In Hebrews 12:28, the author takes up the matter of acceptable worship. In chapter 13, we see how acceptable worship is lived out in the lives of Christians. Acceptable worship is the fruit of lips (13:15) – an offering of praise and thanksgiving, confessing the name of Jesus. True worship also consists of practically loving others (13:1), showing hospitality (2), remembering those in prison (3), honoring marriage (4) and living sacrificially (5-6) in submission to sound spiritual leadership (7, 17).
In the early church, with all the contributions made by its members, obedience and submission was always expected for its leadership. Congregationalism does not negate the need for sound leaders. Of course, the church is not exhorted to submit to leaders who deviate from the Gospel (13:9), but they are to remember, honor, obey and submit only to the authority of those faithful leaders in their local church. Obedience is linked to trust. When a church obeys its leaders, it is like saying, “we trust this man to lead us in the gospel without being influenced by strange teaching.”
The reason for the church’s trust and submission lies in the special responsibility that leaders have, to watch over the spiritual lives of their church. The elder joyfully accepts the responsibility for shepherding the souls of those in his care. The tedious work of shepherding is made joyful in an atmosphere of trust and cooperation. By contrast, leaders groan under the heavy burden of the lack of trust; and this in turn is detrimental to the health of the congregation. Submitting to the sound oversight of leaders who are faithful to the Gospel of grace is synonymous with submitting to God Himself.