the weblog of Alan Knox

Is submitting the same as being subjected?

Posted by on Feb 7, 2010 in blog links, elders, office | 4 comments

Matthew recently provided his full PhD dissertation on his website. The title of his dissertation is “The Authority of Church Elders in the New Testament.” I’m still reading through the dissertation, hoping to better understand Matthew’s position on elders and authority. But, I came across this very exciting conclusion from Hebrews 13:17:

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. (Hebrews 13:17 ESV)

(By the way, Matthew also thinks that “Follow” is a better translation than “Obey.”)

Matthew says:

That the recipients of this letter were to choose to follow their leaders with understanding and conviction, having been persuaded, is confirmed by the exhortation itself. The author did not urge the leaders to bring the congregation into submission, which would imply they had some power to do so. These instructions were given to the congregation; they had the freedom and responsibility to follow their leaders. The author provided several reasons to persuade them to follow their leaders. (157-58)

Yes! Exactly! There is no passage of Scripture in which leaders are told to exercise authority over others. None. Every passage that is usually used to teach elders and other leaders to “exercise authority” are actually directed toward others in order to encourage them to respect or give honor to or submit to their leaders. (see also 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 and 1 Timothy 5:17)

In other words, submitting is not the same as being subjected. We are to offer our respect and follow our leaders. Leaders are never to exert authority or force others into submission.


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  1. 2-7-2010

    Is access to Matthew’s links limited? I cannot access them.

    What should we do about those who are placed as leaders who don’t deserve to be leaders who lead people astray or into heresy? Should we follow like pathetic sheep to the slaughter?

  2. 2-7-2010


    The links are still working for me. I don’t know what the problem might be.

    I believe we should only follow those (submit to those) who are serving others and who are teaching according to the gospel. That does not mean that we do everything they say. Of course, if someone starts telling people what they should do (things not in Scripture, that is), then I would be very concerned about following people like that.


  3. 2-7-2010

    Tried again. It must be restricted access. Too bad. I would like to read it.

  4. 2-8-2010

    Ditto for husbands