“The Tenth Benefit of Being A Church Member: In The Place of Shepherding”
Hebrews 13.7, 17
1. One of the undeniable realities of the human condition is loneliness. There is not a man or woman alive who does not have to deal in one way or another with this dreaded condition called loneliness.
2. Turn in your Bible to Psalm 142. When you find that psalm, please stand and read along with me while I read aloud:
Maschil of David; A Prayer when he was in the cave.
1 I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication.
2 I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble.
3 When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me.
4 I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.
5 I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.
6 Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I.
7 Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.
3. Are there times when your spirit is overwhelmed, as David said he was in verse 3? Do you know what it is like to look on your right hand and see that no one would know you, and to have to admit that evidence seems to show that no man cares for your soul?
4. David cried out to the LORD. He stated his case and pleaded his cause. He longed for God to bring his soul out of prison so that he could praise God’s name. He anticipated being surrounded by the righteous, and was confident that God would deal bountifully with him.
5. Guess what? God did answer his prayers. God did deliver him. And David’s experience parallels what happens to someone who is lost in his sins and who comes to know the joy of sins forgiven that only Jesus Christ provides.
6. David was confident that the righteous would compass him about because he trusted God to deal bountifully with him. As with David, so with the sinner today who pours out his complaint to God, who finds himself snared by sin, whose spirit is overwhelmed, who senses no care for his soul, who is brought very low, and who finds salvation full and free in Jesus Christ.
7. In our day and time, to be compassed about by the righteous, as David wrote in Psalm 142.7, to be dealt with in bountiful fashion, finds expression in two ways only in the life of the Christian: First, there is the companionship and camaraderie of the church congregation. Second, there is the oversight of a pastor.
8. This morning I want to speak about the tenth benefit of being a church member, being in the place of shepherding. My text is Hebrews 13.7 and 17. When you find those two verses, place stand once again for the reading of God’s Word:
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.
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.
9. The writer to the Hebrews has already commanded his readers to be faithful in church. Hebrews 10.25 reads, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
10. What an ominous tone Hebrews 10.25 carries with its reading. There are some who forsake the assembly. They pick and choose their times of attending. They are superficial in their involvement. They think lightly of missing church because other things are scheduled, or because they see little point in attending, or because they anticipate no particular blessing from attending.
11. They give little thought to exhorting others, which they cannot do when they stay home, or when they work instead of attend church, or when they play instead of attend church. It never crosses their minds that “the day” approaches. Neither does it cross their minds to bless others, which they can only do when they assemble with others. By not attending, or by hit and miss attendance, a person identifies himself as one of the “others” the writer to the Hebrews speaks of.
12. So, steady and faithful participation in the assembly has already been established by our inspired writer as the norm for the Christian life. Christians go to church regularly, faithfully, religiously. What would you call a person who does not go to church regularly, faithfully, religiously? A pagan. An heathen. Godless.
13. So, our text, Hebrews 13.7 and 17, presumes faithful church attendance, and builds upon the presumption of regular attendance. Rather than expound on the full meaning of these two verses, allow me to comment on six words found in these two verses; two verses which to all but the most stubbornly blind are obviously verses that address the relationship that should exist between spiritual leaders and Christians . . . with the context of them being in a church congregation setting already established from Hebrews 10.25.
1A. First, THERE IS THE WORD “REMEMBER”
1B. The word “remember” in Hebrews 13.7 is not a controversial word. It is a simple and straightforward word that expresses an easy to understand concept. The word simply means to remember, to keep in mind, to think of.
2B. “Remember them which have the rule over you” might be paraphrased in this way: “Remember your pastor.” Keep him in mind. Think about him. It has been my observation that Christians who do well spiritually tend to do this, and Christians who do not do well spiritually tend to not do this.
2A. Next, THERE IS THE WORD “RULE”
1B. This word “rule” translates a Greek word that refers to leading. To rule does not mean to offer consultation as an advisor would do, though a pastor does do that a great deal. To rule has to do with regulating and governing conduct. It has to do with supervising and guiding.
2B. How many people who claim to be Christians, even Christians who are members of a church, actually have this kind of relationship with the pastor? Very few. Yet our text does not command this relationship; it assumes it: “Remember them which have the rule over you.”
3B. So, the maverick kind of Christian, who goes his own way in life, or who is a church member who decides whether or not he will respond to the pastor’s guidance, is inconsistent with the picture the writer of Hebrews is painting here.
