In Hebrews 13:17, some English Bibles tell us to “obey” those who “rule over” us in the church. These are very unfortunate translations.
In the Greek, the verb translated “obey” is in the middle voice and means to “be persuaded”. Yet it is often wrongly translated in the active voice as “obey”, which has an entirely different meaning.
The verb phrase “rule over” also is a misleading translation.
In the Greek, it is not referring to anyone with hierarchical authority “over” others.
Rather, it is simply talking about those who have earned your esteem by having given thought to and walked farther along the same path.
If they can’t persuade or earn your respect by having actually thought through and lived what they’re saying, then we are under no obligation to accord them any influence in our lives.
There is NO command in the New Testament to blindly obey or follow anyone – and no mandate for authoritarianism, “cover” or control over others – in the church.
Church leadership in the New Testament is straightforward:
Be persuaded by those who thoughtfully walk the walk and are further along in their faith and life experience, yielding to their example as we submit one to another.
Nothing more, nothing less.