“epitagē”

Quick Facts

  • Pronunciation: e-pē-tä-gā
  • Strongs Concordance: #G2003
    • an injunction, mandate, command
  • Appears 7 times in 7 verses in the New Testament
  • Common Translations
    • “command” (3x)
    • “commandment” (3x)
    • “authority” (1x)

How epitagē is used in the New Testament

  1. Romans 16:26 – “but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith;”

  2. 1 Corinthians 7:6, 25 – “But this I say by way of concession, not of command. … Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy.”

  3. 2 Corinthians 8:8 – “I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.”

  4. 1 Timothy 1:1 – “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope,”

My observations and perspective

In three instances of epitagē , the source of the authority or “command” or “commandment” is God.

In two instances, Paul is using the term in the negative and saying “I’m not commanding”.

In one reference (Titus 2:15), Paul is charging Timothy to speak these things with command and to not let anyone disregard him. It is inferred that Timothy has some sort of authority, but what kind of authority is it? Does Timothy have authority, or does the authority belong to the things Paul is instructing him to speak?

It would appear that the context can be found beginning in Titus 2:14. There, Paul instructs Timothy:

“Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.” Titus 2:15-18

I believe this continues throughout the rest of Titus until Paul’s charge to Timothy to speak such things with command.

Timothy is said to have the authority to speak truth – which in this case, is to proclaim the gospel of Christ (including the resurrection of the dead) to those who were errant and believing not the gospel.

Those he was to speak against were guilty of causing the loss of faith because of doctrinal ideas such as “the resurrection has already taken place”, or what Paul called “empty words”.  They were not simply those with different ideas from their leaders, but preaching a false gospel, or teaching things that made people lose faith.

Strong’s defines these as ‘trifling matters’. These were people who’s aim was to see those people move away from faith in Christ and the glorious future of the Saints.

Many church leaders today seek to use the scripture to challenge saints who disagree with them. This begins with an unsupportable view that the scriptures grant authority over others, and so anyone not submitting to such is sinning.

This is shameful and and entirely different than those rebuked by the apostles in their writings. Those rebuked are guilty for not submitting to the gospel, the laws and commandments of Christ (i.e. don’t commit adultery), or things like not working for their food (see “obey” word study).

The litmus test to see if a person is the sort Paul is charging Timothy to command to cease their teaching should be this: Are their words causing a falling away from Jesus? Are their words causing their faith (in Christ) to slip or suffer? Are their words about empty things (ie. endless genealogies)?

Unfortunately, I’ve seen many cases where leaders try to apply this verse to those who challenge non-scriptural ideas, institutions, or even controlling leaders. Using the verse this way is mishandling the scriptures. 

Titus 1:3 – “but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior,”

Titus 2:15 – “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

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