Hebrewsby Robert M. Solomon
While Hebrews 13:7-8 deals with past leaders, this passage deals with those who were still serving. What should be the attitude of believers towards their spiritual leaders in church? Here the author urges, ″Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority″ (Hebrews 13:17). This is not a prescription for abuse of power and authority in the church (see Mark 10:42-43; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Peter 5:3; 3 John 9-10). The style of leadership that Jesus prescribes is servant leadership. Jesus, ″knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands″ (John 13:3 ESV), began to wash His disciples' feet with those hands. Authority is to be used for service. Note that this authority is not native, but conferred on them by the Lord. That is why in such relationships we are to submit ″as [we] do to the Lord″ (see Ephesians 5:22; 6:1, 5). By disobeying authorities placed over us, we are actually disobeying and dishonouring God, to whom they (and we) ″must give an account″ (Hebrews 13:17). Such submission and obedience does not come easy in a modern culture which celebrates independence and equality and the authority of the self, more than other authorities.
Respecting our God-appointed spiritual leaders not only honours God, but also makes the work of the leaders a joy instead of being a painful burden (Hebrews 13:17). The author points out that disobedience would not be of any help to the church. It is proper to respect and submit to godly leaders who serve God with a clear conscience, and who ″desire to live honourably in every way″ (v. 18). It is neither fair nor proper to make the lives of such leaders difficult by a rebellious spirit, the way the Israelites made it difficult for Moses (Exodus 5:20-22; 16:2; 17:2; Numbers 14:1-4; 20:3).
Instead of causing unnecessary difficulties for our spiritual leaders, we are called to keep praying for them (Hebrews 13:18).56 The writer asks for prayer for himself (v. 19). A similar request was made by Paul (Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1). It is important to pray for our leaders because in their work for the Lord, they often encounter intense spiritual struggle as they face opposition from Satan, the unbelieving world, and the self (see Romans 15:30). Our prayers make a significant difference in their lives.
56Morris, ″Hebrews″, 153.
How should one obey and submit to spiritual leaders? How can we avoid both the extremes of blind obedience and refusal to submit to spiritual leaders? Assess your own attitudes and actions in this light.
Make a list of spiritual leaders in your life. What can you pray for them? Do you think it would help them to know that you are praying for them?