Obey your elders. Your leaders are accountable. Leaders, be watchful. Although the passage is addressed to those who were following the leaders, there are implications her for the leaders also. The description of their work identifies these leaders as elders. Bishops (overseers) are elders, Titus 1:5,7. The office has its origin in those appointed to assist Moses in providing oversight for God’s people, Deuteronomy 1:9-18. Elders have a heavy responsibility. Here they are pictured as alertly staying awake (even losing sleep) over the flock. Leaders, you must give account, not to mere men, but to God, see Acts. 20:26-28. Make their job happy! A joyful part of a presbytery meeting is often the reports from the churches. How much more rejoicing over a good report made to the King of the church! This report should be one of progress, of growth in grace. A happy report is profitable for you.
Submit to your leaders—in Christ. Elders have an authority delegated by Christ. The authority of the elders is not democratic, although, following the pattern of the New Testament church, elders are elected by the flock. The source of authority in the church is the exalted King and Lord of the church. His Word is final. His authority is not only that which was eternally his, but he is also the one to whom all authority and power have been given upon the completion of his work of humiliation. The authority of elders is “ministerial and declarative,” Matthew 16:19; John 20:23. There is no excuse for abusing authority. Don’t follow wolves, Acts 20:29-31, see Galatians 1:8. Yet, inasmuch as instructions of elders reflect the Word of God, they must be heeded. Submit in the Lord. Submission is not easy, but it is required of you in your attitude towards God. Flowing from that is submission to Christ’s delegated authority. Note the fourth membership vow, “submit in the Lord to the government of this church….” This submission is in the Lord–to him and because of his authority. The submission spoken of here is part of the general submission of believers to one another, Ephesians 5:21.
Pray! Pray for us. Prayer is requested particularly for the author of the letter. That does not identify the author for us, nor do we know the exact problems he faced. Paul made such requests, Ephesians 6:19.Pray for your leaders. The author is requesting prayer for himself as he is a leader, and elder of the church. Note the apostolic self-identification as elders, 1 Peter 5:1; 2 John 1; 3 John 1. With the responsibility they have, your elders need your prayers. The request is not indiscriminate. The reference to a good conscience distinguishes the author from religious charlatans.
Pray specifically. The author hopes to be restored to the readers soon, v. 19, v.23. Specific prayer is important. Know one another’s needs and pray for them. Don’t be satisfied with a general, “and God bless _________.” Pray for wisdom for the elders of this church. Pray for wisdom, for effective use of time. Pray for the process of nominating, preparing, and ordaining new officers. Pray for your elders as they also work on the regional and national levels.
Pray as Jesus taught you. You can and must pray. Prayer is a gift given to all of God’s people, Romans 12:12. Notice how frequently Jesus prayed. His praying was the occasion for the disciples to ask him to teach them to pray. You can pray only because, as your great high priest, he intercedes for you. Your prayer is an immense help to your elders. Prayer accomplishes much, James 5:16ff. Prayer is a key to the submission required in v. 17.
Each of you, pray!
“All church power is only ministerial and declarative, for the Holy Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice. No church judicatory may presume to bind the conscience by making laws on the basis of its own authority; all its decisions should be founded upon the Word of God.” (The Form of Government of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 3.3).