Derek Prince - 5 Marks of The Kind of Leader We Should Submit To
We'll go on now in natural order to verse 17. I'll translate it first. Obey your leaders [or those who lead you], and yield [or submit]; for they themselves spend sleepless nights [or stay awake or watch] on behalf of your souls, as those who will give account [for your souls]. That they may do this with joy and not groaning [or grieving], for that is unprofitable for you. Before we comment on that at any length, let me just ask you a personal question. Do you have those who watch for your soul? Or are you a soul that has no watchman? It's really an important provision of God for most Christians, there are some Christians who lead lives who are in positions where that's not possible. But for the majority of Christians I think it's very important that you have those who watch for your souls and if you know who they are, and they know who you are because you really can't give an account for somebody if you don't know that you're responsible for them.
There's a two-way responsibility for the one who watches and for the one who is watched. I tell you, if there are those that are capable and willing to watch for your soul, you'll be very foolish if you don't avail yourself of them. This verse states two further requirements in relating to leaders. We've already had one previous verse, verse 7, which dealt with that theme. Let's look back for a moment at verse 7. Remember those who lead you, who spoke the word of God to you; considering the outcome of their way of life, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, yes and forever. So, if you put together these two verses, verse 7 and verse 17, first of all we notice something which is almost universal in the New Testament, the description of church life, which is that the leaders are plural.
I would challenge you to find a single place in the New Testament where it speaks of the leader of the church. I'm not saying it can't be done, but I guarantee most of you couldn't find it. I happen to be doing a different outline which relates to this theme and I just wrote down from memory all the passages I could think of in which the leaders of the church, the local church, are referred to in the plural. I came up with 21. I doubt whether you can find one that uses the singular. It's not my purpose to dwell on this, but it brings out a very important principle that the human leadership of a local congregation, in the New Testament, is normally corporate. It is not singular. There is singular leadership but it's in the unseen realm, it's Jesus. He is the Head, but under Him in most of the churches, which are pictured in the New Testament, there is a plurality of human under-shepherds.
If you're interested, check on that for yourself. If you have a concordance or a Bible with marginal references and a little time to spare, you can find it out for yourself. Now, going on with my outline. Taken together, Hebrews 13:7 and 13:17 reveal five marks of the kind of spiritual leaders to whom we should submit. This is extremely important. Number one, they speak God's Word to us. Number two, they set an example of faith which is to be imitated. Please note, not an example of unbelief. Three, taken from verse 8, their lives point us to the unchanging Christ. Four, they keep watch for our souls. And five, they are accountable to God for us. The language indicates that they take this responsibility very seriously. I passed a Methodist church building somewhere in the Carolinas some time ago, which was a very large building.
A person who knew the church, and its people told me that it was built in a rather unusual way. The pastor, and it was "the" pastor, never went anywhere or saw anyone before 10 o'clock in the morning unless it was a major emergency. He spent the first three hours of the day praying for the members of his congregation. And he had photographs of every member of the congregation. As he went through the photographs he prayed for people. I'm not suggesting everybody should do that, but it was obviously a man who took his responsibility seriously. I want to suggest to you as I've said here, it's in our own best interest to submit to such leaders. If we have such leaders available to us, we should thank God for them every day because there are not too many like that in the world today. But, and I want to emphasize this, Scripture does not require us to submit to religious leaders who lack these qualities.
The Scripture is not so indiscreet as to say submit to your leaders in the church irregardless of who they are. Submit to your leaders if their leadership is along these lines. Some years back I was involved in a situation in a camp meeting where there was a tremendous move of God amongst the young people, teenagers and thereabout. God touched many of them, marvelously saved them, delivered them from drugs, filled them with the Holy Spirit. Then they went back to (quote) their "church" and the pastor of the church if I gave you his title you'd know what kind of a church it was, but we'll say the pastor. Just turned thumbs down on the whole thing, poured cold water on them, and did everything he could to undo the work that God had done. Then people said, "Well, they have to obey their leader". I said, "Oh, no. They have to obey a leader who fulfills the scriptural qualifications".
One who sets an example of faith, not unbelief. One who points them to the unchanging Christ, one who truly cares for their souls and so on. I want you to see how very circumspect the Word of God is. It does not place an unreasonable burden of obedience on Christians to leaders who are false shepherds. But where there are true leaders, then the Scripture places a real serious responsibility upon us. Let's go on now to verses 18 and 19. Pray for us, for we trust [or we are persuaded] that we have a good conscience, desiring to live uprightly [or honorably perhaps] in all things. But I beseech you all the more to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner. We conclude from this and some other passages that this letter was probably written while the man who wrote it was in prison for the gospel.
