Sermon #99                                                       Hebrews Notes


     Title:            Them which have

 the rule over you

     Text:            Hebrews 13:7 and 17

     Readings:     Rex Bartley & Larry Brown

     Subject:       Churches and their Pastors

     Date:            Tuesday Evening—December 3 , 2002

     Tape #         X-35a



I cannot think of a greater privilege or a more weighty responsibility in the world than the privilege and responsibility of preaching the gospel of Christ.


(Ephesians 3:8)  "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ."


(Romans 1:15-17)  "So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. (16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (17) For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith."


If there is any privilege that is greater, or any responsibility that is heavier than the preaching of the gospel, it would be the privilege and responsibility of hearing the gospel preached in the power of God the Holy Spirit.


(Isaiah 52:7)  "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!"


(2 Corinthians 2:14-17)  "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. (15) For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: (16) To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? (17) For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ."


Two Questions


One day last week I received a call from a friend of mine, a man I’ve known for ten or twelve years. He wanted to know if he could come to Danville and talk with me about some things that were troubling him. So we made an appointment and met in my office yesterday. He was troubled about one thing. He asked me just two questions.—“Bro. Don, how does a man know if he is called of God to preach the gospel? And how does God put a man into the ministry?”


My friend had no idea what I was preparing to preach on tonight; but the questions he asked were precisely the things I had on my mind.


I gave up the notion of telling others what God’s will is for them a long time ago. Because I am aware of the fact that the Scriptures do not give precise answers to those questions, I cannot speak with absolute certainty about them.


In the Old Testament prophets were called immediately by God himself, by a direct, unmistakable revelation—(Isaiah—Jeremiah—Ezekiel). In the New Testament the apostles were called directly by Christ. The first seventy preachers were sent out by the Master’s direct command. Other pastors and elders were chosen and ordained by the Apostles.


But today we do not have such advantages. And the Scriptures give us no clear instructions in the matter. The Scriptures tell us the kind of man a pastor must be, and tell us clearly what a pastor’s responsibilities are. But they do not specifically tell us how God puts a man into the ministry, or how a man knows that he is called of God to preach the gospel. So my answers to those questions are just that, “my answers.” They arise from both my understanding of the Scriptures and the observation of experience. As Paul put it on one occasion, Concerning this matter “speak I, not the Lord.” But this is my best perception.


1.     If God puts a man into the ministry he first puts grace in his heart.

2.     Before God puts a man into the work of the ministry he proves him as a faithful servant in his church.—“Not a novice![1]

3.     If the Lord God puts a man into the ministry he gives him his message (Isa. 40—Redemption Accomplished!—All Flesh is Grass!—Behold, Your God!).

4.     If God puts a man into the ministry he gives him the gifts necessary for the work. He makes him “apt to teach.”—(Knowledge—Understanding—Ability to Preach the Gospel).

5.     If God puts a man into the ministry he gives him a place to preach. As one old preacher put it years ago, “God never made a possum without a persimmon tree; and he never made a preacher without a pulpit.”

6.     If God puts a man into the ministry he gives him a hearing. God’s preachers never have to look for a place to preach or for people to hear them. When a man is sent of God, he is sent to a people who want to hear his message. (Acts 10:33—“Now therefore are we all here present before God to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.”)

7.     When God puts a man into the ministry he gives him the support of his fellow-laborers in the gospel.


I cannot fully answer the questions raised by my friend. “How does a man know if he is called of God to preach the gospel? And how does God put a man into the ministry?” But I do know these things.

·        Only God himself can make a man a preacher.

·        That man who is called of God to the work of preaching the gospel has a direct commission and call from Christ, and it is unmistakably clear. He knows that he has been sent of God.

·        Any man who is called of God to this great work takes the work seriously and earnestly seeks a message from Christ as he stands to speak for Christ.

·        God called men preach with urgency because they have experienced in their souls the message they preach. They carry in their souls “the burden of the word of the Lord.”

·        They preach with urgency because they know the serious consequences of their message.


Turn with me, now, to Hebrews 13. I want to talk to you about preachers, about “them which have the rule over you.”


(Hebrews 13:7)  "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."


(Hebrews 13:17)  "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."


I have shown you many, many times what the responsibilities of pastors, elders, and preachers are. Here, in these two verses, we are told that Gospel preachers are specifically responsible for four things.


1.     `It is the responsibility of every gospel pastor to rule the house of God.


A Gospel church is a kingdom under the rule of Christ her King. God called pastors are the overseers, governors, and rulers of his churches. Christ is the Shepherd. Faithful pastors are under-shepherds. The pastor’s rule of God’s house is like a husband’s rule of his own house. It involves…

·        Direction

·        Provision

·        Protection


2.     The way God’s servants rule his church is by the declaration of God’s Word, by the preaching of the gospel.—“Who have spoken to you the Word of God.”


