Wives and Husbands and Household Codes

Roman - Funerary Monument of a Husband and Wife - Walters 2320.jpgThe “Household Codes” of the New Testament–Ephesians 5:21-6:9; Colossians 3:18-22; 1 Timothy 2:8-15; 1 Timothy 5:1-2; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; Titus 2:1-10; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:18-25 and 1 Peter 3:1-7 are some of the most problematic texts for contemporary readers of the New Testament. These texts have been used to justify the suppression of women, child abuse and slavery.  It’s hard to know what to do with them.  I believe equality in marriage.  I believe the Bible points in the direction of equality when compared to its context even as it contains passages that suggest patriarchy.  That said, I would like to point out a few things we should consider about this text before we move past it.

Ephesians 5:21ff May Be a Capitulation to Culture
In their day and age, these texts reinforced existing social structures.  Jesus had introduced a model of family built on faith and mutual obedience to God.  Matthew 12:46-50 reads: “While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’” Early on, the Jesus movement seems to have maintained this more egalitarian and voluntary perspective on family.

Paul reminded the Church in Galatia of their Baptismal reality, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female” (Galatians 3:28).  He also wrote about mutuality to the church in Corinth, “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does”  (1 Corinthians 7:4).  Mutuality of this form does not come without problems, but it isn’t the hard-line patriarchy Paul is often saddled with.

As the Christian movement progressed and especially–it seems–as it moved into the Gentile world, it became more and more consistent with Hellenistic notions of marriage and family.  These household pairs are also discussed at length in Aristotle’s Politics.  His language reflects the extreme patriarchy prevalent during that time.  “The relation of male to female is by nature a relation of superior to inferior and ruler to ruled” (1245b12). “The slave is wholly lacking the deliberative element; the female has it but it lacks authority; the child has it but it is incomplete” (1260a11). (found at http://www.iep.utm.edu/aris-pol/#H7)  My seminary professor, David Balch, has compared the early church’s teaching about household behavior with contemporary Hellenistic thought and practice about households and has shown that the early church acquiesced to culture.  Hellenistic culture was far more patriarchal than Jewish culture (Let Wives Be Submissive).  It’s possible that the early church felt pressure to conform in order to keep peace and survive.

The text follows, but significantly augments the household codes of Colossians 3:18-4:1
The pairs–wives/husbands; children/fathers; slaves/masters are taken over from Colossians.  However, Ephesians augments with the understanding of faith.  While the writer accepts the prevailing attitudes about gender and authority, they apply it to Jesus Christ.  “This is a greater mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and Church” (Ephesians 5:32).  Similarly, the teaching on children and parents is footnoted with a reference to the Ten Commandments.  The instruction to slaves reframes slavery as being “slaves of Christ” (Ephesians 6:6).  The challenge for modern interpreters is why neither Paul (see Philemon) nor Paul’s successors regarded slavery as antithetical to the Gospel.  However, the effort on the part of the writer of Ephesians to interpret context theologically is instructive even if we do not concur with the outcome of the interpretation.

The instruction about submission involves mutual submission.
In the original Greek, Ephesians 5:21-24 is all one sentence.  We shouldn’t be surprised that the English translation breaks it apart into multiple sentences.  In Greek, Ephesians contains several very long complete sentence that would be virtually unintelligible if rendered literally in English translation.  The separation of vss. 21 from 22ff not only into separate sentences but–in the NRSV–separate paragraphs or worse–in the NIV–separate subject headings, obscures the meaning.  The context of Ephesians is one of mutuality first and hierarchy second.

Grace Says

Christian Music Group Mercy Me has an upbeat and encouraging song entitled, “Greater.”  “Greater” relates how a person can be attacked and condemned by others and even by themselves but still not be defeated by it.  The victory over the self-inflicted guilt and the judgmental assault on self-worth comes from an abiding knowledge of God’s grace.  God is “Greater” than the voices in the world.  I love the song.  I love the rhythm and rhyme and message.  I love everything except one single part.  The singer says, “There’ll be days I lose the battle.  Grace says that it doesn’t matter ’cause the cross already won the war.”  I do not think Mercy Me intended to suggest that we could ignore the seriousness of sin because of God’s grace.  Nor do I think we should ban, boycott, or quit listening to a song because of one unfortunate line, but it is an unfortunate line.

