Authority For Believers

When it comes to authority in the Church you first need to consider who has the authority.

For example Heb 13:17 is often used to justify obedience to leadership granting them authority over believers. So what does the Greek tell us about it.

The word supposedly translated as “obey” in Hebrews 13:17 is in fact not the normal Greek word (hupa…kouo) that’s usually employed in the N.T. for obedience. Rather, it’s the word peitho. Importantly the word Peitho means to persuade or to win over. Furthermore in Hebrews 13:17 this word appears in the middle-passive form (ie it expresses the action of persuasion), so the text ought to be translated “Allow yourselves to be persuaded by your leaders.”

So how does this help us in our daily choices and decision making re obedience and church membership. In essence this text appears to be an exhortation for us to give weight to the instruction of local overseers (and possibly apostolic workers). It’s not an exhortation to obey them mindlessly. It implies influential power to convince and to win us over rather than to coerce, force, or browbeat into submission. In the words of the Greek scholar W. E. Vine, “The obedience suggested [in Hebrews 13:17] is not by submission to authority, but resulting from persuasion.” It makes a very big difference to your role in the ecclesia.

The second part deals with submission. In this case the verb translated as “submit” is traced back to the Greek word hupe…iko………. Hupe…iko in fact carries the idea of yielding, retiring, or withdrawing, ie like surrendering after battle (ie the battle to be persuaded or not).

Thus those who occupy themselves with spiritual oversight must not demand submission at all. It’s the believer’s job to decide whether to follow if they see a leader’s wisdom and spiritual maturity. If this is apparent then they are to be accorded with respect. In its out working Christians are encouraged to be uncommonly biased toward what a leader does and says if they reflect Christ. It’s Not because of an external office they hold, but because of their godly character, spiritual stature, and sacrificial service to the people .

The words of Hebrews 13:7 echo a very powerful and important thread which supports the Greek translation which has just been described. ie believers are to “imitate a leader’s faith” as they “consider the outcome of their life”…. but the condition is this….only if you have been persuaded.

So in my view we follow Christ and submit to His authority because he loves us and sacraficed himself for us. No human has that Authority, however this position has been over shadowed by institutional change from the established church over 2000 years.


Authority for Believers – Soulcare Ministries

Christian Authority – Done With Religion

Who Gets To Say What Is Right Or Wrong? – What God May Really Be Like

A Surprising Source of Spiritual Authority – Glenn Hager

Is it the Bible or Jesus that is authoritative for Christians? ANSWER: Yes – Jeremy Myers

Surrendering Our Authority To Jesus – K. W. Lesley

Under Who’s Authority – Layman Seeker

authority? – Metler

The Age of the Spirit – Liz Dyer

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