be to listen to his voice. And how attentive and how obedient we should be to the message! Yes, our standing in the Lord depends upon our obedience to his truth, for it is by the truth that we are sanctified. (John 17:17) Satan would like to have us believe that to stand in the Lord is one thing, and that to stand in the truth is something else. He would like to have us believe that it does not make any difference where we stand with respect to the truth as long as we love the Lord. But this is false theology. It is one of those wiles of the devil by which he is endeavoring to draw us away from the Lord by causing us to lose our appreciation of his glorious message of truth—that message through which he speaks to us and guides us in the narrow way. Let us, then, continue to cherish the truth, to feed upon it, that thereby we may grow strong, and remain strong—so strong that we will not fall, because we have made the truth our buckler and our shield.

Failure to meet with the brethren, or indifference to the privilege of fellowship, is another danger signal. God has so arranged the church’s affairs as to make fellowship with others of like precious faith one of the important means of grace. If we fail to appreciate this provision of the Lord for our strengthening in the faith and in the Spirit, whenever possible, we are thereby neglecting one of the important means by which we are kept from falling.

The spirit of bitterness and hatred is another danger signal which should be readily discerned by those who are properly taking heed. These unholy manifestations of evil are the very opposite in nature to the spirit of love, which is the Spirit of God. To permit their entrance into our hearts, and still worse, to harbor them, will sooner or later result in the complete fall of the New Creature, the complete loss of standing in Christ Jesus. Let us, brethren, diligently take heed in this respect, by quickly and effectively rooting out every thought of bitterness from our hearts through prayer, and instead seek to be filled with, and controlled by, the spirit of love.

Nor should we permit the spirit of the world to take control of our hearts and lives. The spirit of the world is one of self-seeking, of ambition to shine before others, of vainglory. In short, it is the spirit of selfishness, which is the spirit of the devil. We should take heed that this spirit does not possess us. If we find the spirit of the world beginning to encroach upon our minds and hearts we should recognize it as a danger sign of pitfalls and snares ahead by which the Adversary is endeavoring to bring about our fall from steadfastness. Let us seek to be filled with the Spirit of the Lord—so filled with that Spirit and so occupied with the things of the Spirit, that there will be no time or place for the spirit of the world to gain even the slightest entrance into our lives.

How We Fall

There are many ways by which, through failure to take heed, we may fall away from the position of full faithfulness before the Lord, and from our blessed standing in his grace. We may, for example, fall asleep spiritually by permitting a spirit of lethargy to creep over us, dulling our spiritual senses. This results, gradually, in a lack of appreciation of the truth, a carelessness in seeking to do God’s will, a lack of zeal for his service, and a coldness and indifference toward our brethren in Christ, and the privilege of laying down our lives for them.

We may fall from grace by doing despite unto the spirit of grace. We may fall into condemnation by unfaithfulness along almost any line, and particularly by not seeking the services of our beloved Advocate when we transgress the divine law. We may fall into reproach by stubbornly endeavoring to carry out our own plans, irrespective of what the clearly expressed will of God may be. We may fall into temptation by not faithfully taking heed to the danger signals along the way, and thus becoming enmeshed in one or more of Satan’s snares.

We may fall away from the faith, the truth, or from its service. We may fall away from our love for the brethren and our love for God. We may fall into the hands of the living God by willfully ignoring the divine provisions for us through Christ, and wantonly going contrary to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We may fall from our steadfastness by failing along any line of Christian endeavor to remain steadfast, unmovable, and failing to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord” in all its glorious aspects.—I Cor. 15:58

“Ye Shall Never Fall”

The Apostle Peter gives us a splendid formula by which we may keep from falling. He reminds us of the precious promises upon which our hope for the divine nature is based, and indicates that these promises are also the groundwork of our faith. Then he bids us add to our faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly-kindness, and love. “For if these things be in you and abound,” the apostle said, “they make you that ye shall neither be barren [idle] nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” But, “if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”—II Pet. 1:4-11

But we should remember than when the Bible speaks of ‘falling’ it means more than mere ‘stumbling’. In a sense, we stumble every time we make mistakes. Because of fleshly imperfection, we stumble and blunder more or less as we walk the narrow way; but if our hearts are pure before God, he will watch over us and his everlasting arms will be under us to bear us up and start us out afresh every time we need his grace. Let us then take courage and press along in the blessed task of doing his will, knowing that eventually, if we continue taking heed, we will come off more than conquerors through him who loved us and died for us.

