Tuesday, May 12, 2015


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)
In the previous article, I mentioned the doctrine known as discipleship or shepherding. I also spent time showing how far removed we are from knowing the Bible and its contents. 

The result of this is showing up in horrifying situations, as the people of God are being led down the primrose path.

We will now look at how these two concepts—biblical illiteracy and submission/obedience—relate to each other.

I have often made the facetious observation (with not a little sarcasm thrown in) that “as long as a preacher could smile and show his big white pearlies, had an expensive almost-bouffant haircut, and could say Praise Jesus’ with just the right southern drawl, he would pass the good-fruit test.”

Character—which is a biblical standard—was never an issue until something bad showed up.

Too late.

The fox is in the henhouse.

Since we do not know the Bible, there is no way we can follow its teachings on choosing our leaders. So, we have them audition for us by giving us their best sermons.

Even then, we are judging them not necessarily on biblical content, but on outward appearanceand phenomena.

The lack of biblical understanding has allowed the shepherding doctrine to continue to this day, and it is now being used in a more subtle fashion by those who would try to keep people from pressing on for “the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
(Phil. 3:14)

It has fully entered into the subconscious awareness of believers.

A few months ago, my wife and I were part of a fellowship gathering where believers from the last church we attended were present. This is the church from which I was asked to leave. One of the people began a long discourse on the necessity of submission to those in authority, the obvious intent being to correct us for not being obedient.


Peter tells us that we are to submit ourselves to every ordinance of man (1 Pet. 2:13). Paul echoes the same sentiment in Rom. 13:1-2.

Most preachers will tell you that this means to obey. Of course, these must be the ones who have never heard of Hitler.

However, I offer two examples from the Bible where submission did NOT equal obedience—and one of them includes the same Peter who penned the words quoted above.
  • The three Hebrew children being thrown into the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:18).
  • The case of Peter and John before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:19).

Both of these are examples of men Submitting to the authorities, but not Obeying them.

There is a distinction between the two; but that is not the way we have been taught. We have been taught that submission means to obey. If you do not obey, then you are not truly submitted.

And, because we do not know the Word of God, and we want to please God in all things, we willingly comply. For some, that means they lose all sense of who they are in Christ apart from the leader who controls them.

Let’s look more deeply than simply at examples by considering the opening verse that was given:
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)
Notice here that the two words are both contained within the admonition, thereby giving the distinction that one is separate from the other.

They are also two different words in the original Greek of the verse.

Interestingly enough, the word for ‘submit’ in this verse is only used here and nowhere else in the NT. Its only relation to the other word for ‘submit’ is in the preposition that forms the compound word so translated.

The other verses that are used to teach the doctrine of submission use a different word, which has military connotations. This word shows up 40 times in the NT, but not all those verses are used to establish the teaching.

The word, hupotasso, is found in Strong’s #5293. Following the definition and the various ways the word is translated, a note is given:
This word was a Greek military term meaning "to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader". In non-military use, it was "a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden".
It is the military idea that was recently promoted as the meaning and intent of the writers of the NT. Much was made about the fact that in military service you do what you are told to do without asking questions.

Truly, the excesses that were carried on during the height of the shepherding movement are no longer prevalent; but the underlying force of the teaching still remains—if you disobey, then you are not submissive, but rebellious, and “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.”
(1 Sam. 15:23)

A false leadership desiring to build their own little kingdom loves this teaching, and uses it often to keep people under subjection and “serving the Lord.” (click to tweet)

There are many arguments against what I am proposing, but they all center around obeying and submitting to the leadership of the church, instead of being centered on the Word of God.

In closing this section, I will offer only one passage of scripture and will hope that your eyes of understanding will be enlightened as to the truth of what I say.
“Likewise, ye wives, [be] in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;” (1 Pet. 3:1)
Would anyone knowingly suggest that a woman is to obey an abusive, immoral husband?

Of course not!

The phrase “be in subjection” translates the same Greek word under consideration; so it MUST mean something other than blind obedience.

We will consider submission and obedience to your pastor and church leaders in the next installment.

Any and all comments, critiques, questions, or criticisms are welcome here. Your response does not require my approval before being posted. While I certainly appreciate your comments on Facebook, I would prefer that you also leave your comment here, just below this article. There are many people who do not visit Facebook, and cannot join in any discussion that may be generated by your thoughtful insight. Please consider leaving your response below--either through words, or simply checking the appropriate box that equals your reaction. Thank you.


  1. I have to say I don't understand this verse: "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves." I am still overcoming issues created by submitting to ministers in my younger years who really did not know much. The most I can do at this point is be respectful, not cause disharmony and if I cannot agree - leave. It seems this would apply more to young "Christians."

    1. Noella, it is the rest of the verse that makes all the difference. "Do they watch for your soul?" Too often, that simply is NOT true among our current modern leaders who have been taught how to run the church, but not how to care for the people who make up the church.
      So, according to my thesis in this article, obedience is probably out of the question; and submission would soon follow. How can I submit myself to thos ewho do not follow the scripture?


Your comments are welcome here.
Feel free to critique, criticize, question, or otherwise make your voice heard in relation to this post.
I only ask that you keep it civil and appropriate to the post.