Ephesians is a similarly exuberant celebration of God’s grace.  It praises God’s glorious grace and God’s forgiveness of our sins (Ephesians 1:6-8).  It relates the path of salvation  and the implications of our reconciliation to God in light of our reconciliation to one another (Ephesians 2).  Paul’s doctrine is summarized with, “We are saved by grace through faith–and this is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God–and not by works so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  This grace has profound implications or our relationships with people.  God’s forgiveness of us is the basis of how we relate to one another.  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.  Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 4:32-5:2).  The book then seems to shift abruptly in Ephesians 5:3-7 as the powerful declaration of God’s grace fades and a picture of God’s judgment takes its place.

Paul  condemned sexual immorality, greed, obscenity, foolish talk and dirty jokes.  Then the bombshell, “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a person is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5).  How do we reconcile the strong statement of absolute condemnation here with the absolute declaration of God’s grace that has preceded it?

One way is to suggest that there’s before and after quality to conversion.  Conversion is a threshold and once we enter into God’s grace we must not exit again.  Before we come to faith we may be as sinful as anyone can imagine, but once we come to faith we are to leave behind our sinful ways.  History is full of stories about people who waited to be baptized until their dying days just so that they would not sin after baptism and disqualify themselves from salvation.

I reject this interpretation if for no other reason than that I know that I have done far worse things after I was baptized than I ever did before.  Which is not a valid reason to reject something if it is true, but the above interpretation is hopeless and God is not.  I believe that the first thing we need to do is recognize that the declaration of God’s grace we find throughout Paul’s writing was not designed so much to reassure us as it was and is to glorify God’s greatness.  Paul makes a lot more sense when we read his writings as placing God in the center.  To sing of God’s grace is to sing of God’s glory.  From this perspective, God is not a character in our story.  We are character’s in God’s story.

As characters in God’s story we celebrate that God has rescued us and must never forget how serious our rescue has been.  Sin is serious.  Grace doesn’t overcome the cold–some minor flaw in our coding.  Grace overcomes the most destructive force in the world.  With the strongest language possible, Paul reminds us that grace does not give us permission to do whatever we like.  Yes, grace means God has already won and grace says that our lost battles are forgiven.  That’s quite different than saying they do not matter.

Corvettes and Congregations

Read Ephesians 4:25-5:1

I had the privilege of driving a 2008 Corvette in the 2017 Arlington July 4th Parade.  Some members of the congretation I serve are classic car people.  Last year, they let me drive their 1962 Impala.  That was cool, but driving the Corvette was a thrill.  When you drive someone else’s car, there are some basic instructions–opening the door was different, turning the engine off and on was different, adjusting the mirror, lowering the roof (yeah, the roof of my Camry does not retract), and a few other things were different.  Before we pulled out of the church parking lot, Gino hopped out of his car (a 1971 Corvette), walked back to me and explained to me how Corvette drivers greet each other–it’s a subtle greeting, but imperative.  I didn’t see another Corvette, but I was aware that while in the car I was to act like a legitimate Corvette driver.  When you drive another person’s car, there are a lot of instructions.

Here’s the other thing that happens when driving another person’s car: I am always aware that IT BELONGS TO SOMEONE ELSE!  At the parade ground, people would come over and admire the car and ask a few questions–really, they came by to see the 1971 Stingray, but they paid me some attention along the way.  One person told me that it I had chosen the best color.  I acted like I had made that choice.  For the most part, it was easier to act like the car belonged to me, to accept the compliments and answer the questions (as best I could).  But, I was more attentive about cleanliness than I am in my car.  I was more attentive to following the instructions because I was driving someone else’s car.   And when the parade was over it went to its home and I went to mine.

