“Be in Subjection”—to Whom?
“Continue reminding them to be in subjection and be obedient to governments and authorities as rulers, to be ready for every good work.”—Titus 3:1.
1, 2. (a) To what are even so-called free people subject? (b) How has the acceptance of subjection been made difficult, and where most of all?
FREE people are, despite their freedom, subject to the political government set up over them. Regardless of how free we may claim to be, we cannot get away from this matter of subjection. The acceptance of subjection has been made difficult by the many political revolutions that have been staged in recent centuries.
2 Since the American Revolution of 1775—1783 and the French Revolution of 1789, there have been other revolutions, some that have resulted in reshaping the world. If the lands of Christendom were really Christian, there would be no revolutions in Christendom; but Christendom has been rocked by violent revolutions more than pagandom has. Our own twentieth century has seen the most stupendous revolts, uprisings and overturnings of governments in human history, those of pagan China in 1911 and 1949 and of “Christian” Russia in 1917, resulting in the two Communist giants of now. Due to all such violent, revolutionizing changes of government the people underneath have been tortured over the question of subjection—to which government to be willingly subject.
3. What questions are asked about subjection, and who must answer them?
3 Whether changes in human rulerships and styles of government have come by peaceful, progressive development or by violent revolution, the people affected must answer the questions, Why be subject to the change of government? Why not resist? What are the benefits of being subject? Even righteously-minded persons who pray for God’s kingdom to come with blessings for all mankind have to face such questions and must answer them aright to please God.
4, 5. (a) What revolt occurred in Galilee during the boyhood of Jesus Christ, and how do we know whether it was from God? (b) How did the Jewish revolt of the year 66 result, and what religious group was not tied in with that revolt?
4 Nineteen hundred years ago the pagan Roman Empire controlled the land areas in and around the Mediterranean Sea and much of Europe. It had subjected many peoples, including the Jews of Palestine, and so the Roman government had to deal with many problems. Many were the Jews who, because of their religion, wanted their freedom from Roman imperialism. In the year 7 of our Common Era, while Jesus Christ was still a boy in the town of Nazareth in the Province of Galilee, there occurred a revolt. It was led by a Jew, Judas the Galilean, and was stirred up because of the registration or taking of census by the Roman governor Quirinius.a
5 Was it of God—this revolt against Jewish subjection to Rome? No; for, just as the Jewish Law teacher Gamaliel later said, “that man perished, and all those who were obeying him were scattered abroad.” (Acts 5:34-37) Not heeding this warning example in their own history, the Jews as a nation revolted in the year 66 and brought terrible ruin and destruction upon themselves. Their holy capital city, Jerusalem, was destroyed, along with its magnificent temple to Jehovah God; the land of Judea was laid in ruins by the Roman armies, and 97,000 Jewish survivors were carried off captive into a slavery worse than that of mere political subjection to the Roman Empire. (Luke 21:5-7, 20-24; 19:41-44) None of the Christians, not even Jewish converts to Christianity, were tied in with that revolt against subjection to Roman imperialism. Why not?
6. (a) When was the Christian congregation founded, and where? (b) How was it quickly spread to regions inside and outside the Roman Empire?
6 On the festival day of Pentecost A.D. 33 the Christian congregation was founded in the city of Jerusalem. The members of that original congregation were marked by God himself, for he poured down his holy spirit upon them and gave them miraculous powers. (Acts 2:1-40) Thus in that critical year the Christian congregation was founded in the midst of a Jewish world where the coals of revolt smoldered against Rome despite the antichristian cry: “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15, 16) But the newborn congregation was safely guided by the rule of action laid down by their Leader Jesus Christ: “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Mark 12:17) Thousands witnessed the founding of the Christian congregation there in Jerusalem in the year 33. Many were reverent Jews from Parthia, Media, Elam, Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia Province, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Judea, Arabia, Crete, Rome, that is, from places inside and outside the Roman Empire. Three thousand of these Jews from such far-flung lands were converted to Christianity and baptized on that day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:5-11, 37-42) After they returned to the lands of their residence, Christian congregations were set up in those lands, including the island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea, ruled by Rome.
7. Why did Paul leave Titus behind in Crete, and what counsel did he write Titus to give concerning relations with all sorts of men?
