Obedience, Prayer, and A Doxology – Hebrews 13:17-21

Being in a ministry context is always an interesting experience. You might do it with joy (or with groaning), you might feel the Spirit’s power (or the attack of the other one), and you surely appreciate when people pray for you.
Hence, we need to keep in mind that we as leaders do need community as well as prayer of our fellow believers. Someone once said to me that “the higher you get in leadership, the more lonesome you become”. What a horrible idea!
Well, I guess I know what has been said is true to a certain extent, but we also need to see that fellowship is necessary for anyone who wants to live a Christian life.
Text
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.
20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Some Remarks
17 Leaders in the Christian community do have a special task to feed the flock of God. We have to obey and submit to them for the reason of their God given authority over us and because they are those who will have to give an account. If we do submit and obey they can do such with joy so that it will be an advantage to us.
All who have a leading role in the local community of believers know too well what a different it makes if ministry is done in mutual serving, with joy, and not with groaning
18 The author, though he might be a very prominent leader of his time, also is in need of prayer as we all are; we who call ourselves followers of the Lord. He has a clear conscience which might suggests that he had a duty or responsibility which he successfully accomplished (Bruce, 386). Paul writes somewhere in similar terms (2 Cor. 2:12; 6:3). (See conclusion for some more details.)
19 Here the love of the author to the readers is implicitly stated. He wants them to pray earnestly so that he may be restored to them, rather sooner than later. Why he ever left the community is not stated. It may be that he had apostolic duties which also included aspects of traveling and leaving communities to their elders.
20-21Bruce states that this prayer is a collecta oratio consisting of seven elements (387):
a)     The invocation (Now may the God of peace)
b)     An adjective clause on which ground the following petition is based (who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus)
c)      The main petition (equip you with everything good that you may do his will)
d)     A subsidiary petition (working in us that which is pleasing in his sight)
e)     A pleading of the mediatorial merit of Christ (through Jesus Christ)
f)       A doxology (to whom be glory forever and ever)
g)     The Amen
It is of interest to observe that the God is the one who equips us with everything good that wemay do his will (cf. Eph. 2:10). Through Jesus Christ He is working in us that which is pleasing in his sight. We need to listen to Him who is speaking (12:25) because trust and obedience equals faith and only through faith one is able to please Him (cf. 11:6).
Conclusion
Leaders (and Christians in general) are challenged by the words we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things but it is necessary that we do have a clear conscience. It is not that we are talking about sinless perfection which is a Christian heresy not a Jewish one (As one of my professor often reminds us of), but about our daily conduct in reference to God and what He gave us to do.
Further in light of what the author has that so far, we see that it is the sacrifice of Christ which purifies our conscience (9:14) and that we now can draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience (10:22; emphasis mine).
Living in the Gospel truth sets us free so that we may conduct ourselves in a way which is pleasing to God.
Bibliography:
Bruce, F. F. The Epistle to the Hebrews. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.

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