Since we are established and rooted in our freedom in Christ, then let us continue in sober thinking and due diligence. Let’s not approach scriptures from fear, but like Berean’s, search out the full measure of words while also relying on our Supreme counselor, the Holy Spirit.
Our freedom seems to be assaulted on every corner to come under doctrines of men, or to follow man in some form or another. There’s a difference between serving our fellow brother and sister in Christ and allowing transparency by a life open for examination versus obeying someone just because they carry the label “pastor” or “elder”.
Many in the church today have become jaded by the abuse of positions that have been lorded over them.
Many are leaving because they see Pharisees operating the pulpits using scriptures as their weapons to subdue their people in continuing to follow them without question, or at least, with little resistance.
We must examine and discern for ourselves, who we should esteem or regard according to the precepts of Christ and His work on the cross, even more importantly, His work in tearing down the Temple curtain so all may enter in.
So let’s begin with this difficult passage in Hebrews. I’ve highlighted the words we’ll be discussing. Again, lets approach this scripture with seriousness and a mind ready to review the full measure of these words.
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: 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.” Hebrews 13:17 NKJ
We’ll get to the root of these words. But if a church or leader covets your following for the sake of numbers or for some other reason other than giving you back to Jesus, they won’t appreciate the Greek translations.
First off, the author of Hebrews painstakingly laid out in the previous 12 chapters how the Old Covenant was all a shadowing, a prophetic telling, of the New Covenant made through Jesus.
For twelve chapters, Hebrews establishes, the new Priesthood, in Jesus, by His one and final sacrifice. And as our High Priest, Jesus, took away the old to give us this new order in Him.
“He takes away the first that He may establish the second.” Hebrews 10:9 NLT
“But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time.” Hebrews 10:12 NLT
Secondly, since we have confidence in our High Priest, Jesus, and our faith firmly established there in Him, we can go on to say:
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him….Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise” Hebrews 10:19-23NLT
Thirdly, this letter was written to the Hebrew people who were ruled by the law and by ritual sacrifices. They were devoutly religious and adhered to the Old Covenant ways. And for that reason, the author was showing them how the Old Testament prophesied what Jesus did on the cross and through His resurrection.
Their temple sacrifices and the blood of the lamb gave people a yearly remission of sins, but through Christ’s sacrifice this was done away with once and for all. Faith was established as the way to receive this sacrifice by Jesus in Chapter 10-12 of Hebrews.
If the author of Hebrews took such pains explaining the foreshadowing of this new liberty in Christ, why would he undue all of it in one or two verses?
But clearly those scriptures are there.
Hebrew’s lengthy dialogue on Jesus being the High Priest means we need to look closer by tracing some critical words from Hebrews 13:17 back to their Greek roots.
If we used the Greek definitions of: “obey”, “those who rule over you” and “submit” then Hebrews 13:17 would read like this:
“Being persuaded by what is trustworthy by those you esteem and have high regard for, yield yourselves: for they watch over your soul…”
This is not only more in line with the context of Hebrews, but also the New Testament in general. Let’s look at the root of these words from their Greek origins.
“Obey” in Heb 13:17 is from the greek word peitho Strong’s Greek #3982 meaning to persuade, urge. Also peitho is the root of #4102 /pistis, “faith” which means be persuaded by what is trustworthy.
In most all the occurrence of peitho, “obey” was not used. In the King James Version, “Persuaded”, “trust”, “agreed”, or “friend” was used and not obey (Mat 27:20, 27:43, 28:14; Mark 10:24; Luke 11:22, 16:1, 18:9, 20:6; Acts 5:40,12:20, 13:43, 14:19, 18:4, 19:26, 21:14, 26:28, 27:11, 28:23). Also, according to Strong’s Concordance it means: “to persuade, to convince (by argument, true or false), to assent, agree, assure, have confidence.
Being persuaded by what is trustworthy not only makes sense, it also was the way Jesus operated. He did not demand His followers to obey, but to be persuaded by what is trustworthy. He persuaded us through wisdom, signs and wonders.
So Jesus, Himself, didn’t demand obedience just because He was a great speaker or the “leader”. But He did say if you love Me, you will do what I say. Essentially, if you have a loving relationship with Me, you will obey. It’s based on trust because He is trustworthy. We follow Jesus, because He convinced us that what He said is true. We assented and agreed with His Testimony.
Jesus persuaded us by His trustworthiness and sacrifice (that is death to Himself), only then, did we follow Him or were able to do what He says.
And what trustworthiness must someone persuade us by? Christ and Him crucified and risen. We are persuaded by trustworthiness when someone exhibits their crucified flesh by the power of His Holy Spirit to operate and lead by example and that example is: die to themselves, die to their egos, to their flesh, to their ambitions, to their human knowledge, to their following so that others may follow Christ, only. The way they lead, is by dying first.
Do you see the huge chasm between this and “obey”? You should be persuaded by what is trustworthy, not obey because I hold some position labeled, ”elder” or “pastor”. This isn’t “obey man”, this is: ”man must prove his trustworthiness to Christ”.
So let’s look at “those who rule over you” or “leader” in other versions: it’s from the Greek, hegeomai Strong’s #2233 meaning “to esteem (regard highly), think or am of the opinion, to suppose or consider, deserves cooperation by those who are led, coming first such as “leading thought”.
In other words, if we are persuaded by their trustworthiness, we will have an an opinion of them, one of regard and esteem. Once we are persuaded by that trust, do we come in agreement with them. Only then, do they deserve our cooperation. Once they proven their trustworthiness to Christ, only then, do we follow their thoughts on anything else.
We must be sober!
There will be men who draw men unto themselves instead of to Jesus. Scripture doesn’t say there might be, or just in case, or what if they come, but that there WILL be wolves among us dressed in sheep’s clothing.
In other words, they will look like Christians, they might smell like Christians, they might seem Christian, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves appearing godly to those in His flock.
They desire men to follow them, not the High Priest.
And lastly, “submit” is from hupo and eiko which is “to yield”, to retire, withdraw, or submit.
If you expand this scripture by tracing it back to the root, they have a completely different meaning. One that is more in line with the context of Jesus’ teachings and His work on the cross. This makes more sense in contrast with the context of the entire New Testament and especially the purpose of the Hebrew letter, itself.
Jesus is our High Priest, one good for all time. We need no other priest or man to intercede for us. Christ tore the curtain so that ALL may enter in through Him. Let us not waver in our hope, but place it firmly in Christ and hold tightly to that hope.
- With The Rising Of The Hebrew Roots Teachings, And Mankind’s Nature To Find Comfort In Confining Law’s And Codes, We Need To Take A Look At What the Bible Says. (whythechurchleftjesus.wordpress.com)
- Why Jesus Came To Die: Reason #26 (sandhillsonline.org)