Last week, nakita natin kung paano dapat i-fulfill ng mga office-bearers ang kanilang mga tungkuling bilang mga “shepherds” and “overseers” of Christ’s church (in what manner)—not under compulsion, but willingly… not for personal gain, but eagerly… not domineering over, but being examples. That’s our duty as undershepherds.
Now what about the members of the church? What is your duty to the office-bearers? In what way or manner should you do it?
That’s the next part of Peter’s exhortation, “Be subject to your elders.”
To be honest, ang hirap po i-preach ‘yong text na ‘to. Why?
- Kasi ‘pag pinag-usapan po natin ‘yong responsibility ng members towards officebearers, hindi maiiwasan na bring up ‘yong mga challenges na nararanasan ng leaders mula mismo sa members. At gaya nga ng sabi ni Jared Wilson sa isang article sa TGC, “there’s the risk of appearing as complaining, shaming, or nagging.”
- At ‘yon din po ‘yong gusto kong i-clear sa ating lahat ngayon pa lang. Yes, there are challenges that we office-bearers face directly from members. But we’re discussing this not because we’re complaining, or dahil may gusto lang ako or kami na ipahiya o patamaan.
- Another reason it is hard to preach is that I will be instructing you to submit to me and to the rest of us who are office-bearers. Can you imagine kung ga’no kahirap ‘yon? I’ll have less difficulty to exhort you to submit to God, to follow Christ and honor him, to serve and love one another… but to submit to me? To respect us? In faith? In humility? With joy? That’s entirely different.
When someone preaches this kind of sermon, there’s a high possibility of using the pulpit for his own advantage. At possible na ‘yon din mismo ang ma-perceive ng congregation.
Well, obviously, we just can’t skip this part. Hindi naman tayo pwedeng tumalon na lang sa verse 6. So we have to face the text and submit to it.
And here’s the thing: This applies to all of us. One way or another, we are members of the church. I myself also submit to our Elders and Deacons in certain matters of leadership. Although the ones directly addressed are members, this whole sermon applies to all of us.
Now, let’s look at Peter’s exhortation.
Verse 5 reads, “Likewise…” And that communicates the connection with the previous exhortation. It’s like saying, “Elders, leaders, this is your function… Likewise, in the same respect, members, this is your function.”
And then the command: “… you who are younger, be subject to your elders.”
Some might ask, “Bakit ‘younger’ ‘yong in-address ni Peter dito?” Is he referring literally to the “youth” and the “children” who must submit to the “elders”—literally the older ones in the congregation?
Well, tinuturo naman talaga ng Salita ng Diyos na ‘yong mga nakababata ay dapat magbigay respeto sa mga matatanda, lalo na sa mga magulang. But that is not what Peter is commanding here.
Kung ico-consider natin ‘yong previous verses, ‘yong ina-address ni Peter ay “elders” na hindi literally “elderly, older men.” They are the shepherds and overseers.
Since verse 5 is a continuation of Peter’s exhortation, the command “be subject to the elders” means submission to the leaders, to the officebearers of the church.
CONTEXT: Kaya lang po “younger” ‘yong naka-address dun ay dahil typically both in the Old and New Testament, ang mga nagiging Elders sa Jewish community and in the church ay ‘yong mga matatanda. Sila usually ‘yong mga pinaka-experienced at fitting na maging elders. That’s why it is assumed that the rest of the community or congregation are usually the “younger” ones. (Mas madi-discuss po natin ‘to sa Sunday School soon).
Obviously, in our day, may mga office-bearers na mas bata sa’tin. But the command of Peter here is clearly addressed to the members in general.
So hindi po natin pwedeng isipin, “Eh mas matanda ako kay pastor, kay elder, kay deacon. Mas marami pa akong experience. I don’t need to submit.” No. As members of the church—mas matanda ka man o mas bata, mas magaling ka man o hindi—you are in the position to submit to the officebearers that God has appointed in the church.
CONTEXT: Moreover, this command was very relevant to Peter’s audience back then. Possible na dahil may mga trials and persecutions silang hinaharap, nandun din ‘yong pressure na mag-isip kung ano ‘yong best way for them to respond to their circumstances. For sure, maraming opinions, maraming suggestions.
And imagine, kung walang mga leaders who will have the authority to make the “final say,” ang daling mauwi sa conflict, misunderstanding, and even disunity and disorder of the church.
