For the sake of your own Souls, Please DO NOT ‘Obey your Pastors’

In one of our previous Discipleship Group settings, we had what I would consider a MAJOR breakthrough, a liberation of sorts.  Here’s what happened.  We were going through the Ephesians 4 giftings, and collectively considering what might be the predominant characteristics of an Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, and Pastor-Teacher.  The evening unfolded many “eye-opening” concepts for the group, but one in particular shocked me.

In the midst of our exploration of the scriptures, one raised the issue that we were “to obey our Pastors in all things.”  My first thought was “where’s that in the bible?” I challenged the person to show me where the scriptures said that.  He came back to me with Hebrews 13:17 – “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

You see, in Spanish, in all of the versions except for one, it says, “Obey your Pastors and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” After asking a few questions, I found out that this verse was being used to enslave the congregation.  It was used to exercise unwarranted control over the local body.  It was, in fact, completely effective, because they believed that this was “biblical,” and they ‘had to’ do whatever their pastor told them.  They believed it so strongly that at first they thought I might be incorrect and contradicting God’s word.  As we pushed further on this, eyes began to open, hearts were set free, and sound doctrine washed away false guilt. It was as if a tremendous weight was lifted from them.

I am still investigating why many of the translation committees for the Spanish versions of the Bible inserted the word “pastor” here.  To me, this example demonstrates clearly how a a misconception of church and a mistranslation, can snare the people of God.  I believe that “truth always sets free and error always binds,” but in this particular case, I saw the chains fall off.

I thank the Lord for opening our eyes together, for this gift of freedom, and for ‘setting captives free.’

Have you had similar experience with bad translations? I would much appreciate a short comment if you have.

This is a repost from 2012, but be sure to check out the comments below.

0 thoughts on “For the sake of your own Souls, Please DO NOT ‘Obey your Pastors’

  1. Alan Knox says:

    Yeah, this verse includes several different problems in English translations also. For example, the KJV translators rendered this as “Obey them that have the rule over you…”

    The two biggest problems is the translation “obey” and the translation “them that have the rule over you”, which is not much better than the Spanish version “pastores.”

    The word translated “obey” is also found in the very next verses: Hebrews 13:18. It is not the word that is normally translated “obey”. Instead, it is the passive form of the verb “trust,” which is typically translated as something like “be sure of” or “be entrusted to.”

    The word translated “them that have the rule over you” (or “pastores” in Spanish) is the verb for “lead” or “guide.” So, “leaders” would be a much better translations, understand this as “lead” in the sense of “guide”, not “lead” in the sense of “rule.”

    I’m assuming that the Spanish translators used the word “pastores” because everyone knows that pastors are the rulers of the church.


  2. Alan Knox says:

    … and all of that doesn’t even touch on the translation “submit to their authority”…


  3. Morgan says:

    the word translated as “leaders” is the same word from which we get “hegemony.” my question: what was the sound doctrine which came forth?

    • Alan Knox says:


      Do you think that Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 20:25-28 can help us understand what kind of “leadership” Jesus expected?


    • Miguel says:

      A couple of sound doctrines arose from our discussions. Firstly, the reminder to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

      We have spent much time as a group “dividing” the word of truth. This was a reminder to us to always search the scriptures Acts 17:11 and ask the Lord or wisdom James 1:5.

      Secondly, that what accompanies this right dividing is freedom. It was if they suddenly understood that they could go forth and be the church that God intended them to be rather than what a single controlling individual required them to do.

      The group has only begun to flesh this out, and I am sure this conversation will continue.

      Thanks for commenting

  4. Miguel says:

    Hey Alan, thanks for popping in…

    I am aware of the immense debate over this passage and the often forgotten sister passage to this one, Hebrews 13:7. Interesting that the same word for leader (hēgoumenōn) is used in both instances, but have different contextual considerations.

    My intent in this post is not to center on what a leader is, or what submission should be afforded to them, but to point out what really and actually happened to a part of the body because of a bad translation. I am not knocking those who operate pastorally or those who lead. But I am knocking those who would seek to exercise an unbiblical sort of control over others within the body because of a bad translation.

    Thanks for your comment.

  5. Alan Knox says:

    Exactly, Miguel! Leading and pastoring are important functions among the body of Christ! But, like you’ve said, those functions have been lost and have become “an unbiblical sort of control over others.”