We must hear the message of truth with an understanding heart, and with a spirit of appreciation, else it will fail to have the desired effect in our lives. Jesus said, “Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have. [Margin, thinketh that he hath].” (Luke 8:18) ‘Hath used’, and ‘hath not used’, is apparently the thought of the Master’s words; and thus he shows that if we take heed how we hear the truth it will mean that we recognize the responsibility our hearing of it imposes upon us—in other words, that we shall be “doers of the Word, and not hearers only.”—Jas. 1:22

Effects of Hearing the Truth

And for what purpose has the Lord given us the truth? Jesus said that we are to be sanctified by it. (John 17:17) This sanctifying work of the truth in our hearts is twofold. Through its precepts, our lives should be more and more conformed to the high standards of righteousness and godliness exemplified in God’s law; and then, these transformed lives are to be devoted to the service of God, as directed by the truth. We are in the school of Christ to learn and apply the truth, in order that we may be equipped to serve as the ambassadors of Christ now, and through faithfulness to the divine will, may be worthy to serve in the future work of the kingdom, as joint-heirs with Christ.

And if we hear the truth with appreciation, our love for it will be demonstrated by the amount of energy we exert to defend it. Has our hearing of the truth so inspired us that we are willing to die “for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God”? (Rev. 20:4) If we thus take heed to how we hear the truth, then each day will find us busily engaged in using it to the divine glory, in proportion to our talents and opportunities. Failing in this full appreciation of the privilege that is ours of hearing the voice of God speak to us through the truth, we become more or less subject to the deceptive influences of the Adversary by which he is endeavoring to bring about our fall from divine grace and favor.

A proper taking heed to the manner in which we first heard the truth, and continue to hear it, is illustrated in the parable of the sower. (Luke 8:5-8) Some of the seed fell by the wayside. In this case there were no hearing ears at all. Some fell among the rocks. Here the message was heard, but soon forgotten—the hearers did not take heed how they heard or what the hearing really meant, hence the sun of opposition and persecution soon stopped their growth. Some of the seeds of truth “fell among thorns.” Here was a class that heard with some appreciation, but the cares of this life, the spirit of the world, and various other adverse influences, stunted the growth that should have taken place in their hearts.

The seed which fell on the “good ground” represents the true hearing of appreciation and heart understanding. The good ground hearers are those who take heed what they hear and how they hear, with the result that a fruitage is produced—a fruitage to the glory of God. These become sanctified by the truth and serve faithfully as its ambassadors, letting their light shine, rather than keeping it under a bushel.

“Take Heed that No Man Deceive You”

Deception is the method frequently used by Satan to lead God’s people into his various snares and pitfalls; and he usually practices his deceptions through human agencies. Hence we are warned by Jesus to “take heed that no man deceive you.” (Matt. 24:4) This particular warning has to do with the truths pertaining to our Lord’s second presence, and the end of the age; and how the professed followers of the Master have been deceived along these lines. And if it were possible, Jesus reminds us, the very elect would be deceived; but evidently this is not possible; and largely, no doubt, because they are the faithful ones who ‘take heed’.

The Apostle Paul also reminds us of the necessity of taking heed lest we be deceived, saying, “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” (Eph. 5:6) ‘Vain words’ would be those not in harmony with the plan and will of God—especially those words which appeal to human vanity. Flattery is one of the Adversary’s chief methods of deceit. If we are properly taking heed we will stop, look, and listen very carefully when we hear the voice of flattery appealing to us to turn to the right hand or to the left.