7 Sometime about the year 61 the Christian apostle Paul and his young fellow missionary Titus visited Crete. When Paul left the island he had Titus stay there to attend to the needs of the Christian congregation. In a letter to Titus Paul said: “I left you in Crete, that you might correct the things that were defective and might make appointments of older men in city after city, as I gave you orders . . . For there are many unruly men, profitless talkers, and deceivers of the mind, especially those men [Jews] who adhere to the [Jewish] circumcision.” (Titus 1:5-10) In order to have any defective thinking corrected in the minds of the Cretan Christians and in order to help them to take the right road in their relations with persons of all sorts, Paul wrote Titus to give proper counsel when he talked to the congregations: “Continue reminding them to be in subjection and be obedient to governments and authorities as rulers, to be ready for every good work, to speak injuriously of no one, not to be belligerent, to be reasonable, exhibiting all mildness toward all men. For even we were once [like them] senseless, disobedient, being misled, being slaves to various desires and pleasures, carrying on in maliciousness and envy, hateful, hating one another.”—Titus 3:1-3.
8, 9. (a) What questions here arise as to the “governments and authorities” mentioned? (b) Whom did Paul mean by them, and why was he obliged to tell Christians to be in subjection to them?
8 Here is the only place in his letter to Titus that Paul mentions “governments and authorities.” Since the Christians were to be in subjection to these, whom did Paul mean by “governments and authorities”? Are they inside the Christian congregation? Or are they the political governments and authorities outside the Christian congregation and, back there, under the domination of imperial Rome? Whom would Titus mean when he reminded the Cretan congregations to be in subjection?
9 Evidently he meant the political governments and authorities of this world. But Paul had not instructed Titus to consult the governments and authorities and to get their approval in regard to appointing older men to service positions in the congregations of Crete. Such authorities were rulers, not for the government of affairs inside the Christian congregation, but for the government of things outside the Christian congregation, outside in the world. As Jesus realistically stated the matter, his followers are in the world although they are no part of this world and are hated by this world. (John 17:14-16; 15:19) If they wanted to get away from any relations whatever with the governments and authorities of this world, the Christians would have to get off the earth. But they could not signal the motorman to stop the world and let them get off. (1 Cor. 5:9, 10) God did not take the Christians out of this world. They have to get along with the still-existing governments and authorities. So Paul says to be in subjection.
10. What question arises as to the advisability of this subjection, and upon what does this depend?
10 But is it really not dangerous to the congregation’s teaching, morals, worship and activities when true Christians are in subjection to political governments and authorities of this world of which Satan the Devil is the invisible “ruler” and “god”? (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor. 4:4) That, of course, depends upon how far the subjection goes. Did the apostle Paul mean that Christians should be in total subjection, in which a person simply takes orders from above and becomes a mere mechanical robot, not letting Christian conscience dictate what is right and what is wrong according to God’s written Word? Does it mean a complete subjection of one’s will, in which the Christian offers unquestioning obedience in all cases to commands by worldly governments and authorities?
11. What other kind of subjection could there be, and who indicates for us which kind is meant?
11 Or does it mean a relative subjection? By “relative” we mean a comparative subjection, a subjection that is related with other things. That is, it has to take other things of concern into consideration. It is not absolute or independent of other things. It has to be balanced with other things that dare not be overlooked. In his brief letter to Titus Paul indicates how far the subjection may go and whether it must be absolute or relative.
12. How does Paul indicate this, and what related case for determination does he first mention?
12 How does Paul do this? By telling Titus that there are also other things to which true, dedicated, baptized Christians must be in subjection. Political governments and authorities of this world are not the only ones to whom a measure of subjection is due. There are other subjections for Christians to consider. What? Well, for one thing, a marriage subjection. In Titus 2:3-5 Paul writes this counsel on responsibility of the older women of the congregation: “That they may recall the young women to their senses to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sound in mind, chaste, workers at home, good, subjecting themselves to their own husbands, so that the word of God may not be spoken of abusively.” Are wives to be “subjecting themselves to their own husbands” in a total sense? Let us see.
13. (a) On what does a wife’s subjection rest, regardless of the religion of her husband? (b) What kind of subjection must this be, and what must it shield against abuse?
13 We must note that Paul does not say that it matters whether their own husbands are true Christian or Jewish or pagan. Still, subjection of a wife to a husband rests on a Bible principle, which Paul himself states. To the congregation in Corinth he writes: “I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God. . . . man was not created for the sake of the woman, but woman for the sake of the man. That is why the woman ought to have a sign of authority upon her head because of the angels.” (1 Cor. 11:3, 9, 10) Yet, according to the apostle Paul, the subjection of a Christian wife to any husband could not be total, without consideration of a still higher subjection. Otherwise, how could Paul say that the younger women who obey the teaching and example of the aged women should be subject to their own marriage heads “so that the word of God may not be spoken of abusively” by outsiders?
