Spiritual Subordination

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By: Raymond Harris

Regarding Scripture: Ephesians 5.21, James 4.7

The title of this week’s article probably brings to mind many things. What is interesting is that in every part of life there is some type of subordination, from education to occupation to recreation. Life has its hierarchal structures, its order of rank, from the military to the domestic household. The truth is that an individual or a group is always subject to someone else. For instance, on the field, no football team can have more than one quarterback. While subordination and its sociological impact is vast and worthy of its own study, (the focus of this lesson) is limited to a brief identification of the types of subordination Jehovah expects.

We will begin our study by looking at Ephesians 5.21 (which we will return to in congregational subordination) and an examination of the Greek word translated submitting (KJV, NKJV, ESV) and be subject (NASB). Thayer defines this Greek word as: to arrange under, to subordinate; to submit to one’s control; to obey. Interestingly enough, a KJV concordance reveals that this Greek word is used 49 times in the New Testament and is translated several ways, among which are: obedient, subject, submit, and under, but we will examine submit.

After performing a KJV word search on the word submit, the results indicate that there are at least five relationships that require an individual to be subordination, they are: spiritual, domestic, societal, vocational, and congregational relationships. We need to keep in mind Mark 12.30-31 as we look at the first of these relationships, and we will see subordination is vertical first, then horizontal.

Spiritual subordination is our first and primary relationship. James 4.7 is a conclusion, a remedy for solving congregational problems (James 4.1-12), and also has application for us. Sometimes it seems difficult to do what God says, but when we willingly submit to God, all other relationships whether societal, marital, congregational or vocational will work for the better. While one’s view of spiritual subordination is important, it truly sets the stage for all other relationships.

Spiritual subordination is probably the most difficult choice one will ever make. This is the greatest decision any one person has to make. The belief (the conviction) that one chooses to subordinate themselves to makes a tremendous impact on every other relationship.

Without true devotion (Mark 12.30), to God one’s view of existence and purpose is altered. One may view their career most important and manifest typical workaholic characteristics. Another may view shopping as their goal and do anything to find time to go to the mall. And there are still other things that people choose to subject themselves to before they even consider a devoted spiritual relationship with Jehovah.

The reality is that when disciples do not place themselves in a dedicated subordinate relationship to God, the individual, the family, and the congregation will experience the problems mentioned by James. Being in a subordinate position to God means that we do as He has commanded (Matthew 7.21-23) as well as denying the ego, dealing with your own situations, and following the example of Christ (Mark 8.34).

This spiritual subordination to God does not provide miraculous alterations to the challenges of life, but it does give an individual focus, purpose, identity and destiny. When an individual chooses to place themselves under God’s authority, they have chosen the most kind, tolerant, patient, and merciful authoritative figure. By His very character, if we submit to His authority, He will allow our lives to be abundant and joyful.