The middle of Ephesians 4 contains a shift in the epistle of Ephesians.  It’s the shift that some Bible scholars call the indicative-imperative shift.  An indicative verb  mood that names what is or what is happening.   It’s the verb mood we use most often.  An imperative verb mood is a command.   “She ran with endurance” is indicative.  “Run the race with endurance” is imperative.  So in a few of Paul’s letters there is theological truth telling and meaning making–indicative–in the first few chapters of the book.  And then on the basis of that truth telling, there are a set of instructions–imperative.

One of the keys to reading Paul’s writings is to understand the relationship between the two.  We often read scripture looking only at the imperatives–what we’re supposed to do.  Paul reminds us that the things we are supposed to do emerge as implications of that which is true.  So, Ephesians has established that Christ has reconciled all believers to God (Ephesians 2:1-10).  This reconciliation of persons with God also achieves reconciliation with each other (Ephesians 2:11-22).  It has affirmed that God is the creator of all humanity (Ephesians 3:15).  Paul affirms the essential unity that people of faith share (Ephesians 4:1-6).  The “car” –that is the Church, the body of faith–belongs to someone else and within the church we belong to each other (Ephesians 4:25).  We have been sealed by the Holy Spirit (4:30).  The Church–the people of God–and the specific communities of faith in which we work, the congregations, belong to God.

A lot of instructions come within this reference.  Paul gave instructions about anger, labor, evil talk, bitterness, and interpersonal ethics.  It’s easy to become fixated on the mechanics of these instructions and neglect the more fundamental truth–WE BELONG TO SOMEONE ELSE!  We may–for the sake of convenience–act like the congregation we belong to is OUR congregation.  We may graciously accept the compliments and answer the questions and make decisions like it belongs to us.  Yet, the constant awareness that the congregation belongs to someone else gives us greater urgency to follow the instructions, make the right decisions, and present the right image remembering that as the church we are representing Jesus to the world.  There’s an etiquette between Corvette drivers that I observed in order to represent the Corvette’s owner respectfully; there’s a witness we present on behalf  of Christ because the congregation and Church to which we belong is HIS.  And at the end of the day, the Church goes home to the home Christ has made for us.

Prisons Paul Chose Not to Live Inside

Ephesians 3:1-13

Nobel Prize winning novelist, Doris Lessing, authored a series of essays a couple of decades ago entitled, Prisons We Choose to Live Inside.  It is a pessimistic book.  She wrote about “how often we are dominated by our savage past, as individuals and as groups” (p. 5).  She wrote about the European domination of Africa and its slow reversal still on the verge of becoming when she wrote in the mid-1980’s.  She wrote about the Fascism of Hitler’s Germany and the totalitarian socialism of Russia and elsewhere.  The solution to the problems she observed lie in our capacity to make other choices than the ones we are making.  We had chosen to live in prisons, driven from one task to the next by an unwillingness to examine and explore the motivations that drive us and the mindlessness with which we conform to our perception of group consensus.

In contrast to Lessing, the Apostle Paul’s letter to Ephesus might well have been entitled, Prisons I Choose Not to Recognize.  Though in literal chains, the letter makes only a passing glance at his imprisonment, “This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles” (Ephesians 3:1).  Paul was not one who turned a blind eye to problems.  .  In other places Paul has described his situation.  Paul complained about the treatment he received in Asia when he wrote to Timothy.  He told the church in Galatia about his fight with Peter and the leaders in Jerusalem.  In Philippians Paul lamented that people were preaching the gospel out of selfish ambition.  In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul provides an inventory of the ways he has suffered: given lashes five times, beaten three times, stoned once, shipwrecked three times—adrift at see through the night, suffering privation and exposure.  Paul could detail his troubles as well as anyone.

