Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hebrews 13:7-8;17; The Past and the Present Leaders

13:7 Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God (God’s message) to you.  Imitate their (the) faith, examining carefully (considering) the end result of their way of life.  8 Jesus the Anointed is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  (Hebrews 13:7-8 My Translation)

This passage suffers from much misunderstandings.  Many people believe that this passage refers to current leaders over current congregations.  The fact is that this passage actually refers to past leaders who probably started the congregations to which the writer of Hebrews is writing to.

Two things reflect this: 1. The syntax of the Greek text and 2. the context of the Greek text.

First of all, “the leaders” spoke (ἐλάλησαν, past tense) God’s message (the word of God) which probably means that these leader are the ones who established the congregations of which the writer of Hebrews is now writing to.

The context of the passage refers the reader to examine carefully (ἀναθεωροῦντες) the end result (ἔκβασιν) of these leaders’ way of life.  The main phrase to consider here (yes, this is both pun and irony) is τὴν ἔκβασιν τῆς ἀναστροφῆς (the end result of “their” [ὧν] way of life).  Let’s look at the BDAG’s definitions for ἔκβασις.  

1. end point of a duration, end ἐ. τῆς ἀναστροφῆς Hb 13:7 can mean the end of one’s life (cp. Marinus, Vi. Procli 26 ἐ. τοῦ βίου; Wsd 2:17), but can also be understood as
2. outcome of an event or state, outcome (cp. PRyl 122, 5 [II AD]=produce [τῶν ἐδαφῶν]; Wsd 11:14) as result of one’s way of life, w. implication of success Hb 13:7.

“ἔκβασις,” BDAG, 299.

Clearly, the congregations who are being written to are to reflect on how their former leaders’ way of life “played out” or “the result of their” way of life.  The result of this “reflecting” was for the congregations to “imitate that faith”, that is, the faith that these former leaders had.

Why?  The writer gives an example that it doesn’t matter if the leaders were gone are not because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever”.  He doesn't change, nor does the Gospel change.

For those who read the NT in Greek or read modern translations, this blog is self-evident.  But, there are many who can't read Greek (vast majority) and many who will not read any translation other than the KJV.  This is for those people as the KJV is anything but clear.

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. KJV

Now on to verse 17.

17 Be confident with your leaders and submit to them, for they watch for your souls as they will give an account.  They should be able to do this (to give this account) with joy and not with a sigh (or with groaning).  For that will not help you.

This verse should be read in context with verses 7 and 8.  If the past leaders are to be the example, then the current leaders should be imitating the past leaders.  Let’s look at the first verb, πειθώ.

Normally, πειθώ means “to persuade”, but it is in the passive voice here.  So, here it would mean “be persuaded” or “be confident in” what they say as they should be imitating the leaders that came before them.

The congregations should be convinced in their leadership, but they have also been given a guideline for doing so (verses 7-8).

What are we to say about this today?  How can we transfer this to today’s leaders?  Today’s leaders should imitate the leaders that were presented in the New Testament.  If they are not imitating those leaders, then they themselves are not truly leaders.  If today’s leaders want to “rule” the congregation, then they should take Jesus’ teaching in Luke 22:24-30 to heart.

24 “A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.  26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules (same Greek word used in both passages in Hebrews) like the one who serves.  27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.  28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials.  29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
(Luke 22:24–30 NIV11)

If today’s leaders are not following the example of the leaders in the NT and are not conforming to Jesus’ teaching on being leaders, the they will NOT be giving an account to God about the congregation which they lead, but an account of themselves.

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