4B. When a pastor says to a church member, “I would like for you to pray about becoming an usher,” that church member would be well advised to talk to his church’s head usher at the next opportunity and ask, “What do I need to do to become an usher?”
5B. Is such a thing as that mind control? No. Is it dictatorship? No. It is a pastor regulating and governing a Christian’s conduct as a necessary aspect of his responsibility to equip that church member for the work of the ministry.
3A. Third, THERE IS THE WORD “FOLLOW”
1B. The word “follow” translates the Greek word from which we derive our English word “mimic” and “mimeograph.” The word is mimeomai, and it means to imitate, to emulate, to use as a model.
2B. My friends, I did not write this portion of Scripture. And I certainly do not profess, pretend, or presume to be a perfect Christian. But the Bible is very clear about many things being caught rather than taught, about many things being learned by imitating rather than by explaining.
3B. Therefore, a Christian’s life ought to be greatly influenced by his pastor’s life, because the writer does say “whose faith follow.” I am of the opinion that the word “faith” here speaks of the Christian faith. This would mean that your charge is to remember your pastor, the man God has provided to regulate and order the conduct of your life, who will be a model for you to mimic and to imitate, insofar as he represents the Christian faith.
4A. Fourth, THERE IS THE WORD “OBEY”
1B. The word “obey,” in Hebrews 13.17, translates the Greek word peiqw, which the lexicon says means “obey, follow.” On this, Albert Barnes writes, “The doctrine is, that subordination is necessary to the welfare of the church, and that there ought to be a disposition to yield all proper obedience to those who are set over us in the Lord.”
2B. Does this mean you should park your brain and engage in a mindless and thoughtless Christianity? Anyone who knows me knows that is not what I advocate. But I do find it amusing that those pseudo-sophisticates who think themselves so wise wrongly conclude that the men and women who truly do have a pastor are to be looked down on, when they are the ones who are to be sadly pitied.
5A. Fifth, THERE IS, ONCE MORE, THE WORD “RULE”
1B. Though a different tense is used here, this is the same word for “rule” that we find in Hebrews 13.17. It seems as though the writer to the Hebrews is building a very strong pastoral theology, in which the God-called spiritual leader’s role in the lives of church members is supposed to be significant.
2B. How very different this picture is from the concept held by most professing Christians. They will look upon a pastor as either a hired hand, much like an attorney or a physician whose expertise is available to make use of should one choose to employ it, or as little more than a teacher whose responsibility concludes when the hour of instruction has come to an end.
3B. Sad to say, I know many pastors who believe these portions of God’s Word, but are convinced that pastors should not preach these passages, for fear of seeming to be self-serving. But Paul’s example is, “I magnify mine office.”
6A. The Final Word Is “SUBMIT”
1B. Found only here in the Greek New Testament, upeikw primarily means to withdraw, or to give way to someone. By figurative extension the word means to yield to someone’s authority, to submit.
Spiritually mature Christians are responsive to such commands as this
because they have learned by invaluable experience that God is
trustworthy and that no one runs any risk when doing what God’s
3B. It was because Paul had begotten him in his bonds, led him to Christ while serving in prison with him, that Onesimus submitted to Paul and returned to his slave master, Philemon 10. Notice, also, one reason why the Corinthians were so responsive to Paul’s reproof: “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.”
4B. So you see, God makes it so much easier to follow the spiritual leadership of the man under whose ministry you came to Christ. This is why great doubt arises in my mind when those who claim to be Christians as a direct result of my ministry, which is to say I have begotten them in the gospel, do not submit to my spiritual oversight and direction as would be normal and as experience predicts.
1. Six straightforward words in two important verses that describe the relationship that is supposed to exist with pastors and Christians in a church congregation.
2. Yet these two verses antagonize many professing Christians, irritating them and causing them alarm at the thought of some pastor trying to lord it over them like some spiritual dictator. These two verses, rightly understood, are contrary to the spirit of our age.
3. However, the sermon will address a basic issue that speaks to the very heart of this matter. But first, brother Isenberger comes to lead us in song.
1. During our exposition of Hebrews 13.7 and 17, I stated that there are benefits to being the member of a church. One of those benefits has to do with being where you can be shepherded.
2. Please listen carefully as I very quickly make and then explain four statements:
1A. First, THROUGHOUT GOD’S WORD THE ELECT ARE LIKENED TO SHEEP
1B. Obviously, the elect are termed sheep after they have come to faith in Christ.