  6. Pamela Simpson says:

    So, Miguel, is a Pastor not a “leader”? I am curious how you see the whole “pastoral authority” thing…

    • Miguel says:


      I don’t think a Pastor is a “leader” in our North American sense of the word, but I do think that one who functions pastorally (Ephesians 4:11) leads. As does anyone who leads – Romans 12:8

      Interesting that the New American Standard Bible says, “Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.” Matthew 23:10

      As Alan has stated above, “understand this as “lead” in the sense of “guide”, not “lead” in the sense of “rule.”

      So, are Pastors “ruler-leaders?” No, I don’t think so. Do they engage in the act of leading? Yes

      Hate to be cryptic, but I am hoping that others will contribute by way of comment to further clarify. I am currently writing an Ebook which deals with the Ephesians 4 giftings where the singular mention of the word “Pastor” resides.

    • Miguel says:

      Another thought: I don’t think I have ever seen an argument from scripture that was logically sound that proved that a pastor is a leader.

      I think it would be an interesting exercise to see if it could be done.

  7. Steve Tuggy says:

    One cannot properly interpret Hebrews 13:17 without first understanding Jesus’ teaching regarding authority in the church. This is what Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 20:25-28:
    “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions use their authority over them. It must not be this way among you! Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be the first among you must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
    Jesus’ teaching is unmistakable. Leaders in the church are most certainly not to use their positions or titles to exercise unbounded “authority” over others. Leaders in the church must take heed of Jesus’ teaching and be careful of avoiding even the appearance of acting otherwise.
    Instead, leaders are to come along side congregants as fellow servants and co-workers in the Gospel, serving as good examples. Paul, the apostle, said to the church in Corinth: “I do not mean that we rule over your faith, but we are workers with you for your joy because by faith you stand firm.” 2 Cor. 1:24. Peter, an apostle and elder, urged the elders, “do not lord it over those entrusted to you, but be examples to the flock.” I Peter 5:3. It is in this context that one can understand how leaders must be willing to be in a mutually submissive relationship with each other and even with non-leaders. (Ephesians 5:21).
    Paul, an apostle, emphasized that his own righteousness, positions, and accomplishments were less than nothing because his true righteousness came from Jesus Christ. Paul said he regarded his religious titles and “blameless” standing under the law as “dung – that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness – a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness.” Philippians 3:8-9. (The word translated here as “dung” was often used in Greek as a vulgar term for fecal matter. Paul used it to create a shock effect on his readers, emphasizing how worthless all those positions and accomplishments were.) A person with this perspective on his earthly titles and position would not lord his titles or position over others.
    With these clear teachings of Scripture in mind, let us examine Hebrews 13:17, in its fuller context. In Hebrews 13, the writer of the book (the author’s identity is uncertain, but we know the book is God inspired) is giving a set of final exhortations. In the course of doing so, the first mention of leaders is in Hebrews 13:7-9a, where the author writes:
    Remember your leaders, who spoke God’s message to you; reflect on the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever! Do not be carried away by all sorts of strange teachings.
    In Hebrews 13:17, he picks up the theme of leaders again and writes:
    Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work. Let them do this with joy and not with complaints, for this would be no advantage for you.
    One can readily see the author’s flow of thought. He reminds the congregants of leaders who teach God’s word, warns them of false teachers, and asks congregants to follow the Biblical teachings of the good leaders, who will give an account of their work, which is to speak God’s message.
    All this becomes even clearer when the Greek term translated as “obey” in this verse is properly understood. That Greek word, “peitho”, is a highly plastic and malleable version of the English word “obey”. “Peitho” can mean any of the following:
    • Be convinced
    • Give assent (agreement)
    • To rely on
    • Agree with
    • Be assured by
    • Believe
    • Have confidence in
    • Become content with
    • Make friends with
    • Obey
    • Be persuaded by
    • Trust
    • Yield to
    An example where the same root word is used in Scripture is in Acts 26:28, when Paul was trying to convince King Agrippa of the truth of the gospel. King Agrippa said to Paul: “In such a short time are you persuading me to become a Christian?” The term “persuading” in that verse is the same root word as “peitho” used in Hebrews 13:17. In other words, the term in Hebrews 13:17 is properly be understood to mean “allow yourself to be persuaded” by your leaders when they teach you Biblical truth.
    Scripture verses elsewhere employ a different, stronger word in the original language for the word translated “obey” in English. For example, in Acts 5:29, Peter said to the Jewish council, “We must obey God rather than people.” The word translated as “obey” in that verse is not “peitho.” It is a much stronger word for obedience, which is of course appropriate when speaking of obedience to God.
    I should also note that the Greek word translated “submit” is one not used commonly in Scripture. It is “hupeiko,” which means “to resist no longer, but to give way, yield (of combatants).” (The New Testament Greek Lexicon.) The concept is an athletic struggle followed by a yielding to the prevailing opponent. The point is that the original terms for “obey and submit” as used in Hebrews 13:17 reflected persuasion, not authoritarianism.
    Theologian W.E. Vine, in Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985) at p. 438 concluded regarding Hebrews 13:17 as follows:
    “The obedience suggested is not by submission to authority, but resulting from persuasion.”
    Jesus provides for us an example of the importance of following Biblical teaching by leaders, even if the leaders are poor examples. In Matthew 23:2, Jesus said to the crowd around him and his disciples, “The experts in the law and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. Therefore pay attention to what they tell you and do it. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach.” Here, Jesus is instructing his disciples to follow true Biblical teaching by the leaders of his day, the Pharisees. Unlike the good Christian leaders described by the writer of the book of Hebrews, however, the Pharisees did not set a good example to follow. Jesus was instructing his follows to “obey and submit” to Biblical teaching, but not to imitate the leaders. Hebrews 13:7 and 17 instruct us to follow Biblical teaching, and to imitate godly leaders, i.e., when and if their acts are indeed godly.

