Quick Facts

  • Pronunciation:  ä-pā-the’-ō
  • Strong’s Concordance: #G544
    • not to allow one’s self to be persuaded
      • to refuse or withhold belief
      • to refuse belief and obedience
    • not to comply with
  • Appears 15 times in 14 verses in the Greek concordance of the
  • Common translations:
    • “disobedience/disobedient” (10x)
    • “do/does not obey” (3x)
    • “disbelieved” (1)

How apeitheō is used in the New Testament

  1. John 3:36 – “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

  2. Acts 14:2 – “But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren.” (disbelief in the gospel of Christ)

  3. Acts 19:9 – “But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.” (disobedient to the gospel)

  4. Romans 2:8 – “but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.”

  5. Romans 10:21 – ‘But as for Israel He says, “ALL THE DAY LONG I HAVE STRETCHED OUT MY HANDS TO A DISOBEDIENT AND OBSTINATE PEOPLE.”’ (disobedient to God)

  6. Romans 11:30 – “For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience,”

  7. Romans 11:31 – “so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.” (disobedient to God)

  8. Romans 15:31 – “that I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints;” (disobedient to God)

  9. Hebrews 3:18 – “And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient?” (disobedient to God)

  10. Hebrews 11:31 – “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.” (disobedient to God)

  11. 1Peter 2:8 – ‘and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”;  for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.’

  12. 1Peter 3:1 – “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives,”

  13. 1Peter 3:20 – “who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.” (disobedient to God)

  14. 1Peter 4:17 – “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

My observations and perspective

In each of the 15 occurrences of this word, the obvious context for the disobedience is pertaining to God, His Law, Truth, or the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In none of the the above-instances is the disobedience referring to local church leaders.

If dealing with the disobedience of saints were something the apostles encountered, could we expect to find scriptural examples containing the word apeitheō or something similar?

There are occasions where the Apostle Paul names specific persons causing grief to him, or affecting the local church! Interestingly, in these instances, Paul never refers to these persons as disobedient to himself or other local church leaders. Instead, he rightly consigns the judgement of wrongdoers to Christ himself. (Ex. 2 Timothy 4:14)

To be thorough, one should review all other occurrences of Greek words translated ‘disobedient’ in the New Testament. In doing so, I could not locate one single verse where a saint is shown to be disobeying a local church leader. Here are those words and their references:

Additionally, a study of words, such as ‘unruly’, which are conceptually similar to ‘disobedient’ were evaluated. This is because these words are often used by leaders to describe those who are at odds with church leadership. Below are additional Greek words to review that are translated ‘unruly’:

Strongs #







James 3:8




1 Thess 5:14

The above two words for ‘unruly’ appear two times in the New Testament.  The first refers to the human tongue, leaving the second verse commenting on the subject of ‘unruly’ saints. There is only one verse on the subject of unruly saints.

So what is the context of this single reference to ‘unruly’ persons in the local church? 1 Thessalonians 5:14 appears to describe those who are living with ‘immoderate pleasures’ (see: Strong’s: ‘ataktos’). The context appears to further related to those who are not remaining watchful for the coming of Christ, but living loosely. ( see: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6).

Whatever is that “immoderate living” entailed, it is no where equated with disobedience to Paul, other apostles, nor church leaders. The disobedience is to the Christ’s command to be watchful and prepared for His coming ( see: Matthew 24:42,43; Mark 13:33-35; Luke 21:36).

This concept appears universally true in the New Testament. All disobedience is to the Law of Christ, with the exception of disobedience to parent and disobedience to civic government.

Interestingly, Paul instructs the church body at Thessalonica to take on the responsibility of warning the ‘unruly’ within their ranks. He does not specifically instruct the leaders to do so, nor does he do so himself. 

These verses demonstrate that “warning the unruly” is not a role or responsibility unique to church leaders; instead, it is a responsibility of every saint. This is a pervasive view within the New Testament. Jesus too held this view:

Matthew 18:15-17  – “”If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”.

In summary, there appears to be no New Testament example of a saint being in disobedience to a church leader.

Either all saints always perfectly obeyed, leaving no opportunities to address, or it is simply not a concept taught in the scriptures – at least not with words such as disobedience, disobey, unruly, etc.

“When evil men make bad laws,
righteous men disobey them.”
– Pastor Butch Paugh


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