Hebrews 13:7, 17
Concerning Your Leaders
I hope my readers will not be too offended if I avail myself the liberty of lifting a couple of verses out of the text to consider on their own. Verses seven and seventeen act as bookends to a long passage that would be too lengthy for one devotion; moreover, since they concern the same subject, I thought I would take them separately.
And that subject concerns the leadership of the church. The Preacher uses the word, “leaders,” for those who speak the word of God, rather than, “bishop,” “elder,” “pastor,” or “overseer,” any one of which being the preferred term in the New Testament for those men who exercise headship over a particular local church. He first exhorts the Hebrews to “consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Apparently, these were pastors who had led holy lives consecrated to the Lord in every way; they were worthy of emulation. Perhaps they had given themselves in martyrdom or lost everything for the sake of Christ. And please note the connection between what these men said and what they did; that is, they were preachers and teachers of the word who put that word to the test in their own lives. To sum, they were walking sermons. Needless to say, this is precisely what a pastor or elder is required to be. Nothing a pastor does will ever come before preaching the word in all its purity except living that word in all its power.
Verse seventeen provides instruction often dismissed in Baptist and similar “free churches,” which is the exhortation to obey and submit to such men. Why? Because they keep watch over your souls for which they have to render account one day. And it is incumbent upon the brethren that they make this easy for their leaders that it may be a joyous task for them. This is an area in which two factors have corrupted our thinking: 1) That since ultimate authority in a congregational church rests with the congregation, then the pastor is to obey the congregation or deacons; and, 2) The business model in which a “board of directors” evaluates the pastor based upon results, which means increasing members and revenue. Granted, a pastor who is not doctrinally sound or living a godly life is to be removed, and he certainly should give way before those more knowledgeable than himself in, say, building design or handling money. But to the extent he (or they) are preaching the unadulterated word of God and striving to live holy lives, they are owed both deference and submission, for as the Preacher says, that is best for both them, the hearers, AND the unity of the church.