14. Regardless of the headship of her husband, what things does a truly Christian wife have to take into consideration in connection with her subjection?
14 Consequently, in the case of a Christian wife’s subjection in the marriage union, the “word of God” has to be taken first into account. She has dedicated herself completely to Jehovah God and has been baptized in symbol of this dedication the same as Jesus was. Her husband, whether Christian, Jewish or pagan, is imperfect and sinful by birth. If, then, he should ask or demand that she do something contrary to God’s Word, she could not conscientiously do so and at the same time carry out her dedication to God, as Christ did with his dedication. We must grant that her marriage mate is her visible head in the family circle; but Christ is higher than any man, than any husband, and Christ is the head of a Christian husband, besides which fact God is the head of Christ. The dedicated Christian wife cannot therefore consider the third-rate headship of her human husband as final and absolute. She must consider the supreme headship of God, to whom she has dedicated herself through her superior head, her Savior Jesus Christ.
15. What kind must her subjection to her husband necessarily be, and what can no one say about God’s Word in this regard?
15 If in abject obedience to her earthly husband she violated God’s Word, she would not be treating God’s Word right, even though people outside the Christian congregation approved of her doing so. That would be sin. It thus becomes plain that the Christian wife’s subjection to her husband is a relative subjection. It must be rendered in relation to God’s Word. God’s Word is in harmony with her being in subjection to her husband, and it teaches her to be so. No one outside the congregation can truthfully say that God’s Word does not teach the wife to be subject to her husband and to love him and to show this love for him by being subject.
16. How could she cause God’s Word to be spoken of abusively, and why would this be?
16 What if the Christian wife, who preaches God’s Word to others, does not give her husband this relative subjection but defies him and fights over household things in which Christian conscience is not involved? Then she gives outsiders the idea that God’s Word, which she preaches, teaches her to be rebellious, insubordinate, ambitious for the headship. For that reason she causes God’s Word to be “spoken of abusively” by these outsiders, and they do not want to listen to it whether preached by her or by some other member of the congregation to which she belongs. Hence her being subject to her husband in the proper things, in things not contrary to God’s Word, is really a shield to God’s Word against abusive speech by ignorant people who judge God’s Word by the way a Christian wife acts.
17. How, then, could she recommend God’s Word to others?
17 The Christian wife, by the way that she subjects herself to her marriage owner, should recommend God’s Word to outsiders and make them inclined to listen to it. God’s Word is the main thing in her married life; and thus Paul argues that her subjection to her husband is only relative, not total.
18, 19. (a) What other subject class does Paul then speak of, and what questions come up as to their dedication? (b) Why did it become necessary for the apostles to write about how those in this class should act as Christians?
18 In his letter to Titus the apostle Paul speaks of another kind of subjection that could not be brushed aside in his day. In the Roman Empire there were many slaves, not just Negro slaves but white slaves. These were persons who had been taken captive in war or who had fallen into debt and could not pay. So numerous were the slaves that a Roman citizen could have as many as four thousand slaves in his establishment. Many of them heard the preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom of freedom and accepted Christianity. In spite of being slaves to some rich or powerful man or woman, they believed in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ and dedicated themselves to Jehovah God. Did God refuse their dedication and say that they could not make such a dedication because they were not free to do so? Did God say they were subject to a slaveholder and were owned by him and could not give themselves completely to God and undertake a dedication to Him?
19 No! God did not refuse their dedication through Christ. Had God refused it, then the Christian congregation would not have admitted slaves. But God did accept their dedication and let them into the congregation of his holy people. That is why the apostles of Jesus Christ recognized these dedicated slaves as members of the congregation and wrote about how they should act as Christians.
20, 21. (a) How did the slave’s dedication affect his relationship with his master? (b) What did Paul’s writing on the slave question indicate as to his subjection to the Roman government?
20 Well, then, when God accepted their dedication and made these slaves members of His congregation, did this free them from their earthly owners? Not at all. They remained earthly slaves, although they had now gained a spiritual freedom that undedicated, non-Christian slaves did not enjoy. “For anyone in the Lord that was called when a slave is the Lord’s freedman,” said Paul, meaning it in a spiritual way and not encouraging a slave to make a breakaway.