Paul believed that his sufferings had joined him with Christ.  Paul believed, you see, that God’s grace was meant for everyone, e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e.  It confronted people who thought they were favored by God.  It was a disruptive message, but it was disruptive based on how wonderful God is not how iconoclastic Paul was.  And Paul had a burning desire that would not let him do anything but throw open wide the doors and declare God loves each of you.  The world is still not ready for that message, by the way.  Oh, we think we are.  We think we take it for granted.  But we don’t.  We like the people who are like us and who like us.  And the people who fall outside those categories don’t receive our affection and love.  Paul was tenacious about it.  He knew that for most people to believe that God loves them, someone with real authority was going to have to tell them and he knew it wasn’t enough just to tell them, he had to show them.




Ephesians 3:1

In Greek, there’s a curious word that shows up in Epehsians 3:1-13—oikomonia.  It refers to the management of a household. Three of the nine New Testaments uses of the word occur in the book of Ephesians—two of those coming in chapter 3.  In verse 2, it’s the word the NRSV translates as “commission” (it is the sending forth of God’s grace).  In verse 9, it’s translated as “plan”—the plan of the mystery.  Look through several versions of the Bible and you’ll see different words used there.  It’s a struggle to know exactly what oikonomia means—is it a reference to God’s plan or the responsibility entrusted to Paul?  Should it be understood as divine possession or human obligation?

I was warned by a trusted Christian friend once that saying, “both” when two or more good possibilities present themselves is a tempting way out of too many dilemmas.  A temptation we ought to resist more frequently.   But in this case, oikonomia really does mean both.  It is the human responsibility over the divine possession.  And that’s why my favorite translation of oikonomia is “stewardship.”  It is that which belongs to God and has been entrusted to us.

Stewardship has to do with belonging. The world belongs to God.  And we belong in it.  Within the lives and world that belongs to God, God has chosen to give us freedom but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t care.  God gives us the freedom to choose and God desires  that we would choose to rightly. 

Stewardship assesses the situation and acknowledges the brokenness in the world.  God hasn’t given us a broken world and said, “here you fix it.”  God has been about the business of fixing it.  He sent Jesus Christ whose death and resurrection show evidence of what God determination to repair what has been broken.  God longs for the redemption of a broken world and says, “this is what I’m about come join me.”  And that’s where Stewardship begins with a humble recognition of all that God has done and a spiritual awareness of what God is doing and a determined participation with God.   The true stewards are the ones who are overwhelmingly moved by God’s agenda that they simply can’t stand not being a part of it. 


Reconciled with who

Reconciliation with God and reconciliation with one another walk hand in hand.  Ephesians 2:11-22 shares an early Christian understanding of what it meant to live within the reconciliation God provides.

The earliest Christians were Jewish.  They believed that God fulfilled ancient promises through Jesus Christ.  In Genesis 22:18 we read how God promised Abraham, “By your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.”  Similarly, God said through the prophet Isaiah, “it is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the survivors of Israel” (Isaiah 49:6a).  This came as the people of Judah an Israel had experienced a devastating defeat at dispersal at the hands of the Babylonian Empire.  They were at the threshold of a time of rebuilding.  People who have been wounded and victimized often want to draw in and take care of only themselves.  Yet, God said that merely restoring the people of Israel wasn’t enough. He said, “I will give you as alight to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6b).  A similar kind of commission is given in Isaiah 55:5 where the Lord said, “You will call nations you do not know and nations you do not know will come to you.”  Some descendants of Abraham embraced this role.  Others did not.

Sometimes Christians today talk about the earliest followers of Jesus Christ as though they were the only ones willing to embrace this mission to the whole world.  Everyone else was exclusive.  That’s not entirely true.  Christians were among the most passionate supporters, but the call was heard and understood within Judaism.  The presence of “God-fearers” in Jewish synagogues gives evidence to this.  God-fearers (Acts 13:1; Acts 13:26) were non-Jewish believers in the one God of Israel.  They were part of Judaism before Christianity and their presence shows that some within Judaism invited non-Jews to be a part of worship of YHWH.

