About Jesus  - Steve Sweetman

Home Page    

Obeying Church Leaders, Yes Or No?


Heb. 13:17 says, "obey your leaders and submit to their authority..."  What does that mean?

First of all the Greek word that is translated as "leaders" (note "leaders" is in the plural form as it always is in the N.T.) is a "participle.  A participle is half noun and half verb.  The English word "leaders" is a noun - no hint of a verb. 

So this verse can easily be translated, and should be translated,  "obey the ones leading..."   This puts the emphasis on the actual job of "leading", not the "office of a leaders".  Just because someone holds the office of a leader does not mean he is leading properly according to Scripture.

Thus my point, because the word "leaders", should be "the ones leading", places the emphasis on the actual job of leading, not the office of a leader.  If then one who holds the office and is not performing the task as described in Scripture, "then this person should not be obeyed".  We only obey the ones who are "actually leading".   

A similar point can be made with 1 Tim. 3:1 where the KJV says, "if a man desires the office of a bishop, he desires a good thing".  The word "office" is nowhere to be found in the original Greek manuscript.  The King James writers by using the words "office of a bishop" are placing the emphasis on the "office", not the task, or job.  This is a wrong emphasis. 

The NIV says, "If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task".  Note the NIV translators put the emphasis on the actual "task" or work, not the office.  This is how it should be.

 New Testament thinking always puts the emphasis on actually doing things, or being someone, not holding an office or having a title.  We are not merely called Christians, we live as Christians.  We are not merely called elders, we do the work of an elder.  We do not claim to merely have the Holy Spirit, but we allow Him to work through us, and so on.  

The church over the years has moved from being verb centered to noun centered.  Instead of doing the job of an elder, we hold the office of an elder. (a switch from verb to noun)  The same with the "Baptism in the Holy Spirit".  New Testament thinking asks, "have you been baptized in the Spirit (action words - verb), we ask, "have you receive the baptism in the Spirit (an experience called the baptism... -  noun type words) There are many examples how we have moved from doing and being to simply holding offices and titles.  

We obey the ones (not one, but ones) who are actually leading according to Scripture and if their leading differs from Scripture, we don't obey.  

Home Page