    The NIV Translation of Hebrews 13:17
    The NIV translation of Hebrews 13:17 is unfortunate, and an outlier. It uses the word “authority” even though that word is not found in the Greek text. This is why no other translation I am aware of – the King James Version, the American Standard Version, the Revised Standard Version, the Net Bible Version, the New American Standard Version, the New English Bible – uses the word “authority” when translating the verse. This is how the NIV translates Hebrews 13:17:
    Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
    The reason I say this translation is unfortunate, is because it makes it sound as though Hebrews 13:17 contradicts Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 20:25-28 regarding authority. As I described above, however, when properly understood Hebrews 13:17 harmonizes perfectly with Matthew 20:25-28.
    Moreover, the term “authority” has lead to a great deal of abuse by cult leaders. Cultwatch is a Christian organization committed to keeping cults from developing in churches. This is what Cultwatch says about the NIV translation:
    Hebrews 13:17 is the chestnut verse of the cults. They quote it whenever they can, and always from the NIV (New International Version) translation of the Bible because that is the only translation which has added the word “authority.”
    Please let us use great care not to fall into this trap at our church.
    I do not advocate anarchy. The Bible speaks to orderliness in the church (I Corinthians 14:40), mutual submission (Ephesians 4:21), and a proper respect for hard working and godly leaders (I Thessalonians 5:12-13). Nevertheless, Scripture also speaks strongly against leaders using their authority to demand their way, or to force non-leaders – or other leaders – into submission to their wants and demands.

  8. Al Moir says:

    I believe discipleship is a free will choice that we desire to make based on the Gospel grace we have received through Christ. Discipleship is building riches in Christ (gold, silver and precious stones) on top of the pure foundation of love and grace. It’s that “…long obedience in the same direction …” of Eugene Peterson’s book. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it very long. God is so in control.

  9. mike says:

    Yes many are enslaved even in the english speaking community where it doesn’t even say anything like that

  10. joanne says:

    This is a distinctly important concept for women, since we are asked, by the apostle, and one might even say commanded, to submit not only one unto the other, not only to the elders in our church, but also to our husbands, as unto the Lord.

    So women are intensely interested in what exactly that’s supposed to mean.

    And what seems the most right understanding is that this is about love, not power. It looks like power because we all labor under the curse, the outflow of our original power struggle with God, which itself was an outflow of Satan’s power struggle with God. Lucifer rebelled, then he enticed the woman, and the man, to rebel. Now men and women are locked in a power struggle with each other, and in just about every human institution there is.

    Jesus pushes that entire paradigm aside and models what it means to love, to trust, to be yield, to serve, to build up, to support and care for, and so on. Elders lead by modeling the same, and the church responds willingingly, with a cooperative spirit, in learning the same way of love.

    In the microcosm of marriage, men “heal” the rift caused in the first marriage by “undoing” Adam’s sin, and women respond willingly, flourishing as a secret garden to the love of their husbands. In this way marriage becomes the mystical display if Christ’s love for His church, and even, in a certain sense, a window into the heart of the trinity.