(Jeremiah 23:28)  "The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD."


3.     To preach the Word of God is to instruct eternity bound men and women in the way of faith.—“Whose faith follow.”—By Word.—By Example.


4.     These things God’s servants are responsible to do as watchmen, as men who “watch for your souls, as they that must give account.


But Paul’s primary object in these two verses is to show God’s people what they ought to do, how you ought to behave, in relation to “them which have the rule over you.” The Scriptures give very clear instructions to God’s people about these things. Let me briefly show you what those instructions are.


Here are ten things revealed in the Word of God which every church and every believer within the church should do for the man who preaches the gospel of Christ to them, laboring for their souls” eternal good.


I. Know him (1 Thess. 5:12)


(1 Thessalonians 5:12)  "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;"


Obviously, this means more than having a bare acquaintance with him. It is unthinkable that a church might have a pastor with whom it is unacquainted. To know your pastor is to acknowledge him as your pastor, as the messenger of God to your soul.


Every believer should get to know, and show his care for, every faithful pastor, preacher, missionary and evangelist that he can. God's people need to build strong relationships with God's servants everywhere. As your pastor I highly encourage you to write to, visit and get to know every faithful gospel preacher they can. (God's servants are not jealous or fearful of one another!) But there should be a special relationship between a pastor and the congregation which he serves. Your pastor is to be acknowledged by you, above all others, as God's messenger to you. That makes him special to you.


To know your pastor is to love him. The word “know” is often used for “love” in the Scriptures, and every member of the church should have a distinct love for the man who is the instrument of God to minister to the needs of his people. The man who devotes his life to securing your soul's comfort, edification and strength is worthy of your love.


To know your pastor is to hold him in respect. Paul admonished the Philippians to hold their pastor in reputation, to honor him (Phil. 2:29). God's people are to give honour to those men who are God's ambassadors. They are to be treated as God's ambassadors (Luke 10:16).


To know your pastor is to show concern for his comfort, welfare, safety and protection. David used the word “know” in this way (Ps. 142:4). Churches should be greatly concerned for the safety and welfare of their pastors in the discharge of their responsibilities. Pray for your pastor's spiritual safety and well-being. Protect his name and reputation from the slanderous gossip of evil men, and always endeavor to encourage him in his work.


Three Reasons


Paul gives three reasons why churches should make it their business to know their pastors.


A. They labor among you. If God has given you a faithful pastor, he has given you a man who labors for your soul. He fills his hours with diligent work, studying hard, praying earnestly, preaching fervently. He corresponds with needy people. He visits the sick. He writes articles, tracts, books, etc. The vast majority of his work is unseen by those for whom it is done, and too often unappreciated. But faithful pastors are laboring pastors.


B. They are over you by divine appointment. God has placed your pastor over you as your spiritual guide and ruler in his kingdom. If you would follow his faith, you need to know him.


C. They admonish you. Your pastor continually reminds you, in public and in private, of things which you need to know.


·        He reminds you of your past experiences of grace (Isa. 50:1-2).

·        He faithfully preaches and instructs you in the doctrines of the gospel (1 Cor. 1:26-31; Rom. 8:28-39).

·        He reminds you of your privileges and responsibilities in this world (Eph. 4:17-5:2).

·        He points out the dangers you must face (Matt. 13:18-23).

·        Finally, he ever reminds you of the blessed, soul-cheering promises of God in Christ (Isa. 43:1-5; 2 Cor. 1:20).


II. Esteem him very highly (1 Thess. 5:13)


(1 Thessalonians 5:13)  "And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves."


Every believer should esteem his pastor very highly. The word is “superabundantly,” over and above the esteem given to other brothers and sisters in Christ. This is not because he possesses any personal superiority; he does not. He, like you, is “only a sinner saved by grace”. But he is to be esteemed superabundantly for his work's sake. What does this mean?


You are to entertain the highest possible opinions of your pastor at all times. Hold him up in your own mind. Highly esteem his gifts and abilities as a preacher, and his grace and faithfulness as a believer. If you have a low opinion of a man, it is not likely that he will be of much use to your soul. His words will carry no weight with you.


Always speak honorably of your pastor. Believers should always speak well of one another, but this is especially true regarding their pastors. If you do not speak well of your pastor, it is not likely that anyone who knows you will have any respect for him. At home, among the members of your family, at work, in the midst of your co-workers and in the community, always give God's servant the highest possible esteem in your speech.


Speak respectfully to your pastor as God's messenger to you. The use of titles and names of distinction to separate and elevate God's servants above his people is to be deplored. Our Lord plainly forbids it (Matt. 23:7-9). We should address no man as “Reverend', “Father', or “Doctor'! But God's servants should be spoken to in respectful terms. Neither the pastor's office nor his work should be made the object of a joke or of ridicule. Like a father in his household, the pastor is to be treated and spoken to with the respect that becomes his high and holy office in the church.


