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17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing—for that would be harmful to you.

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17. Obey them that have the rule over you—(Compare Heb 13:7, 24). This threefold mention of the rulers is peculiar to this Epistle. In other Epistles Paul includes the rulers in his exhortations. But here the address is limited to the general body of the Church, in contrast to the rulers to whom they are charged to yield reverent submission. Now this is just what might be expected when the apostle of the Gentiles was writing to the Palestine Christians, among whom James and the eleven apostles had exercised a more immediate authority. It was important he should not seem to set himself in opposition to their guides, but rather strengthen their hands; he claims no authority directly or indirectly over these rulers themselves [Birks]. "Remember" your deceased rulers (Heb 13:7). "Obey" your living rulers; nay, more, not only obey in cases where no sacrifice of self is required, and where you are persuaded they are right (so the Greek, for "obey"), but "submit yourselves" as a matter of dutiful yielding, when your judgment and natural will incline you in an opposite direction.

they—on their part; so the Greek. As they do their part, so do you yours. So Paul exhorts, 1Th 5:12, 13.

watch—"are vigilant" (Greek).

forGreek, "in behalf of."

must give account—The strongest stimulus to watchfulness (Mr 13:34-37). Chrysostom was deeply struck with these words, as he tells us [On the Priesthood, 6], "The fear of this threat continually agitates my soul."

do it—"watch for your soul's eternal salvation." It is a perilous responsibility for a man to have to give account for others' deeds, who is not sufficient for his own [Estius, from Aquinas]. I wonder whether it be possible that any of the rulers should be saved [Chrysostom]. Compare Paul's address to the elders, Ac 20:28; 1Co 4:1-5, where also he connects ministers' responsibility with the account to be hereafter given (compare 1Pe 5:4).

with joy—at your obedience; anticipating, too, that you shall be their "joy" in the day of giving account (Php 4:1).

not with grief—at your disobedience; apprehending also that in the day of account you may be among the lost, instead of being their crown of rejoicing. In giving account, the stewards are liable to blame if aught be lost to the Master. "Mitigate their toil by every office of attention and respect, that with alacrity, rather than with grief, they may fulfil their duty, arduous enough in itself, even though no unpleasantness be added on your part" [Grotius].

thatGrief in your pastors is unprofitable for you, for it weakens their spiritual power; nay, more, "the groans (so the Greek for 'grief') of other creatures are heard; how much more of pastors!" [Bengel]. So God will be provoked to avenge on you their "groaning" (Greek). If they must render God an account of their negligence, so must you for your ingratitude to them [Grotius].