Strengthening Their Hands by Magnifying the Office:
A Biblical Appeal for Obedience and Submission to Our Leaders at Cedar Ridge
Obedience is in a way the mother of all virtues. —SAINT AUGUSTINE. #
I want to draw your attention this morning to the thirteenth chapter in the book of Hebrews. We will be focusing on the seventeenth verse. God willing, we will unpack it, and hear this word from the Lord. Let us read: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” # May God give us ears to hear and the grace to receive what we will encounter. Let us pray.
Almighty Heavenly Eternal Father,
We beseech you this morning, on this, the Queen of Days, to come to us, through the preaching of your word. We ask Holy Father that you would be pleased to open the eyes of our understanding and put your Word on us this day, put it near to us, in our hearts. Let us cry out with the Prophet Jeremiah “Your Words were found and I ate them, and they became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name O Lord of Hosts. Don’t let us go from this place without your blessing. May it be that our minds receive this truth, and let the truth affect our hearts, and in turn may our hearts rejoice in you O heavenly Father. May the proclamation of your word be revered and holy to us. We ask you Father that you would be pleased to raise within this congregation a high and holy esteem for our leadership. Let us be given to obedience and submission. We pray also for our leaders. We ask that you would grant to them joy, and watchfulness as they do their job of looking out for our souls O Heavenly Father. Remind them also, that they will give an account for their work. May this be granted for Jesus Christ’s sake. And through His name we pray. Amen.
Over-arching general concept of this passage:
“Having exhorted the Hebrews to keep in mind their former rulers and adhere to their teaching, the writer now admonishes them, probably in view of a certain mutinous and separatist spirit, (10:25) encouraged by their reception of strange doctrines, to obey their present leaders, and yield themselves trustfully (hupeikete (ὑπεικετε)) to their teaching—an admonition which, as Weiss remarks, shows that these teachers held the same views as the writer. The reasonableness of this injunction is confirmed by the responsibility of the rulers and their anxious discharge of it. They watch, like wakeful shepherds (agrupnousin (ἀγρυπνουσιν)), or those who are nursing a critical case, in the interest of your souls (huper ton psuchon humon (ὑπερ τον ψυχον ὑμον)) to which they may sometimes seem to sacrifice your other interests. They do this under the constant pressure of a consciousness that they must one day render to the Chief Shepherd (v. 20) an account of the care they have taken of His sheep (hos logon apodosontes (ὁς λογον ἀποδοσοντες)). Obey them, then, that they may discharge their responsibility and perform these kindly offices for you (touto (τουτο) referring not to logon apodosontes (λογον ἀποδοσοντες) … but to agrupnousin (ἀγρυπνουσιν)) joyfully and not with groaning (stenazontes (στεναζοντες), the groaning with which one resumes a thankless task, and with which he contemplates unappreciated and even opposed work). And even for your own sakes you should make the work of your rulers easy and joyful, for otherwise it cannot profit you. Your unwillingness to listen to them means that you are out of sympathy with their teaching and that it can do you no good (alusiteles gar humin touto (ἀλυσιτελες γαρ ὑμιν τουτο)).”#
This text reveals that there are two specific groups in the local church: The leaders and those who are led.
I. The importance of authority and submission in God’s world.
A. Those who are Leaders
1. A word about Authority
The basis for all human authority is God’s authority. “God, of course, is seen as the source of all power and authority and all authority flows from him.”# Authority is therefore ultimately a reflection of God’s authority. This is not a post-fall façade designed by God to somehow rule the universe and keep things in check because God is a taskmaster. No, on the contrary, authority existed before the fall. Consider the text in Genesis, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” #
Authority extends even into eternity past, the is evident in the Godhead. “The Father has eternally had a leadership role, an authority to initiate and direct, that the Son does not have. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is subject to both the Father and Son and plays yet a different role in creation and in the work of salvation.”#
From this it is helpful to consider the institutions which have been given by the hand of God to enforce authority. There are four of them:
1. The Individual. The instrument of rule in the individual is the conscience.
2. The Home. The instrument of rule in the home is the rod.
3. The State. The instrument of rule for the state is the sword.
4. The Church. The instrument of rule for the church are the keys to the kingdom.
Every one of the aforementioned institutions has their own sphere of authority. All institutions are designed by God to behave in their own spheres of authority and are not to be eclipsed or vanquished by the others. We are concerned here with the fourth institution. The Church. Jesus spoke to Peter and said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” #
A.W. Pink suggests, “No true Christian will hesitate to acknowledge that Christ Himself is the one infallible, authoritative Legislator and Governor of His Church.”# Be mindful of the fact that Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth.
2. A word about Leadership
The right way to lead is through serving and humility. The wrong way is the way sinful people have always led, and always will lead. Notice the text in Mark 10:
35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” #
Turning our attention from the leaders for a moment, lets look at those who are led.
B. Those who are Led
1. A word about masters
2. A word about being led
II. The Two Commands for our church here at Cedar Ridge
A. The first imperative command issued from the mouth of God in this text is obedience to the leaders of this church.
B. The second imperative command issued from the mouth of God in this text is submission to the leaders of this church.
III. The Purpose of God in giving these commands is revealed through four reasons given in the text.
A. The first reason we are to follow these imperatives is because the leadership of this church carries the weight of soul watching.
B. The second reason we are to follow these imperatives is because our leaders will give an account for their work.
C. The third reason we are to follow these imperatives is because our leaders are to lead with joy.
D. The fourth reason we are to follow these imperative is because our leaders are not
IV. Conclusion and Application
(Possible Conclusion?…The book of Hebrews given to us by the very breath of God is along with the rest of God’s Word a vast ocean of precious truth. The church in our day to some degree or another has lost much of this understanding. Hebrews for instance is not an easy book to understand or make sense of, and indeed, I would argue it can easily become one of those books in which there are some things that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.# We face a day in which this precious ocean of God’s Word has been all but forgotten and it has become hard to navigate in. To be sure, there are numerous problems which have contributed to this current mess. Not the least of which has been the abdication of authority and responsibility in the various spheres of civility which God has instituted for our good. I speak primarily about the church, who has been entrusted with the keys of the kingdom. We live in a day where authority has taken the back seat. Authority is attacked because of man’s rebellion against God. We live in a day of exceedingly pernicious and obstinate rebellion. But what do the Scriptures say? “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.” This is a day in which a pseudo-freedom, a pseudo-liberty has taken over. The lie of Satan has been this, “freedom means the liberty for me to do whatever I want to do and no one has the right to tell me what to do.” And we all have believed it, some of us more than others. And it is said that our country is the bastion of freedom and liberty in the world?!! Well, I for one would argue that this land is in greater bondage now than at any other point in its history!
A second lie of the evil one has been to convince the church that prosperity and peace equals God’s blessing! The serpent has lulled the church to sleep. He has sought to convince us here in America that we are not yet under a curse. God’s curse is seen everywhere. You can’t even go to Wal-Mart without seeing it. If you don’t see it, you are either blind, or you don’t care.
What are we to make of this?
With all that said, under the current tide of rebellion and attacks from the evil one, this precious ocean still remains and certain deposits have been left for us which are not hard to understand. Maybe, standing at the side of the ocean with a cup in hand is the best place to start? )