At The Feet of Jesus

I sat on the ground disheveled, bruised… petrified. There was so much yelling going on around me and there was a precipice before me. It was as if an explosion occurred with all of the surrounding calamity, and my ears began to ring. My life was on the line. And I couldn’t focus. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t stay calm. And as I stayed on the ground, fearing to move, one of the men, the man they dragged me to, bent down next to me. It was there that a divide opened between time and space.

He drew a line in the sand.

I was dragged out of my house while in the act of committing adultery and was set at Jesus’ feet, though I didn’t know who he was at the time… But then again, did I really know myself at the time? In the heat of an argument, Jesus drew a line in the sand, a precipice, that divided me from my accusers. “The one who has never sinned should be the first to stone this girl,” he said. They knew at that moment that they all stood condemned. In a world where I was seen as a whore and they as God’s elect, Jesus put us on the same plane – we were sinners. And there, amidst the chaos and confusion is not just where I saw God, but it was where I met Him.

That was the first time I sat at Jesus’ feet.

Jesus always knew the right thing to say. That’s why I was always so enamored by his teachings. One time, he and the disciples came over to my house. As Jesus began to teach, I became so enraptured in his words that I completely forgot what I was doing. They were at my house, and I wasn’t doing what was expected of me as a woman or the host. I wasn’t helping my sister clean or tend to the house. But at that moment, I didn’t want to be the host – I wanted to be a student. I wanted to be a disciple. My sister tried to do everything herself but eventually her frustration spilled out, and she asked Jesus if I could be excused to help her. Jesus’ response was astounding.

He said that I chose the better thing by sitting at his feet.

As a woman, I was expected to tend to my male guests. The last thing I should have been doing was to sit while my sister did all the work. In a culture where I was expected to fit a certain role, Jesus included me with his Twelve. I was part of His own. I was a disciple.

That was the next time I sat at Jesus’ feet.

I was with Jesus even when the rest of the disciples fled. It was John who came to me and Jesus’ mother to tell us that Jesus was taken. It was then that we found out that Jesus was to be executed. I observed in horror as my mentor and my friend was beaten within an inch of his life. They dressed him up and paraded him around like an animal. They were making an example out of him, and there was nothing we could do but watch.

We followed him as he carried his cross through the winding city to the place where he would be made a spectacle. I had to look away when they hammered the nails into his fragile hands. What we thought was the end was soon approaching. Through everything Jesus was never hostile or angry. The religious leaders who were putting him to death were irritably standing next to us. Jesus looked at them with compassion and then looked up to the heavens. “Father forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” They weren’t his villains. They were merely victims of a sinful world – the world he came to save.

It was then that I realized what it truly meant to sit at Jesus’ feet.

Jesus truly lived out what he said were the greatest commandments – he loved God with everything he had, and he loved others like their needs were his. He deserved more than any ruler or king to have others bow at his feet, but instead he washed the feet of those who followed him. At the feet of Jesus is a place where all sins are seen the same. It is where all people are equal regardless of the gender or race they were born with. It is a place of unconditional love and forgiveness.

Do you sit at the feet of Jesus?



Truth and The Bible

Sometimes I forget what Bible College has taught me.

Or maybe it’s that I forget that people haven’t been taught the same way.

I don’t mean it in a bad way. There are many good things and, crazily enough, bad things I learned while in school. When I was finished with my first semester of my sophomore year, I was confused as to how I went this long not being equipped with what I learned up to that point. Every new thing I learned was like another tool on a utility belt, and I was the Dark Knight of biblical exegesis, preparing myself for when I would go out into the world and defeat Falsehood with the Truth of the Gospel.

Then something happened.

The bible ended up becoming a textbook to me. It was hard to balance the scales of seeing the pages of my bible as inspired text while learning about textual criticism and the like. I became cynical of speakers and preachers and teachers and commentators. I started to only read the ESV, because it was more literal to the original text, and if ever I saw an ambiguous passage, I knew I could just look it up in the original Greek (or Hebrew… if you’re into that stuff).