  11. E. Christian says:

    I think this sheds light on the idea that choosing what church to go to shouldn’t be taken lightly. I would like to think that the church that I go to is not just a choice I made out of music quality, teaching legitimacy, or ideal congregation demographics, but that where I am going is a place that I sincerely feel God would have me go. In which case, if I have beef with the leadership, my issue then lies not with them, but with God. I am not surprised given our consumer driven society how “church shopping” has become a recognized term. We want our churches the same way Burger King promises their burgers to be made “your way.”

    My convicting realization is that at times my actions translated into prayers communicate, “God, not Your will, but my will be done.” I can only hope that through the power that raised Jesus from the dead, that I would continue to be transformed into the Christ I am trying to follow, how he prayed to the Father, “not my will, but Yours be done.”

    • E. Christian says:

      Oh and to answer your actual question – yes. Translations can be tricky, but given the tools we have to understand the original documents, you’d think we’d find the answers. I think in the end, God is the one who reveals Scripture. Sometimes, I feel like I’m still stumped, but as Chesterton once said, God’s mysteries are more satisfying than man’s answers.

  12. Sondra Jenkins says:

    Wow! Great post, and awesome comments! I have nothing “profound” to add; but I will just sadly agree that this verse is used for manipulation and control in far too many churches. In the black Baptist community (maybe it’s all Baptists; but I’ll limit my “broad brush” generalization to what I know first-hand), the opportunity for unhealthy and unbiblical control is further reinforced by the denominational principle of the independence of each congregation. This often (not always, of course; but too often) results in the pastor exercising absolute control over what doctrine is or isn’t taught and how that doctrine is to be interpreted and/or applied, as well as control over operational issues. The mis-applied spirit of the Hebrews passage is typically mixed with related mis-application of 1 Timothy 5:18, Romans 13:17 and others.

    Of course, there are MANY pastors who are truly humble servant leaders before the Lord, who labor diligently to teach sound doctrine, and who welcome and encourage discussion and debate that arises from personal study of workmen who want to show themselves approved.

  13. Sondra Jenkins says:

    Oops! I meant Romans 13:7 in my comment! (I love RefTagger!)

  14. You made me look it up in Portuguese:

    In the most widely used traditional translation it is written:

    Obey your pastors and subject yourselves to them; because they keep watch for your souls and must give an account for them, so that they can do this with joy and not trembling, because this would not be good for you.

    Could you translate that worse if you tried?

    • Miguel says:

      I am struggling to find out the reasons of the translation committees for interpreting the passage in the way they have. Even with the mass of electronic data on the world wide web, I can find no information on this.

  15. Keith says:

    I honestly don’t see a big issue here in Heb. 13:17. The word translated leaders (pastors) is a participle that could be translated “those who rule over you/govern you/guide you etc.” So I suppose “pastors” would be to narrow as there could be other spiritual leaders in our lives other than pastors. And I think obey is a good translation of the first verb as the idea is repeated in the second verb “submit to them”. Basically the 2 verbs are synonyms. I agree that pastors and leaders in the NT church probably functioned a lot different than ours do today. Interesting too that in the main Russian translation the word is translated as “mentors/disciplers”.

    • Alan Knox says:


      The author of Hebrews uses the passive form of peitho in Hebrews 13:17. This is the verb that you said “obey” is a good translation for. The passive form of the same verb is found in Hebrews 13:18. It isn’t translated “obey.” In fact, it isn’t even used in the same sense as “obey.” This would lead me to question translating the verb as “obey” in Hebrews 13:17.

      Again, as to translation of “those who rule over you,” Matthew 20:25-28 should help us understand that no one (except Jesus) should rule others in the kingdom of God.


  16. Sara says:

    Who translated it? Wasn’t your nation catholic? wasn’t the church a political authority? just some questions for you to pursue.

    I found the same revelation about women’s role in church in the Bible. The verses forbidding women to teach have been mistranslated. The Greek is totally different.

    • Miguel says:

      Thanks for the comment Sara,

      It wasn’t one translation, but 4 out the 5 Spanish versions represented lat night. The Lockman Foundation, creators of the NASB or LBLA in Spanish was one of them. I have found the Greek to be very accurate there normally. I doubt very much that Catholicism had anything to do with the translation.

