If you are familiar with this website, you have been made aware that the translator’s choice of some of the English words in our Bibles was deliberately designed to not only benefit, but also to bolster the already embedded practice of institutional church control. The words "church" and "office" are just a few examples. “Rule” or “rule over them”
is another example.
“Obey them that have the rule over you…” Hebrews 13:17
When we check what the Greek word translated “rule” is in this verse and verses like it, we find that this is not a translation but a redefinition of one Greek word. The Greek word translated "rule over you" in Hebrews 13:7 and 17 and 24 is “hegeomai,” Strong's #2233 and it is normally translated “count,” “esteem,” “to lead” or “to go before.” “…Them that have the rule over…” is a substitution by the translators. There is no connotation whatsoever of “ruling over.” True leadership is nothing more than going on ahead.
Here are some verses where this word is properly translated.
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” Philippians 2:3
“Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8
“And to esteem them very highly in love…” 1 Thessalonians 5:13
Hebrews 13:17 should read “Be persuaded of those you highly esteem," NOT "Obey them that have the rule over you." No church leader has "dominion over your faith."
2 Corinthians 1:24 “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.”
Look again at Matthew Chapter 20. “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant; even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
"It is NOT so among" church elders! True leaders in God’s ecclesia use His word to "persuade" those in the assembly to humble themselves and be servants one of another. They never "exercise dominion" over anyone in their care. They are rather "helpers of their joy."
The dictionary’s use of the word “rule” or “rule over” fits very nicely in today’s local institutional church:
Control, dominion, 'under the rule of a dictator,' dominating power, authority, superior, preeminent, predominate, 'rule the roost,' command, regnancy, ascendancy, mastery.
Is this what we see in the Scriptures concern leaders in the assembly, or is this what we see in today’s religious institutions? The English definition of the word “rule” or “rule over”is totally devoid of any meaning or even suggestion of service, of ministering, of servanthood, of being an example. Shouldn't this by itself open your eyes? This alone should arouse our suspicions, considering that Christ-like leadership is servanthood.
"Assuredly, I say to you, unless you turn and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3-4
“…Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28
“And whoever exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12
“If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you.
…If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them.” John 13:14-17
The same is true in regards to1 Timothy 5:17: “Let the elders that rule (proistemi) well be counted worthy of double honor.” The Greek word proistemi, rendered “rule,” bears no association at all with authority, power, or control. It merely meant that elders (older men) are to stand with zeal; maintain themselves; should be foremost in knowledge and quality of life; a quality which rightfully should be embodied in all saints. “Proistemi” is not therefore for the few, but the duty of all.
“Go ye, and stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this Life." Acts 5:20
“…when I stood before the council, except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question before you this day.” Acts 24:20-21
“…to the end that they who have believed God may be careful to maintain good works.” Titus 3:8
“And let our people also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.” Titus 3:14
How did the word rule or rule over, which in the mind of the English reader conveys control and mastery over the people, find its way into the text when Paul himself wrote: “Not that we are trying to dictate to you what you must believe; but are fellow workers and helpers of your joy, for by your faith you stand." 2 Corinthians 1:24
Even Paul counted himself as a fellow worker, not as one who “ruled over” Christ’s Ecclesia, knowing that one stands by faith in God, not by men throwing their weight around demanding submission and obedience to their sacred office!
Hebrews 13:17, and verses similar to it, should be translated thus: “Be persuaded by your leaders, and be deferring to them, for they are vigilant for the sake of your souls, as having to render an account, that they may be doing this with joy, and not with groaning, for this is disadvantageous for you." CLV
In Hebrews 13:7, we have another instance of “ruling over.”
“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.”
Please notice that this verse should be in the past tense, but in the KJV it was translated to read as though it were in the present tense. It is referring to those who have died in the faith; not to current “church leaders.” As with Hebrews 13:17, the phrase, "them which have the rule over" is a substitution of one Greek word – “hegeomai” (2233) meaning to esteem, to lead, to go before as a guide. Hegeomai pictures the act of guiding, going on ahead, leading the way, being an example to the assembly, not sitting and ruling over the assembly. (And as usual, the phrase “over you” is NOT in the original text.)
