Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament 
The principal word which calls for notice under this head in the apostolic writings is the noun ὑπακοή, with the corresponding verb, ὑπακούω, and adjective, ὑπήκοος. ὑπακοή is unknown in classical Greek. It occurs once in the Septuagint- 2 Samuel 22:38; in the NT it is common. Its general meaning is ‘obedience’ ( Romans 6:16; cf. the verb in Ephesians 6:1; Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:20; Colossians 3:22, 1 Peter 3:6, and Romans 6:12; Romans 6:16); but it has also the special sense of submission to the Divine will, and is thus found of the obedience of Christ ( Romans 5:19, Hebrews 5:8; cf. Philippians 2:8, ὑπήκοος). In regard to Christians it comes to have the still more special sense of subjection to the saving will of God, as revealed in Christ, and is thus brought into close connexion with the idea of faith (cf. 1 Peter 1:22, ὑπακοὴ τῆς ἀληθείας; Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26, ὑπακοὴ πίστεως; 2 Corinthians 10:5, ἱπακοὴ τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Cf., in the same sense, the usage of ὑπακούω in Acts 6:7, 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:14). Finally we find ὑπακοή standing alone, as a mode of manifestation of Christian faith ( Romans 15:16; Romans 16:19, 2 Corinthians 7:15; 2 Corinthians 10:6, Philemon 1:21, 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Peter 1:14; cf. the verb, Philippians 2:12, 2 Corinthians 7:15, and the adjective, 2 Corinthians 2:9).
The other words signifying ‘obedience’ in the NT are the noun ὑποταγή, properly ‘subjection,’ and the verb ὑποτάσσεσθαι. These are sometimes used as synonyms for ὑπακοή, etc. (cf., for the noun, 2 Corinthians 9:13, Galatians 2:5, 1 Timothy 2:11; 1 Timothy 3:4; and for the verb, Romans 10:3, James 4:7, 1 Peter 2:13; 1 Peter 5:5, Hebrews 12:9).
In the sub-apostolic writings both series of words are found in much the same senses as in the NT. The particular circumstances of 1 Clem., an Epistle written to deal with a state of disorder in Corinth occasioned by the insurrection of some of the younger men of the Church against the elders, bring it about that the virtue of obedience and subjection is particularly commended in this Epistle (cf. ix. 3, x. 2, 7, xix. 1, lxiii. 1, etc.). The keynote of the whole Epistle is struck in xiv. 1, when it is said: ‘It is just and right, brethren, that we should rather become obedient unto God than follow those who in vainglory and sedition have become the leaders of a detestable emulation’ (cf. also Ign. Eph. ii. 2, where subjection [ὑποταγή] to Christ is the same thing as subjection to the bishop and the presbytery).
In conclusion, reference may be made to a passage in which Thomas Aquinas endeavours to define the special virtue of obedience (Summa Theologiae, II. ii. quaest. 104, article2).
‘To all good works, which have a special ground of praise-worthiness, a special virtue is assigned. For this is what properly belongs to a virtue, that it renders a good work. But to obey one’s superior is a debt we owe in accordance with the Divine order immanent in things; and as a consequence is good.… The act we are considering has, however, a special ground of praiseworthiness on account of its special object. For while inferiors have many duties towards their superiors, amongst the rest there is one duty in particular, that they are required to obey their commandments. Wherefore obedience is a special virtue, and its special object is the commandment, whether implicit or explicit. For the will of the superior however made known is in a way an implicit command: and obedience appears so much the more ready, in proportion as it anticipates an explicit command by obeying, when the will of the superior is perceived.’
It is this obedience not merely to the express commands of God, but to whatever is understood to be His will, which constitutes true Christian obedience, which is an obedience from the heart ( Romans 6:17), an obedience even of the thoughts ( 2 Corinthians 10:5).
Literature.-H. Cremer, Bibl.-Theol. Lexicon of NT Greek3, 1880; H. E. Manning, Sermons, 1844, pp. 117, 129, 287; R. Whately, The Use and Abuse of Party Feeling in Matters of Religion, 1859, pp. 167, 196; J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, 1868, i. 228, viii. 201; F. W. Robertson, Sermons, 2nd ser., 1875, p. 94; J. Martineau, Hours of Thought, 1879, ii. 79; P. Brooks, The Light of the World, 1891, p. 340; W. R. Inge, All Saints’ Sermons, 1907, p. 172; B. P. Browne, The Essence of Religion, 1911, p. 209; A. B. D. Alexander, Christianity and Ethics, 1914, p. 164.
Robert S. Franks.
