The Restoration Principle
15 — The Duty of the Watchman
“But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand” (Ezekiel 33:6).
IT IS FOR GOOD REASON THAT, IN MANY ARMIES, DEATH BY FIRING SQUAD HAS BEEN THE PENALTY FOR SLEEPING ON SENTINEL DUTY. When a soldier is assigned to watch for the enemy while his comrades are getting much-needed rest but he goes to sleep, that failure to “watch” can be disastrous. The same principle is true spiritually.
In the text above, God said He would hold the spiritual “watchman” responsible for the “blood” of any who lost their lives because of his failure to warn them the enemy was coming. If he warned them and they ignored it, at least he had done his duty. But if he didn’t warn them, he was guilty and the Lord did not consider it a light offense.
Today, when apostasy and unfaithfulness threaten to pull some of the Lord’s people away from their salvation, elders in the local congregation have a special obligation as watchmen. They “watch out for your souls, as those who must give account” (Hebrews 13:17), and they are required to be able to “exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). In Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders, he didn’t mince words: the saints whom you oversee have been purchased with Christ’s blood . . . “therefore watch” (Acts 20:28–31).
But it is not just elders. All of us should watch out for one another, as “fellow soldiers” do (Philippians 2:25). Changing the metaphor, we are “brothers and sisters,” and it would be a poor family if siblings didn’t warn one another when danger was near.
Obviously, there are things other than apostasy to look out for, but apostasy is extremely dangerous. Do we really think the devil has given up this weapon that has been so “successful” in the past?
Finally, I want to say that the watchman’s first duty is to watch for his own vulnerabilities. All of us must do better at getting the beam out of our own eye (Matthew 7:3), humbling ourselves before the very real possibility that we might be the ones to fall (Galatians 6:1). No one knows more shamefully than I how others can be harmed when we deny that we need any warnings. When it is for us that the red flags are waving, may we each pay attention.
“Love is watchful, humble, and upright” (Thomas à Kempis).
Its Meaning and Importance Today
- Apostasy Began to Arise in the New Testament Period
- The Way of Christ vs. Worldwide “Christendom”
- The Apostolic Norm
- Drifting Away
- The Restoration Principle (1)
- The Restoration Principle (2)
- Individual Apostasy
- Congregational Apostasy
- The Book of Hebrews: Do We Need It Anymore?
- The “Gravitational Pull” of Apostate Christianity
- We Need to Be Warned Against Apostasy (1)
- We Need to Be Warned Against Apostasy (2)
- “Pluralism” and the Local Congregation
- The Duty of the Watchman
- Making Clear the Difference
- Contending Earnestly for the Faith
- Whither Our Children?