The previous two chapters leading up to Hebrews 13 speaks of those who have gone before as examples. We are to remember such; imitate their faith; and recall the “end of their conversation.” The “hegeomai” of the early New Testament truly followed Christ and His disciples in their example of hardship and suffering. Should we not remember and follow them?
Jesus Himself singled out the power to rule that was exercised in His day, and said that it had no place in his spiritual realm. "It shall not be so among you,” He said directly to his disciples. If there is a direct command in the Scriptures, this is one of them. The apostles followed this command. Their leadership was one by example and inspired teaching, not by dictate.
Why did Jesus emphasize that the great in His kingdom must not be at the top of the pyramid, but at the very bottom, as servants of all? The answer is that one does not command from the bottom. One does not make decisions which are binding on others when he is at the bottom. One cannot throw his weight around; bark out phrases as “pastoral authority,” or demand submission to some fabled “office” when he is at the bottom.
And so, as a result, the modern eldership system has rejected the command of Jesus and has done just the opposite in putting themselves on par with the elite, at the peak of the pyramid! They do bind their will upon others. They do issue commands. They do demand unquestioning obedience to their will. They do “bind the consciences” of the tender sheep. They not only rule, they rule as absolute monarchs. Their decisions are not subject to review by anybody. They do not submit themselves to the many. They require the many to subject themselves to them!
When you look at the Apostle Paul's example in writing to the brethren in Corinth and Galatia, you can see very clearly that it goes contrary to the principles of the so-called “eldership rule” that we see coming from the local institutional church. There were serious relational problems, doctrinal problems, preeminence problems, control problems, and a host of other issues in both places! Yet Paul did not write the elders to straighten out these problems. He wrote the members and put the burden on the many.
Yet again, we can see that in today’s local institutional church system of “rule by elder,” the Apostle Paul’s practice and application is an example to be avoided! It has been replaced by the official ruling office of the pastor/elder.
As already stated many times, there were elders in the assemblies of the Lord established by the apostles, but there was no "eldership." The former were older and spiritually mature persons who were primarily guides and also leaders by example. The latter is a collective authoritarian institutional ruling class devoted to commanding, controlling, dominating, and taking over and regulating every area of life.
The sad consequences of this anti-biblical, unscriptural “eldership system,” and “rule by elder” nonsense is that it has deliberately fractured and made mincemeat of Christ’s Body.
You say, “…Those are strong words. How so?”
Let me list a few.
The “eldership rule” system rivals the functional Headship of Christ in His church. It illegitimately holds the unique place of centrality and headship among God’s people.
That’s how so!
The Pastor/Elder displaces and supplants Christ’s Headship by setting himself up as the church’s human head.
That’s how so!
"Eldership Rule" fails "to prepare God's people for works of service." Ephesians 4:12 It has stolen your right to function as a member of Christ’s Body! It has shut your mouth and strapped you to a pew.
That’s how so!
It has rendered you a mute spectator who is proficient at taking sermon notes and passing an offering plate.
That’s how so!
It has overthrown the main thrust of the letter to the Hebrews - the ending of the old priesthood. It has made ineffectual the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12-14, that every member has both the right and the privilege to minister in a church meeting. It has voided the message of 1 Peter 2 that every brother and sister is a functioning priest.
That’s how so!
The authoritarian system of eldership rule and control discourages thinking for yourself, imposes uniformity instead of unity, creates legalistic and judgmental attitudes, and makes fear rather than love a controlling force.
That’s how so!
It reduces the members from participants to attendants.
That’s how so!
It discourages study and dialogue and puts the stamp of approval on passivity.
That’s how so!
It promotes division.
That’s how so!
As “eldership rule” increases more and more in dominating the use of power over the people, it moves further away from the example and command of Jesus.
In our final section, let us look more closely at Jesus, our Example.
