Recently the Lord has impressed upon me the importance of submitting to my elders. Part of my covenant with my local church is loving and supporting and submitting to my elders “as those who will give an account (Hebrews 13:17).” They have assumed the responsibility for my soul as those who will give an account to the Lord for how well they have shepherded me. They have shouldered the burden of guarding the flock and making sure that wolves and heretics are kept out. And yet they are men, mere mortal men like me, men beset with weakness and sin, just like me. They are men who are prone to discouragement and are men whom the devil would delight to damage. The Bible commands me to support them and to submit to them, not because they are perfect leaders (for how hard would it be to submit to perfect leaders?), but because they need my support and I need to support them for my spiritual growth. How can I best show my love and support to men such as these? Is it not in listening to them and in following their godly leadership? When they show their love for their Savior and their love for us through faithful teaching of the Scripture and through diligent prayer for the sheep, should I not respond to that with a spirit of submission and respect? May it never be said that I was an accomplice of the devil by being one of those who discouraged my elders and who created discord and disunity in the flock.
The following are some thoughts that I had in this regard that may be worth considering:
“Submitting to elders is a Scriptural commandment and is, therefore, a mark of sanctification. It is also for my spiritual good because it promotes humility. The nature of submission is that it is uncomfortable and hard. The flesh hates submission, which in itself is one great reason to submit.
The unity of the fellowship is a very high value (1 Corinthians 3:17). It is the church for whom Christ died (Ephesians 5:25, etc.). The local church submits to godly leadership.
Submission, even obedient, appropriate submission, is hard and militates against our fleshly pride. Because this is the case, we should SEEK OUT opportunities to submit as a means of vanquishing or at least subduing our persistent pride.
Of the four submission commands in 1 Peter, the one that brings with it the most joy is the submission to our beloved elders. We love these men. They will most gladly spend and be expended for our souls (2 Cor. 12:15). They have voluntarily chosen to love and care for and shepherd us so that we know Jesus and will go to heaven when we die. It is a joy for me to make their work a joy for them.
The responsibility before God for leading the local church falls on the shoulders of the elders. The congregation may give input, and should give input, but at the end of the day they are to submit to the elders, even if they disagree with the elders specific decision or teaching.
Finally, there are several Scriptures that should be considered in this regard. In addition to the ones already mentioned (Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:5), it is also instructive to study carefully 1 Timothy 5:17-18 (elders are worthy of double honor) and Numbers 12, in which Aaron and Miriam rise up in protest against their brother Moses and are severely rebuked by the LORD. I think there is a lesson here that we should be very cautious when protesting against or rebelling against those who are appointed by the Lord.
I will obey the Bible’s commands to love and submit to godly elders as they lead us and follow Christ. SDG rmb 4/11/2018