1C. Albert Barnes writes concerning the elect: “The word elect means to choose. It is given to Christians because they are ‘chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth,’ 2Th 2:13.”
2C. Psalm 79.13 shows that, before the time of Christ, God’s people were described as sheep: “So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations.”
3C. Psalm 100.3 shows us the same thing: “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
4C. In Matthew 10.16, the Lord Jesus Christ likens His disciples to sheep: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
5C. In John 21.16-17, the Lord Jesus Christ clearly identifies those who believe in Him as sheep: “He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”
6C. The apostle Paul also identified Christians as sheep in Acts 20.28 when, speaking to the Ephesian elders, he spoke these words: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” A flock speaks of sheep, and the Greek word translated “feed” in that verse is the verb form of the Greek word for shepherd.
7C. Finally, the apostle Peter identifies Christians as sheep. In First Peter 5.2, he writes, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.” Obviously, the flock of God is comprised of His sheep. And, in First Peter 5.4, when we read, “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away,” it is undeniable that the Lord Jesus Christ, identified as “the chief Shepherd,” holds His position in the lives of His sheep.
8C. So, Christians are sheep. We are called sheep. We behave like sheep. How we are like sheep and how we are unlike sheep is another sermon. But for now, let us recognize the obvious.
2B. Not so obvious to some is that the elect are termed sheep before they have come to faith in Christ.
1C. Peter describes Christians as they had behaved prior to their conversion, in First Peter 2.2: “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”
2C. Not only are the as yet unsaved elect shown to behave like sheep, as Peter does in the verse I just read, but the Lord Jesus Christ identifies as “His sheep” those who are not yet come to Him in John 10.16: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”
3C. So you see, not only are those who are Christians described as sheep, but also those who will become Christians. Thus, the term “goat” is used not to describe those who are not saved, but more correctly those who will not ever get saved because they are not elect.
2A. Next, GOD’S PLAN IS FOR HIS SHEEP TO BE SHEPHERDED
1B. The Israelites under the dispensation of the Law were shepherded.
1C. Turn to Numbers 27.15-17, and read along with me:
15 And Moses spake unto the LORD, saying,
16 Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation,
17 Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.
2C. Of course, God appointed Joshua to shepherd the people, as subsequent verses show us. But after Joshua died the people were shepherded by the priests, by the prophets that God raised up from time to time, by judges that were raised up, and then by the kings God set over the people.
3C. Was God always happy with these shepherds? Not at all. I read from Jeremiah 23.1-2: “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.” Again, pastors are shepherds. God’s people were, generally speaking, not shepherded well under the dispensation of the Mosaic Law, so God judged them.
2B. The Christians under the dispensation of grace are also to be shepherded.
1C. We have already considered First Peter 5.2: “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.” And again, the Greek word translated “feed” is the verb form of the word “shepherd.”
2C. As well, Acts 20.28: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
3C. Finally, there is Ephesians 4.11: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” Once again, the word “pastors” in this verse translates the Greek word for shepherd.”
4C. So, God’s label for the elect is sheep. If you are saved you are a sheep. If you are going to get saved you are a sheep. And if you are a sheep, whether in Old Testament times or in our present age, God’s plan for you is that you be shepherded.
3A. Third, PASTORS ARE CALLED TO SHEPHERD CHURCH MEMBERS
How do we know this to be true? Follow my thinking.
1B. First, let us recognize that the Bible shows that pastors are shepherds of church congregations.
1C. Pastors are shepherds. Right? But shepherds are shepherds, not of sheep, but of flocks of sheep. Right?
2C. In the Bible you only see shepherds who shepherd flocks. That is, you only see pastors who pastor congregations. You also see apostles who are shepherds at large, presiding over groups of churches they have planted.
3C. But now that apostles are passed off the scene we see no evidence in God’s Word of pastors at large, because pastors are the under shepherds of congregations. This is very clear in the Bible.
2B. Next, let us recognize that the Bible shows Christians in the Bible to be church members.
1C. Of course, someone always brings up the Ethiopian eunuch. “He got saved and baptized, and what congregation was he a part of?” The answer is, “I don’t know.”
2C. But the account of his conversion and baptism in the book of Acts does not provide a full set of details surrounding that episode in church history. It may very well be that instructions were given to him to rendezvous with other Christians later, or it may be that a plan was put into effect to send someone to his final destination to start a church with him as the first member of a new congregation.