Quite a number of New Testament letters were written from prison. That is, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Philemon, Hebrews. So, it isn't always a disgrace to be in prison; it depends what you're in prison for. The writer is asking for prayer for himself as a spiritual leader. He says, "Pray for us because we trust that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things". Notice that he says one reason for praying for us is that we have a good conscience. Again, I think we need to be discriminating in the people we pray for. The primary object of prayer for Christians was, first of all, the government under which they lived. And second, the ministers of the gospel. Prayer for the sick and for other people came lower down the list, not that it hasn't a place. But you know, you can only do so much praying. Any of us is limited by physical limitations and limitations of time.
I recommend to you that you pour your prayer into a good channel. I'm sure many of you have members of your family that are a heartache and a problem, and you pray for them. That's right. But don't spend all your time praying for problem people because it's really like trying to pour a large quantity of fluid down a small pipe. Most of it gets spilled. What the writer is saying is of himself, "We are a good pipe, we can take a lot. We're leading the kind of life which will enable us to receive all the prayer you give us. It won't be wasted, it won't be spilled". I think sometimes if you're sensitive when you pray, when you pray for somebody you'll know whether they're a good receiver of prayer or not. There are some members of my family, I'm certainly not going to specify them, they're really good receivers of prayer. Whenever we pray for them, something happens. Others you kind of have to force the prayer on.
Some of you are smiling, you've got a kind of feeling you might have a similar case. I trust you aren't a similar case! I think this is an important principle. Being a minister of the gospel, I'm aware of how much prayer we need. When I was a younger minister, and more conceited in those days, if I was successful I used to think, "Now I'm really getting there"! When I have success now I think, "I wonder who was praying for me". I have come to learn that our success is very directly in proportion to the prayer that supports it. And so, for those of you who are not in ministry, (quote) "in ministry," I want to suggest to you that this is a very good prayer investment. It's to pray for ministers who are leading upright, honorable lives, who are channels of prayer that can receive all the prayer you pour into them. And that channel will direct the prayer where it will bring forth fruit in the kingdom of God. Just taking the example of Paul, he almost always asked the people that he wrote to to pray for him.
I am happy to say in our newsletters, Ruth and I almost always do the same. Sometimes I think, "Am I overdoing it"? Then I think, "No, it's what needs to be said". Turn for a moment to Ephesians 6. Verses 18 and 19. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints... We are to pray for all the saints. No saint has to be left out. But he goes on specifically: ...and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel... Notice there, he particularly asks for two things. For utterance, for the ability to say what he knows needs to be said. And for boldness. Now let's turn to Colossians 4. Colossians 4:2–4. Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it [or staying awake in it] with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.
Notice, his prayer request there is slightly different; he prays for the opening of a door. He prays not so much for boldness as for clarity. I can really identify with that prayer request because if I have one ambition it's to be able to make the message of the Word of God clear. If I were to choose one word that represents my personal ambition, that would be it. I just had news the other day which I'll share with you. Many of you know my radio broadcast Today With Derek Prince is already being heard in China, but it is being translated into Chinese to be voiced and broadcast to the whole of Communist China in Chinese. Well, it appears that if you ever minister in China and you're not Chinese, you have to take a Chinese name. There is no other way you can get there. My Chinese name has been allotted to me. I didn't have any choice but if I'd had a choice I couldn't have chosen better.
I'm not good at pronouncing Chinese but in Chinese it's apparently Ye-Gwang Ming. And you ask what Ye-Gwang Ming means, it means "clear light". So that's my name in Chinese. If I ever go to China they won't say, "Here's Derek Prince," they'll say, "Here's Ye Gwang Ming". I really could not by any means have thought of a name that better described what I hoped my broadcast will be to the Chinese. We'll look also at just one other passage there in 1 Thessalonians 5:25. This is a very short one. Brethren, pray for us. He was probably running out of ink, or something at that point! But he still didn't want to leave it out. I comment there and we'll pass on with this comment. Prayer for the servants of the gospel is both a duty and a privilege of members of Christ's body, particularly in times of special need. As, for instance, in Paul's case when he was imprisoned.
Now we're going to make a little summary at this point which will go back to verse 1 and continue through verse 19. Note the main aspects of Christian living emphasized. We'll see that there are fourteen practical instructions based on the spiritual truths that have been unfolded. Nearly all New Testament letters go that way, they unfold spiritual truth, then at the close they give practical ways in which that truth should be worked out in our lives. If you study most epistles, that's how they are. I think it's important to understand the truth of the Word of God is never intended merely to be theory or theology. Personally, I have great reservations about theology, to be honest, because so often it remains in the realm of classroom teaching and abstract theory. I don't believe that there's anything in the Bible to justify that. All truth in the Bible, in some way or other, should reflect the way we live.