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology 
To obey or not to obey the Lord Godthis has been and is the crucial question for every human being. Obedience as opposed to disobedience is a life-and-death issue. God has given humankind the innate power of choice: the choice of obedience leads to God's promised blessing of life; the choice of disobedience leads to curse, judgment, and death.
God's clear instructions to the very first human beings in the garden of Eden was to refrain from eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil ( Genesis 2:16 ). He expected their obedience. They disobeyed, thereby losing initial favor with God. Nonetheless, they were restored to favor when God granted them the privileged role of being the first parents of all subsequent generations of humankind.
The obedience of Abraham is perhaps most exemplary in the Old Testament. On two occasions, he demonstrated total submission to God's will. First, he obeyed God's command to go to a new land ( Genesis 12 ). This response meant leaving Ur of the Chaldees, a highly developed city, to go to the unknown, unfamiliar land that God would show to himthe land of Canaan. Abraham's obedience results in his being elected a chosen one for a special role in God's salvation-plan for humankind. Second, he obeyed God's command to offer his son as a sacrifice ( Genesis 22:1-19 ).
Obedience was a main concern during the time of the encampment of the people of Israel at the base of Mount Sinai, to which God directed Moses to lead them after their deliverance from the Egyptians. There God, with Moses as mediator, provided the people with general and specific stipulations for conforming to his will. At Mount Sinai God established a special covenant relationship between himself and the people of Israel. He also gave them the Decalogue or "Ten Words" ( Exodus 20:1-17 ), which constituted a list of basic moral and religious guidelines for those who were in this special relationship with God.
The call to be obedient underlies two or more key verses of the Pentateuch. One is Leviticus 19:2 : "Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy." Obedience should emanate from a commitment to live a holy life before God and others in the covenant community. A second key passage is Deuteronomy 6:4-5 : "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." This is a divine call, urging a total love for God that results in unhesitating obedience to his will.
Unfortunately, obedience on the part of Israel was preempted by disobedience as the predominant characteristic of the nation's history. Only a small segment of God's chosen people chose to follow his word. During most of the two-kingdom times, gross apostasy and disobedience were widespread. During the course of Israel's history, Deuteronomic theology (see Deuteronomy 28:15-68 )if obedient, blessing; if disobedient, then curse/judgmentremained operative. The massive turning away from God and the refusal to heed the prophets' warnings left God no alternative but to exercise his judgment and to destroy both kingdoms.
The prophets called for a new covenant, which would resolve the problem of failure to remain obedient to God. Jeremiah, after denouncing the unfaithfulness of God's people, made the pronouncement of this covenant (31:31-34). This covenant would be placed in the people's minds and in the people's hearts. Jeremiah provides details of how in "new covenant" times obedience will have first and only place. The law of God in hearts and minds will preclude any sinful Acts against God and fellow humankind.
The reality of this new covenant was portrayed in Jesus' supreme example of obedience to the heavenly Father, when he gave himself as the ultimate sacrifice for atonement of sin.
Jesus' emphasis on being born again underscores the need of atonement for effecting forgiveness of sins. Jesus talks to Nicodemus about being born again or "from above" as the requirement for entering the kingdom of God ( John 3:3-6 ). The way of death would be thus changed to the way of life.
Jesus prayed that his disciples would be sanctified, be made inwardly holy, and thereby be enabled to live a holy life outwardly ( John 17:6-19 ). Provision for this inner holiness and cleansing requisite for true obediencewas effected by his atoning sacrifice on the cross.
The Holy Spirit is provided to all who believe in Jesus. The Spirit's abiding presence enables all God's people to carry out God's will and to live obediently before him.
Harvey E. Finley
Bibliography . W. Brueggeman, Interpretation and Obedience ; P. C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy ; W. E. McCumber, Holy God, Holy People: Holiness in Matthew, Mark, and Luke ; R. S. Taylor, Exploring Christian Holiness .
Holman Bible Dictionary 
The person's obedient response to God's Word is a response of trust or faith. Thus, to really hear God's Word is to obey God's Word ( Exodus 19:5; Jeremiah 7:23 ).
The Bible views disobedience as a failure to hear and do God's Word ( Psalm 81:11 ). Israel's story was one of a nation who failed to hear or to listen to God ( Jeremiah 7:13; Hosea 9:17 ). Jesus warned: “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” ( Matthew 11:15 ).
How does obedience affect one's spiritual life? Obedience is essential to worship ( 1 Samuel 15:22; John 4:23-24 ). The obedience of faith brings about salvation ( Romans 1:5 , Romans 10:16-17 ). Obedience secures God's blessings ( John 14:23; 1 John 2:17; Revelation 22:14 ). Spiritual insight is gained through obedience ( John 7:17 ). A life of obedience to God is the fruit of faith ( James 2:21-26 ).
