Quick Facts

  • Pronunciation: pā-thär-khe’-ō
  • Strongs Concordance: #G3980
    • to obey (a ruler or a superior)
  • Appears 4 times in 4 verses in the New Testament
  • Common Translations
    • “obey” (2x)
    • “obedient” (1x)
    • “followed…advice” (1x)

Where and how peitharcheō is used in the New Testament

  1. Acts 5:29 NASB – “But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”

  2. Acts 5:32 NASB – “”And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.””

  3. Acts 27:21 NASB – “When they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst and said, “Men, you ought to have followed my advice and not to have set sail from Crete and incurred this damage and loss.”

  4. Titus 3:1 NASB – “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed,”

My observations and perspective

Peitharcheō  is a Greek word translated most often as “obey”. There are two occasions where it is used to describe obedience unto God. There is one instance where it is translated as obedience toward a magistrate (civic authority) and there is one reference where the word describes someone failing to listen to a church leader.

The single time peitharcheō is used in reference to a church leader (Acts 27:21), the apostle is indicating that the subject(s) would have profited had they listened or ‘hearkened unto’ his advice.

Does this destroy my assertions thus far that church leaders require obedience? Not yet… and here’s why… Because Paul was giving sailing advice on his journey to Italy – and to sailors.

This episode has absolutely nothing to do with the local assembly! (See Acts 27:9-20).

Paul offers no rebuke to the sailors, nor does he imply that the sailors were in sin, contempt, or violation of God’s will for not accepting his advice. He does not accuse them of disregarding “God’s anointed”.

The sailors listened to the majority, not Paul. So, in this verse, Paul is basically saying “I told you so!”

Since giving advice is not constrained to those in leadership positions, there is no particular reason to associate this with such.

“Don’t raise your voice,
improve your argument.”
– Desmond Tutu


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