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17 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.


17 Obey those who rule over you,

The word “obey” means persuaded. Christians should be persuaded by their leaders. The issue here is not blind obedience to leaders but their keeping order in the church. A church without order is a church in chaos.

and be submissive [yield],

“Submissive” means to yield to authority. This is a stronger word and more specific than “obey” in the previous clause. The idea is to not produce a contrary opinion to authority. A church cannot go in the direction of every member of the church.


“For” gives the reason for obeying and submitting to leadership.

they [those who rule] watch out for [on behalf of] your souls,

The reason to obey and submit to leaders is that they care for the souls of their congregations. The spiritual wellbeing of the congregation is paramount.

as those who must give account.

Leaders must “give account” for the people they lead. They will “give account” at the Judgment Seat of Christ for believers (Ro 14:10–12).

Let them do so with joy

Leaders experience “joy” when their followers respond positively to their leadership. Some churches are a crown of rejoicing to their pastors. This is a command to the congregation.

and not with grief,

Leaders grieve over their followers’ rebellion.


Another reason for submission to leadership is that obedience to them is profitable for the followers of their leaders.

that [grief] would be unprofitable for you.

 Rebellion against leadership is disruptive to the wellbeing of the congregation.


Leadership is crucial for the New Testament congregation.


There is no evidence for congregation-led churches in the New Testament. Absolute democracy in local church government is foreign to the Bible. Biblically, the congregation does not lead itself but submits to its leaders (1 Th 5:12–13; 1 Pe 5:2–3). Leaders of the church do have accountability; they give account to God.

A church that is in constant rebellion against its leadership will stunt the growth of its members and blunt the growth of the church. The entire book of Philippians argues for unity in the church. Euodia and Syntyche were outstanding leaders in the body of the congregation, but they allowed personal animosity to hurt and disrupt their church (Php 4:1ff).