We'll look now through these fourteen practical instructions based on the revelation of Hebrews which is the revelation of Jesus Christ as our high priest and all that's related to that. The first, right at the bottom of Page 13/3, in one simple, important word is love. Remember, without love everything else is empty. Two, hospitality. Three, identifying with prisoners and those who are persecuted. Four, observing the sanctity of marriage and sexual purity. Five, a right attitude toward money and freedom from covetousness. Six, confidence in the Lord's all-sufficiency. Seven, a right attitude to God-given leaders expressed in two words: remember and imitate. Eight, avoid strange new teachings that nullify God's grace. Let me say that I spent quite a while trying to find the right phrase to sum up this teaching. Nine, make the flesh the servant of the Spirit, not vice versa. Ten, expect to share the reproach of the cross. Eleven, live as aliens in this world looking for a city not yet manifested. Twelve, offer the three sacrifices of praise, sharing and doing good. Thirteen, again, right attitude to leaders summed up in the two words: obey and submit.
Notice: obey is outward action, submit is inner attitude. Some people obey without submission. That was the elder brother in the story of the prodigal. He obeyed but he was never submitted. See? It all came out when he got jealous of his brother. And it is possible to be submitted but to say on grounds of conscience, "I cannot obey". And fourteen, pray for the servants of the gospel. Now, this is going to be a little personal application. I'm going to read them through again without pausing to comment. I would invite each one of you to check, inwardly check. You can check your outline later. In fact, it might be a good thing if you went home and placed a check against the outline for everything you can say, "Yes, I'm doing that". If there are any gaps, then you need to find out why. As I read them out, don't look at me, don't look at your neighbor; just look inwardly at yourself for a moment.
Number one, love. Number two, hospitality. Number three, identifying with prisoners and those who are persecuted. Number four, sanctity of marriage and sexual purity. Number five, a right attitude to money and freedom from covetousness. Number six, confidence in the Lord's all-sufficiency. How many of you can put a check next to that? I shouldn't have asked, forgive me. Number seven, a right attitude to God-given leaders. Remember and imitate. Number eight, avoid strange new teachings that nullify God's grace. Number nine, make the flesh the servant of the Spirit, not vice versa. Number ten, expect to share the reproach of the cross. Number eleven, live as aliens in this world looking for a city not yet manifested. Number twelve, offer the three sacrifices of praise, sharing and doing good. Number thirteen, a right attitude to leaders. Obey and submit. Number fourteen, pray for the servants of the gospel.
Now we come to the closing benediction which is a most beautiful benediction. Verses 20 and 21. May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead [or brought back from the dead] the great shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant [or by the blood of the eternal covenant], that is, our Lord Jesus, may He equip you in everything good to do His will, working in you that which is pleasing before Him [or in His sight], through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for the ages of the ages. There's at least three different phrases in Greek that can be translated "forever". I'd like to just show you because each one goes further than the one before. There's one which is "for the age". That means as long as this age lasts. There's one "for the age of the ages". That's an age which is made up of ages as an age is made up of years. Understand, if your mind can grasp that. But this is the furthest, this is "for the ages of the ages".
It's absolutely impossible for the human mind to comprehend what's included in that phrase. When I read it, I feel good, I feel my future is taken care of for as long as I can possibly measure. Let's go back and look at the outline on that benediction. First of all, let me read what I have there. The God of peace offers us the peace of God. Let's look at the Scriptures there. First of all, Romans 15:33. Now the God of peace be with you all. Notice He is the God of peace and apart from Him there is no peace. James tells us every good and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights. One of those good and perfect gifts is peace. There is no other ultimate source of peace except God Himself. He is the God of peace. Then we look a little further on in Romans 16:20 which is a remarkable statement. And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
Notice He offers peace to His people; He makes no peace for Satan. Satan has no opportunity for peace. It's an interesting statement, let me just comment. Remember, this epistle was written to the Christians in Rome, the heart of the Roman Empire, about the middle of the first century or a little later. Within less than three centuries they had crushed Satan in the Roman Empire, they had become the ruling power in the Roman Empire. A tremendous miracle of history if you pause to consider what was involved. A little persecuted handful of despised people who believed in a Jewish carpenter who died on a Roman gibbet took over the Roman Empire. It's a tremendous example of the supremacy of spiritual power over material life. We see the world today in many areas dominated by tremendously powerful and ruthless political forces. But ultimately the church of Jesus Christ is stronger than all of them. God's strength is made perfect in weakness. When the church became strong was when it lost its real strength.