Sometimes Christians today talk about the earliest followers of Jesus Christ as though found it easy to embrace non-Jewish Christians within the Jesus movement.  This is not entirely true either.  The New Testament has numerous references to times when the earliest followers struggled.  Peter’s visit to the gentile Cornelius’s house and subsequent baptism of Cornelius (Acts 10:24-35) was a big deal.  The church in Jerusalem was pretty upset and demanded that Peter give an accounting of what he did and why (Acts 11:1-18). It is not easy to worship with people who don’t observe your holy days; eat with people who don’t observe your food rituals; or talk with people who do not have your theological vocabulary.

Ephesians 2:11-19 shows how Paul sought to persuade the early church.  He said—God has been willing to accept us without requiring us to “work for it” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  The gift means that salvation is all a work of God.  It is offered to everyone freely.  It reconciles people to God and in the process it reconciles people to one another.

Saved: Purpose

Ephesians 2:8-9 is about being saved.  This week, I have been looking at different ways to understand the nature of salvation.  I have suggested that salvation is more than after life.  It is relationship, trusting God with both life and death, acceptance and accountability.  This final entry on Ephesians 2:8-9 leads us to Ephesians 2:10.  Salvation leads us to purpose.

Much has been made of the devastating experience of being chosen last for the team.  It is indeed a crushing blow to a child’s ego.  But consider the flip side, God chose you to be on God’s team.  God chose you first and foremost.  I love the call stories in the Bible.  My favorite is Isaiah’s.  But I also really love Jeremiah’s.  God spoke to Jeremiah saying, “before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).  As well read Ephesians 2:10, “We are what he has made us, create in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”  Good works was the pathway God has given us.

Think of the joy you have felt when you have visited someone who was lonely.  Think about times when you have served alongside others help restore someone’s home.  Think about the insights you have been able to offer to others in discussion about the things of faith.  These are the now experience of salvation

Take some time to remember experiences of times when you have felt that you were truly fulfilling God’s purpose in the world.  It need not have been a long season; it might have been something very quick but share with one another these experiences of salvation.

Perhaps you would name other experiences that come from knowing God.  This lesson has named just three—acceptance, order, and purpose.  The goal of the lesson is to begin thinking about the effect knowing God has in our lives.  People will be drawn to Christ as we learn to share more clearly and faithfully the effect our own faith has had on us.

Saved: Accepted and Accountable

Ephesians 2:8-9 is about being saved.  This week, I have been looking at different ways to understand the nature of salvation.

Paul Tillich delivered a somewhat famous sermon entitled, “You Are Accepted.”  In it he said,

“We cannot transform our lives, unless we allow them to be transformed by that stroke of grace. It happens; or it does not happen. And certainly it does not happen if we try to force it upon ourselves, just as it shall not happen so long as we think, in our self-complacency, that we have no need of it. Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life which we loved, or from which we were estranged. It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: ‘You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!’ If that happens to us, we experience grace After such an experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed. In that moment, grace conquers sin, and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement. And nothing is demanded of this experience, no religious or moral or intellectual presupposition, nothing but acceptance. (from Shaking the Foundations, pp. 161-162).

Spends some time discuss what difference it makes to you to have been accepted by God?

Some Christians speak as though the whole message of Christ can be summed up in the call to do good things for others and love God.  Jesus also taught people to have a conservative lifestyle around things like lust (Matthew 5:27-30), anger (Matthew 5:21-26), judgment of others (7:1-5), evil intentions, violence, theft and false witness (15:19).  The gospels do not present a Jesus who never speaks out about sin.  The gospels do present Jesus as one who never got angry with sinners. He found a way to grant mercy to a woman caught in the act of adultery; he also did say to her, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).  Salvation means coming into relationship with God and that relationship does involve authority.  The key thing to keep in mind:  God uses authority to guide and sustain us. 

