© 1999 James A. Fowler

You are free to download this outline provided it remains intact without alteration. You are also free to transmit this outline electronically provided that you do so in its entirety with proper citation of authorship included.


I. Representative Biblical references to "obedience"

    A. Old Testament - Heb. word shama - "to hear, listen, obey"
         Exod. 19:5 - "if you obey My voice ..., you shall be My possession"
         Exod. 24:7 - "All that the Lord has spoken we will do; we will be obedient"
         Deut. 6:4 - "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one"
         Deut. 11:13 - "if you listen obediently to My commandments"
         I Sam. 15:22 - "to obey is better than sacrifice"
         Ps. 81:11 - "My people did not listen to My voice; Israel did not obey Me"
    B. New Testament
         1. Greek word hupakouo - "to listen under, to obey;" opposite is parakouo - "to listen around,               beside, disobedience" (cf. Rom. 5:19)
              Rom. 1:5 - "obedience of faith among the Gentiles"
              Rom. 16:26 - "obedience of faith"
              II Cor. 10:5 -"taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ"
              II Thess. 1:8 - "those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus"
              Heb. 5:9 - "He became to all who obey Him the source of salvation"
              I Pet. 1:2 - "that you may obey Jesus Christ"
              I Pet. 1:14 - "As obedient children...be holy"
              I Pet. 1:22 - "you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls"
         2. Greek words peitho and peitharcheo - "to persuade, convince;" opposite is apeitheo -               "unconvinced, disobedient" (cf. Eph. 2:2; 5:6)
              Acts 5:29 - "we must obey God rather than men"
              Acts 5:32 - "the Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him"
              Rom. 2:8 - "do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness"
              Gal. 5:7 - "who hindered you from obeying the truth?"

II. Defining "obedience"

    A. Base words
         1. English word "obedience"
              a. Etymology - Latin oboedire - ob = towards; oedire = "to hear"
              b. Meaning: "to hear or listen towards"
              c. Popular English usage: "to follow, heed, comply with commands or injunctions within a                   sphere of jurisdiction."
         2. Hebrew word shama - "to hear, listen; obey"
         3. Greek word hupakouo - "to listen under; obey"
         4. Old English word herknen ("hearken"); both hear and obey
    B. Change in context of meaning
         1. Relational context
              a. All of the base words have a personal/relational context
              b. Obedience pertains to listening to (and responding to) God, Moses, prophets, Jesus,                   Paul, parents, etc.
         2. Legal context
              a. 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. 42:24)
              b. Yet, "obedience" developed a Law-based interpretation
                  (1) rule-keeping
                  (2) commandment compliance
                  (3) performance according to precepts
                  (4) "works"

III. Historical perspectives

    A. Greek perspective
         1. Primary emphasis on seeing spiritual things rather than hearing (see mysteries, visions)
         2. Hear or obey yourself; your reason, thoughts, feelings
    B. Hebrew perspective
         1. Emphasis on hearing God rather than seeing God
         2. Developed into
              a. Historical remembrance of having heard God
              b. Futuristic expectation of seeing God (Isa. 60:4,5)
         3. Prophetic rebuke for failure to hear, listen, or obey
         4. Rabbinical emphasis on legalistic hearing/obeying the Law
    C. Christian perspective
         1. Radically new meaning of "obedience" in new covenant
         2. Relational context of obedience becomes ontological
         3. The Word to be heard/obeyed is a Person (Jn. 1:1,14)
         4. Receptivity of Christ is the "obedience of faith" (Rom. 1:5; 16:26)
         5. Indwelling presence of Spirit of Christ is...
              a. "law written in our hearts" - Heb. 8:10; 10:16; Jere. 31:33
              b. basis of revelation - Phil. 3:15
              c. dynamic for expressing what God wants to do in us
         6. The Christian individual is still responsible...
              a. to listen in order to discern what Christ wants to do
              b. to be convinced and persuaded that what he has heard from Christ is what God wants to                    be and do

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...
         1. legalistic compliance with Law; keeping the rules
         2. precise performance of a programmed plan; doing the dictates
    B. Jesus lived by the obedience of faith
         1. listened to God through trials, hardships, suffering
         2. continued to listen to God unto death on a cross
         3. such listening to God unto death allowed Him to take our death and invest His life in us.

V. Obedience in the Christian life.

    A. Listening
         1. We "listen under" the direction of God's Spirit
         2. "My sheep hear My voice" - Jn. 10:27
         3. We are persuaded/convinced we have heard what He wants to do
    B. Receptivity
         1. "Obedience of faith" - Rom. 1:5; 16:26
         2. Our receptivity of His activity
         3. He is the dynamic of His own demands
    C. Spontaneity
         1. Not proceduralized external actions of obedience
         2. Branch obeys the Vine (Jn. 15:1-11). To abide is to obey.
    D. Liberty
        1. Christians are free to obey. Not slaves to sin.
         2. We are most free when we obey. Free to be man as God intended.



 Outlines index