This superabundant esteem must be the esteem of sincere love for the pastor's work's sake. It is not a forced reverence for an office. It is to be a heartfelt esteem flowing from your realization of the burden, labor and value of the work of the gospel, to which God's servant faithfully gives himself. That man deserves your highest, most loving esteem who spends his life in ardent labor for the gospel, who has been the instrument used of God for your salvation, who ministers to the comfort of your soul and is used of God for your spiritual growth and edification in the knowledge of Christ.


III. Remember him (Heb. 13:7)


(Hebrews 13:7)  "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."


Ever keep your pastor close to your heart in fond remembrance. Remember him at the throne of grace when you pray, but particularly, the admonition here is to remember his messages and the doctrine he preaches. Listen carefully to what he preaches. Take notes to aid your memory. Discuss his sermons at home, among your brethren, and store up his doctrine in your mind, so that you may apply it to yourself as you seek to live in this world for the glory of God. As you read the Word of God in your private worship, if you remember what has been preached to you the Word will open before you and be blessed of God to your heart.


Two Reasons


Here are two reasons for remembering your pastor, particularly, for remembering his messages.


First, he has the rule of the church. His word is to be remembered, because God has made him your spiritual guide in this world.


Second, he speaks to you the Word of God. He does not come in his own name, teaching his own opinions, or the philosophies of men. If he is God's man, your pastor comes to you with God's message, armed with God's authority, and what he says you are responsible to hear, remember and obey. He preaches to you the Word of God.


IV. Follow him (Heb. 13:7)


Whose faith follow”—Believers and churches are to follow their pastors. Your pastor is your leader and guide in the kingdom of God. You are to follow his example of faith and faithfulness. Follow the pure gospel doctrine that he preaches to you. It leads to life everlasting. Follow his example of devotion to Christ.


Your pastor, if he is truly the servant of God, is a man of resolute, heart devotion to Christ, his church, his gospel and his glory. He guides God's people by his own example of consecration to Christ. Follow his example of faithfulness. The one thing God requires of his servants is faithfulness, and if you would be serviceable to the cause of Christ in your own sphere of responsibility, you will learn how by following your pastor's example.


This is not blind allegiance to a man. This is obedience to Christ. If you would follow Christ, you must follow the man he has made your guide, “considering the end of his conversation, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Heb. 13:8). Christ is the object of our faith, the pattern of our faith and the end of our faith. Follow your pastor in the life of faith, as he presses towards the mark, Christ Jesus.


V. Obey him (Heb. 13:17)


(Hebrews 13:17)  "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."


Obedience is not servitude, but it does mean submission. God's people are expected and required to obey their pastors. In spiritual, doctrinal matters, in all things regarding the affairs and work of the church, the pastor is to be obeyed. If he is not worthy of obedience, he should not be the pastor. Elders are to serve the church in obedience to the pastor. Deacons are to serve the church in obedience to the pastor. Teachers are to serve the church in obedience to the pastor. Every member of the congregation is to serve the church in obedience to the pastor. The pastor is the captain of the ship. All the crew must serve in obedience to him.


Obey his message, the gospel of the grace of God. Hear it. Receive it. Love it, and order your life by it.


Obey his direction in the worship of Christ. Every aspect of the worship and work of the church should be carried out in accordance with the pastor's instruction. The order of the services, the selection of music, the administration of the ordinances and the activities of the church are to be performed in the way required by the pastor, as he is guided by the Word of God. There is no need for committees and societies within the church body. The pastor's voice, as he seeks the will and glory of God, is to be obeyed in all things.


Obey his admonitions and reproofs. No pastor is infallible. He will often err. But if he is a faithful man, his errors will be errors of judgment, not errors of principle. You can safely follow such a man and obey him. His admonitions and reproofs, if he is God s servant, are not personal attacks, or fits of passion. They are thoughtful, needful, God-given warnings and directions for your soul's eternal good.


VI. Submit to him (Heb. 13:17)


Submit yourselves”—The admonition here is to submit yourself to the Spirit-led, faithful care of your pastor. Do what he tells you to do, even if you do not really understand why. That may seem a little too much to expect, but a little consideration will show that it is not.


A few years ago, I was dying with cancer. The doctors wanted to treat my disease by injecting me with a series of drugs and cobalt treatments. The drugs and the treatments could prove deadly themselves, if they were not properly administered. I do not understand how they work, but, being confident of my physicians abilities, I submitted myself to them and did what they told me to do, because I knew that they knew better than I did what was needed.


