Do Ministers Have Rule Over Us?

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Hi T____,

Thank you for your question concerning Heb 13:7 and 17. This question offers me the opportunity to deal with a false doctrine which has afflicted the lives of all of the saints of God for over two millennium.

You say:

The first thing I want to do is to commend the teachable attitude you express with your words here. Look at the contrast between a teachable attitude, which is greatly commended by our Lord, with an envious, presumptuous and unteachable attitude which is one of the most offensive of spirits, one which is dealt with and is destroyed by our Lord.

Num 12:1 And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.
Num 12:2 And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.
Num 12:3 (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)
Num 12:9 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed.
Num 12:10 And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.

Just weeks later Korah and all the famous leaders of Israel repeat this same mistake, operating in the same covetous and jealous spirit against those who have “become as a little child” and are the real meek of the earth.

Num 16:1 Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took [men]:
Num 16:2 And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown:
Num 16:3 And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?

No man of God “lifts himself up above the congregation of the Lord”, but as this story proves, they will always be accused of doing so, by those who think “the whole congregation is holy, every one of them”. Korah and company brag that they would never call anyone ‘weak in the faith’, or a ‘spiritual fornicator’, or a “heretic”. “All the congregation is holy, every one of them” is their mantra. But “weak in the faith… fornicators… and heretics” are Biblical terms describing the “leaven of the Pharisees”, which must be among us, and within the body of Christ, so that “they that are approved among us may be made manifest”.

1Co 11:19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

This envious, rebellious spirit is in the flesh of us all, but contrast this spirit with the spirit which our Lord admonishes us to receive.

Mat 18:2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
Mat 18:3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Christ is not encouraging naivety or immaturity. His point is that we must stay “humble” and teachable, not envious of others who have endured more than we have endured and who have been given more for the moment than we have been given, as did Miriam and Aaron, and just days later, Korah and company. “These things happened to them and they are written for our admonition” (1Co 10:11).

With this all in mind, let’s take an analytical look at these verses you reference, and see what the holy spirit is really teaching us concerning the Biblical place and function of elders in the body of Christ. Here is the verse you reference.

Heb 13:17 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.

This verse and verse 7 of this same chapter have been used by the leaders of both Catholic and Protestant ministers to lay a heavy burden on the back of those in their charge, and will not so much as raise a finger to relieve them of that burden.

Mat 23:4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

Heb 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

Anyone who is familiar with the Word of God will immediately want to know how these verses can possibly be made to accord with these words of our Lord:

Mat 20:25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
Mat 20:26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
Mat 20:27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
Mat 20:28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

It simply is not possible to have the rule over others, expect them to obey you, and at the same time claim to be the minister of that person. “The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion… It shall not be so among you”

So how do we make Mat 20:25-28 accord with Heb 13:7 and 17? Here is how we do that. We simply use our concordance and detect that a grievous mistranslation has taken place by paid scholars who were working for a certain King James, who believed in a doctrine known as ‘the divine right of Kings’.

It is the two words ‘obey’ and ‘rule’ in Heb 13:7 and 17 which have been mistranslated and have been used by the great harlot of Babylon to burden and enslave the unsuspecting beast and nations over which she has be granted dominion.

So let’s look at how these verses should have been translated, and when we do we will dethrone that beastly man of sin and his harlot master. We will first look at how the word ‘obey’ should have been translated. Here are all the entries in the New Testament for the Greek word translated ‘obey’ in these verses.

Total KJV Occurrences: 58
persuaded, 16
Mat_27:20, Luk_16:31, Luk_20:6, Act_13:43, Act_14:19, Act_18:4, Act_19:26, Act_21:14, Act_26:26, Rom_8:38, Rom_15:14 (2), 2Ti_1:5, 2Ti_1:12, Heb_6:9, Heb_11:13
trust, 7
Mar_10:24, 2Co_1:9, 2Co_10:7, Phi_2:24, Phi_3:4, Heb_2:13, Heb_13:18
confidence, 6
2Co_2:3, Gal_5:10, Phi_1:25, Phi_3:3, 2Th_3:4, Phm_1:21
obey, 5
Rom_2:8, Gal_3:1, Gal_5:7, Heb_13:17, Jas_3:3
believed, 3
Act_17:3-4 (2), Act_27:11, Act_28:24
confident, 3
Rom_2:19, Phi_1:6, Phi_1:14
persuade, 3
Mat_28:14 (2), 2Co_5:11, Gal_1:10
trusted, 3
Mat_27:43, Luk_11:22, Luk_18:9
obeyed, 2
Act_5:36-37 (2)
persuading, 2
Act_19:8, Act_28:23
agreed, 1
assure, 1
friend, 1
Act_12:19-20 (2)
made, 1
Act_12:20 (2)
persuadest, 1
put, 1
waxing, 1
Phi_1:13-14 (2)
yield, 1

This Greek word ‘peitho‘ is found 58 times in 55 verses, and is most commonly translated as “persuaded”. Here is the first time we see this word used in the New Testament.