21 That is why Paul said: “In whatever state each one was called [to be a holy one of God], let him remain in it. Were you called when a slave? Do not let it worry you; but if you can also become free, rather seize the opportunity. . . . likewise he that was called when a free man is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price [of Christ’s sacrifice]; stop becoming slaves of men. In whatever condition each one was called, brothers, let him remain in it associated with God.” (1 Cor. 7:20-24) Paul was no reformer of the Roman Empire, and he was not authorized by God to be such. Why should he be, when he and God knew that the unholy Roman Empire was to be destroyed in God’s due time? The widespread slavery in the Roman Empire was enforced by the imperial government. Paul subjected himself to the existing Roman government in this matter of slavery. He did not tell slaves to run away. He did not advocate a slaves’ revolt, like that of Spartacus of 73 B.C.
22, 23. (a) How did dedication affect a person who was a slave? (b) In behalf of what did Paul give instructions concerning slaves, and what did he tell Titus to instruct slaves to do?
22 What, now, was the slave’s relationship to his earthly master after the slave became a dedicated, baptized Christian? According to his flesh he was still a slave under a human master or slaveowner. Instead of becoming a runaway slave like Eliza in the story of Uncle Tom’s Cabin of 1851-1852, he was to become a better slave because of his Christianity. The apostle Paul instructed the young overseer Titus as to what to tell slaves down there in Crete to do now that they had become Christians. In writing Titus, Paul strongly urged doing things to protect the Christian organization and God’s Word against undeserved abuse, reviling and blasphemy from the world. First, Paul told Christian wives how to act in the home and told young Christian men how to act, showing “wholesome speech which cannot be condemned; so that the man on the opposing side may get ashamed, having nothing vile to say about us.” Paul next spoke about slaves and wrote:
23 “Let slaves be in subjection to their owners in all things, and please them well, not talking back, not committing theft, but exhibiting good fidelity to the full, so that they may adorn the teaching of our Savior, God, in all things. For the undeserved kindness of God which brings salvation to all sorts of men [including slaves] has been manifested, instructing us to repudiate ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion amid this present system of things.”—Titus 2:6-12.
24, 25. (a) What distinction did Paul not make as to slaveowners? (b) Were slaveowners permitted in the congregation, and what does the case of Philemon show?
24 How is this possible today for literal slaves in Asia or Africa or elsewhere? How can slaves, after becoming dedicated, baptized Christians, “be in subjection to their owners in all things, and please them well,” and at the same time stay Christians? Again, be it noted that Paul does not say whether the slaveowner is pagan, Roman, Jewish or Christian, or that the Christian slave could be in subjection to only a Christian slaveowner and please him well.
25 Yes, back there, there were even Christian slaveowners in the congregation. Paul did not try to be a prototype of the Russian Tsar Alexander II, who in 1861 emancipated 23,000,000 Russian serfs; nor of the American president, Abraham Lincoln, who in 1863 issued an Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery in parts of the South not occupied by Federal Union armies. No, Paul did not declare all Christian slaves to be free and all Christian slaveowners to be slaveless, deprived involuntarily of their slaves. He did not declare that Christian slaveholders who did not free their believing or unbelieving slaves must be disfellowshiped from the Christian congregation. No; but Paul even wrote a letter preserved in the Bible addressed to a Christian slaveholder, Philemon. Instead of his being disfellowshiped from the congregation, the local congregation of Christians met right in Philemon’s home.—Philem. 1, 2.
26. In harmony with Paul’s instructions for slaves, what did he do to Onesʹimus, and what did Onesʹimus do?
26 The Roman government allowed Philemon to be a slaveholder, and Paul subjected himself to that pagan government arrangement and did not abolish slavery from Philemon’s house. In harmony with the instructions to Titus for slaves to be in subjection to their masters in all things, Paul sent back a runaway slave to Philemon, as a bearer of Paul’s letter to Philemon. Paul did not proclaim this runaway slave Onesʹimus a freedman because he had listened to Paul’s preaching and had become a Christian. Paul sent Onesʹimus back to slavery. So now Onesʹimus, just because he had become a Christian, went back to slavery, to be in subjection to the fellow Christian Philemon in all things, “exhibiting good fidelity to the full.” On his way back Onesʹimus did not change his mind, destroy the letter, disappear into this world and continue as a runaway. Though he faced renewed slavery, he delivered the letter to Philemon. That is how we have it in the Bible today.—Philem. 10-17.
27. (a) What, then, are the “all things” in which the Christian slave is to be subject to his owner? (b) Therefore, what kind of slaves would Christianity make them?