The warning, Let no man deceive you, reminds us of another apostolic warning to the effect that “of your own selves men shall arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:30) The deception of human leadership is perhaps one of the most subtle with which the saints of God have to contend. There is the constant temptation upon elders and teachers to become leaders; and there is also the willingness on the part of so many of the Lord’s people, because of human weakness, to be led. It seems so much easier to follow the Lamb, we may imagine, if we can see him represented in some human head or leader. And it is so flattering to an individual, or group of individuals, to believe that God is leading his people through him, or them. Oh, how much we need to take heed along this line!

In this respect the elders need to specially take heed, for their responsibility is great. To the elders at Ephesus and to the elders in all the classes today, Paul says: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God which he purchased with his own [Son’s] blood.” (Acts 20:28) Note that proper taking heed on the part of the elders means that they will ‘feed the flock of God’. This is their privilege, their duty. But they are not to lord it over God’s heritage, nor assume leadership or headship in the church.

But all in the church should take heed how and what they are fed. We should not shift our individual responsibilities upon the elders of the class. How much sorrow could be avoided simply by all the brethren taking heed not to permit ambitious brethren in the church to become leaders. And the leader-complex is not necessarily manifested in a desire for a large following. No, the desire to lead is often satisfied by having a mere handful of followers—perhaps just a small class of two or three. But often these small groups are led to separate themselves from an ecclesia of the saints for no legitimate reason, simply because they have allowed themselves to be influenced by the vain words of a brother who seems incapable of being just one of the brethren along with the others. Friends, let us take heed along this line, remembering that “one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” (Matt. 23:8) There are no super-brethren in the church of God!

Take Heed How We Build

“We are laborers together with God,” the Apostle Paul said, “Ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”—I Cor. 3:9-13

The manner in which a Christian builds for the future, as a co-worker with God, is thus clearly outlined. First, there must be the foundation of the ransom; and this means that everything built thereon must square with the ransom. Upon this must be built the superstructure of faith and character. And if we take heed how we build, and build as co-workers with God rather than along lines of our own choosing, our building will be capable of withstanding all the storms which are permitted to test us, and the fiery trials too, which shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is.

Since the foundation of this building of God is the great doctrinal fact of the ransom and our own acceptance and conformity thereto, this means that the things which are built upon that foundation must be the other doctrines of the divine plan, together with the outgrowth of Christian character resulting therefrom. Therefore, a proper taking heed how we build, implies a carefulness in our study of divine truth and its proper application in our lives. In other words, we cannot ignore the doctrines of the truth, and expect to build acceptably to God. As the ransom is the foundation, so the other doctrines are the framework around which, by God’s grace, we must carefully build with personal works of faith and love. If we thus take heed how we build, we will have a structure that will stand up against all the winds of false doctrine, and withstand the fire of this day of special trial.

Departing from the living God

In Hebrews 3:12, the Apostle Paul mentioned another manner in which we should take heed. He said, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” The context here refers to the unbelief of Israel in the wilderness. That unbelief was manifested in their tendency to so soon forget the miracles God had wrought on their behalf, and their disposition to turn away from him to the worship of other gods. Thus, through lack of appreciation, they departed from the living God.

How is it with us? Have God’s blessings which came to us through the truth become commonplace? Do we still appreciate the miracle of his grace to us as it abounded, and still abounds, through Christ Jesus? Or have we permitted the trials of the way to mar the sweetness of God’s loving watchcare over us? Do we still hear the voice of God speaking to us through his truth, or are we listening for other voices—voices which bid us walk in a way less narrow and in paths more pleasing to our flesh? How is it with us brethren? Are we taking heed that we do not depart from the living God through failure to appreciate constantly the miracle of his truth revealed to us, counting as commonplace the fact that he has taken us into his confidence and revealed to us the secrets of his divine plan?