Mat 27:20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

Now let’s look at Strong’s definition of this Greek word ‘peitho‘.

pi’- tho
A primary verb; to convince (by argument, true or false); by analogy to pacify or conciliate (by other fair means); reflexively or passively to assent (to evidence or authority), to rely (by inward certainty): – agree, assure, believe, have confidence, be (wax) content, make friend, obey, persuade, trust, yield.

So it is very clear in light of all of these entries of this word as it was inspired and used by the holy spirit, that the meaning of this Greek word ‘peitho’ is to convince and persuade by evidence. It should also be clear that this Greek word ‘peitho‘, has virtually nothing to do with dominion over any of our fellow laborers in Christ.

Now let’s look at the true Biblically inspired meaning of the Greek word hegeomai, translated ‘rule’ in Heb 13:17. Here are the inspired entries for this word in the New Testament:

he geomai
Total KJV Occurrences: 28
count, 7
Phi_3:8 (2), 2Th_3:15, 1Ti_6:1, Jas_1:2, 2Pe_2:13, 2Pe_3:9
chief, 3
Luk_22:26, Act_14:12, Act_15:22
counted, 3
Phi_3:7, 1Ti_1:12, Heb_10:29
rule, 3

Heb_13:7, Heb_13:17, Heb_13:24
esteem, 2
Phi_2:3, 1Th_5:13
governor, 2
Mat_2:6, Act_7:10
think, 2
Act_26:2, 2Pe_1:13
thought, 2
2Co_9:5, Phi_2:6
account, 1
esteeming, 1
judged, 1
supposed, 1

This word appears 28 times in 27 verses. In all but five of these entries this word is used in the sense of counting, accounting, judging, thinking, supposing and esteeming. The only two times it is translated ‘governor,’ it could just as well have been translated ‘leader’. Which is not to say that leaders cannot have authority, but it is to say that this word does not mean rule or authority as much as it is obviously concerned with accounting, supposing, thinking and highly esteeming our leaders in the body of Christ who look well to themselves and the flock over which they have been placed by the holy spirit.

Here is Strong’s definition of this Greek word ‘hegeomai’.

he geomai
hayg- eh’- om- ahee
Middle voice of a (presumed) strengthened form of G71; to lead, that is, command (with official authority); figuratively to deem, that is, consider: – account, (be) chief, count, esteem, governor, judge, have the rule over, suppose, think.

Of the 28 times this word appears in the New Testament, the only time it is translated as ‘rule’ is right here in Hebrews 13:7 and 17 and 24. Here is verse 24:

Heb 13:24 Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.

As we have just demonstrated this should read ‘Salute all them you highly esteem…”, not “them that have the rule over you…”

Here is a verse where this word is properly translated while speaking of the very same elders in the church, who are the subject of Hebrew 13:7, 17, and 24.

1Th 5:12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
1Th 5:13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

While it is true that we ought not “fall down at the feet of the angel who shows us these things” (Rev 19:19 and 22:8-9), it is equally true that we ought to ‘highly esteem [ those messengers] for their works sake”, and acknowledge that the Lord Himself has placed them as “overseers” in His body to help protect us from the “leaven of the Pharisees”, and the jealous, and rebellious attitude of Korah, which is constantly assaulting the body of Christ.

Act 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
Act 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
Act 20:30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Act 20:31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

You point out that the word ‘submit’ is used in verse 13, and indeed it is, but let us notice under what circumstances we are to “submit ourselves to them”.

Let’s go back to verse 7 and notice how it is that we are to ‘be persuaded of those we highly esteem’.

Heb 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.

And what is “the end of their conversation” which we are to observe and consider, if we are to highly esteem a man as an overseer and an elder within the body of Christ? It is the very next verse.

Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

“The end of their conversation” is the outcome or the product of their life, and that product is “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever”. When we see the same Jesus Christ of scripture, living His life and an elder in our midst, then we need to submit to the words of Christ which that man is living, and recognize and highly esteem him as “an overseer of the Lord’s flock” placed there by the Lord Himself.
So, do I or any other man, have any dominion at all over any of God’s flock? I will let the apostle Paul himself answer that question:

2Co 1:24 Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.

A true Biblical “overseer of the flock of God placed there by the holy spirit” is not a man who lords it over the flock.

Heb 13:17 Be persuaded by your leaders, and be deferring to them, for they are vigilant for the sake of your souls, as having to render an account, that they may be doing this with joy, and not with groaning, for this is disadvantageous for you. (CLV)

So the proper translation of the word ‘obey’ is ‘be persuaded’. He is rather “a helper of your joy” because he is living the life of “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for ever”.

I hope you find these words edifying.

Your brother in Christ,

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