Then Philippians 4:7. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. So, from the God of peace comes the peace of God. That is God's protection for our hearts and minds. And we need to have them protected. When you get sudden, unexpected bad news, which happens to most of us at some time or other, how do you respond? Does the peace of God guard your heart and mind in a moment like that? It's in moments like that we really know how much peace we have. None of us ever knows when we'll suddenly be confronted with something like that. Many of you can look back not many years, perhaps some of you can look back in 1983, some sudden tragedy, accident, bereavement. How did you respond? That's when you know how much faith you have. That's when you know how real God is to you. You can observe religious people, they've got all the right language until a disaster happens. And then, so often they fall apart because their religion was mainly a matter of words, not of reality. We wouldn't be critical of somebody who did fall apart, but there is a remedy, it's the peace of God that guards your heart.
Okay. We have to go on with this benediction. I'm going to read my outline. By raising Jesus from the dead God demonstrated two things: first, His power and faithfulness; second, the efficacy of the blood of Jesus, because it was through the blood of the everlasting covenant. The blood was the one token that Almighty God could not ignore, the shed blood of His Son. Notice that Jesus is called the Great Shepherd of the sheep. The Great Shepherd. There are many shepherds but only one Great Shepherd. This leads us to a paradox which I'd like to direct your attention to for a moment. If you turn to John 10:7, this is the parable of the sheepfold. John 10:7: Jesus therefore said to them again, "Truly, truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep". But in verse 11 He says: "I am the good shepherd..."
That's a deliberate paradox. When you come across a paradox in the Scripture, you need to seek God because there's a reason for it. How can Jesus be both the door and the shepherd? Well, I'll tell you the answer. I'm sure it is the answer. Crucified, He's the door; resurrected, He's the shepherd. And you notice He's called "the shepherd" when He's resurrected from the dead. If you want the resurrected Jesus as your shepherd you have to enter the sheepfold by the door of the crucified Jesus. Jesus said in the parable, "If anybody climbs up some other way and doesn't come through the door, he's a thief and a robber". That's not talking about heaven, that's talking about the company of God's people on earth, the sheepfold. It is possible to get in by some other way but the one who does it is a thief and a robber. He's a thief because he's trying to appropriate the blessings to which he has no rights. Those who come through the door have the right to the inheritance.
Now, going on with this benediction, going back to Hebrews 13:20–21. I'll read from the New American Standard, it's too complicated to follow the outline in English and translate from the Greek at the same time. Verse 21 is what the resurrected Jesus will do for us. ...equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Again let me turn to the outline. God is able to equip us completely but on four conditions, all of which are stated there. It's to do His will, not necessarily our will. It's to do what is pleasing to Him, not to please ourselves. It is through Jesus Christ, and there is no other way, that His blessing comes into our lives. And it's for His glory. When you're seeking God for His blessing in your life, for His equipment, for His provision; you need to check on whether you're meeting the stated conditions.
Are you praying for something to do His will? Are you seeking to do what is pleasing to Him, not what is pleasing to you? Are you receiving the provision through Jesus Christ? And will it be for His glory that you use whatever is provided? Then, as I said, forever and ever is unto the ages of the ages. We go back now to Hebrews 13:22. I beg of you, brothers [I beseech you, I entreat you, or I urge you. But it's a word of entreaty really more than a word of command], put up with this word of exhortation... Or entreaty, it's the same word again. Whatever word you use one place you need to use the other... I entreat you, brothers, put up with this word of entreaty, after all I've written to you only briefly. I've commented on that before. Thirteen chapters is a brief letter by an apostolic standard, you understand. My comment: New Testament apostles pleaded more often than they commanded. By their standards, Hebrews was a brief letter.
I think it's very important to understand that apostles don't walk around giving everybody orders. They have the authority, but that's now how they use it. I'm always impressed by the fact that when Paul landed on the island of Malta after the shipwreck and they all needed fuel to make a fire, Paul was one of those gathering fuel. So typical. He didn't stand back and say, "You fellows do it, I'm an apostle". He was out there gathering fuel. Somebody said once, a minister, a friend of mine who'd been brought up in what's called the Apostolic Church of Wales, you're probably not familiar with it much in this country. It emphasizes apostles and prophets and every church has to have its apostle and prophet. Like many young people growing up in a rather legalistic religious atmosphere he became a rebel. Then he came back to God, and his comment was this. He said, "One day I realized that apostles were not people on top of us keeping us down, they were people in the foundation holding us up".