You are to submit to your pastor in just that way. If he is a faithful man, he probably knows better than you what is best for your soul, the cause of Christ, the welfare of the church and the furtherance of the gospel. He will not willfully mislead you, and he will not abuse you, or take advantage of you.


Your pastor's concern is for the welfare of your soul. He watches for your soul as one who must give account, both to his own conscience and at the judgment bar of God. Every faithful pastor exercises great care and diligence as he watches over God's people, for he desires to give account of his hearers with joy and not with grief. If on the Day of Judgment God's servant gives account of you with grief, as one who has heard but refused to obey the gospel, you will suffer the wrath of God for it (Deut. 17:11-12).


(Deuteronomy 17:11-12)  "According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall show thee, to the right hand, nor to the left. (12) And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel."


VII. Pray for him (Heb. 13:8; Eph. 6:19: Col. 4:3; 2 Thess. 3:1)


(Ephesians 6:19)  "And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,"


(Colossians 4:3)  "Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:"


(2 Thessalonians 3:1)  "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:"


(Hebrews 13:18)  "Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly."


Let every child of God pray continually for all who faithfully preach the gospel of Christ, but every believer should especially pray for his own pastor.


C. H. Spurgeon was once asked, “To what do you attribute the phenomenal success of your ministry?” Without a moment's hesitation, he replied, “My people pray for me.” Let all who believe follow their example. Pray for your pastor.

·        As he seeks a message for your soul in his private study and preparation for the pulpit, pray for him.

·        As he preaches the gospel to you, pray for him.

·        Pray, too, for your pastor with regard to his life and conduct in this world.


He is a man, like yourself, weak, frail, sinful and tempted of the devil. Pray for his preservation from the evil one. Pray that God will ever give him grace to seek neither to avoid the disfavor of men, nor to crave the favor of men. Call upon God to preserve him in grace, in usefulness and in health and strength.


·        And pray for your pastor's constant and increasing usefulness in the cause of Christ.


VIII. Provide for him (1 Tim. 5:17-18; Gal. 6:6; 1 Cor. 9:7-14)


(1 Corinthians 9:7-14)  "Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? (8) Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? (9) For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? (10) Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. (11) If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? (12) If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. (13) Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? (14) Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel."


(Galatians 6:6)  "Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things."


(1 Timothy 5:17-18)  "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. (18) For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward."


Carefully read these texts of Scripture. Then read them again and ask the Spirit of God to apply them to your own heart. It is a shame and reproach upon any congregation which is able to care for its pastor, if the pastor has to provide for any of his own, or his family's earthly, material needs. And it is the congregation itself which suffers when the pastor has to support himself.


Every local church should generously supply every need of the pastor and his family, so that he may be able to give himself wholly to prayer, study and preaching. A faithful man will make whatever sacrifices and adjustments are necessary to live within his means, and he will not take advantage of the generosity of God's people. But every church, and every member of the church, should do everything within its ability to see to it that God's servant lacks nothing.


IX. Adhere to him (2 Tim. 1:15-18)


(2 Timothy 1:15-18)  "This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. (16) The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: (17) But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. (18) The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well."


In every state, condition and circumstance, adhere to your pastor. He needs you. In difficulty, support him. When he is discouraged, encourage him. When he is engaged in trials, sympathize with him. When he is opposed, stand by him. When men speak evil of him, defend him. In all his labor for Christ, your soul and the gospel of the grace of God, do whatever you can to assist him, for the glory of God.


X. Treat him as the minister of Christ (1 Cor. 4:1-2)


(1 Corinthians 4:1-2)  "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. (2) Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful."


He has been made your servant for Christ's sake by the will of God. He is the steward of the mysteries of God. God has made him the servant in his house who is entrusted with the treasury of the house, the gospel of the grace of God. And, if he is God's servant, he is faithful to your soul in all things.


We have seen, from the Word of God, ten things which the believer should be doing for his pastor. Many will say, “No man deserves to be treated so royally,” and, of course, they are right. No man deserves to have such treatment from his peers. But if God's servants are to be effective in, and give themselves, to the work of the gospel, they must have the unwavering help, support and faithfulness of God's people behind them. Remember also that your pastor, if he is God's faithful servant, is God's ambassador to your soul; and the Lord regards that which is done to his ambassadors, be it good or bad, as having been done to him (Luke 10:16).


Churches sometimes wonder why they cannot keep a pastor more than a few years. There may be many reasons. But this one thing I have observed, after a good many years of pastoral experience: very few pastors would even consider the possibility of leaving any church which did for them the things which we have seen in the Book of God tonight. Personally, I have never known a pastor to leave such a congregation. If we are to labor together for Christ, as a family, we must treat one another as a family.

[1] The fact is—If we are born of God we are his servants. He has put us into the ministry. Some serve in one capacity and some in another. But we are all his witnesses and his servants. And each of us is useful only in the place God has put us.