prophet like Moses to whom every soul must listen or suffer destruction (Acts 3:22, 23), “a leader and commander to the national groups” (Isa. 55:3, 4), placed “far above every government and authority and power and lordship” (Eph. 1:20, 21), to whom “every knee should bend” in recognition of his God-given authority. (Phil. 2:9-11) He is the High Priest whose instructions lead to healing and life everlasting for those hearing him submissively. (Heb. 5:9, 10; John 3:36) Since he was God’s Chief Spokesman, Jesus could rightly make known that obedience to his sayings constituted the only solid foundation on which persons could build their hopes for the future. (Matt. 7:24-27) Obedience is proof of and springs from the love his followers have for him. (John 14:23, 24; 15:10) Because God has made his Son the key figure in the outworking of all his purposes (Rom. 16:25-27), life depends upon obedience to “the good news about our Lord Jesus,” and this obedience includes making public declaration of one’s faith in him.—2 Thess. 1:8; Rom. 10:8-10, 16; 1 Pet. 4:17.
As head of the Christian congregation Christ Jesus delegates authority to others, as he did to the apostles. (2 Cor. 10:8) These persons convey the instructions of the congregation’s Head, and therefore obedience to them is right and necessary (2 Cor. 10:2-6; Phil. 2:12; 2 Thess. 3:4, 9-15), for such spiritual shepherds are “keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account.” (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:2-6; compare 1 Kings 3:9.) Willing response and obedience, like that of the Roman and Philippian Christians and like that of Philemon, to whom Paul could say, “I am writing you, knowing you will even do more than the things I say,” bring rejoicing to such responsible ones.—Rom. 16:19; Phil. 2:12, 17; Philem. 21.
Obedience to parents and husbands
Parents have a God-given natural right to the obedience of their children. (Prov. 23:22) Jacob’s obedience to his parents was doubtless one of the reasons Jehovah ‘loved Jacob but hated Esau.’ (Mal. 1:2, 3; Gen. 28:7) As a child Jesus showed submission to his earthly parents. (Luke 2:51) The apostle Paul admonishes children to “be obedient to your parents in everything.” It must be remembered that his letter was addressed to Christians, and hence “everything” cannot allow for obedience to commands that would result in disobedience to the word of the heavenly Father, Jehovah God, for this could not be “well-pleasing” to the Lord. (Col. 3:20; Eph. 6:1) Disobedience to parents is not viewed lightly in the Scriptures, and under the Law a continued course of disobedience required the son’s being put to death.—Deut. 21:18-21; Prov. 30:17; Rom. 1:30, 32; 2 Tim. 3:2.
The headship of the man also calls for obedience of wives to their husbands “in everything,” Sarah being cited as an example to be emulated. (Eph. 5:21-33; 1 Pet. 3:1-6) Here, again, it holds true that the headship and authority of the husband is not supreme, but ranks below that of God and Christ.—1 Cor. 11:3.
To masters and to governments
Similarly slaves were exhorted to render obedience to their masters “in everything,” not with eye-service but as Christ’s slaves, with fear of Jehovah. (Col. 3:22-25; Eph. 6:5-8) Those slaves who must endure suffering could take as their example Christ Jesus, even as could Christian wives under similar circumstances. (1 Pet. 2:18-25; 3:1) The authority of their masters was relative, not absolute; hence they would obey in “everything” that was not in conflict with God’s will and commands.
Finally, obedience is due earthly governments, authorities and rulers (Titus 3:1) since God has allowed them to function and even to render certain services to his people. So it is required that Christians “pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar.” (Mark 12:14-17) The compelling reason for Christian obedience to Caesar’s laws and the payment of taxes is not primarily proper fear of Caesar’s “sword” of punishment, but is the Christian conscience. (Rom. 13:1-7) Since conscience is the decisive factor, Christian submission to human governments obviously is limited to those things not out of harmony with God’s law. For this reason, to rulers who ordered them to stop carrying out their God-given commission to preach, the apostles firmly stated: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:27-29, 32; 4:18-20.
This English word (from the same Latin root as “obey” and “obedience”) signifies the act of bowing, kneeling or prostrating the body, or by some other gesture betokening submission or simply the paying of respect. It adequately translates the Hebrew sha·hhahʹ and the Greek pro·sky·neʹo in many cases.
Sha·hhahʹ means, basically, “to bow down.” (Prov. 12:25) Such bowing might be done as an act of respect or deference toward another human, as to a king (1 Sam. 24:8; 2 Sam. 24:20; Ps. 45:11), the high priest (1 Sam. 2:36), a prophet (2 Ki. 2:15), or other person of authority (Gen. 37:9, 10; 42:6; Ruth 2:8-10), to an elder relative (Gen. 33:1-6; 48:11, 12; Ex. 18:7; 1 Ki. 2:19), or even to strangers as an expression of courteous regard. (Gen. 19:1, 2) Abraham bowed down to the Canaanite sons of Heth from whom he sought to buy a burial place. (Gen. 23:7) Isaac’s blessing on Jacob called for national groups and Jacob’s own “brothers” to bow down to him. (Gen. 27:29; compare 49:8.) When men started to bow down before David’s son Absalom, he grabbed them and kissed them, evidently to further his political ambitions by making a show of putting himself on a level with them. (2 Sam. 15:5, 6) Mordecai refused to prostrate himself before Haman, not because he viewed the practice as wrong in itself but doubtless because this high Persian official was an accursed Amalekite by descent. (Esther 3:1-6) The Babylonian conquerors of Judah in effect told her people to bow down and make their backs like a street for the conquerors to cross over.—Isa. 51:23.
From the above examples it is clear that this Hebrew term of itself does not necessarily have a religious sense or signify worship. Nevertheless, in a large number of cases it is used in connection with worship, either of the true God (Ex. 24:1; Ps. 95:6; Isa. 27:13; 66:23) or of false gods. (Deut. 4:19; 8:19; 11:16) Persons might bow down in prayer to God (Ex. 34:8; Job 1:20, 21) and often prostrated themselves upon receiving some revelation from God or some expression or evidence of his favor, thereby showing their gratitude, reverence and humble submission to his will.—Gen. 24:23-26, 50-52; Ex. 4:31; 12:27, 28; 2 Chron. 7:3; 20:14-19; compare 1 Corinthians 14:25; Revelation 19:1-4.
Bowing down to humans as an act of respect was admissible, but bowing to anyone other than Jehovah as a deity was prohibited by God. (Ex. 23:24; 34:14) Similarly, the worshipful bowing down to religious images or to any created thing was positively condemned. (Ex. 20:4, 5; Lev. 26:1; Deut. 4:15-19; Isa. 2:8, 9, 20, 21) Thus, in the Hebrew Scriptures, when certain of Jehovah’s servants prostrated themselves before angels, they only did so as recognizing that these were God’s representatives, not as rendering obeisance to them as deities.—Josh. 5:13-15; Gen. 18:1-3.
OBEISANCE IN THE CHRISTIAN GREEK SCRIPTURES
The Greek pro·sky·neʹo corresponds closely with the Hebrew sha·hhahʹ as to conveying the thought of both obeisance to creatures and worship to God or a deity. While the manner of expressing the obeisance is perhaps not so prominent in pro·sky·neʹo as in sha·hhahʹ, where the Hebrew term graphically conveys the thought of prostration or bowing down, some lexicographers suggest that originally the Greek term did emphatically portray this idea. Some scholars would derive the term from the Greek ky·neʹo, “to