See, the lowest level of the New Jerusalem is the apostles. It's very, very important because I believe we're going to see more and more real apostolic ministry emerge. It's very important that it be linked with real humility. Then verses 23 and 24 are personal news and greetings. Verse 23: You know that [or accept the news that] our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you. [verse 24:] Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Notice leaders are plural again. Those who are from Italy greet you. New Testament letters were never mere abstract theology but always related to the real lives of real people. Turn for a moment to Romans 16 and just look at the list of greetings at the end of that letter. Romans 16 is the doctrinal or theological exposition of the gospel.
Notice that it ends with a chapter almost totally given over to people. We don't have time to read it all, but I'll just read the beginning. Beginning at: [Verse 1:] I commend to you our sister Phoebe [Verse 3:] Greet Prisca and Aquila [Verse 5:] Greet Epaenetus [Verse 6:] Greet Mary [Verse 7:] Greet Andronicus and Junias [Verse 8:] Greet Ampliatus [Verse 9:] Greet Urbanus and Stachys [Verse 10:] Greet Apelles and the household of Aristobulus [Verse 11:] Greet Herodion and the household of Narcissus [Verse 12:] Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa [ladies], Persis [also a lady] [Verse 13:] Greet Rufus [Verse 14:] Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brethren with them You might say that an apostle was wasting a lot of space on just names in a way, wouldn't you? [Verse 15:] Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, Olympas [Verse 16:] Greet one another with a holy kiss I counted this evening in those verses there are 29 persons individually specified to be greeted.
That's a very vivid demonstration of how personal God's concern is for all of us. We're not just numbers. When I was inducted into the British Army I lost my name and I became a number. As long as I live I will never forget my number. 7385778. They took away my distinctive personal clothing and clad me in a uniform. It was very symbolic. I really, in a way, was deprived of my identity. God doesn't give you a number and He doesn't give you a uniform. You are a person to God and to the true servants of God. Then if you look in Romans 16:21–23, all the greetings from the people with Paul. Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Tertius, Gaius, Erastus, Quartus, the brother. I heard somebody once say that as a young minister he'd been so ambitious to be something important in his denomination. As he moved on in life he thought the best thing he could ever be was a brother.
If you count there, there are eight persons who send greetings. So you put it together, there are 37 persons mentioned individually in that chapter. That's no accident. We move on to the last verse, can you believe it! Hebrews 13:25, a very short verse. Grace be with you all. A very appropriate close because that final salutation sums up the letter's theme. Grace, not mere law or religion. And as I close this whole series let me just remind you what I said right at the beginning, what kind of people the Hebrew Christians were. They were people who had a background in the faith, a knowledge of God, an awareness of spiritual things, a knowledge of God's standards. All the Scriptures were available to them. The problem was they had it all.
I suggested that the boot today is on the other foot. It's professing Christians who are in that position. The problem of the Hebrews was negligence, not availing themselves of all the spiritual blessings that God offered them and God provided for them. I suggest the corresponding problem is the main problem of the church, especially in America. It's not really being totally committed, being totally in earnest and availing yourself of all that God offers you. The Hebrew Christians tended to be this way. They had knowledge, religion, ritual but not living faith. And for living faith there is no substitute. It's no accident that the great faith chapter, Hebrews 11, was written to them.
I suggest to you that multitudes of church-going Christians in this nation and the Western world are very much in the same situation. Knowledge, religion, ritual but where is the living faith? I would like to close this series, which has been a real test of endurance for all of us, but a good one. I'd like to close it by praying for all who have heard these messages or will hear these messages because they are on tape, and they will ultimately go out probably right across the world. Some of you know we are working on a new outreach of our ministry to make this teaching material available free of charge to the Third World, to suitable Christian leaders and chosen people. So who knows where these teachings will end. They may end up at the equator, they may end up in Alaska, who knows? Let's pray together for ourselves who have heard this message and for all who will hear.
Heavenly Father, we want to thank You as we close this long series of studies in Hebrews for all the spiritual riches, the riches of truth, grace and faith that You've made available to us. Lord, I pray for myself first and then for all who have heard this teaching or will hear it that they will not receive the grace of God in vain, but that this word will take deep root in their hearts, penetrate deeply to every area: spirit, soul and body. Do what needs to be done in every life. Not return to You void but accomplish Your pleasure and prosper in the thing to which You sent it. Let it revolutionize men and women all around the world and bring their lives into conformity with Your highest will for them. And for all the good that's accomplished Lord, we will be careful to give You the glory in the name of Jesus. Amen.