What does obey the truth mean in this verse?

Romans 2:8

but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

What is the truth mentioned in this verse? And, what does it mean to obey the truth? Being a non-native English speaker, I would understand the phrase "believe the truth", but I am not able to understand the exact meaning of the phrase obey the truth.

Also, it will be great to explain what "obey unrighteousness" means in the same verse.

  • It is the same as working for the light, truth, God. Having righteous vs unrighteous works.
    – Michael16
    Apr 5 at 12:39

3 Answers 3


It means "Obey Jesus" (John 14:6)

John 14:6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

The specific hermeneutic (study method) here is called "first mention". We look back in the Bible to see where the word "Truth" first shows up.

The entire New Testament Christian community knew that Jesus called himself "The Truth". So, they would be interpreting Paul's words in light of that.

"obey unrighteousness"... maybe Satan?

Another hermeneutic is the "dualism". Greco-Jewish thinking paired their ideas, almost everything having a "good" and a "bad" or a "big" and a "small", etc.

Applying the "dualism" here, we have "Obey Truth (Jesus) [vs Obey Unrighteousness (the alternative)]". So, one could argue that "unrighteousness" means obeying Satan, but that would be a mild stretch since Paul doesn't mention Satan directly, but only a mild stretch because he does mention "wrath and fury", expanding on it in the next verse, thereby emphasizing it. Mentioning the "soul" (v9) also makes the "wrath and fury" (v8) statement all the more serious...

Romans 2:9

There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek,


BDAG lists three basic meanings for ἀλήθεια (alétheia); but the one it lists for Rom 2:8 is tabulated as (2b).

The content of what is true, truth, especially of the content of Christianity as the ultimate truth.

As witness, BDAG lists Eph 1:13, 4:21, 24, 2 Tim 2:15, James 1:18, Col 1:5, 2 Peter 1:12, Gal 2:5, 14, 5:7, 2 Cor 11:10, etc, etc. This appears to be the most common use of the noun in the NT. This is only natural because, the object all that a Christian stands for and represents is Jesus Christ who is "full of grace and truth" (John 1:18) and He is also, "The way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6).

Thus, "to obey the truth" (as in Rom 2:8) is clearly to obey all that Christianity represents, as taught by Jesus (Matt 28:19). See also John 16:13.

Note also, that Paul in Rom 2:8 contrasts "truth" with "unrighteousness" - we are servant of one or the other:

but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.


I would just add to the above answers that we often know what’s true, right(eous), and promoted in the Gospel, but don’t follow through with our actions. I believe Paul is pointing out that simply believing without a corresponding action leads to the description in verses 8 and 9 in Romans 2. Also see verse 10 to support this. Pure faith is revealed in how we respond to God’s Word. Faith is positive corresponding action to what God has said.

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