But as Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 14:40, “All things should be done decently and in order.” Kaya importante ‘yong command ni Peter for the well-being of the New Testament church. In fact, even until today. For the church to be established and grow both in doctrine and life, there must be leaders who oversee and govern, and members who submit to them.
A. The Biblical Basis for Church Leadership and Submission
Ngayon, ano ba ‘yong basis ng ganitong command? Why should members submit to officebearers? Who/what gives them authority, at anong klaseng authority ‘yon?
Apparently, very short and straightforward ‘yong instruction ni Peter. Wala nang explanation na kasama. So we have to look at the bigger context of Scriptures to better understand this duty of church members toward church leaders. Hindi man exhaustively, pero we’ll look at various texts along the way.
‘Yong command po ni Peter na “be subject,” it means being in the state of submissiveness, being in the place of subordination. Sa Tagalog, pag-papasakop at pagpapa-sailalim. And that itself brings the idea na mayro’ng structure ang church, at ang naglagay no’n ay walang iba kung ‘di si Cristo.
Tingnan po natin Ephesians 4. In verse 8, Paul says,
Therefore it says, (quoting from Psalm 68), “When he [applied to Christ] ascended on high he led a host of captives and he gave gifts to me.”
And in the larger context of Ephesians 4, Paul is teaching here that Christ gave everything necessary for the building up of the church as one body. And part of that “gifts” is identified in verse 11—”And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints… for building up the body.”
Later on in the New Testament church, the apostles also appointed elders and deacons as the ordinary and lasting offices in the church. So the officebearers are Christ’s gifts, through whom he rules, protects, and nourishes his people.
Our Belgic Confession Article 30 summarizes the point this way (middle portion):
“[Christ’s spiritual government for the church involves ministers, elders, and deacons, and]… by these means the true religion may be preserved, and the true doctrine everywhere propagated, likewise transgressors punished and restrained by spiritual means; also that the poor and distressed may be relieved and comforted, according to their necessities…”
In short, Christ rules us by his Word and Spirit through the officebearers of the church.
Now, may 2 implications po agad ‘to:
- Church leaders are NOT to lord it over their members
Nabanggit na natin ‘to last week para sa mga officebearers. Pero kung i-a-apply din natin ‘to sa members, then “being subject to leaders” DOES NOT mean submission and obedience in absolutely everything.
Maraming mga churches kasi na gan’on ang turo at practice. Lalo na sa mga kulto. Halimbawa, sa Iglesia ni Cristo pala, ‘pag manliligaw daw ang isang ministro, bawal humindi ‘yong babae. Kailangan mag-submit sa lahat ng bagay.
Even in Christian churches, kahit obvious nang mali ‘yong ginagawa or tinuturo ng pastor or elder, at mag-co-comment ka, tingin agad sa’yo—hindi ka submissive. “Don’t touch the Lord’s anointed.” So members are trained to not speak at all kahit marami nang evidence.
Kaya rin nagkakaroon ng mga cases of abuse by church leaders—spiritual, emotional, or even physical—is because of the wrong understanding of submission to leaders.
Mga magulang ko po’t kapatid… everyone in this church must know that if an officebearer uses authority to mislead you, endanger your life or family, or cause you to sin—that is no longer representing Christ’s authority, and in that case you’re not under obligation to submit.
Sa kabilang banda naman po, if Christ appointed officebearers to represent his rule, then the second implication…
- Members are NOT to view church leaders as their representatives
Ganito din kasi nangyayari sa mga churches: Since ‘yong mga members ay nagbibigay ng support sa pastor, or dahil sila nag-elect kay elder o kay deacon—nandun ‘yong expectation na dapat ma-meet no’ng officebearer ‘yong expectations and demands no’ng members.
“Pastor, pinapa-sweldo ka namin, bawal mo i-pin point ‘yong kasalanan namin. ‘Yong gusto namin marinig sa preaching, dapat ‘yon lang… Elder, binoto ka namin dyan, ‘wag mo ‘kong pagalitan…”
But the church is not structured that way.
Although God uses the congregation as instruments for the ordination and installation of officebearers, the officebearers are directly subject to Christ, not to the church. The one we seek to please is Christ, not the church.
At anuman ang nararapat na gawin ng officebearers to advance the rule and reign of Christ and nourish the church, according to the Word, ‘yon po ang gagawin namin—whether people agree or not, whether people like it or not.
