Quick Facts

  • Pronunciation: hüp-ä-kü’-ō
  • Strongs Concordance: #G5219
    • to obey, be obedient to, submit to
    • to listen, to harken
    • of one who on the knock at the door comes to listen who it is, (the duty of a porter)
    • to harken to a command
  • Appears 23 times in 21 verses in the New Testament
  • Common translations:
      • “obey” (12x)
      • “obeyed” (3x)
      • “obedient” (2x)
      • “answer”, “became obedient”, “becoming obedient”, “heed” (1x each)

Where and how hypakouō is used in the New Testament

  1. Matthew 8:27 – The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

  2. Mark 1:27 –They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”

  3. Mark 4:41 – They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

  4. Luke 8:25 – And He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?”

  5. Luke 17:6 – And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.

  6. Acts 6:7 – The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

  7. Acts 12:13 – When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer.

  8. Romans 6:12 – Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts,

  9. 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?

  10. Romans 6:17 – But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,

  11. Romans 10:16 – However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?”

  12. Ephesians 6:1 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

  13. Ephesians 6:5 – Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ;

  14. Philippians 2:12 – So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;

  15. Colossians 3:20 – Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.

  16. Colossians 3:22 – Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.

  17. 2 Thessalonians 1:8 – dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

  18. 2 Thessalonians 3:14 – If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.

  19. Hebrews 5:9 – And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,

  20. Hebrews 11:8 – By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

  21. 1 Peter 3:6 – just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

My observations and perspective

The word hypakouō is most often translated as obedient.

It is used to describe inanimate objects in nature obeying the commands of Jesus and saints. It describes spirits obeying to Jesus. It is used to warn against obeying the lusts of the flesh. It describes unbelieving priests and others coming to obey the gospel.  It is used to instruct children to obey parents and slaves to obey masters. It is also used to describe heeding a message.

As with the other words for ‘obey’ in scripture, it mostly describes obedience of mankind toward God, His word, and His will.

This is the first instance where we find “obey” present in contexts where the obedience is required toward a people in non-civic roles; children obeying parents and a slaves obeying masters. 

One additional use of is this word initially appears to favor obeying a person, and in fact a church leader. That instance is the use of ‘obey’ in 2 Thess. 3:14.

Until now, there is only one other New Testament example of a derivative of “obey” being used in reference to church leaders (Heb 13:17). Since that has been reasonably demonstrated to be a questionable use of the word “obey”, and because this new occurrence is only one such usage in twenty-three, it is again reasonable to question this use of the word “obey”.

Therefore, 2 Thessalonians 3:14 should be evaluated using other, more-common translations for the word hypakouō rather than “obey”.  Note that doing so must work within the context and without violating any plain interpretation of scripture. I believe the best fit, when doing so using the  options for hypakouō , is ‘hearken’.

If anyone does not [ hearken ] our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. – 2 Thessalonians 3:14

Important to note that…

  • Paul does not indicate that those not obeying the instructions in this letter are sinning by doing so.
  • Paul encourages the church not to treat them as an enemy (2 Thessalonians 3:15).
  • Paul encourages the church to admonish them as a brother (2 Thessalonians 3:15).

What are the instructions that are not being followed by these that are not ‘obeying’ or hearkening? The most obvious answer would be the instructions in the closest proximity to the verse….

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example.

For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.

For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.

Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.

But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.

If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. -2 Thessalonians. 3:7-3:14

It is apparent that Paul equates ‘unruly’ with those not willing to work and provide their own food. These are people whom have busied themselves with activity, but use others to provide on their behalf.

I love that the Apostles are basically saying… “hey, if anyone could live off the backs of others, it would be us… we have the right and authority to do so… but we don’t and we don’t want to see other people do that either. Do what we do and work for your own food.”

It should be noted here that this is not the apostle’s own command, but is the biblical mandate of God from the very beginning:

“Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;Cursed is the ground because of you;  In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground,  Because from it you were taken;  For you are dust,  And to dust you shall return.” – Genesis 3:17-19

Also see Proverbs 10:3-4, Psalm 128:2

I find this ironic since, in my experience, many of those who do promote an unscriptural view of authority in the local church have some similarities to the ‘unruly’ which Paul speaks of. They do this by busying themselves,  not working for their own bread. Some proclaim to be “laboring in the word”. That is fine, if doing so demonstrates fruit that results in the obvious building up of the body of Christ. However, if that “labor” is spent seeking the scriptures for self-justification for one’s “authority”, or if the time is used to tear down, reproach, and chastise the body, that is rubbish. That person needs to get a job. According to Paul, the need to be ashamed to bring about repentance.

“The authority of those who teach
is often an obstacle to those
who want to learn.”

-Marcus Tullius Cicero


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