A Word Study

by Mike Ratliff

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1-7ESV)

Part of the process I go through to determine what God wants me to write about or what to study is, of course, prayer and meditation. That meditation involves searching Sacred Scripture, seeking God’s truth. Sometimes that involves going deeper where I stop and dig deeper into a certain word or truth. Today, as I worked through the comments from last night’s post, Those Who Practice Homosexuality Will Not Inherit The Kingdom of God, and I had several conversations with friends about other issues dealing apostasy in other areas of the visible church, I became convinced that I needed to look up the Greek lexical definitions for the noun and verb forms of our English words “obedience” and “to obey.” From there I decided to do a study of how these words are used in the New Testament and that would give us the understanding of the writers of those books of the Christians’ obligations to know and obey God’s commands.

Here is Romans 1:1-7 from the Greek New Testament:

Παῦλος, δοῦλος Χριστοῦ ᾿Ιησοῦ, κλητὸς ἀπόστολος, ἀφωρισμένος εἰς εὐαγγέλιον Θεοῦ ὃ προεπηγγείλατο διὰ τῶν προφητῶν αὐτοῦ ἐν γραφαῖς ἁγίαις περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυῒδ κατὰ σάρκα, τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ Θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν, δι᾿ οὗ ἐλάβομεν χάριν καὶ ἀποστολὴν εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ, ἐν οἷς ἐστε καὶ ὑμεῖς κλητοὶ ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ, πᾶσι τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν ῾Ρώμῃ ἀγαπητοῖς Θεοῦ, κλητοῖς ἁγίοις· χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ Θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ Κυρίου ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

Let’s start with the noun that is translated as “obedience” in the New Testament, which is ὑπακοή. For example, a form of this word is found in Romans 1:5, which I placed at the top of this post, in the accusative form, ὑπακοὴν, thereby making it the direct object of the verb of the sentence, which is “received” or ἐλάβομεν. The verb ἐλάβομεν is in aorist indicative active structure. This is action that is not continuous nor does it tell us when it happened. However, as we look at how Paul structured this sentence, we discover something wonderful. Remember this sentence begins in v1 and ends in v7. It was as I put this part together that I saw that I needed to stop here and simply concentrate on these seven verses first.

Paul begins in v1 by identifying himself as a servant of Christ Jesus, Παῦλος, δοῦλος Χριστοῦ ᾿Ιησοῦ. The word being translated in the ESV as “servant,” δοῦλος, is actually best translated as “bondservant” or “slave.” This changes how we should consider our obligation to God and His commands and our obedience to Him in all things, this is imperative. If we simply think of ourselves as servants instead of a δοῦλος then we may think that we actually have the option to do things our own way. We may think that we can discard God’s truth and simply pick and choose to believe what we want to believe is true.

Paul was set apart by God Himself for the gospel of God or εὐαγγέλιον Θεοῦ. This Gospel was not something that just appeared after the death and resurrection of our Lord, but was promised beforehand in the Old Testament. It was through our Lord Jesus Christ that Paul received grace and his apostleship or ministry to bring about the ὑπακοὴν of faith for the sake of His name among the nations. It was Paul’s ὑπακοὴ to his mission that God blessed and through this spread the gospel all across the Roman Empire.

We’ll look at the verb form of obedience in another post. I pray you see what God was showing me from His Word in this though. We are obligated as His δοῦλος to know the truth from God’s Word and obey it. That means we stand firm by His grace and when some attempt to corrupt that truth through worldly wisdom, we must stand against it, standing by His grace.

Soli Deo Gloria!

7 thoughts on “A Word Study

  1. Just wonderful : )
    I think that many ‘christians’ are offended by the thought that we are slaves to Christ. I was once. Once the holy spirit has revealed to you though, that we serve a holy, just and perfectly loving master, full of grace and mercy ; you want to be a slave.I think it is only aborant to us when we still remain in our own pride and doubt God.


  2. Thank you Mike.
    The Lord helps us with obedience by showing us we can trust Him, don’t you think? How can we want to obey God unless we trust Him that He has good intentions toward us? We might do it grudgingly, but that is not what He wants. And how can we trust Him if we don’t know His love personally? Like Fiona said, the Holy Spirit shows us the Father’s great love for us as we understand what Christ did for us on the cross and how undeserving we were of that. Obedience remains very hard at times, but also a joy.
    May God keep you in peace today!


  3. This is great, Mike! Really opens up this portion of Scripture.
    ..’That means we stand firm by His grace and when some attempt to corrupt that truth through worldly wisdom, we must stand against it, standing by His grace.’…Amen to that!! Thanks and looking forward to the verb form of obedience.


  4. Pingback: Manservants Maidservants and Obedience « Possessing the Treasure

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