In that way, we recognize that both officebearers and members are under Christ—the only head of the church.
So once again, Christ’s appointment of pastors, elders, and deacons is the basis for the leadership of officebearers. And because their responsibility is to enforce Christ’s authority both in the doctrine and life of the church, and as long as that is what they do—members ought to submit to them.
TRANSITION: Now, what does it look like to be “subject” to the leaders of the church? Ano ‘yong proper way or attitude ng ating pagpapasakop sa mga officebearers?
B. The Proper Way of Submitting to Leaders
Here’s the thing, brothers and sisters, when office-bearers function in such a way that they seek to apply and cultivate Christ’s Word in us—we must honor them and not discourage them or oppose them.
The Word of God commands this very plainly in many places. Let’s look at some:
- Philippians 2:25
- “Epaphroditus” — Although it’s not explicit, he could be a deacon sent by the Philippian church to assist and provide for Paul while he was in prison. ‘Yon naman ang pinaka-ministry ng deacons, extending mercy to those in need. Sobrang sipag niya kahit nagkasakit pa siya, to the point that Paul mentioned in v. 30 that “he nearly died for the ministry… he risked his life for the service.”
- Kaya no’ng pinabalik na siya ni Paul sa Philippi, sabi ni Paul in v. 29 — “So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men.”
- Be thankful for him. Appreciate him. Show him respect.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 — “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them (regard them) very highly in love because of their work.”
- Hebrews 13:17 — “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.”
Belgic Confession, Article 31 puts it well this way (in the last part).
“… in order that this holy ordinance of God (i.e., the church government) may not be violated or slighted, we say that every one ought to esteem the ministers of God’s Word and the elders of the church (i.e., assumingly deacons as well) very highly for their work’s sake, and be at peace with them without murmuring, strife, or contention, as much as possible.”
So we see here na ‘yong “submission to leaders” na sinasabi ng Word of God ay hindi lang basta obedience. Nando’n ‘yong recognition and appreciation no’ng kanilang work, nando’n ‘yong gratitude, nando’n ‘yong respect, nando’n ‘yong pag-tulong na manatili ‘yong kanilang pagmamahal sa gawain.
We’ve been talking about submission in a positive way. Pero maganda rin na maisip natin, “What makes officebearers serve with groaning rather than with joy?”
So I’ve gathered a short list of what gives sorrow and discouragement to office-bearers, para ito ‘yong iiwasan natin altogether as a church. Hindi po ‘to exhaustive, pero ito po ‘yong common experience sa ibang churches at ng ibang officebearers around the world. Let me share three.
1. Not listening or not cooperating
‘Yong member na para bang may sariling mundo—ayaw maging involved, umiiwas sa accountability, ayaw makinig sa admonition or correction.
Maraming examples, pero mga magulang ko po’t kapatid:
- Kapag tinatanong po kayo bakit hindi kayo makakapunta on the Lord’s Day, or bakit wala kayo—hindi po namin kayo pinu-pulis or dini-diktahan ‘yong buhay niyo. We want to make sure that you are okay and still following God.
- Kapag mayro’n kayong struggles with sin or kapag under discipline, at may pinapagawa o ina-advise sa inyo (na based naman sa Scriptural principles)—do it po as much as possible.
Why? Because it is for you. Those things are for your own spiritual growth.
2. Constantly complaining, rather than being grateful and helpful
ILLUSTRATION: Isang bagay po na ang hirap maintindihan sa Pilipinas ang ‘yong kung sino pa ‘yong mga maliit or walang binabayaran na tax at hindi involved sa mga programa ng government—sila pa ‘tong mareklamo at mabilis pumuna sa mga politicians. Lalo na sino? Mga estudyante, tapos mga estudyante pa sa state university. Libre na tuition fee, naging libre na pamasahe, pinababaunan na ng magulang—tapos ang lakas ng loob sumama sa rally at mag-rant sa Facebook.
And sadly, the same thing happens in churches. Kung sino pa ‘yong hindi member, or hindi involved na member—ang hilig at ambilis pumuna at mag-reklamo. Bakit hindi tayo tumulong?
Kung may napansin tayong hindi nagagawa si office-bearer, imbes na mag-reklamo tayo agad or ipagkalat sa iba—bakit hindi muna natin tanungin, “Pastor, elder, deacon… may maitutulong ba ko?”