Christian author and pastor, Greg Boyd, speaks of “power over” and “power under.”  Power is the authority to direct people’s actions.  Parents have power relative to their children, bosses with employees, teachers with students, and rulers with the governed.  Power is never the problem in and of itself.  Power is a resource like money.  It can be used wisely or it can be used unwisely.  It can be neglected or it can be invested.  Power over people is the power that directs others actions in ways that benefit the powerful.  Power under is a use of power for the benefit of those directed.  God’s power is power under.  God does not use God’s power capriciously for God’s own ego—no, that’s the way the Greek and Roman God’s are portrayed.  Rather, God’s assertion of power is always directed for the benefit of the directed even when we balk against it.  And, not to get off the subject, but godly parents, bosses and teachers are the same way.  Godly people can be very demanding of others.  What makes them godly is that meeting their demands makes children, employees, and students better people.

Here’s a vulnerable question to ask and many will not want to answer.  But try finishing this question, “Were it not for God’s authority in my life I probably would have . . . .”

Made Alive

Reread Ephesians 2:1-7

Ephesians 2:1-7 is one single sentence in the original Greek.  The finite verb in the sentence is that God has made us alive.  Everything else, the layered descriptions of our sinful past and the ruler of the air is a subordinate clause to this particular affirmation.

In the writings of the Apostle Paul, the central metaphor of faith is coming alive.  The initiation rite of Christian discipleship is baptism and for Paul baptism is participation in the life and death of Christ.  Paul wrote to Rome that through our conversion to Christ we have put to death our sinful life (death?) and we live in Christ.  “All of us who were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death.  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:3-4).  Similarly, Paul speaks of the new creation that comes through believing in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:7).

This new life that is our through Jesus Christ has significant implications.  Udo Schnelle explains, “The theme of Pauline ethics is correspondence to the new being” (Apostle Paul:  His Life and Theology, p. 549).  This would imply that in each situation where we find ourselves facing an ethical choice, we would ask ourselves–what does it mean to live according to the death and resurrection of Christ in this situation?

Sinful Past

Ephesians 2:1-7

Ephesians 2:1-7 is all one sentence in Greek.  It’s finite verb comes in vss. 4-5, we were made alive.  However, there’s enough here to think about that we will take it in multiple parts.  It begins with the affirmation that we were sinful.

  • The readers were dead
  • Followed the ways of the world
  • Controlled by the ruler of the kingdom of the air
  • Gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature
  • Following the desires of our hearts
  • Objects of wrath

This is a development of Paul’s theology of universal sinfulness sketched in a more elaborate form in Romans 1:18-3:23.

Christoph Stenschke has written about the descriptions in Ephesians of people’s past. Paul frequently reminds the readers about their past. These past behaviors included falsehood (Ephesians 4:25), anger (Ephesians 4:26) and robbery (Ephesians 4:28). But more than that, they once lived in a dreadful state. They were “far off” (Ephesians 2:13-17). They were objects of hostility (Ephesians 2:14), lived with futile minds (Ephesians 4:17), darkened in understanding (Ephesians 4:18, 5:8) and hardened of heart (Ephesians 4:18). In a word, they were “Dead” (Ephesians 2:1, 5). Over the years, these kinds of stark descriptions of people who do not have faith have led some to say that people without faith do not have any value or worth. Arguments in the church about how much to associate with non-believers have waged for years. However, the statements have to be weighed against the overall message of scripture that God does love and value all people.

The function of these thoughts wasn’t to diminish people but edify believers. This emphasis could have served to strengthen the brightness of their present. It could have served to present a more compelling attitude toward the imperatives. Christoph Stenschke suggests, “the more darkly the past is painted, the less likely members are to fall back into its ways.” He also believes that it may have served to give them deeper gratitude for Jewish believers who held this knowledge and made it available to them. It might have also functioned as a comfort for them as they sought to understand their own pre-conversion way of life. Finally, these descriptions may have functioned evangelistically. They may have given the Christians a way of describing their past and present that helped them share the message of the gospel with others.