  17. Greg Gamble says:

    May I share our perspective from almost 40 yrs of being a church without going to church, being led without leaders and learning Christ by life rather than program?
    In our lifetime we’ve seen the 5 gifts to the church but it was usually hard to label someone with a title because the gifts operated out of everyday life, in response to a need or direction the Lord led us into. We did get off track for quite a while, trying to figure out who was a pastor, or prophet et al but in the end, most of us just went back to doing and leaving the talking and figuring out to those who felt a compelling need to know.
    Occasionally someone would ‘officially’ announce that someone qualified to be scripturally called one of these gifts, and the response was always the same: ‘Great, now we know he’s a bona fide Apostle…..what is going to change?’
    A few wry smiles all around and back to living life.
    When Jesus said He is the Way, He meant the Way to be and do everything, including church, family, kingdom…..heaven.
    Under the law, if you did right, you lived.
    In Christ, if you have Life you can do right.
    Everything comes out of Life, who is Christ.
    Jesus said without Him we can do nothing. Nothing includes everything.
    God knew man would try to take charge of what He gave us, so He had both Old and New Testament saints live life first, and afterward record it as scripture.
    Life is first, doing follows.
    God gave the law as a school master to lead us back to Christ, who is Life.
    Life trumps law and makes rules secondary.
    When we have lost Life, and Spirit, then we have law and rules to lead us back.
    Rule # ONE.
    Law is secondary, and temporary, leading to repentance and renewal of a Spirit led life with scripture confirming that Life.
    Rule # TWO.
    There is only one rule and that is that Christ is Life.
    Two millenniums of institutionalizing the Spiritual knowledge and understanding of the ministries, gifts, culture and Life empowered relationships have placed us back under the law and we should employ all our hearts and minds to restore Life as the glue that holds us together, and not rules.
    Brothers and sisters, Jesus told the scribes of His day that they would not find life in the scriptures, because they pointed to Him.
    Lets fall at His feet together, repent of trying to help Him fix what we broke, and trust Him to fix us in His time, His Way.
    Dont argue about Pastors and gifts, church and family, God and Satan, heaven and hell.
    Love one another, your enemies, the lost, the poor, the rich….seek Him, trust Him….and He will come and restore our land and our understanding of Him.
    Or keep trying to find something new by doing the same old thing over and over again.
    I have faith in all of us, because of the faith of Christ in us, that we will fulfill His promise to be a bride for His Son.
    blessings dear brothers and sisters.

  18. Keith says:

    Alan. The ESV, NIV, NASB, NRSV, HCSB, and most other English translations translate the word as Obey. Why? I would guess it is because it is a good translation. The word doesn’t have to be translated that way. But it is very appropriate to do so. Especially since in the same verse the second verb hypeiko emphasises clearly the idea of yielding to authority.

    • Alan Knox says:


      Yes, “obey” is within the range of meanings allowed by the passive of peitho. However, as I said earlier, I think Jesus’ statement in Matthew 20:25-28 indicates that this is not the meaning that the author of Hebrews had in mind, if he was writing in line with what Jesus was teaching. The idea of “submitting” or “yielding” works without a rule/obey relationship. This is clear from the fact that we are instructed to submit to one another. Submission is not the same as obedience.


  19. Beth S says:

    Had a long conversation with an Ecuadorian friend of ours tonight about this topic. I really appreciated all the comments here, especially the Greek info from various posters. Our friend had the same experience as you wrote about having with your group, Miguel, with his head spinning a little after we read through all of these posts. Our friend is in a large church with just one pastor (no elder board or any overseers) and is starting to see how people are beaten over the head with the Hebrews 13:17 translation any time they piss off the pastor. Yikes! As much as I admire the loyalty that Ecuadorian Christians feel toward their congregations (as opposed to the North American consumer mentality), unfortunately, that loyalty doesn’t often translate into active commitment to working out differences in community. Rather, it usually just means that they silently bear up under abusive leadership. Would a better translation of these verses make a difference? Maybe. But I also think we’re looking at systemic cultural attitudes that need a big shove from the Holy Spirit to be transformed…

    • Miguel says:

      Hello Beth,

      Thanks for commenting. Sorry for the head spinning. Curious though, do they spin counter-clockwise on your side of the Equator? Just kidding…

      You and your husband as fellow missionaries here in Ecuador have a perspective that is unique in the sense that you understand the culture in the region. While our work is “in the camp,” and yours is in the city, the latin mind-set here in Ecuador has many psychological similarities. I would be interested in what this friend of yours does next and how he develops this unfolding truth.

      Be at peace….

