It’s almost hidden, tucked in with a number of other exhortations that the writer of Hebrews hurried to add as he closed his epistle. Most who do notice it seem to take it wrongly, as if the writer were encouraging a hierarchy of leaders, who had the right to demand obedience.
I don’t believe the first readers had that impression for several reasons. In the Greek the phrase reads peithesthe tois hegoumenois hyman kain hypeikete. The Greek work peithesthe means, “Let yourselves be persuaded, or convinced.” A fair English paraphrase would be, “Open your hearts to the persuasion of your leaders.”
The word translated “leaders” here is used for rulers and princes, but originally meant “to lead or guide.” The idea seems to be that spiritual leaders are to be those who have traveled the road of faith (see v. 7), and thus can serve as guides for others.
The single word hypeikete is rendered by the English phrase, “Submit to their authority.” Originally it was used in classical Greek to describe soft and yielding substances. The root idea is not “give in,” but “be disposed to yielding.”
Putting this together the instruction focuses on the attitude that you and I are to maintain as we travel the Jesus road, led by others who have traveled on farther than we. What the first readers would have understood is this charge: “In your relationship with those who are your leaders and guides to godliness, be sure you maintain a yielding disposition, and remain open to their persuasion.”
It’s an appropriate exhortation here at the close of Hebrews. In Jesus we have a superior revelation, a superior High Priest, a better covenant, and a better faith. And we are called by God to experience, through faith, every blessing provided by the Son of God. How important, as we travel the Jesus road with others, to choose as leaders those who have gone on ahead—and to let ourselves be led.
Though responsible for your own choices in life, remain open, and let yourself be led by godly men and women.
“The question, ‘Who ought to be the boss?’ is like asking, ‘Who ought to be the tenor in the quartet?’ Obviously, the man who can sing tenor.”—Henry Ford