THE NEW TESTAMENT
"Have you done a word study on the translation
of the Greek of the words rendered ‘obey’ or ‘obedience’ in the English?…"
—West Virginia Reader
We claim to be no authority in the study of words. However, there is a
lot of good source material available today to expedite and make such a
study relatively simple. Personally, we find word studies to be most fascinating,
as well as enlightening. And this is likewise true as we dig into the words
behind the word translated "obey" in the New Testament.
There are basically two words rendered "obey"
(KJV) in the New Testament, hupakouo and peitho.
The first word, Hupakouo, is
the primary word for "obey" that is used. It is a compound word made up
of two parts, hupo (under) + akouo (to hear).
(We get our modern word "acoustic" from this root, akouo).
The use of this word for obey would seem to imply that Christianity is
a religion that has been spoken. And from an underling position we are
to listen, to hearken, and to obey. Hupakouo is once translated
"hearken" in Acts 12:13. However, elsewhere throughout the
New Testament the word "obey" (or obedient) is used extensively to represent
the Greek, as in the following references: Acts 6:7; Romans 6:12,16,17;
10:16; Ephesians 6:1,5); Philippians 2:12; Colossians 3:20,22; 2 Thessalonians
1:8; 3:14; Hebrews 11:8; 1 Peter 3:6). We attentively listen and comply
to what the Lord says.
The second word translated "obey" is peitho.
It basically means to be persuaded and is primarily rendered that way in
the New Testament. However, it has an extended meaning of not only being
persuaded (or convinced), but yielding to that persuasion in obedience.
is represented by the word "obey" in the following references: Acts 5:36,37;
Romans 2:8; Galatians 5:7; Hebrews 13:17; James 3:3.
Take the word peitho and put
the little privative prefix "a" in front of it, and we have
(a + peitheo). It negates the word. Consequently
this word is translated "not obey" in Romans 2:8, 1 Peter 3:1 and 4:17.
"Disobedient" is used for it in Romans 10:21; 1 Peter 2:8 and 3:20. It
carries the idea of being disobedient, having resisted persuasion (even
An interesting variant use of peitho
is found in Acts 5:29 (and 32), Acts 27:21, and Titus 3:1. This is combined
with archo to become peitharcheo (peitho
+ archo). We already have found that peitho
means to obey out of persuasion. The last part of the word, archo,
is reflected in our word monarch. It has reference to a ruler. So the Greek
word peith + archeo (peitharcheo) means
to obey a ruler or one in authority. It is quite expressive that Peter
used this word when the rulers in Jerusalem commanded him to not preach
any more in the name of Christ. His answer in no uncertain terms was, "We
ought to obey [peitharcheo, obey a ruler] God rather than men [God
is our ruler, not you]" (Acts 5:29). The KJV renders this word "obey magistrates"
in Titus 3:1. And in the other Scripture listed, Acts 27:21, it is translated,
"ye should have hearkened unto me…" They had followed the
orders of the master of the ship and were headed into a winter storm. Is
Paul implying that his words should have been listened to on a par with,
or above, the "master" of the ship? Paul was a man of experience on the
high seas; thus he would be an authority on the subject.
Truly, this is an interesting word study. These
are the impressions that we gleaned from our simple study of the word "obey"
in the New Testament. Let us be found obedient to the Lord in all things.—J.E.G.
ESAU AND FORNICATORS
IN HERBREWS 12:15-17 an interesting
reference is made to Esau. In the same breath he is lumped together with
fornicators. How can that be? The initial reference is to the selling of
his birthright to his brother Jacob for a mess of pottage found in Genesis
The birthright in the line of the patriarchs was a matter of highest
esteem and importance. Of all of humanity, God had called Abraham to become
a great nation through whom all families of the earth would eventually
be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). The dignity of such a calling was evident
in the favored birthright that was passed on to the firstborn in the line
of descent of each generation. This involved material and spiritual privileges.
Extra honor and dignity came in being the firstborn.
The episode involving Jacob and Esau is quite revealing. Jacob, imperfect
as he was, recognized the value and dignity of the birthright. But to Esau
it was something lightly esteemed. In a moment of passing hunger, coming
in from the fields empty-handed from hunting, he flippantly traded his
birthright for a measly pot of red pottage. Having gotten him to swear
to the deal, "Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did
eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised [disesteemed]
his birthright" (Genesis 25:34).
Consequently, we have the warning in the book of Hebrews. "Looking
diligently…Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who
for one morsel of meat [food] sold his birthright" (Hebrews 12:15,16).
But, again, why is he lumped together with fornicators? Perhaps Proverbs
30:20 would be helpful in understanding this. Here it speaks of the sexually
loose "strange woman." It reads, "Such is the way of an adulterous woman;
she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness."
She goes from the heinous act of casual sex with no more moral scruples
than a person wiping her mouth with a napkin after eating a common meal.
There is no respect for that which is holy and sacred that God has placed
in the context of marriage (that which produces other human beings). In
a real sense, it is the same sin that Esau committed when he sold his birthright.
There was no respect for the value and dignity of the birthright. He ate,
got up, and went his way as if nothing perverse had happened. Just a casual
meal--"thus Esau despised
his birthright" (Genesis 25:34).