Yes, the officebearers are the main servants of the church, but all of us are one body in Christ helping one another in whatever way possible.
And related to this, third…
3. Being critical, rather than patient and gracious
Brothers and sisters, hindi po bawal mag-comment. Hindi po bawal mag-bigay ng feedback sa ating mga office-bearers. Wala namang perfect samin. But giving a healthy criticism or evaluation is different from being critical.
‘Yong tipong puro mali at weakness na lang nakikita natin do’n sa officebearer. Na para bang wala na siyang ginawang tama. (If you have all the evidence that an office-bearer is a false teacher and hypocrite, go and call it out).
But if it’s just because of personal preference, consider your expectations. Joel Beeke and Paul David Tripp mention this in their books, na ang nangyayari sa mga chuches, nagkakaroon ng “unrealistically high expectations” sa mga leaders, especially pastors.
This week, may pinakinggan ako na “Renewing Your Mind” episode with Dr. Robert Godfrey. At ni-recognize ng nag-interview sa kanya ‘yong 40 years of Sunday School teaching ministry niya sa kanilang church. And I was expecting na sasabihin ni Godfrey, “Those 40 years are only by God’s grace and sustenance.” Which is true… But Godfrey responded, “They were patient. The church was so patient with me.” 40 years to become the Dr. Godfrey many Christians listen to and admire today.
R.C. Sproul too. May nag-share sakin, one time, tinanong daw si Dr. Sproul kung gaano daw siya katagal mag-prepare para sa isang sermon or teaching class. Sabi niya, “5 minutes… and 30 years of studies and ministry.”
Naalala ko tuloy ‘yong tanong sakin ng elders dati eh, “30 years burn-in, kaya ba pastor?” Pwede ko yata ibalik, “Would you patiently bear with me for 30 years, with all my flaws and my weaknesses?”
I think that’s the downside of the privileges we have today. Sa tulong ng technology, ang daling mag-tune-in at makinig ng sermons nila John MacArthur, Joel Beeke, etc. … I’m not saying it’s wrong. Ako mismo, nakikinig sa sermons and teachings nila.
But there’s a tendency to compare and forget or minimize the blessings that God gives us in our local church at our own time. In God’s sovereignty, he raised one Augustine during the Early Church, one John Calvin during the Reformation, and one R.C. Sproul in the 21st century—and we owe them a lot. But still, he designed that there will be office-bearers who minister to each and every local congregation in each generation.
And consider this, friends: R.C. Sproul doesn’t know your personal struggles and weaknesses and address it directly. And when you are suffering and in need, hindi po si John Calvin ang bibisita sa inyo and personally encourage you. In the sovereignty of God, out of all the possible people he could give, he gave us—your local pastors, elders, and deacons—to serve you however God allows.
So instead of being critical, as Paul said, “Esteem them very highly in love…”
Those are the three most common things that sadly make church leaders serve with groaning rather than with joy.
TRANSITION: Now, we can ask ourselves, “Bakit ba kasi nangyayari ‘yong gano’n sa mga churches? Bakit ba kasi may tendency na maging unsubmissive or critical tayo sa mga officebearers natin?”
The simple answer is: PRIDE.
- Kaya ayaw natin mag-submit sa kahit anong authority eh kasi tingin natin, kaya natin on our own. Tingin natin, tayo pinaka-magaling, tayo laging tama.
- Kaya tayo mahilig mag-complain at critical sa ibang tayo eh dahil tingin natin, self-entitled tayo. We think we deserve nothing less than what we want, however we want, and whenever we want it. Kung ano gusto natin na standard for others, ‘yon dapat ang masunod, at dapat masunod—now na!
Kaya ang reminder and exhortation po sa’tin lagi ng Salita ng Diyos is to put on humility.
I like how Peter closes his exhortation for the believers in chapter 5:5. Going back to our text, notice kung paano niya ki-nonclude ‘yong exhortation niya —”Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another…”
Put on humility. That’s the key. That’s the solution.
In this statement, hindi na niya kausap ‘yong mga members lang ng church. “All of you.” So mula pa sa verse 1, Peter was like saying, “Elders, leaders, shepherd the flock of God… Members, be subject to them… Then, all of you, be humble in all your dealings with one another—officebearers in serving the flock, members in submitting to officebearers. Deal with one another in humility.”
