Remember Those Who Led You

Hebrews 13:7

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).

People across the country are getting ready to celebrate Memorial Day – a day to remember those who died while serving in the armed forces. It is good for us to remember these individuals as their sacrifices have greatly contributed to our ability to lead a “tranquil and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2:2).

However, there are others who are worthy of our remembrance. The Scriptures teach that we should remember those who have led us in the faith. These will be the ones we will focus on in this article.

The Benefit We Gain from These Brethren

The Hebrew writer spoke of those who “led you” because they were providing leadership and guidance. This would apply directly to the leadership and guidance provided by the elders in the local church (1 Peter 5:2; 1 Timothy 3:4-5). Yet in a more general sense, there is wisdom to be gained from those who came before us. The Lord told the Israelites, “You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:32). To “honor the aged” is to respect those who are our elders. Part of this is to learn from their wisdom which they gained from years of experience.

Those who are older and have been serving the Lord longer than we have are able to provide us with instruction – they “spoke the word of God to [us].” The church as God designed it is intended to be a self-edifying body (Ephesians 4:16). There are “evangelists…pastors and teachers” who are there to equip us in our service to God (Ephesians 4:11-12). Pastors/elders are older than the majority of the congregation. Teachers are often older. We are able to receive instruction from them so that we can carry out the work that God has called us to do. Paul told Timothy of the importance of one generation teaching another for the benefit of the church moving into the future: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). We can receive valuable instruction from those in a position to lead us in the faith.

Additionally, these brethren are also able to provide us with an example of faithfulness as we are to “imitate their faith.” We are to be careful that we “do not imitate what is evil, but what is good” (3 John 11); but when we find brethren who are faithful, we need to take notice of them and follow their example. Paul wrote, “However, let us keep living by the same standard to which we have attained. Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Philippians 3:16-17). As long as brethren are following that “same standard” – the word received by the apostles (cf. 2 Timothy 1:13) – we can follow their example of faithful service to the Lord.

These Brethren Are Not Around Forever

When the Hebrew writer spoke of those who provided leadership and instruction to these Christians, he used the past tense – they led you and spoke to you. This is a subtle reminder that those we look to for guidance and wisdom in the faith will not always be there. Death is a reality for everyone (Hebrews 9:27). Life is uncertain as we are “just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-15). Death could occur for us at any time. Likewise, our mentors could be gone before we are ready for them to depart.

Because of this, our faith must be in God, not in godly people. Peter wanted brethren to continue in the faith after he was gone. He wrote, “I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind” (2 Peter 1:13-15). Everything that they needed in order to faithfully serve the Lord was found in the knowledge of Christ handed down in His word (2 Peter 1:3). We must follow Christ, not men (1 Corinthians 1:12-13). Men are merely His servants (1 Corinthians 3:5).

However, just as we can benefit from these brethren while they are still around, we can also be helped by them even after they are gone. The Hebrew writer pointed out the example of Abel and his faith and said, “Though he is dead, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4). Even after the earthly departure of those who have been spiritual mentors to us, their example of faithfulness continues to instruct us. However, it is important that we do more than just reflect upon their example – we must be faithful ourselves. John the Baptist pointed out that it was futile for the Jews to claim, “We have Abraham for our father” when they still needed to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8-9). Being a physical descendant of the father of the faithful would not help them if they were not faithful themselves.

We Need to Become This Type of Person

We have already seen that one generation is to teach another generation (2 Timothy 2:2) and that those who taught us will not be around forever (Hebrews 9:27; 2 Peter 1:13-15). Therefore, we need to recognize the importance for us to become the type of person that can provide spiritual leadership and instruction to those who are coming up after us.

We need to lead others to do what is right. As Paul understood the importance of persuading others to be prepared for the judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10-11), we need to do the same. Paul wrote, “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). In the same way, we need to be pointing people to Christ.

We need to teach others the truth of God’s word. In order to do this, we must continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). As Timothy was told, we must “be diligent” to learn how to “accurately [handle] the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). As we grow, we should develop the ability to teach others. The Hebrew writer spoke about the responsibility we have in this regard: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food” (Hebrews 5:12). We need to be able to take the truth of God’s word and impart that to others.

We also need to be an example to others. Jesus spoke of the need to “let [our] light shine before men in such a way that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We should live in such a way that others can see that “Christ lives in [us]” (Galatians 2:20). No matter who we are, we can be an example to others (cf. 1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Peter 3:1-2). This becomes increasingly important as we become older and have more people looking up to us as an example of “those who walk according to the pattern” (Philippians 3:17).

Conclusion

We have all benefited from the guidance, instruction, and example of others. We need to take advantage of this while these individuals are still around. We also need to remember what they taught us after they are gone.

Then, we need to grow in such a way that we will be the kind of person that is such a benefit to others. While it is true that the Lord’s kingdom will “endure forever” (Daniel 2:44), the next generation will be spiritually healthier and stronger if we provide the guidance, instruction, and example that younger Christians need from us.


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