True obedience means imitating God in holiness, humility, and love ( 1 Peter 1:15; John 13:34; Philippians 2:5-8 ). True disciples do the will of God ( Matthew 7:21 ). Facing clashing claims for one's allegiance, the Christian obeys God rather than other persons ( Acts 5:29 ).
What motivates us to obey God? Obedience springs from gratitude for grace received ( Romans 12:12 ). Christians obey God as an expression of their spiritual freedom ( Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 2:16 ). Jesus taught that our love for God motivates us to obey Him ( John 14:21 , John 14:23-24; John 15:10 ).
How does obedience affect our relationships with others? The Bible speaks of obedience from the wife to the husband ( Ephesians 5:22 ), from children to their parents ( Ephesians 6:1 ), from slaves to masters ( Colossians 3:22 ). Obedience with joy should be shown to church leaders ( 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 ). Obedience is expected from all Christians to persons in authority ( 1 Peter 2:13-14 ).
The New Testament places special emphasis on Jesus' obedience. Christ's obedience stands in contrast to Adam's disobedience ( Romans 5:12-21 ). A desire to obey the will of God motivated Jesus' actions ( Luke 4:43; John 5:30 ). Jesus acted and spoke only as the Father directed ( John 3:34 ). By living a life of obedience, Jesus showed Himself to be the Savior ( Hebrews 5:7-10 ). Christ's work on the cross is viewed as a sacrifice of obedience ( Romans 5:19; Hebrews 10:7-10 ).
God has spoken in the Scriptures. Disobedience to God's Word comes from a sinful heart—a heart that will not trust God. Obedience comes from a heart that trusts God. If God's people obey Him, they find the blessings He yearns to give. If they disobey, believers receive judgment and necessary discipline.
Charles Buck Theological Dictionary 
The performance of the commands of a superior. Obedience to God, may be considered,
1. As virtual, which consists in a belief of the Gospel, of the holiness and equity of its precepts, of the truth of its promises, and a true repentance of all our sins.
2. Actual obedience, which is the practice and exercise of the several graces and duties of Christianity.
3. Perfect obedience, which is the exact conformity of our hearts and lives to the law of God, without the least imperfection. This last is only peculiar to a glorified state. The obligation we are under to obedience arises,
1. From the relation we stand in to God as creatures, Psalms 95:6 .
2. From the law he hath revealed to us in his word, Psalms 119:3 . 2 Peter 1:1-21 .
3. From the blessings of his providence we are constantly receiving, Acts 14:17 . Psalms 145:1-21 :
4. From the love and goodness of god in the grand work of redemption, 1 Corinthians 6:20 . As to the nature of this obedience, it must be,
1. Active, not only avoiding what is prohibited, but performing what is commanded, Colossians 3:8; Colossians 3:10 .
2. Personal; for though Christ has obeyed the law for us as a covenant of works, yet he hath not abrogated it as a rule of life, Romans 7:22 . Romans 3:31 .
3. Sincere, Psalms 51:6 . 1 Timothy 1:5 .
4. Affectionate, springing from love, and not from terror, 1 John 5:19 . 1 John 2:5 . 2 Corinthians 5:1-21 .
5. Diligent, not slothfully, Galatians 1:16 . Psalms 18:44 . Romans 12:11 .
6. Conspicuous and open, Philippians 2:15 . Matthew 5:16 .
7. Universal; not one duty, but all must be performed, 2 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 1:10 .
8. Perpetual, at all times, places, and occasions, Romans 2:7 . Galatians 6:9 . The advantages of obedience are these,
1. It adorns the Gospel, Titus 2:10 .
2. It is evidential of grace, 2 Corinthians 5:17 .
3. It rejoices the hearts of the ministers and people of God, 3 John 1:2 . 2 Thess 1: 19, 20.
4. It silences gainsayers, 2 Peter 1:11-12 .
5. Encourages the saints, while it reproves the lukewarm, Matthew 5:16 .
6. Affords peace to the subject of it, Psalms 25:12-13 . Acts 24:16 .
7. It powerfully recommends religion, as that which is both delightful and practicable, Colossians 1:10 .
8. It is the forerunner and evidence of eternal glory, Romans 6:22 . Revelation 22:1-21 .
See Holiness, Sanctification; Charnock's works, vol. 11: p. 1212; Tillotson's Sermons, ser. 122, 123; Saurin's Sermons, vol. 1: ser. 4; Ridgly's Body of Divinity, qu. 92.