Take Heed to the Ministry

In Colossians 4:17 we read: “Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it.” In this particular apostolic injunction, the taking heed is enjoined in order that we might fulfill the ministry. St. Paul seemed to have realized that there would be a danger of our neglecting to be ministers, or servants of the truth. And how easy it is to fall away from our steadfastness along this line! Satan is always active in his endeavor to draw us away from witnessing to the plan of God. But if we are properly taking heed, we will recognize his cunning devices, his misleading philosophy, and not be affected thereby.

Jesus, our example, came into the world to serve, to be a minister in the great work of reconciling a lost world to God. Our calling is to cooperate with Jesus in this ministry or service. Thus, no matter how faithfully we may be meeting all the other requirements of the truth, if we neglect the ministry we fall short of the very purpose of our calling. Let us, then, indeed take heed to the ministry, proclaiming the Gospel as far and wide as it is possible for us to do, that we ‘fulfill it’.

But we should not take heed to the ministry only to ‘fulfill it’. We have an important responsibility in connection with the manner in which the ministry is conducted—especially our own part in it. Note the apostle’s words in II Corinthians 6:3: “Giving no offense in anything, that the ministry be not blamed.” The entire 6th chapter of II Corinthians is a wonderful admonition, going into detail concerning the things to which we should take heed in order that the ministry be not blamed.

Purity of faith and practice, longsuffering, patience, love, self-sacrifice, and the whole armor of righteousness, are among the things to which we should take heed, according to the apostle, if we are not to bring reproach upon the ministry. Separateness from temples of idols is another prerequisite which he mentions. There are hideous creed idols today, enshrined in the various temples of nominal Christianity. The pageantry of outward show in these modem temples is alluring to the devotional instincts of some of the Lord’s people. But let us remember that these temples are defiled by their blasphemous creeds. That their demon god is not our God—that our God has bid us to “come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you; and be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.”—II Cor. 6:17; Isa. 52:11

Ah yes, that is our ministry, to ‘bear the vessels of the Lord’, the vessels that contain the pure water of his truth. And how vital it is that we keep those vessels clean that those who drink therefrom may be truly refreshed with the living waters of divine truth—refreshed with the glorious intelligence that “God is love.” (I John 4:8) Only as we minister the truth of the divine plan can we hope for God’s blessing upon our ministry. Only as we keep that truth pure in our own minds and hearts, and minister it in its purity to others, are we truly taking heed to the ministry.

It is along this same line that Paul admonished Timothy, saying, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (I Tim. 4:16) Here we have, in reality, a summary of all that is involved in our taking heed lest we fall. It means to take heed to ourselves, in every way, and to take heed to the doctrines of the truth. Or, as indicated by the apostle, we take heed unto ourselves by continuing in the doctrine. But note, to do this means much more than to merely give mental assent to them. To continue in the doctrines or teachings of the Gospel means to believe them—yes—and to defend them—most assuredly—but also, to be guided by them in our own Christian conduct and ministry.

Failing to do this would mean failing in the development of divine love in our hearts and lives; and this would mean that even though our ministry may be couched in the oratory of “men and of angels,” it would be, in God’s sight, but as “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (I Cor. 13:1) Obviously then, a proper taking heed unto the doctrines is possible only as we make certain that the doctrines are taking full control of our own lives, and producing in us the peaceable fruits of righteousness. Only in this way can we fully appreciate the doctrines ourselves, and read in them the shining letters of God’s love, and be inspired with the determination to be like him.

By thus taking heed unto ourselves and unto the doctrines we will become equipped with the armor of God, the armor of truth, and will be enabled to go forth as valiant soldiers of the cross. Then we will be able to defend the faith once delivered unto the saints, in love. Our words will minister grace to the hearers—to all those who really have a hearing ear for the simple truth of the Gospel. In this way, as we take heed in the divinely prescribed manner, we will buttress and make sure our standing in the Lord, and in his truth. Thus our ministry of the truth will be continually blessed with the refreshing smile of his approval.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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