  20. David H says:

    An absolutely great post and the comments too!
    The concept that folks are to blindly obey is akin to idolatry in my opinion.
    Frank Viola wrote a small booklet that I think all pastors need to read entitled Straight Talk To Pastors it is a free download here
    I am re-blogging this too if you don’t mind 🙂

  21. […] via Obey your “Pastors,” and submit to their authority… Wait a minute? Where’s that in the Bible…. […]

  22. Deb says:

    Great ! It makes me wonder what other passages are either mis read or the interpretation is inaccurate causing other enslavement…..

  23. Francisdrake says:

    Excellent article. I would agree with the various comments here about the word “obey”. I don’t believe the Greek supports it. I would use “be persuaded by” as a better and balanced rendering.
    Regarding the word Pastor in Hebrews 13, many English translations put the word “leaders”  as being closer to the Greek. However the word leader has more than one meaning.
    A leader is frequently someone in command. Your boss, the president, the king, the army general, gang leader etc.
    However there is another leader. The front man in a race, the first man in space, the first man to sail single handed around the world, the man with the highest exam score. None of these have command authority, yet they are still “leaders” . This is the true context of Hebrews13 which is merely speaking about the forerunners of faith, the patriarchs, not the current church leaders.
    Therefore when it says in Heb13v7 “Remember them who have the rule over you,” I believe it should read, “be persuaded by THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE YOU.”
    Most people reading Heb13 do it in isolation, and conclude the traditional meaning of subservience and domination. To correct this, just look to the preceding chapters to understand the whole context. 
    Heb11 is a list of those we should look to. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, ………….etc.
    Heb12 starts with the great cloud of witnesses previously referred to and then points straightto Jesus. It also warns us not to follow Esau.
    If you read Hebrews 13 in the context of Heb11 and 12 it conclusively proves the meanings of verses 7 and 13 are about looking back to the forerunners of faith. It is never about obeying leaders.

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  26. wbmoore says:

    Interestingly, the same word, Hupotasso, is used for ‘submit’ and ‘be subject’ in:

    James 4:7 “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. ”

    1 Peter 2:13 “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, ”

    and 1 Peter 5:5 “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders ; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”

    In all cases, this is a voluntary submission. Its always an option, but it is the same idea whether its to God, government, or church elders. We are to submit to them – obey them (so long as they are not asking us to sin).

    Taken in context, the leadership is not supposed to be lording it over people, but are to be guiding and humble.

  27. Adam says:

    It seems someone above mentioned in great detail the only thing I was going to add. There is Scriptural support to take “leaders” as referring to elders or the head pastor. However, I’ve recently been seeing these truths abused in my own church, which has solid doctrine and solid teachers (so it’s pretty sad). “Reformed Yet Always Reforming” is one of the great reformation cries. I think biblical eldership came onto the scene in a helpful way, and, it can be established by Scripture. However, as the “always reforming” part, I think the leaders need to remember that they speak and demand only as their authority is delegated through Scripture. To demand anything outside God’s Word is to add to it and usurp the One Who you are supposed to be representing and pointing your sheep to. Can you, by wisdom and experience, suggest something that Scripture doesn’t specifically mention. Of course. But to demand is another thing.

    As the commenter above noted, Hebrews 13:17, the one verse loved by authoritarian leaders, uses two uncommon words for both “obey” and “submit.” Peitho literally means “to persuade” and hupeiko (used only this instance in Scripture, as opposed to the normal hupatasso, which means “to place under”) means to “give way to.” Literally, in the context of the book of Hebrews, and especially considering 1 Peter 5, we are to “be persuaded” by our pastors, as THEY will give an account for their ministry of the Word (our souls are not accountable to them, as many now think). They lead by example and service, and we follow their leadership and, in church matters of course, submit to their decision making.

    Pastors, even great teachers, are now creating this special dichotomy between the o-so-holy elders and the normal congregation. That’s not the biblical picture at all. They are subjecting people to obey their every word, hold their souls accountable to them, and come and go from the local congregation only as they permit. Protestants are sinking back into Roman Catholicism in this regard, creating a new priestly, psuedo-Protestant office.

    I think this needs some reforming. If leaders in your church understand eldership in this way, I would personally say, with a humble spirit and without a spirit desiring division or gossip, just run away. Seek another fellowship. Keep Christ at the forefront. There is one Teacher. One Shepherd. One Mediator. Scripture teaches this. Do we submit to elders? Absolutely. But only in so much as they honor God’s Word, imploring you, demanding from you, exhorting you, encouraging you, and disciplining you only insofar as God’s Word explicitly allows and teaches.

    Any other kind of authoritarian headship is an affront to the One to whom they report. He is our Master. Not any man. To Him our souls are accountable.

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