Jesus: Our Example
All one has to do is look at the Lord Jesus as to our example of leadership and service. In Matthew Chapter 20, the mother of James and John said to Jesus, "Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right hand and the other on the left, in your kingdom."
Of course, the other disciples made a great show of indignation as though they had not wanted the same honor for themselves. So Jesus expounded on what His impending community structure is going to be like. The leadership in His assembly or community would be unlike worldly authority and the religious system of things represented at that time by Jewish Scribes and Pharisees, the Jewish Sanhedrin (elders), and Roman secular rule.
Jesus rejected the authoritarian structure of his own religious heritage as well as anything that would approach the empires and kingdoms of men. Jesus explains this plainly as he continues.
"You know that the rulers of the Gentiles are lords over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. YET IT WILL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."
"Greatness is attained through service, NOT positions or titles. You want to attain greatness in My kingdom, then serve. This is the quality that I desire. You must set the example in serving. Those of you who desire honor, recognition, power, rule, and authority in my assembly are setting the wrong example. You’re in the wrong religion guys! You will not exercise authority over my people!"
How utterly ironic that the teaching in today’s local institutional church on authority and leadership is exactly the type of leadership style Christ specifically warned His disciples not to practice!
If that left the disciples in doubt about what positions they were to enjoy in the Lord’s community, He certainly cleared it up by attacking the prevailing system of the religious leaders and their love of titles and position in Matthew 23.
"Then Jesus spoke to the multitude and to his disciples, saying: The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. ..They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
But you, do not be called Rabbi, for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, who is in heaven. And do not be called leaders; for One is your leader, even the Christ. But those who are great among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:1-12
Jesus, in these few sentences, is making it very plain what the nature and quality of leadership in His community was going to be. His leaders would NOT assume titles or positions. "But you, do not be called Rabbi"! They were not to assume the title or position of Rabbi (master, teacher).
As if this was not basic enough to persuade them, He continues in this vein by saying, "And do not be called leaders." Even though the KJV translates the word "leader" master, the correct translation could actually render the Greek "guide".
Another example of Jesus was washing the disciple’s feet in John 13. He knelt before them one by one, until every dirty foot in the room was clean. Then He said, "Do you know what I have done to you?" “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” John 13:17
Again, we see that the model of leadership in God’s ecclesia is not a group of men ruling, and reigning; barking out their demands of authority and headship and submission to every beck and call. No, it’s the household slave! For from His knees in the upper room, Jesus said, "For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you."
Yes, Jesus did leave us an example to follow - one that stands in stark and total antithesis to the current notion of “leadership in the church.”
Those who posture themselves to “rule over God’s people” refuse to see Christ in this light, or if they do, pay the most pathetic, empty lip service imaginable, and then turn around next week and do just the opposite! The Lord’s call to "let this mind be in you" falls upon deaf ears to the majority of those in “leadership positions in the local church.”
They possess absolutely nothing of “the mind of Christ.” Historically, and indeed, right down to this very moment, the institutionalized local church of today has looked nothing like the Serving Christ. The servant’s towel has been replaced with a business suit and tie. Many today are above the washing of feet, as they gloat over their so-called "Sacred Pastoral Office" and glorify themselves in their so-called "Ministerial Dignity.” How far we have fallen from the divine standard only God fully appreciates.
The Lord has never intended any man, or group of men, to hold a position "OVER" others, and to exercise special authority by which to "RULE" them.
Elders were to GUIDE and SERVE others, being EXAMPLES.
Remember, according to Jesus, not even the apostles would "exercise authority" over the people of God, "…..NOT SO SHALL IT BE AMONG YOU" Matthew 20:25-26
This is very significant, for if Jesus emphatically withheld "divine authority" from the apostles, surely, He did not delegate it to elders.
The example of Jesus is the most powerful argument against the idea of an official ruling clergy. Did He model one thing, only to build another? Did He come serving, only to elevate His people’s status later down the road?
We think not!
The comments above were excerpts from our two articles, "The Eldership Cookbook" and "OBEY THEM." Click the links below to read them in full.