That’s ultimately the key…
3. The Key to Proper Leadership and Submission
The essence of “humility” here is recognizing who we are and what is our place in the appointed structure of God in the church.
- As officebearers, our place is not as lords, but servants of God’s people. ‘Yong authority na mayro’n tayo ay ‘yong authority lang na binigay sa’tin ni Cristo. We also submit to Christ as the Chief Shepherd, Head of the Church
That’s why we should not lord it over our members. That’s why hindi rin natin iisipin that we are self-entitled to the respect and honor of people, na para bang celebrity na tayo. May gano’n daw sa ibang churches eh, ‘pag dadaan ‘yong pastor parang nahahati ‘yong mga tao. Kulang na lang yuyuko lahat.
- As members, your place is to be subject to the authority that God has placed over you. Not to usurp their authority, not to feel self-entitled and insist on your personal preferences, but to submit to your officebearers as your submission ultimately to Christ himself.
And here’s the truth for all of us: As people born in sin, we are never entitled to anything. In fact, we are never entitled to anything but the wrath of God. We are guilty sinners. Wala tayong pwedeng ipag-mayabang. Wala tayong karapatan na i-insist ang mga sarili natin.
The ONLY ONE who is entitled to all honor, respect, and all good things is Christ. Siya lang ang pwedeng “mag-mataas,” kasi mula pa sa simula—Siya na ang kataas-taasang Diyos. Siya lang ang pwedeng mag-demand at mag-expect mula sa atin, kasi mula pa sa simula—lahat ng mayro’n tayo, pati buhay natin mismo ay galing lang sa Kanya.
Pero pinakita rin sa’tin ni Cristo kung ano ang tunay na pagpapakumbaba.
Though he has all the authority to consume and punish us, though he has all the right to leave us on our own, though he himself is the holy and glorious God—Christ didn’t feel self-entitled nor acted as one. No.
Ano ‘yong prayer Niya sa Gethsemane? “Father, if possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not my will but your will be done.”
He humbled himself, he submitted to the authority of the Father, and he was obedient “to the point of death, even death on a cross” to save sinners who repent and believe in him.
Friends, Christ is our hope and encouragement for humility. Kung sa sarili po natin, ang natural po sa’tin ay magbanggaan at magpataasan tayo ng pride. But let us consider Christ’s humility for our sake, and let it bring us to humility before God and before one another accordingly. ‘Yon po ang hingiin natin sa Diyos, na imbes na magpa-taasan tayo bilang officebearers man o bilang members—tayo’y maging mapagpakumbaba at kilalanin ang ating katayuan at katungkulan sa iglesiya ng ating Panginoon.
And there’s a good reason for us to be humble towards one another. As Peter said, put on humility toward one another, “because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” To make it short, God is pleased and will also reward us when we humble ourselves and behave accordingly towards each other.
I wish I could discuss more, but let me just end with some final words and encouragement to all members of this church.
Nabasa po natin kanina sa Hebrews 13:17, “… Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” ‘Yong words na “no advantage” dito actually means “harmful.” If you resist authority or discourage your leaders in their ministry—it is dangerous for you and the rest of the church.
Hindi man po pare-pareho ang reasons, pero kapag ang isang office-bearer ay napagod, nag-give-up, at umalis ng ministry (permanently or temporary)—the whole church suffers. We just experienced that, and somehow still experience it until today.
But when you submit and honor your church leaders, and do your best to encourage them and give them joy, God will use you to also minister to them. Tao lang din po kami na mga officebearers niyo. We need your support and encouragement.
And ultimately, you do it not because we are perfect. Not because we deserve it. But because that is how God appointed it to be…
By his grace, Christ gave gifts of men to build up the church. And out of gratitude, you are called to submit—trusting and hoping that Christ who called us in the ministry will also guide us by his Spirit as we lead and shepherd you.
So beloved, let us all submit to Christ’s sovereign rule over the church, and let us humbly live in harmony with one another. Amen.
Reuel Dawal is the Minister of the Word and Sacraments at ZCRC. He was an intern prior to being ordained and installed as the church's new pastor. He is currently finishing his Biblical and Theological Studies at the Miami International Seminary (MINTS) online. He and his wife Yeng are married since 2017 and lives in Imus, Cavite.