The bible is a crazy thing. Some people see it as an inspirational text. Some people use it as a justification for war, sexism, racism, patriotism, and capitalism. And some people see it for what it is – the Word of God. The Bible was given to us to share with us the story of Salvation History and our place within it. It is a guideline for how we are to walk in the Spirit. And to mishandle or misrepresent what the bible says is to potentially misrepresent the God who orchestrated the words in its pages.

Just because it is true doesn’t mean it is biblical:

This is an interesting statement, but what I want to address is “exegesis.” Exegesis means, “to lead out” and has the idea of drawing an interpretation out from Scripture. Many bible college students know that the opposite of this is “eisegesis” – or “putting in” one’s own interpretation to a text.

What this means is that someone could be saying all the right things, but not using the right proofs to do so. A classic example of this (and one MANY of my professors used) would be when Jesus calms the storm. By reading this passage in context, the author isn’t trying to say: “Jesus will calm the storms of your life.” What the author is trying to say is clear at the end of the text: “Who is this man? Even the wind and the waves obey him.”

Now, it is very well true that Jesus will bring peace to those who suffer. He says it in one of the Beatitudes. But to say that this is what Mark is trying to say in this passage takes away what Mark and God intended – that Jesus is divine. Not only does he cast out demons, and not only is he an incredible teacher, but even the weather is subject to him. For who else can control the weather but God himself?

By putting our own interpretation into a text, we run the risk of being able to justify anything with the use of smoke screens and poor context. Almost every text has one interpretation (for possible exceptions look at prophesies or the idea of sensus plenior). What makes a text different is how we apply that single interpretation to our lives.

Just because it isn’t biblical doesn’t mean it isn’t true:

This is something I find myself saying to my roommate a lot. He laughs at me, because we both know it really doesn’t make sense without an explanation. It honestly makes me feel like a heretic sometimes when I say it. But everyone knows that this is true. There are many ideas, and there are many things that are true that aren’t included in the bible. I know abortion is wrong. I believe that a fetus is actually a person, so it would be wrong to terminate a pregnancy. That isn’t anywhere in the bible.

Smoking isn’t anywhere in the bible.

Swearing isn’t anywhere in the bible.

The word “trinity” isn’t even in the bible.

If we believe that God is truth, then it must also be true that all truth is God’s truth… I’m sorry if you had to read that twice to get the full force of what I was trying to say. It’s scary to admit, because this leaves a big open gray area for a lot of things not mentioned in the bible. But God gave us the bible so that we can make godly judgments regarding these other things. The bible has nothing written against slavery, but we all hopefully know that it is wrong to own a person and to treat them like property.

The bible is the greatest guideline we could have on how to live life. It helps us to understand what God has brought humanity through. It shows us examples of the early church, so we know how to restore God’s kingdom to earth and know how to live Spirit led lives as well. The bible isn’t a tool used to bind people. It isn’t an instrument meant to control people. And it isn’t a book full of passages we can fill with our own “revelations.” This is the greatest physical tool we have for living out the Greatest Commandments. Let’s remember that it might not have all the answers, but it helps equip us to discover them for ourselves.

Loveable Leslie and the Valentine’s Day Parable

Loveable Leslie grew up like any other child. She was quite normal and fun. And she had a heart of gold. While most other kids picked best friends, Loveable Leslie just wanted to love everybody. It was part of who she was – loveable. She learned quickly though that love isn’t always returned. Sometimes love is met with hate and bitterness.

It happened one year during Valentines Day. All the children were to bring in bags or boxes that were decorated and then they would go around the room and put a valentine card in all of their boxes. Loveable Leslie made a very special valentine for a boy that she thought was very special – Tough Tony. On it, she wrote with the best of her ability, “Tony, will you be my very special valentine? Love, Leslie. xoxo”

Tony came back the next day with that valentine in his hand. Loveable Leslie was so nervous she could barely stop shaking. Then Tony did the unthinkable. He signaled the rest of the class: “Hey guys,” he said, “look what that Loony Leslie gave me!” Leslie’s face swelled as red as the valentine in Tony’s hand. She quickly shriveled into her seat. But nothing she did made the moment any less worse. Immediately after school, Loveable Leslie ran home and cried for the rest of the night.

