“Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (Hebrews 13:7).
Hebrews 13:7 exhorts us to remember and consider the conduct of church leaders. Depending on the author’s intent, there are several ways we might understand and apply this passage. For instance, Hebrews 13:7 might serve as a reference to departed ministers, including those who may have perished as a result of persecution. The Good News Bible adopts this perspective in its translation of this passage…
“Remember your former leaders, who spoke God’s message to you. Think back on how they lived and died, and imitate their faith.”
If such was the case, then these leaders served to exemplify our author’s reference to Abel in Hebrews 11:4: “…even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith” (CSB).
Another possibility is that our author had active, living members of the church leadership in view. If so, then Hebrews 13:7 offers several standards we can apply today. First, we can say that good leaders are synonymous with those who speak the Word of God. In short, good leaders teach God’s Word. In light of this, we should be alert to those who substitute their interests, agendas, or opinions for the expository study of God’s Word.
Sermons that routinely stray from a Biblical text (or feature no Biblical text), should thus serve as warnings. In the words of one commentator, “…There are various ways to use the word of God deceitfully, or to tamper with it. Using a Bible text to preach a ‘sermon’ that has little or nothing to do with the Bible is one of the common ways of doing it.” (1)
Then we have the admonition to consider “the outcome of their conduct.” In every relationship, there are those who lead by example and teach us what to do. There are others who also lead by example and teach us what not to do. The vast majority of us teach both lessons. Therefore, we should emulate those leaders who serve as good role models. But if a leader’s conduct has been poor in certain areas, then we must consider the outcome of their conduct and avoid repeating it.
We should temper this approach with a look at the men whom Jesus chose as His apostles. Those individuals were fallible human beings who made significant mistakes in certain instances. Would they be the type of people you might choose to represent you if you were in Jesus’ position? Perhaps not. But Jesus did.
The same is true for those who rule over us within the church. We might not select certain individuals for leadership positions if given the choice. But Jesus has. Therefore, we should seek to be charitable and gracious as we learn from their successes and failures.
(1) Paul T. Butler, The Bible Study Textbook Series, Studies In Second Corinthians (College Press) [p. 93] Copyright © 1988 College Press Publishing Company https://archive.org/stream/BibleStudyTextbookSeriesSecondCorinthians/132Corinthians-Butler_djvu.txt