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary 
Since God is the Creator and Lord of the universe, people should obey him ( Deuteronomy 4:35-40). To those who obey him, he promises blessing; to those who disobey him, cursing ( Deuteronomy 11:27-28; Deuteronomy 27:10; Joshua 5:6). Obedience means to hear God’s voice, accept his authority and do what he says ( Exodus 15:26). Disobedience means to ignore God’s voice, reject his authority and not do what he says ( Jeremiah 7:24). Adam’s disobedience brought disaster upon the human race, but Christ’s obedience (an obedience throughout life even to death) brings salvation ( Romans 5:19; Philippians 2:8; see also Sin ).
God commands all people everywhere to repent and believe the gospel ( Mark 1:15; Acts 17:30; 1 John 3:23). Therefore, faith in Christ is obedience; unbelief is disobedience ( Acts 6:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 5:9; 1 Peter 4:17). Having exercised faith in Christ, true believers will give clear evidence of this by lives of constant obedience to God ( 1 Peter 1:14-16; 1 John 5:1-3).
Religious exercises are never a substitute for obedience to the commands of God. If people say they love God but deliberately disobey his Word, they deceive themselves. Love for God leads to obedience, not disobedience ( 1 Samuel 15:22; Luke 22:42; John 14:15; John 15:10; John 15:14-15). If people develop the habit of obeying God, they will become true servants of righteousness and therefore true servants of God. By contrast, if they develop the habit of obeying the sinful human nature, they will become servants of sin and therefore useless to God ( Romans 6:12-18).
Christians have a responsibility to submit to the various kinds of authority that God has established in human society. In the family, children are to obey their parents ( Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:20). In the sphere of work, employees are to obey their employers ( Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22). In any community or nation, people are to obey the laws of that community or nation ( Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13). In the church, Christians are to obey their leaders ( Philippians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; Hebrews 13:7).
In any sphere of life, people with authority may at times command Christians to do something that is contrary to the teachings of God’s Word. In such cases, Christians must be prepared to obey God rather than submit to anti-God regulations, even though their actions may bring unwelcome consequences upon themselves ( Acts 5:29; Acts 5:40).
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible 
OBEDIENCE . Occasionally this word occurs in Scripture to express the duty of one person to another, as in Deuteronomy 21:18-19 , 2 Samuel 22:45 , 2 Thessalonians 3:14 , Philippians 2:12 , Ephesians 6:1; Ephesians 6:5 , 1 Peter 3:6 . Much more frequently it expresses the duty of man to God ( 1 Samuel 15:22 , Jeremiah 11:7 , John 14:15; John 14:23 ). The spirit of obedience is the primal and indispensable requirement for acceptance by the Father. The Son of God Himself was made perfect through obedience ( Hebrews 5:8 ), and only thus. It was the motto of His earthly life, ‘I am come to do thy will, O God’ ( Hebrews 10:7 ). The one lesson of the life of Jesus is the one lesson of the word of God from first to last God must be obeyed. Absolute obedience was essential to the fulfilment of His mission. Absolute obedience is essential to our own salvation. Having learned obedience, He became a Saviour to those who obey ( Hebrews 5:9 ). Obedience is as necessary with us as it was with Him. Obedience is as possible with us as it was with Him. For He is able to work in us now the very same mind that was in Him, the same disposition and spirit He had upon earth. D. A. Hayes.
Webster's Dictionary 
(1): ( n.) A following; a body of adherents; as, the Roman Catholic obedience, or the whole body of persons who submit to the authority of the pope.
(2): ( n.) One of the three monastic vows.
(3): ( n.) The act of obeying, or the state of being obedient; compliance with that which is required by authority; subjection to rightful restraint or control.
(4): ( n.) Words or actions denoting submission to authority; dutifulness.
(5): ( n.) A cell (or offshoot of a larger monastery) governed by a prior.
(6): ( n.) The written precept of a superior in a religious order or congregation to a subject.
King James Dictionary 
OBE'DIENCE, n. L. obedientia. See Obey.
Compliance with a command, prohibition or known law and rule of duty prescribed the performance of what is required or enjoined by authority, or the abstaining from what is prohibited, in compliance with the command or prohibition. To constitute obedience, the act or forbearance to act must be in submission to authority the command must be known to the person, and his compliance must be in consequence of it, or it is not obedience. Obedience is not synonymous with obsequiousness the latter often implying meanness or servility, and obedience being merely a proper submission to authority. That which duty requires implies dignity of conduct rather than servility. Obedience may be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary obedience alone can be acceptable to God.
Government must compel the obedience of individuals otherwise who will seek its protection or fear its vengeance?