UP IN A THEOLOGICAL BOX
and warnings about casting off faith and going back on the Lord
are found throughout the book of Hebrews. One such admonition is found
in Hebrews 10:35-39. It reads, "Cast not away therefore your confidence,
which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that,
after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet
a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now
the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back my soul shall have
no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition;
but of them that believe to the saving of the soul."
A person can get himself all shut up in a theological box, making
it really hard for him to understand and accept Scripture for what it really
says. This is true of the Scripture above. Kenneth S. Wuest, who is identified
as "Teacher Emeritus of New Testament Greek The Moody Bible Institute"
in his volumes titled Wuest’s Word Studies From the Greek New Testament,
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, had this to say about Hebrews 10:39,
It sounds like he has on Calvinistic glasses with a Calvinistic filter.
New Collegiate Dictionary identifies Calvinism as the doctrines of
"John Calvin (1509-64) including election or predestination, limited atonement,
total depravity, irresistibility of grace, and the perseverance of the
saints." This Calvinistic thinking surfaces in Wuest’s word studies above
when he said that "a person once saved can never be lost" (the perseverance
of the saints). Even though the writer of the book of Hebrews, speaking
to Christians, said that they could draw back unto perdition and be lost
after becoming a Christian, Wuest says this can’t mean Christians because
they can’t be lost after having once been saved. But the writer just said
it. Prejudice really enslaves one’s thoughts.
The writer of the book of Hebrews, in his warnings and admonitions,
repeatedly makes it plain that a Christian can cast off his faith, be lost
and not receive the everlasting reward. How else can the following references
be explained? They are very simple. And there are others.
"The ‘shrinking back’
ones are said to be shrinking back to perdition. The word ‘perdition’ is
the translation of apoleia which mean ‘utter destruction,’
and in this context means ‘the destruction which consists in the loss of
eternal life; eternal misery, perdition,’ which is the lot of those who
would renounce their professed faith in Messiah as High Priest and return
to a dependence upon the abrogated sacrifices for salvation. The Word of
God is very clear in its statements to the effect that a person once saved
can never be lost. Therefore, this person who draws back to perdition must
an unsaved person."
Yes, we believe that God
will do his part in keeping us. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:5 that Christians
"are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be
revealed in the last time." Yes, but please notice. God keeps us through
our faith. By this means we tap on to the power of God. But the writer
of Hebrews says that we can cast off our faith. Our being "kept" is conditional.
We are still a free moral agent with responsibility and accountability.
Calvinism is a very reactionary and radical doctrine, coming out of the
Dark Ages. Paul speaks of the "manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10).
Let us recognize that there are many folds and facets to God’s wisdom,
and accept every one of them as we accept all of the Word of God for what
it actually says.
This little article is not intended to disparage the personal piety
of Mr. Wuest, nor to diminish the value of much of his writings when he
speaks on practical matters, but we couldn’t help but be amazed by the
sectarian entrenchment in his thinking and mindset.
"How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the
first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them
that heard him?" (Read the context, 2:1-4)
"But Christ as a son over his own house: whose house are we, IF
we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto th
"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief,
in departing from the living God…For we are made partakers of Christ, IF
we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end" (3:12,14).
"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which not man shall
see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God…"
TO AN OBSERVANT STUDENT
and one who believes the Scriptures, infant baptism doesn’t make sense.
The New Testament teaches that faith and repentance
must precede and accompany baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:35-37; Acts 2:38).
It teaches that baptism (immersion in water, Acts 8:38,39; Romans 6:4)
is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). An infant
is eliminated as a "candidate" for baptism because infants are not capable
of believing. Infants are eliminated as "candidates" for baptism inasmuch
as they do not have the capacity to repent, not having the awareness nor
guilt of sin to repent of (repentance is a change of heart, a change of
mind). Consequently, in the light of these considerations, they are eliminated
as proper subjects for baptism. Baptism is for the remission of sins. Infants
are sinless, they are innocent, and there is no discernment of sin and
consequently no guilt (and thus they are not accountable). So, how could
an infant be baptized for the "remission of sins." There are none to be
remitted. They belong to God until they come to that age of accountability.
Do you remember what Jesus said? "Suffer little children, and forbid them
not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:14).
He also said, "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become
as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew
Infant baptism was introduced in a less enlightened age removed from
the days of the early church by superstitious men who believed that through
birth we inherit the guilt of the sin of Adam. Although an infant doesn’t
have the capability (nor capacity) to believe and repent, nor the need
to be baptized, these errant teachers thought baptism would somehow rectify
the supposed, but nonexistent, problem. However, infants and little children
are not accountable to God. They already belong to God, "for of such
is the kingdom of heaven." The Scriptures say that Jesus would
"save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21), not Adam’s
sin. Men were told to "repent…and be converted that your
sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19), not Adam’s sin. Ezekiel 18:20 reads,
"The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity
of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the
righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of
the wicked shall be upon him." To say that we inherited Adam’s sin would
make our Lord a sinner since on the human side his genealogy goes all the
way back to Adam (Luke 3:23-38).
DOESN'T MAKE SENSE