Bible Study ~ Hebrews 13:17 ~ Obedience

Preamble: Please don’t misunderstand the following conclusions I have made…I do not wish to suggest that anyone should never heed the advice of a pastor. A pastor should expect that some people might want help with making certain decisions. My purpose here is to prove that a Pastor should not be the final judge of all of your decisions nor are they in any position to dictate how you behave outside of the church building or apart from the institution known as the church. The Holy Spirit is your guide for your behaviour apart from the church building.

There is a teaching in the emerging church that says you must submit yourself under the authority of the pastor of the church. And it goes further…you must be in submission to and under the authority of the elders and/or deacons in the church as well…even if you think they are in error! I believe this teaching is arrived at by a misinterpretation of the first part of Hebrews 13:17 taken out of context with the second part of it. I have broken the verse into parts (a) & (b) for the purposes of this study.

Hebrews 13:17 states: (a) Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: (b) for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. KJV

Okay, let’s go to the original language…Source: e-Sword

  • The Greek word peitho is translated as “obey” and it means: to be persuaded, heed, listen to.
  • The Greek word hēgeomai  is translated as “them that rule over” and it means: in reference to a governor, judge, political leader, lawman etc…
  • The Greek word hupeikō  is translated as “submit” and it means: to submit! Give oneself over to, surrender

So there you have it! Listen to your political leaders, law-makers/keepers and judges; surrender to their urgencies to do what they say! It doesn’t say, “obey your pastor” unless you consider your pastor to be a judge of you and a law-maker for your life. Now, to the end of the verse…the (b) section. After the colon, the verse goes on to tell you WHY you should obey your rulers. You do it because they are accountable to God for you! By their acceptance of being an authority over you as your teacher and/or ruler, they are responsible to God for you. That’s a heavy burden that many do not recognise when they set themselves up to be a judge of others.

So, Hebrews 13:17 does not, in my estimation, translate to mean that you must live in blind obedience to a pastor although the (b) section of the verse does lean toward the idea that you may choose to heed a pastors’ words of advice or even submit to his or her authority if you have agreement with the pastor that he or she will be one of your teachers/rulers. You might choose to enter into a relationship like this because of the Godly example the pastor has shown through their conduct in life and the good fruit you can see because of it.

You may be asking yourself now, “Just exactly who IS ‘one who rules’ over me?”

Well, there are some guidelines in the word of God that indicate authority that is automatic. You will find scripture that shows men should submit to God, women should submit to their husbands and all people should submit to the laws made by governing authorities such as police, judges and political leaders. Also, IN THE LOCAL CHURCH, elders are charged to govern and direct the affairs of the church so they must be obeyed in areas that concern the running of the institution. In cases where elders are also gifted with the ability to pastor, parishioners would submit to the authority of the pastor with regards to the operation of the institution and conduct within it…but neither pastors or elders are ever automatically judges over any parishoner’s conduct outside the institution of the church.

It’s common sense really…Come, let us reason together! Many Christians today are accused of being rebellious, “causing division” or “living in sin” if they’re not part of some religious institution, and not under some pastor’s authority. It seems many have bought into a sort of Nicolaitan doctrine on Hebrews 13:17 and many other misunderstood passages that continue this doctrine. This is not pleasing to God. If you do not attend a church building, you are not in sin. If you fellowship with two or three, God is there among you. In order to worship or fellowship you do not need a pastor to be there officiating it to bring some kind of order. Order comes from the word of God and obedience to it.

I fellowship with a couple of great pastors and I appreciate their guidance in my life They lead lives that are worthy of me following their examples. They are biblical elders, and I respect that. I don’t do everything they say just because they say it. They lead biblical lives and are, by example elders so I allow them to persuade me as long as they are walking with Christ.

Many in the modern day church (usually pastors who have not actually studied biblical doctrine and/or theology) insist that blind obedience to a pastor is required but scripture (at least Hebrews 13:17) does NOT support this idea.


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3 Responses to “Bible Study ~ Hebrews 13:17 ~ Obedience”

  1. landsway Says:

    Amen! This is one of the many false teachings prevelant in the church today. We are told that there is ONE mediator between God and man- the Man Jesus Christ. While hopefully a pastor will be one who deserves respect and leads by the example of his godly life, that does not have to be true. If people will read the Bible for themselves and talk to God, they will be led by the Holy Spirit into all truth. Thank you for this lesson.

    • insightswithbillyvee Says:

      You’re very welcome. It wasn’t meant to be a teaching so much as a commentary…but that’s fine. I keep getting emails saying this comment is awaiting approval…I click on the link in the email and it takes me to this page but there does not seem to be an “approve” button to click. I’m brand new here at wordpress so I’m still learning. ANyway, thank you for your comment!

  2. Says:

    This amazing blog, “Bible Study ~ Hebrews 13:17 ~ Obedience Insights
    With Billy Vee” demonstrates that u actually understand what you are speaking about!

    I personally totally agree with your post. Thank you -Onita

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