Charles Spurgeon's Illustration Collection 
'Sir,' said the Duke of Wellington to an officer of engineers, who urged the impossibility of executing the directions he had received, 'I did not ask your opinion, I gave you my orders, and I expect them to be obeyed.' Such should be the obedience of every follower of Jesus. The words which he has spoken are our law, not our judgments or fancies. Even if death were in the way it is: 'Not ours to reason why: Ours, but to dare and die;' and, at our Master's bidding, advance through flood or flame.
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 
is, in a general or abstract sense, a readiness to carry out or perform the ordinances of another, i.e. to put the design of another into execution, and thereby satisfy the will of another person or persons. The word, then, signifies the capacity to hearken to any one's advice, directions, or orders. In religion obedience must be animated by love (q.v.). Obedience -maybe paid (a) on the part of man (1) to God and Christ; (2) to one's parents; (3) to superiors generally, especially one's government. There is also (b) the obedience which Christ paid to God the Father. See below.
1. Obedience To God may be considered
(1) as virtual, which consists in a belief of the Gospel, of the holiness and equity of its precepts, of the truth of its promises, and a true repentance of all our sins;
(2) actual obedience, which is the practice and exercise of the several graces and duties of Christianity;
(3) perfect obedience, which is the exact conformity of our hearts and lives to the law of God, without the least imperfection. This last is peculiar to a glorified state, though it should be our Aim in this. (See Perfection).
The obligation we are under to obedience arises —
(1) from the relation we stand in to God as creatures ( Psalms 95:6);
(2) from the law which he has revealed to us in his Word ( Psalms 119:3; 2 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 1:7);
(3) from the blessings of his providence which we are constantly receiving ( Acts 14:17; Psalms 145);
(4) from the love and goodness of God in the grand work of redemption ( 1 Corinthians 6:20).
As to the nature of this obedience, it must be —
(1) active, not only avoiding what is prohibited, but performing what is commanded ( Colossians 3:8; Colossians 3:10);
(2) personal, for though Christ has obeyed the law for us as a covenant of works, yet he has not abrogated it as a rule of life ( Romans 7:22; Romans 3:31);
(3) sincere ( Psalms 51:6; 1 Timothy 1:5);
(4) affectionate, springing from love and not from terror ( 1 John 5:19; 1 John 2:5; 2 Corinthians 5:14)
(5) diligent, not slothful ( Galatians 1:16; Psalms 18:44; Romans 12:11);
(6) conspicuous and open ( Philippians 2:15; Matthew 5:16);
(7) universal; not one duty, but all must be performed ( 2 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 1:10);
(8) perpetual, at all times, places, and occasions ( Romans 2:7; Galatians 6:9). The advantages of obedience are these:
(1) it adorns the Gospel ( Titus 2:10);
(2) it is evidential of grace ( 2 Corinthians 5:17);
(3) it rejoices the hearts of the ministers and people of God ( 3 John 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:19, 20);
(4) it silences gainsayers ( 2 Peter 1:11-12);
(5) encourages the saints, while it reproves the lukewarm ( Matthew 5:16);
(6) it affords peace to the subject of it ( Psalms 25:12-13; Acts 24:16);
(7) it powerfully recommends religion, as that which is both delightful and practicable ( Colossians 1:10).
(8) it is the forerunner and evidence of eternal glory ( Romans 6:22; Revelation 22:14).
2. Obedience To Parents is taught us in the N.T. Scriptures in Epheshians 6:1 (also in Colossians 3:20): "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." Thus also servants are to obey their masters, as taught in Ephesians 6:5 (also Colossians 3:22; 1 Peter 2:18): "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ."
3. Obedience To Authority (q.v.); this, however, the Christian is taught to exercise only when not out of harmony with the divine commands, for it is the duty of the Christian to obey God rather than man ( Acts 4:17; Acts 5:29).
See Krehl, New-Testament. Handworterbuch, s.v. Gehorsam; Charnock, Works, 11:1212; Tillotson, Sermons, ser. 122, 123; Saurin, Sermons, vol. i, ser. 4; Ridgley, Body of Divinity, qu. 92; Dwight, Theology; Walker. Sermons; Fuller, Works; Robert Hall, Works. (See Holiness); (See Liberty); (See Necessity); (See Sanctification).
- Obedience from Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
- Obedience from Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
- Obedience from Holman Bible Dictionary
- Obedience from Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
- Obedience from Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
- Obedience from Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
- Obedience from Webster's Dictionary
- Obedience from King James Dictionary
- Obedience from Charles Spurgeon's Illustration Collection
- Obedience from Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature