What Godly Subjection Requires of Us
“Subject yourselves, therefore, to God.”—JAMES 4:7.
1. What can be said of the kind of God we worship?
WHAT a marvelous God Jehovah is! Matchless, peerless, incomparable, unique in so many ways! He is the Most High, the Universal Sovereign in whom all true authority resides. He is from everlasting to everlasting and so glorious that no man can see him and yet live. (Exodus 33:20; Romans 16:26) He is infinite in power and wisdom, absolutely perfect in justice, and the very personification of love. He is our Creator, our Judge, our Lawgiver, and our King. Every good gift and every perfect present comes from him.—Psalm 100:3; Isaiah 33:22; James 1:17.
2. Godly subjection involves what things?
2 In view of all these facts, there can be no question about our obligation to be in subjection to him. But what does this involve for us? A number of things. Since we cannot personally see Jehovah God, subjection to him involves heeding the voice of an educated conscience, cooperating with God’s earthly organization, recognizing secular authorities, and respecting the headship principle within the family circle.
Holding a Good Conscience
3. To keep a good conscience, we must be obedient to what kind of prohibitions?
3 To keep a good conscience, we must be obedient to the unenforceable—that is, to laws or principles that humans cannot enforce. For example, the tenth commandment of the Decalogue, directed against coveting, was unenforceable by human authorities. Incidentally, this testifies to the divine origin of the Decalogue, for no human law-making body would have made a law that could not be enforced by means of sanctions if violated. By this law, Jehovah God gave each Israelite the responsibility to be his own policeman—if he would have a good conscience. (Exodus 20:17) Similarly, among the works of the flesh that would bar one from inheriting God’s Kingdom are “jealousy” and “envies”—reactions against which sanctions are not enforceable by human judges. (Galatians 5:19-21) But to hold a good conscience, we must avoid these.
4. To keep a good conscience, by what Bible principles must we live?
4 Yes, we must live by Bible principles. Such principles can be summed up in the two commandments that Jesus Christ enunciated in answer to the question as to which was the greatest commandment of the Mosaic code. “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind. . . . You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40) Illustrating what is involved in the second of these commandments are Jesus’ words recorded at Matthew 7:12: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them; this, in fact, is what the Law and the Prophets mean.”
5. How can we keep a good relationship with Jehovah God?
5 We must do what we know is right and keep from doing what we know is wrong, whether others notice it or not. This is so even though we might be able to get away with either not doing what we should do or doing what we should not. It means keeping a good relationship with our heavenly Father, bearing in mind the warning that the apostle Paul expresses at Hebrews 4:13: “There is not a creation that is not manifest to his sight, but all things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting.” Persisting in doing right will help us to contend with the crafty devices of the Devil, to resist the pressures of the world, and to battle the inherited tendency toward selfishness.—Compare Ephesians 6:11.
Subjection to God’s Organization
6. What channels of communication did Jehovah use in pre-Christian times?
6 Jehovah God has not left it entirely up to us to decide individually how we are to apply Bible principles to our lives. From the beginning of mankind’s history, God has used humans as channels of communication. Thus, Adam was God’s spokesman to Eve. The command about the forbidden fruit was given to Adam before Eve was created, so Adam must have informed Eve as to God’s will for her. (Genesis 2:16-23) Noah was God’s prophet to his family and to the antediluvian world. (Genesis 6:13; 2 Peter 2:5) Abraham was God’s spokesman to his family. (Genesis 18:19) God’s prophet and channel of communication to the nation of Israel was Moses. (Exodus 3:15, 16; 19:3, 7) After him, down to John the Baptizer, many prophets, priests, and kings were used by God to communicate his will to his people.
7, 8. (a) With the coming of the Messiah, who have been used as God’s spokesmen? (b) What does godly subjection require of Jehovah’s Witnesses today?
7 With the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, God used him and his immediate apostles and disciples to serve as His spokesmen. Later, the anointed faithful followers of Jesus Christ were to serve as a “faithful and discreet slave” in communicating to Jehovah’s people how to apply Bible principles in their lives. Godly subjection meant recognizing the instrument Jehovah God was using.—Matthew 24:45-47; Ephesians 4:11-14.
8 The facts show that today “the faithful and discreet slave” is associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses and represented by the Governing Body of these Witnesses. That body, in turn, appoints overseers in various capacities—such as elders and traveling representatives—to direct the work on a local level. Godly subjection requires each dedicated Witness to be in subjection to these overseers in keeping with Hebrews 13:17: “Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account; that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you.”
9. Godly subjection is often a matter of what?
9 Godly subjection is often a matter of accepting discipline from those serving as overseers. If we do not always give ourselves the necessary discipline, we may need to be counseled and disciplined by those having the experience and authority to do so, such as our congregation elders. To accept such discipline is the course of wisdom.—Proverbs 12:15; 19:20.
10. What obligation do those who administer discipline have?
10 Obviously, elders administering discipline must themselves be examples of godly subjection. How? According to Galatians 6:1, not only should they have a fine manner of counseling but they should be exemplary: “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.” In other words, the elder’s counsel must be in line with his example. Such is in harmony with the admonition given at 2 Timothy 2:24, 25 and at Titus 1:9. Yes, those administering reproof or correction must be very careful never to be harsh. They should always be mild, kind, and yet firm in upholding the principles in God’s Word. They should be impartial listeners, refreshing to those who are toiling and loaded down.—Compare Matthew 11:28-30.
Subjection to the Superior Authorities
11. What is required of Christians in their relations with secular authorities?
11 Godly subjection also requires us to obey the secular authorities. We are counseled at Romans 13:1: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.” These words require us, among other things, to obey traffic laws and to be conscientious as to the paying of taxes and tributes, as the apostle Paul notes at Romans 13:7.
12. In what sense is our subjection to Caesar relative?
12 Clearly, though, all such subjection to Caesar must be relative. We must always bear in mind the principle that Jesus Christ stated, as recorded at Matthew 22:21: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” A footnote to Romans 13:1 in the Oxford NIV [New International Version] Scofield Study Bible observes: “This does not mean that he is to obey regulations that are immoral or anti-Christian. In such cases it is his duty to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29; cp. Dan. 3:16-18; 6:10ff).”
Godly Subjection Within the Family Circle
13. Godly subjection within the family circle requires what of its members?
13 Within the family circle, the husband and father serves as head. This requires that wives heed the counsel given at Ephesians 5:22, 23: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation.”* As for the children, they do not make their own rules but owe godly subjection to both father and mother, as Paul explains at Ephesians 6:1-3: “Children, be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous: ‘Honor your father and your mother’; which is the first command with a promise: ‘That it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.’”
14. Godly subjection requires what of family heads?
14 Of course, it makes it easier for wives and children to render such godly subjection when husbands and fathers themselves display godly subjection. They do this by exercising their headship in keeping with Bible principles, such as those found at Ephesians 5:28, 29 and 6:4: “In this way husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own flesh; but he feeds and cherishes it, as the Christ also does the congregation.” “Fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.”
Aids in Manifesting Godly Subjection
15. What fruit of the spirit will help us to manifest godly subjection?
15 What will help us to manifest godly subjection in these various areas? First, there is unselfish love—love for Jehovah God and for those he has placed over us. We are told at 1 John 5:3: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.” Jesus made the same point at John 14:15: “If you love me, you will observe my commandments.” Truly, love—the foremost fruit of the spirit—will help us to appreciate all that Jehovah has done for us and will thus help us to exercise godly subjection.—Galatians 5:22
16. Of what help is godly fear in showing godly subjection?
16 Second, there is godly fear. Fearing to displease Jehovah God will help us because it “means the hating of bad.” (Proverbs 8:13) Unquestionably, the fear of displeasing Jehovah will keep us from compromising because of the fear of man. It will also help us to obey God’s instructions no matter what difficulties have to be overcome. Further, it will keep us from yielding to temptations or inclinations toward wrongdoing. The Scriptures show that it was the fear of Jehovah that enabled Abraham to attempt to offer up his beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice, and it was the fear of displeasing Jehovah that enabled Joseph successfully to resist the immoral advances of Potiphar’s wife.—Genesis 22:12; 39:9.
17. What role does faith play in our exercising godly subjection?
17 A third aid is faith in Jehovah God. Faith will enable us to heed the counsel given at Proverbs 3:5, 6: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.” Especially will faith help us when we seem to be suffering unjustly or feel we are discriminated against because of our race or nationality or because of some personality conflict. Some may also feel that they have been wrongly passed over when not recommended to serve as an elder or a ministerial servant. If we have faith, we will wait on Jehovah to straighten matters out in his due time. In the meantime we may need to cultivate patient endurance.—Lamentations 3:26.
18. What is a fourth aid in our displaying godly subjection?
18 A fourth aid is humility. A humble person has no difficulty in manifesting godly subjection because ‘in lowliness of mind, he considers that others are superior to him.’ A humble person is willing to conduct himself as “a lesser one.” (Philippians 2:2-4; Luke 9:48) But the proud person resents being in subjection and chafes at it. It has been said that such a person would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.
19. What fine example of humility did a former president of the Watch Tower Society provide?
19 A fine example of humility and godly subjection was once furnished by Joseph Rutherford, the second president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. When Hitler banned the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany, the brothers there wrote to him asking what they should do in view of the ban on their meetings and their preaching activity. He mentioned this to the Bethel family and frankly admitted that he did not know what to tell the German brothers, particularly in view of the severe sanctions involved. He said that if anyone knew what to tell them, he would be glad to hear it. What a humble spirit!*
Benefits From Manifesting Godly Subjection
20. What blessings result from manifesting godly subjection?
20 It might well be asked, What are the benefits of manifesting godly subjection? Many, indeed. We escape the anxieties and frustrations that are the lot of those who act independently. We enjoy a good relationship with Jehovah God. We have the best of association with our Christian brothers. Furthermore, by our comporting ourselves lawfully, we avoid having unnecessary trouble with the secular authorities. We also enjoy a happy family life as husbands and wives, as parents and children. Moreover, by maintaining godly subjection, we act in harmony with the counsel given at Proverbs 27:11: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.”
A pioneer minister praised the respect and loving support of his wife to a single pioneer. The single pioneer thought his friend should also have said something about the other qualities of his wife. But years later, when the single pioneer himself got married, he realized how vital loving support on the part of the wife is to marital bliss.
After much prayer and study of God’s Word, Joseph Rutherford saw clearly the reply he should give to the brothers in Germany. It was not for him to tell them what they should or should not do. They had God’s Word that clearly told them what they should do as to meeting together and witnessing. So the German brothers went underground but kept obeying Jehovah’s commands to meet together and to witness about his name and Kingdom.
□ What men has God used as channels of communication, and what did his servants owe them?
□ In what various relationships does godly subjection apply?
□ What qualities will help us to show godly subjection?
□ Godly subjection results in what blessings?
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God used Jerusalem’s temple organization to communicate his will to his people
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Areas where we can manifest godly subjection