Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Heb. 13:7a “Remember them which have the rule over you, who
have spoken unto you the word of God;. . .”
One way we express appreciation for the promises of God is by treating with reverence those who preach to us the Word which contains the promises. The term “rulers” is used three times in this chapter (vv. 7,17,24) to refer to pastors, also known as elders and bishops (overseers).
Our text reminds us “ruling” elders and “teaching” elders are one and the same, not two distinct offices as some advocate. One should become “ruler” (pastor) of a church only if he has the God-given gift of teaching Scripture (1 TM 3:2).
The real leader of any Bible-centered church is the man who preaches and teaches to it the Word of God. Pastors rule, not as dictators, but as God-ordained managers, stewards, of the Word.
The “power of the pulpit” is awesome. A pastor is responsible for rightly dividing the Word to his church, a living organism. Since believers love the Word, they look to the one properly handling it for leadership. Thus the pastor also oversees the the organization which provides a skeleton for the organism.
Heb. 13:7b “. . .whose faith follow,. . .”
No mere man, not even the best of men, is to be our example absolutely. This honor belongs to Christ alone. However, we are to imitate the faith which invigorates faithful pastors.
The finest compliment we can give a pastor is to imitate his faith–not his mannerisms, eloquence, gifts, or habits. Every believer has faith (10:39; 2 P 1:1). We learn how to exercise it well in our lives by watching faithful leaders.
Pastors are expected to live by a high standard of conduct. Elders must teach the Word well enough to be remembered, and live well enough to be imitated. What rulers say and do speaks loudly. We bishops must talk of the Bible, and show the Word in our own lives. An overseer needs to be a talking and walking Bible.
Heb. 13:7c “. . .considering the end of their conversation.”
Some of the readers’ pastors had already departed in faith. These men whose lives could be viewed from start to finish were to be the main role models of faith for the readers of Hebrews.
These pastors proved they had faith by staying true to the end. Endurance to the end is ever the ultimate test of faith. God has written Himself, and staked His reputation, on the lives of godly pastors who have lived and died in faith.
We are edified by imitating the faith which animated pastors like George W. Truett, R. G. Lee, and David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, men faithful in life and death. Truett, in his final days, was found in a semi-conscious state standing at his hospital window. Seeing pedestrians below, he extended his arms, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, pled, “Come to Jesus! Come to Jesus!”
Lee, near the end, asked for his family to come to his bed-side “that they might see how a child of God should die.” Lloyd-Jones, close to death at age 81, told his family, “Don’t pray for healing, don’t hold me back from the glory.”
Remember your own faithful pastors of yore, the ones gone on before. Cherish every memory of those preachers you have known who stayed faithful to “the end of their conversation.” They left you a valuable legacy, true doctrine (v. 7a) and true example (v. 7c). By precept and pattern they showed the right path to trod.
Our author stirred us previously (chapter eleven) by listing examples of faith, but there is something vivid about a life we have seen and observed firsthand, as opposed to one we have heard of or read about. Faithful pastors who live in our memories as flesh-and-blood examples yield us vibrant motivation.
The Church is ever an heir of her own past. Her inheritance she must never forget. The present generation always has much to learn from previous ones. We are indebted to people of faith who showed us how to live, and in the end, how to die.
On the last day of his earthly life, D. L. Moody woke early in the morning, saying slowly, “Earth recedes–Heaven opens before me.” His son thought his dad was dreaming and tried to wake him, but Moody said, “No, this is no dream. God is calling me, and I must go!” He later said, “This is my triumph, my coronation day! I have been looking forward to it for years.” He soon became unconscious again, but afterward awoke to say, “No pain! No valley!” Later he again said, “This is my coronation day! It’s glorious!”
Thank God for missionaries who, in life and death, displayed faith worth following. Livingstone died while on his knees in prayer. Brainerd died while in a coma praying for the conversion of the American Indians. Adoniram Judson, our Baptist hero, died at sea. His last words were, “I go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from school. I feel so strong in Christ.”
Thank God for believers who have verified their lives of faith by dying in faith. At the martyr’s stake, John Hus sang a hymn so loudly that it could be heard above the crackling of the flames. John Knox, too weak to speak, was asked to give a sign that he heard his friends and died in peace. In answer, he lifted one of his hands and pointed to heaven. Whitefield spent his dying hours praying God would give him another chance to preach. Philip Melancthon, asked near death if he wanted anything, replied, “I want nothing but Heaven.”
Quintilian, Roman master of oratory, said, “It is a good thing to know, and always to keep turning over in the mind, the things which were illustriously done of old.” The writer of Hebrews said, “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.”