Leadership of God’s people through the church is not for everyone. Those who had been honored with recognition as leaders of a congregation were to be remembered and their teachings followed: “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (Heb 13:7).
Leaders are selected with great scrutiny (1 Tim 3:1–-7), and their priorities are clear: equip believers for the ministry (Eph 4:12) and teach the flock, helping them be obedient (1 Pet 5:2). Leaders are to preach, reprove, rebuke, exhort, and teach doctrine and obedience (2 Tim 4:2).
However, their primary authority does not come from their position, because they are not allowed to “lord it over” their congregation (1 Pet 5:3). It is given to them because of their example.
To fulfill the purpose of the church cooperation is imperative: “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thes 5:12–-13).
Hebrews 13:17 begins with the command to “be continually obeying your leaders” (Gk. “be persuaded to do something”)—-that is, as leaders teach the biblical principles, followers are to be persuaded or to yield to what is taught.
Likewise, the plural command indicates that the church is to “be continually being submissive” (Gk. hupeiko, “to yield to someone’s authority or to resist no longer”); thus the leaders can “teach to obey” (Matt 28:20) to a submissive, obedient church eager to practice the Scriptures.
Leaders must “keep watch over your souls” because they “must give account” to God, who will reward them for fulfilling their responsibility (1 Pet 5:4) of keeping Christ’s church true to His word. Every gathering of the church should teach us how to be more obedient.
“Sometimes my leaders are hard to follow, but I trust You to have placed them in my life, so I will learn submission to them as if it were to You.”