Authority in the Church

When Jesus taught his followers about greatness in His kingdom, he gave his followers instructions regarding the exercise of authority.


Jesus Forbids the Exercise of Authority

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. (Mark 10:42–43 ESV)


The worlds rulers:


The worlds great:


Jesus in saying "it shall not be so among you" is forbidding the exercising of authority among His followers by His followers.


And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. (Luke 22:25–26 ESV)


Kings of Gentiles:


Jesus in saying "But not so with you" is forbidding the exercise of lordship by his followers.

In both (Mark 10:42–43) and (Luke 22:25–26) the instruction Jesus has given to His followers is very clear. Unfortunately often these instructions have been ignored in favor of another part of scripture.


“Obey them that have the rule over you”

Does the scripture teach that there are men in the church whom we must obey? Certainty there are men who teach this, and their primary proof text is:


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. (Heb 13:17 KJV)


You likely have heard (Heb 13:17) proclaimed, but it is unlikely that you have heard (Mark 10:42–43) and (Luke 22:25–26). Why? Because the teachings of Jesus in these verses undermines the apparent teaching of (Heb 13:17). Why one verse would be given preference over another is a topic for a whole different article. Lets just say that the apparent teaching of (Heb 13:17) is in accord with the worlds way of doing things, so the worldly among us tend to prefer it.

In light of what Jesus has previously said about not exercising lordship and authority, how can Heb. 13:17 say "Obey them that have the rule over you"? On the one hand we have the command not to exercise lordship and authority, and on the other hand we are commanded to obey those who exercise authority over us. The word "rule" means "the exercise of authority".

The solution to the problem can be found in understanding what the original language really says in Heb. 13:17.



In (Heb 13:17) most translators have rendered the Greek word (peı́thō) as “obey”.


(The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament - page 1134) 3982. πείθω peı́thō; fut. peı́sō, aor. pass. epeı́sthēn, perf. pass. pépeismai, 2d perf. pépoitha. To persuade, particularly to move or affect by kind words or motives.
(I) Act. voice, to persuade...(II) Mid. / pass., meaning to let oneself be persuaded, to be persuaded.


Peı́thō means: To persuade, particularly to move or affect by kind words or motives. In (Heb 13:17) peı́thō is in the passive voice. The passive meaning of peı́thō is: to let oneself be persuaded.


“that have the rule over”

In (Heb 13:17) the KJV translators have rendered the Greek word (hēgéomai) as “that have the rule over”.


(The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament - page 707) 2233. ἡγέομαι hēgéomai; contracted hēgoúmai, fut. hēgḗsomai, mid. deponent of ágō (71), to lead. To lead or go before, go first, lead the way. The perf. hḗgēmai (Acts 26:2; Phil. 3:7 with pres. meaning). In the NT:
(I) To be a leader...


Hēgeomai means: To lead or go before, go first, lead the way. When spoken of a person, it is best translated “leader”. To be a leader, you do not have to exercise lordship or authority, you need only go ahead. The one who is farther down the way, that leads to where you want to be, is the leader.


But what did Jesus say that a leader should be? The very same word (hēgeomai) is found here:

And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader (hēgéomai) as one who serves. (Luke 22:25–26 ESV)


Jesus says that a leader (hēgéomai)

The same "hēgéomai" are spoken of here:

Remember your leaders (hēgéomai), those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. (Heb 13:7 ESV)


Does this speak of someone exercising authority, or does it speak of someone leading by example? Have we not seen even Jesus himself lead by example? Did he not humble himself? Did he not make himself servant of all?


So then (Heb 13:17) would be better translated “Let yourself be persuaded by your leaders …”, rather than “Obey them that have rule over you …”. This makes a world of difference, in that the former is in harmony with what Jesus said, regarding exercising of authority in the church, and the latter is not. Remember Jesus defined our leaders as being humble servants that do not exercise lordship and authority.


By the way, there is a Greek word, that means obey. Hupakoúō could have been used instead of peı́thō if obey was the intended meaning. Hupakoúō is the word translated obey here:

And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey (Hupakoúō) him.” (Mark 1:27 ESV)


Who rules the Church?

If the great, the leaders, in the church are forbidden by Jesus to exercise authority in the church, then who has rule over the church?

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matt 28:18 ESV)

Jesus alone has the right to exercise authority in the church because He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth.


The bride of Christ

In numerous places the bible implies that the church is the bride of Christ.


For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. (2 Cor 11:2 ESV)


Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. (Rom 7:3–4 ESV)

If Jesus is the husband of the church, how can any other man have authority over His bride? Would you permit any other man to have authority over your wife?


Introduction (home page)

What is the meaning of life?

Does God love me?

Greatness in the Church

Imitate Church Leaders

Titles of Honor

New Covenant

One God


This is a work in progress. Please come back soon.

If you have any questions or comments.