Quick Facts

  • Pronunciation: hüp-ä-ko-ā’
  • Strongs Concordance: #G5218
    • obedience, compliance, submission
    • obedience rendered to anyone’s counsels, an obedience shown in observing the requirements of Christianity
  • Appears 15 times in 14 verses in the New Testament
  • Common translations:
    • “obedience” (13x)
    • “obedient” (1x)
    • “obey” (1x)

Where and how hypakoē is used in the New Testament

  1. Romans 1:5 – “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake,”

  2. Romans 5:19 – “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”

  3. Romans 6:16 – “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”

  4. Romans 15:18 – “For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed,”

  5. Romans 16:19 – “For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.”

  6. 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;”

  7. 2 Corinthians 7:15 – ‘His affection abounds all the more toward you, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.’

  8. 2 Corinthians 10:5 – “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,..”

  9. 2 Corinthians 10:6 – “and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.”

  10. Philemon 1:21 – “Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, since I know that you will do even more than what I say.”

  11. Hebrews 5:8 – “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.”

  12. 1 Peter 1:2 – “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”

  13. 1 Peter 1:14 – “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,”

  14. 1 Peter 1:22 – “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,”

My observations and persepective

Most instances of hypakoē usually represent obedience to God, specifically to God’s invitation to a relationship with him, as a response to belief and submission to Him.

In no case is hypakoē used to demonstrate obedience directed toward a church leader.

Some would improperly conclude that obedience to Paul was in question in 2 Corinthians 10:6; however, that is not a view that appears to have merit.

Paul often charged the church at Corinth concerning different matters. In every case, these charges were to walk according to the scriptures.

Furthermore, it appears somewhat obvious upon reading the Corinthian letters that Paul intentionally positions himself lower than the readers, effacing his own importance. This is because Paul had the character of Christ whom did likewise. Paul frequently asserts his equality to the church at Corinth, not his superiority.

Paul makes no mention of, nor assertively commands obedience to himself or his role as apostle, but only commands that the saints obey the scriptures.

This is a recurring concept when evaluating biblical leadership in general. It is invitational and persuasion-based, not militaristic and command-oriented.

We can know this as an absolute because Jesus – whom has first place over all things and in the church – has said:

“…You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” – Matt. 20:25-28

“Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. “But the greatest among you shall be your servant.“Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. – Matt. 23:10-12

This same attitude is apparent throughout both of Paul’s letters to the Corinthian church and is seen in verses such as:

“And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” – 2 Corinthians. 2:1-5

Nowhere do we see Paul persuading or demanding people that he himself is worthy of following or obedience. Rather, Paul encourages the saints to follow his example. What is his example? Submission and obedience to the headship of Christ!

Further evidence that Paul did not teach leadership authority can be seen when Paul rebukes the Corinthians for their tendencies to aligning themselves with certain leaders, thus creating factions. Paul rebuked the idea that any apostle had unique authority or power, or that any saint was higher than another.

2 Corinthians 10:1-10 also provides insights into Paul’s view of authority and obedience. He begins with a personal appeal that his urgings are from meekness and gentleness toward them in Christ. He uses such phrases as “I urge” and “I beg”. Nowhere does Paul command or assert authority.

He does state that he has authority for building up the church, and not for destroying. He goes on to say he does not wish to terrify the Corinthians with his letters.

When Paul refers to boldness, strength, and assertive authority, the context is toward thoughts, speculations, ideas or influences that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God (v. 5-6). This is not people! How we do we know this? Because, by allowing scripture to interpret scripture, we can see from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians similar ideas:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. – Ephesians 6:12

The instance where this appears in Philemon 1:21 is an interesting example…

Notice a few verser earlier what the writer says:

Philemon 1:8,9 NASB – “Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do what is proper, yet for love’s sakeI rather appeal to you–since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus–“

He then goes on to say…

Philemon 1:14 NASB – “but without your consent I did not want to do anything, so that your goodness would not be, in effect, by compulsion but of your own free will.”

I love this! Here again, the scripture is clarifying itself. The writer is making it pretty clear that there is no authoritative demand for obedience going on here. It is this context, after Paul explains that the reader is under no compulsion to listen, and that he wanted their consent, that he uses the word hypakoē. Does this not indicate that the word must not mean that of required obedience, but that of voluntary submission?

In summary, Paul demonstrates that any authority which does exist is specifically for using one’s portion of Christ and his authority for the protecting, loving and building up of the body (see 1 Corinthians). The body is people. There is no body aside from the people therein.

The fruit of such a use of authority is evident because it is restorative and builds up. Authority does not destroy, harm, or cause the saints to lose heart. In fact, Paul offers this stern warning to those that do such things:

Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

“The purpose of influence is to “speak up for those who have no influence.” (Pr.31:8) It’s not about you.”
– Rick Warren


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