1999 James A. Fowler
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I. Representative Biblical references to "obedience"
A. Old Testament - Heb. word shama
- "to hear, listen, obey"
- "if you obey My voice ..., you shall be My possession"
- "All that the Lord has spoken we will do; we will be obedient"
- "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one"
- "if you listen obediently to My commandments"
15:22 - "to obey is better than sacrifice"
- "My people did not listen to My voice; Israel did not
B. New Testament
word hupakouo - "to listen under, to obey;"
opposite is parakouo - "to listen around, beside,
disobedience" (cf. Rom. 5:19)
1:5 - "obedience of faith among the Gentiles"
16:26 - "obedience of faith"
Cor. 10:5 -"taking every thought captive to the obedience
Thess. 1:8 - "those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord
5:9 - "He became to all who obey Him the source of salvation"
Pet. 1:2 - "that you may obey Jesus Christ"
Pet. 1:14 - "As obedient children...be holy"
Pet. 1:22 - "you have in obedience to the truth purified
words peitho and peitharcheo - "to persuade,
convince;" opposite is apeitheo - "unconvinced,
disobedient" (cf. Eph. 2:2; 5:6)
5:29 - "we must obey God rather than men"
5:32 - "the Spirit whom God has given to those who obey
2:8 - "do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness"
5:7 - "who hindered you from obeying the truth?"
II. Defining "obedience"
A. Base words
Etymology - Latin oboedire - ob = towards; oedire
= "to hear"
Meaning: "to hear or listen towards"
Popular English usage: "to follow, heed, comply with commands
or injunctions within a sphere
word shama - "to hear, listen; obey"
word hupakouo - "to listen under; obey"
English word herknen ("hearken"); both hear
B. Change in context of meaning
All of the base words have a personal/relational context
Obedience pertains to listening to (and responding to) God, Moses,
prophets, Jesus, Paul,
Nowhere in the New Testament are the words for "obedience"
or "disobedience" used in direct
connection with the Law or any corpus of behavioral rules and
regulations. (cf. Isa.
Yet, "obedience" developed a Law-based interpretation
performance according to precepts
III. Historical perspectives
A. Greek perspective
emphasis on seeing spiritual things rather than hearing (see
or obey yourself; your reason, thoughts, feelings
B. Hebrew perspective
on hearing God rather than seeing God
Historical remembrance of having heard God
Futuristic expectation of seeing God (Isa. 60:4,5)
rebuke for failure to hear, listen, or obey
emphasis on legalistic hearing/obeying the Law
C. Christian perspective
new meaning of "obedience" in new covenant
context of obedience becomes ontological
Word to be heard/obeyed is a Person (Jn. 1:1,14)
of Christ is the "obedience of faith" (Rom. 1:5; 16:26)
presence of Spirit of Christ is...
"law written in our hearts" - Heb. 8:10; 10:16; Jere.
basis of revelation - Phil. 3:15
dynamic for expressing what God wants to do in us
Christian individual is still responsible...
to listen in order to discern what Christ wants to do
to be convinced and persuaded that what he has heard from Christ
is what God wants to be
IV. The historical obedience of Jesus Christ
Heb. 5:8 - "He
learned obedience from the things which He suffered"
Phil. 2:8 - "He
humbled Himself becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross"
Rom. 5:19 - "through
the obedience of the One, the many will be made righteous"
A. Jesus' obedience was not...
compliance with Law; keeping the rules
performance of a programmed plan; doing the dictates
B. Jesus lived by the obedience of faith
to God through trials, hardships, suffering
to listen to God unto death on a cross
listening to God unto death allowed Him to take our death and
invest His life in us.
V. Obedience in the Christian life.
1. We "listen
under" the direction of God's Spirit
sheep hear My voice" - Jn. 10:27
3. We are
persuaded/convinced we have heard what He wants to do
of faith" - Rom. 1:5; 16:26
receptivity of His activity
3. He is
the dynamic of His own demands
proceduralized external actions of obedience
obeys the Vine (Jn. 15:1-11). To abide is to obey.
are free to obey. Not slaves to sin.
2. We are
most free when we obey. Free to be man as God intended.