27 How can slaves who have become dedicated Christians be in subjection to their owners in all things, especially if these owners are not Christians or are of a different religion? Does the expression “in all things” mean that the subjecting of oneself is total, absolute, without consideration for God’s will and Word? Hardly so! The “all things” are limited to the area or sphere in which the human slaveholder has a legal right to demand service of his slave. He had no right to change the slave’s religion, for that rested with the slave’s own conscience and was a personal matter between the slave and his God. Paul indicates what the “all things” include by adding: “and please them well, not talking back, not committing theft, but exhibiting good fidelity to the full;” Rather than making them worse slaves, Christianity made them better slaves, slaves who take pleasure in pleasing their owners by doing assigned tasks well, slaves who do not saucily talk back to owners, slaves who do not steal from their owners, slaves who are loyal and do not betray the material interests of their owners.
28, 29. (a) What does subjection to an owner not oblige a slave to do? (b) What kind is their subjection thus proved to be, and their service is to be rendered as to whom and with what motive?
28 Subjecting oneself does not oblige a Christian slave to steal from others if his unchristian master commanded him to do so. And if he would not steal for his earthly master, he would also not break any other of God’s commandments. “Let the stealer steal no more,” says the apostle Paul, “but rather let him do hard work, doing with his hands what is good work, that he may have something to distribute to someone in need.” (Eph. 4:28) The Christian subjection of oneself as a slave to a human slaveholder is thus proved to be a relative, comparative, limited subjection, dependent on Christian conscience. Pleasing the slaveowner does not include breaking God’s commandments. In Colossians 3:22-24 Paul said this to slaves:
29 “You slaves, be obedient in everything to those who are your masters in a fleshly sense, not with acts of eye-service, as men pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, with fear of Jehovah. Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men [your slave masters], for you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the due reward of the inheritance. Slave for the Master, Christ.”
30. According to Paul’s instructions, why could obedience to slaveowners “in everything” not include breaking God’s law?
30 Being obedient to slaveholders “in everything” could not mean to the point of being disobedient to Jehovah God, breaking his commandments. Why, the apostle says that this obedience in everything is to be rendered by slaves “with fear of Jehovah.” That is to say, with the fear of displeasing Jehovah. Whatever the slaves were told to do, they were to work at it, not complainingly as to the men who were their masters, but “whole-souled as to Jehovah,” knowing that it was Jehovah who would reward them even though the slave master did not reward them but exploited them as his slaves.
31. How, then, would fear and the desire to please control the slave’s deeds as a slave?
31 Fear of Jehovah would not let slaves be the gunmen or the dagger men for their owners to kill someone on orders. If their masters ordered them to steal another’s property, or to lie and bear false witness before a judge, or to abduct another man’s wife, they could not do such things whole-souled as if they were doing them to their God, for Jehovah forbids his Christian witnesses to do such crimes. If Christian slaves were men pleasers, they would subject themselves and obey their masters when these commanded them to do anything wrong, unscriptural, unchristian. But there are some things, many things, in which they cannot obey imperfect, sinful human masters, because Christian slaves are pleasers of God and they are most of all in fear of Jehovah. They are really slaves for the Master, Christ, who bought them by his sacrifice.
32. What similar instructions for slaves does Paul give in Ephesians 6:5-9, and what incentive to good service does it present?
32 In Ephesians 6:5-9 the apostle Paul gives similar instructions to Christian slaves, members of the congregation. Rather than be ill-tempered, evil-minded slaves, they are told to “be slaves with good inclinations, as to Jehovah, and not to men, for you know that each one, whatever good he may do, will receive this back from Jehovah, whether he be slave or freeman.” They keep in mind that they have a Master who is higher than their earthly human slave master, a Master in the heavens. This Master is not partial to earthly slave masters as against slaves, provided that the slaves obey their heavenly Master when faithfulness to Christianity becomes necessary rather than slavish obedience to man.
33, 34. (a) Why would Christian slaves not do things formerly done for their masters, but would this hurt their masters’ interests? (b) What is their desire in being better-mannered slaves, and how does this affect their subjection?
33 In every case the apostle Paul makes the subjection of Christian slaves to their human owners or masters a relative subjection. Things that slaves did previously in total obedience to their earthly owners they will do no more because of now having a Christian conscience. In spite of that, they will be better slaves and be more profitable to their owners in a loyal way. By sticking to the right Christian course in spite of the wishes of their masters, they will not harm their masters or hurt their interests, but will bring their masters around to respecting their educated, trained Christian conscience. Because of their being better slaves for their having adopted Christianity, they will be no shame or disgrace to what God teaches his dedicated witnesses.
