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Theology > Church > Church Government > Responsibility of Believers


The responsibility of believers is twofold: one, obedience and submission to the leaders who have been appointed to rule over the Church; and two, ministry to each other by being sensitive to the needs of other believers.

First, believers are to obey and follow their leaders:

Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct (Heb. 13:7);

Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account (Heb. 13:17).

Without question the leaders of the Church are to “rule,” that is, they are to provide spiritual leadership to the Church; and to these leaders—Elders, Bishops, Pastors—the individual believers have a responsibility. Note the words of instruction from the above verses: “remember,” “obey,” and “be submissive.” These words should not be understood on the personal and private level, as though these leaders have the right to dictate the manner in which one’s life is lived in the day by day particulars; rather, the words must be understood in a spiritual sense.

To the believers the leaders speak “the word of God,” and the leaders “watch out” for the souls of the believers; this speaks of a spiritual dimension. The leaders care about the inner man and feed that man in order that he may become mature, filled with wisdom. And it is out of this growth and increasing wisdom that the believer is entrusted to make proper decisions on the day to day basis. For their work in the spiritual arena, the leaders “must give account.”

Second, the responsibility of believers at the individual level, meaning the relationship between believers, can be summarized in one word, “ministry”:

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12).

“Ministry” translates the Greek word diakonia, meaning “ministry,” “service,” or “help”; in other words, the Christian life is to be one of ministry or service, a service for others. Through this common ministry to each believer by every other believer the body of Christ is edified, meaning it is built up in order to be strong and effective. Equipping for this work is the work of the leaders who instruct by their teaching and by the example of their lives. Leaders teach the believers how to be a blessing to each other within the body of Christ.

To each believer grace has been given “according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4:7; see: Rom. 12:4-8; I Cor. 12-14; I Pet. 4:10), and each believer is to use the gift that has been given to him to benefit the other believers in the Church. Peter writes: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (I Pet. 4:10). The goal is “the unity of the faith,” “the knowledge of the Son of God,” “a perfect man,” and “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12-13). The pursuit is perfection, or maturity; in spiritual unity believers are to “grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Eph. 4:15).

And they continued steadfastly
in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship,
in the breaking of bread,
and in prayers.
Acts 2:42

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