3C. We should never allow one historical event to take from us the clear pattern of understanding that the New Testament shows us; that God’s will is for sinners to get saved, for the saved to get baptized, and for the baptized to congregate to worship and serve God. This is very clear.
4C. Where the Bible gives us enough information to make a considered judgment and evaluation, we can conclude that there is no evidence of a Christian who is not involved in a congregation.
3B. Therefore, Christians are to be shepherded by pastors in church congregations.
1C. Pastors shepherd congregations. Right? We have no evidence in God’s Word of a pastor who is not shepherding an actual congregation. Correct? Furthermore, we recognize that the Biblical pattern for Christians is involvement in church congregations. Is that not also correct?
2C. Folks, it is simple logic. If pastors are to shepherd congregations, and if Christians are to be in congregations, then pastors are to shepherd Christians. Or, to state it more personally, it is God’s will for you to be in a church and in that church to be shepherded by a pastor . . . if you are a Christian.
3C. Now, I understand that there are always reasons that people will give for not submitting to the ministry of a pastor, for not being responsive to a spiritual shepherd. And I understand that objections are always tossed out to argue against involvement in a church congregation. But none of the reasons that I have ever heard will stand the test of God’s final judgment.
4A. Finally, ONLY THOSE WHO ARE NOT SHEEP REFUSE TO BE PASTORED
You do understand the implications of un-sheep-like behavior, do you not? And you understand that sheep are always sheep, even before they come to Christ? Then, let me show you three labels, or markers, that are attached to those who simply refuse to be shepherded by a pastor in a church congregation:
1B. The first marker, or label, is the word “goat.” Those who are not sheep are goats.
1C. Please turn to Matthew 25.31, and read along silently with me:
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
2C. In John 10.27, Jesus also said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Those who are not His sheep are called goats. A goat has a different destiny than a sheep.
2B. Next, there is the label, or marker, of being a “wolf.”
1C. Matthew 7.15: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
2C. Matthew 10.16: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
3C. Luke 10.3: “Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.”
4C. Acts 20.29: “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.”
5C. Wolves are those unsaved people who are particularly dangerous to the sheep, who are especially harmful to Christians, and who seem to be vigorously opposed to the efforts and the ministry of the shepherds. These would be those who actively oppose the pastor and who recruit church members who follow them as they rebel against the pastor.
3B. The third label, or marker, is “ungodly men.”
1C. Please turn to Jude 12-13, the last passage we will look at this morning: “These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.”
2C. From verse 13 we see that Jude is describing lost men. In verse 15 he labels them “ungodly men.” But what I want you to notice is the phrase in verse 12, “feeding themselves without fear.” That word “feeding” translates the verb form of the Greek word for shepherd, poimainw. It means “to shepherd, to care for as a shepherd.”
3C. My friends, one of the things ungodly men do is pastor themselves. Sometimes they are church members who pastor themselves. Sometimes they are not church members who pastor themselves. But the description is of men who pastor themselves without fear.
1. You realize that I could have preached an entire sermon on each point this morning. But sometimes looking at an issue too closely results in missing the big picture.
2. The big picture can very simply be stated in this way: God’s plan is for His sheep to be shepherded. The Lord Jesus Christ is the chief shepherd, but He uses men who are called to be pastors to shepherd His sheep until He comes for them.
3. Those who will not be shepherded are said to be goats, wolves, or ungodly men, who feel they have a perfect right and are unafraid to shepherd themselves.
4. The benefit to being in church? The shepherd protects you from those you cannot protect yourself from. Sheep cannot protect themselves from wolves. And goats will not be led by a shepherd, but must be driven by a goat herd. Finally, the ungodly will insist on pastoring themselves, delighted with their knowledge of the Bible while they refuse to obey what God in the Bible tells them to do.
 Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 655.
 Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 718.
 Bauer, page 434.
 Ibid., page 651.
 Ibid., page 792.
 Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ NT Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), email@example.com
 Romans 11.13
 Bauer, page 1030.
 1 Corinthians 4.15-16
 Albert Barnes’ comment on the word “elect” in Matthew 24.22 in Albert Barnes’ NT Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), firstname.lastname@example.org
 Rienecker, page 318.
 Ibid., page 765.
 Ibid., page 531.
 Rienecker, page 807.