34 By being better-mannered slaves they desire that “they may adorn the teaching of our Savior, God, in all things.” If their desire and effort are to adorn God’s teaching, which they follow in all things, they could not render themselves in subjection to earthly masters so far as to obey orders to do wrong. By doing what is wrong they would not be living adornments to God’s teaching; they would, instead, misrepresent and disgrace His teachings.
SUBJECTION TO GOVERNMENTS AND AUTHORITIES
35. (a) What do the cases of wives and slaves argue as to the kind of subjection Christians must render to governments and authorities? (b) Despite their imperfection, what responsibility do governors have?
35 It is only after he had written about how Christian wives should be in subjection to their husbands and Christian slaves to their earthly owners that the apostle Paul told persons in the congregation “to be in subjection and be obedient to governments and authorities as rulers.” (Titus 3:1) By what Paul said about those previous cases of subjection to husbands and slaveowners, we have a standard of measurement by which to measure how far the subjection and obedience to political governments and authorities as rulers goes with regard to dedicated, baptized Christians, such as Jehovah’s witnesses are. The subjection was to be, not total, but merely relative, toward husbands and slaveowners or masters, who are mere imperfect humans. Likewise the subjection must be a relative one toward governments and authorities, which are also made up of humans born in sin and condemned to death. However, the human “governments and authorities” have a responsibility toward all their peoples. One of their main responsibilities is to maintain good order and to give the people a measure of protection. Governments have enough trouble of their own with the unchristian people in general, without having dedicated, baptized Christians add to their troubles by joining worldly people in lawbreaking.
36. As far as being praised is concerned, why is it very fitting that Christians be obedient to governments and authorities?
36 However, for Christians who are really God’s “holy ones” it is very fitting to be obedient to “governments and authorities as rulers.” Instead of deserving the ill will of these men in political office of this world, Christians should win, or, at least, deserve praise for being orderly and for respectfully abiding by the laws by which good order and public welfare are kept up in the community. Christians, because of their whole-souled devotion to God and their faithful imitation of Jesus Christ, are misunderstood and criticized enough and are therefore falsely accused for this cause alone, without needing to make themselves targets of true criticism and accusation for wrongdoing. Christians should show that the fear of God makes a difference in one’s life, for the better. Paul’s counsel is therefore for them to “be ready for every good work.”
37. How is this in harmony with the fact that Christ died and delivered us for a certain purpose, but how does this affect our subjection?
37 This is entirely in harmony with the fact just mentioned beforehand by Paul, that our Savior Jesus Christ “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 2:13, 14) How could doing this make us a potent danger to any governments and authorities of this world, even though our subjection to them is merely relative? At the same time our being a people delivered by Christ from every sort of lawlessness and our being “zealous for fine works” prevents us as Christians from rendering more than relative subjection to human governments and authorities. Why? Because human rulers may at times make demands and may enforce laws that are contrary to God’s supreme law.
38. What will our obedience to God’s law never let us do regarding governments and authorities, but what will it not let us join governments and authorities in doing?
38 Our conscientious obedience to God’s law may embarrass human governments and authorities. It may show up their error and their nonalignment with God’s law. But it will never, no, never lead us into subversive movements or conspiracies or violent revolts against such existing governments and authorities. When we render to God what belongs to God during this system of things, it does not mean that we do not also render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. (Matt. 22:21) It does not mean that we are violating the apostolic counsel to “be in subjection and be obedient to governments and authorities as rulers.” It simply means that as conscientious Christians we will not join with imperfect, human governments and authorities when they fight against God. We must take our stand with Christ’s apostles when they said to a nonpolitical, religious court in Jerusalem: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
39. Accordingly, what apostolic instructions will we follow, and with what in mind?
39 In all cases we will follow the apostle Paul’s instruction about being in subjection to husbands, to slaveowners and to worldly, political governments and authorities as rulers, and about other affairs of life. This we will do “in order that those who have believed God may keep their minds on maintaining fine works. These things are fine and beneficial to men.”—Titus 3:8.
a See Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 1, paragraphs 1, 6; Book 20, Chapter 5, paragraphs 1, 2; and Wars of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 8, paragraph 1; Chapter 18, paragraph 8; Book 7, Chapter 8, paragraph 1.