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When the Bible Says to Disobey Your Bishop

The laity cannot claim that they are only obedient sheep, that they themselves do not decide anything, and that all responsibility lies exclusively with the shepherd, who will give the answer for everything. To think that way is disastrous, for a certain death awaits the sheep when they follow the evil shepherd . . . 

This article is from chapter 3 of the excellent booklet — Blessed Disobedience or Evil Obedience? — written by Archpriest Theodore Zisis. The full booklet is available via these links:


Chapter 3 

The Holy Scriptures on Obedience

Scripture makes a clear distinction between good shepherds and evil mercenaries, true and genuine servants of God, teachers and prophets on the one hand, and false priests, false teachers, and false prophets on the other.

Here are quotes from the book of the holy prophet Jeremiah [34], which are used by St. Gregory Palamas [35] in relation to modern heretical false shepherds:

  • “Amazing and terrible things are committed in this land: prophets prophesy lies, and priests dominate through them” (Jer 5:30–31).
  • “The shepherds became meaningless and did not seek the Lord, and therefore they acted recklessly, and their whole flock was scattered” (Jer. 10:21).
  • “Many shepherds spoiled My vineyard, trampled down My plot with their feet; My beloved site was made an empty steppe; they made it a desert ”(Jer. 12:10–11).

Christ himself clearly divides the shepherds into good ones and evil ones, prompting obedience only to the good shepherds, and by no means to the evil ones — the mercenaries who are only interested in their own profit and who do not intend to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the sheep, leaving them defenseless when attacked by wolves:

“A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. But the mercenary, not the shepherd, to whom the sheep are not his own, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees; and the wolf plunders the sheep, and disperses them” (John 10:11–12).

Many false shepherds entered the sheepfold, but not through the door, that is, not by the grace of God, but by “another way,” namely, by means of various types of simony [36]. And therefore, they, as Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain notes in his “Exhortative Instructions” [37], are not the chosen vessels of God, and they are not even proteges of the people, but simply impostors. 

That is why the sheep look at them like strangers, do not obey them and do not follow them - after all, they only follow the true shepherds: 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, he who does not enter the sheepfold through the door, but climbs in another way, the same is a thief and a robber; and the one entering by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep obey his voice, and he calls his sheep by name and leads them out. And when he will bring out his sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. They don’t follow a stranger, but they flee from him, because they don’t know a stranger’s voice” (John 10:1–5).

However, if the sheep, that is, the believers, for some reason nevertheless follow the evil shepherd, then they themselves will be responsible for this action. This is clearly stated in the Apostolic decrees. [38] The laity cannot claim that they are only obedient sheep, that they themselves do not decide anything, and that all responsibility lies exclusively with the shepherd, who will give the answer for everything. To think that way is disastrous, for a certain death awaits the sheep, not only when they do not follow the good shepherd and therefore are attacked by wolves, but also when they follow the evil shepherd. In conclusion, the Apostolic decrees offer the following advice, which is relevant at all times: "Therefore, it is necessary to run away from the shepherd-destroyers."

It is impossible to mention everything that the New Testament says about false teachers, false prophets, and false pastors. We will cite only the words of the holy Apostle Paul, addressed to the elders of Ephesus [39], whom he called to Militus [40], returning to Jerusalem from his last apostolic journey. He warns them that shepherds will appear soon — wolves in sheep's clothing — heretics who will do anything to disperse the flock. However, those who pervert the Gospel in order to attract listeners and try to make them their followers will also come out from among the elders themselves: 

“So pay attention to yourself and to the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, shepherding the Church of the Lord and God, which He has acquired for Him with His Blood. For I know that, after my departure, fierce wolves will come in to you, not sparing the flocks; and from among yourselves people will arise who will speak wrong things, in order to entice the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:28-30).

And finally, the apostle warns the faithful that in matters of faith and obedience it is necessary to exercise such caution and prudence that even if he himself or an angel begins to teach something else, previously unknown, then they should not obey:

“But if even if we or an angel from heaven begin to preach a different gospel to you than the one that we have preached to you, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8).


This article is from chapter 3 of the excellent booklet — Blessed Disobedience or Evil Obedience? — written by Archpriest Theodore Zisis. The full booklet is available via these links: