“And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you…“
and are over you
The second quality of a leader that the congregation is to respect is the ability to lead. The words “are over” mean to preside, rule. Literally, they mean to stand before, hence to lead, direct. The Greek word occurs eight times in the New Testament (Romans 12:8; 1 Timothy 3:4 [twice], 5,12; 5:17; Titus 3:8, 14). Church members have a responsibility to their spiritual leaders (Hebrews 13:17).
“…he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:8)
“…one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)…” (1 Timothy 3:4-5).
“Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17).
God sovereignly designed the church so that it has hierarchical leadership. Most Christians think that they have no human spiritual authority over them. The Bible clearly teaches that every believer is a priest equally with every other believer. Every Christian has equal access to God and stands perfect before God because of the work of Christ. That is one thing. However, the issue of leadership in the local church is another. God does not lead everyone into the leadership of the local church. God endows certain people with leadership gifts to direct large groups of believers in doing the work of God. Those who have these gifts have commensurate authority to exercise those gifts.
in the Lord
This qualifying prepositional phrase is important in this discussion. Leadership of the local church does not extend beyond the local church. Some church leaders invade every aspect of their people’s lives. National, state, and city officials have authority over our function within society. The pastor has authority within the local church.
Leaders “in the Lord” come from the Lord. God appoints these leaders to lead. The church is to deem them as His leaders.
Congregations are to recognize the authority of their leadership in the local church.
There has never been a church anywhere that amounted to anything where there was little leadership. A congregation that runs over leadership will never amount to much. Everyone in that church suffers from a lack of leadership.
There is no such thing as a perfect church. We must respect leadership even if leadership lacks direction.
“Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (Hebrews 13:7).
“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
“Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you” (Hebrews 13:24).
Many Christians have the attitude, “I will not submit to any human authority. I will not stand for it.” This is an issue of pride. Eventually, these people make a mess of their lives. They will not take advice from anyone.
The Bible does not present the doctrine of the infallible pastor. Nor does the Bible set forth the idea of an infallible church. Both pastor and church can fall into error. But we believe in an infallible Bible.