What is Christian Accountability & Is a Christian Accountable to Church Leadership?
The Christian life is a life of submission and obedience to the Lord Jesus.
This post will address the second word in our word matrix.
The central word of the gospel when it comes to the claims of Christ. In a very real sense, Christian accountability is ultimately to Christ, and is the bedrock of all Christian accountability. But the issue is whether this accountability is transferred to church leaders, and if so, what does it look like?
Lets review the passage and then discuss.
When this question arises, ie. “Is a Christian accountable to Church Leaders?” invariably the passage in Hebrews 13 is referred to. Therefore, as a starting point, lets consider the passage.
7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.
12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.
13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
16 But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
I have emboldened the verse under consideration. The following posts will address Hebrews 13:17, and a considered review of critical words the apostle uses in exhorting the believers he is writing to.
Following is a matrix of words that need to be considered in understanding the teaching of Hebrews 13, especially verse 17. (See end of study for Strong’s full definitions.)
The Greek term hegeomai is found in 27 verses in the New Testament,
Of the three occurrences of the term hegomai used in the New Testament translated as “have the rule over”, all three are in this chapter!
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.
Of the two occurrences of the term hegomai used in the New Testament translated as “be governor”, one is referring to a political office, and one is referring to a governor of a ship
And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.
It is interesting that the governor of the ship is small, unseen (underwater!) and in the back of the boat – but I don’t want to make too much of that!
One instance, where the term “hegeomai” is used in the New Testament, when associated with biblical church leadership is found in 1 Thess 5:13, where Paul connects “hegeomai” with love, and due to the leaders works sake.
And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
Although the same term (hegomai) is used in the New Testament for political “rulers” and church “rulers”, it is evident that two points need to be clarified.
“Ruler”, when used in reference to church life may not be an accurate translation, given the alternative ways this Greek word could be translated, and the freaky way it is translated only in this set of verses. Remember – it is only translated “rule” in Hebrews 13 of the New Testament
Jesus Himself delineated a difference between the two types of leadership in Luke 22:25 (also Mark 10:43)
And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth?is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.
Mark 10:42 – 45
But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
It is interesting also, that the term used to describe exercising lordship over a people, used by the Lord in verse 25, is kurieuo. (See below for definition of greek word.) And it is very interesting that Paul uses the very same term in 2 Cor 1:24, in relation to how believers are to relate to apostolic authority.
Many in the church seem to read this verse like this.
2 Corinthians 1:24 …we have dominion over your faith …
But is that what the apostle said?
2 Corinthians 1:24
Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.
Notice that Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, uses this term in 2 Corinthians 1:24.
Now if any human had “dominion” (rulership?) over a group of Christians, I would imagine that all would agree that Paul did. But he denies any type of dominion over these believers. How crazy is that – Has he not heard how important it is for believers to be accountable to a leader? Something is definitely wrong here Paul!
Again, it is interesting that Paul seemed to have a bit of a problem with enforcing an authoritarian stance over his disciples (maybe cause they weren’t his disciples, they were His disciples)
1 Corinthians 16:12
As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time.
Notice that the great apostle Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, who talked directly to the Lord Jesus and was commissioned to bring in the gentile harvest, “greatly desired” Apollos to go with the brethren to the Corinthians, but Apollos didn’t want to.
What type of submission is that – Surely Paul reamed him out for not doing as he said. Maybe I will go study that passage out, and look for where Paul “bit his head off”
When I find it, I will let you know!
End Notes – Strongs Definitions
G3982 πείθω peithō pi’-tho
A primary verb; to convince (by argument, true or false); by analogy to pacify or conciliate (by other fair means); reflexively or passively to assent (to evidence or authority), to rely (by inward certainty): – agree, assure, believe, have confidence, be (wax) content, make friend, obey, persuade, trust, yield.
G2233 ἡγέομαι hēgeomai hayg-eh’-om-ahee
Middle voice of a (presumed) strengthened form of G71; to lead, that is, command (with official authority); figuratively to deem, that is, consider: – account, (be) chief, count, esteem, governor, judge, have the rule over, suppose, think.
G5226 ὑπείκω hupeikō hoop-i’-ko
From G5259 and εἴκω eikō (to yield, be “weak”); to surrender: – submit self.
G69 ἀγρυπνέω agrupneō ag-roop-neh’-o
Ultimately from G1 (as negative particle) and G5258; to be sleepless, that is, keep awake: – watch.
G3056 λόγος logos log’-os
From G3004; something said (including the thought); by implication a topic (subject of discourse), also reasoning (the mental faculty) or motive; by extension a computation; specifically (with the article in John) the Divine Expression (that is, Christ): – account, cause, communication, X concerning, doctrine, fame, X have to do, intent, matter, mouth, preaching, question, reason, + reckon, remove, say (-ing), shew, X speaker, speech, talk, thing, + none of these things move me, tidings, treatise, utterance, word, work.