Now – most people would find it hard to love or trust any one ever again after a moment like that. Not only did Tony embarrass Leslie, but he also embarrassed her in front of all of their classmates. It would be understandable if Leslie took a long time to trust again, even at such a young age.

But that moment didn’t faze her.

Even though Loveable Leslie wasn’t so loveable to Tony, she continued to love people. She loved her parents, she loved her friends, and she loved her dog. And sometimes people would take advantage of her. Sometimes they would abuse the love and trust she had for them. But she still loved them regardless. And by the time that Loveable Leslie grew old, she had hundreds of people who loved and cared for her. Through her love towards others she really became Loveable Leslie.

Christ truly taught miraculous things through parables. The way that he was able to use everyday circumstances and situations and transform them into vessels and vehicles of spiritual truth shows what an amazing teacher he was. In the parable of the sower, for instance, we know that Christ isn’t merely giving advice regarding agriculture. We all know that the parable of the sower isn’t about a sower at all, but is about the Kingdom of God.

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9)

So what kingdom principles can we learn from the parable of the sower?

The first is about the seed and the soil. No matter how good the seed is it won’t grow in some soil. The fact that there are different soils already tells us that not everyone will receive the message of the Gospel. There will be some that won’t understand it. There will be others that abuse it. Some will even extort the Gospel for their own selfish gain. But when those who understand the message allow it to take root, they will multiply.

Later, Jesus says that blessed are those who see and understand. This is not only talking about understanding the parable, but is also talking about understanding the message of the Kingdom of God. To those who are receptive and allow the kingdom seed to be rooted in their heart, God will give them more of Himself. He will give them knowledge and understanding of His Kingdom. That is why it says later in verse 12, “He who has, more will be given.”

The second thing about the parable of the sower has to do with the sower himself. I like to call him the “foolish farmer.” The farmer is to sow seed regardless of the condition of the soil. The foolish farmer here, much like Loveable Leslie, is acting quite foolishly. Leslie shouldn’t have continued to love people the way she was after being hurt. The farmer, if he knows anything about sowing seed, should know that he is only supposed to plant seed in good soil. But in the parable, Jesus has the sower spread seed all over the place. Any farmer would know that he would be wasting valuable seeds if he were to plant them on rocky soil or amidst thorns. Yet Jesus has the farmer spreading his seed, his livelihood, everywhere, not thinking once of how it might affect his crop.

Here Jesus is teaching a lesson. It is easy to look at some who are lost and not see hope for them ever receiving the Gospel. One might think, “What’s the point,” and ignore this person as a lost cause. “What is the point of wasting time and energy into someone who won’t receive the message anyway?” But here, Jesus is saying that it isn’t the responsibility of the one sharing the Gospel to decide who will and will not receive its message. The sower’s mission and responsibility is to merely plant the seed.

Lastly, the parable teaches that growth only comes through God. Despite the terrible terrain and the farmer’s foolish ways, there was still a magnificent crop that was harvested from the seeds that were sown. This wasn’t due to the soil. It wasn’t due to the farmer. Most of the soil was bad and the farmer was planting seeds like he knew nothing of agriculture. No, the growth of the harvest came by the miraculous power of God.

It isn’t our responsibility to decide who deserves to hear the message of the Gospel. Everyone deserves to hear it. And it isn’t in our power that they receive it. It can only be through the grace of God and the Holy Spirit. We, like Loveable Leslie, just need to keep loving people and sharing with them the Gospel, and by the end of our time in ministry, God will have used us to reach a multitude of people.

We just need to share the Gospel and trust in Him to bring in the harvest.

The Promiscuity of Purity

John and I had a complicated relationship. It’s not that we weren’t friends, or had some adolescent, passive-aggressive hostility against one another. We just had a theoretical friendship. Let me explain. We never really hung out that much, but we would carpool a lot. So I would chip in with gas riding home or when we would hang out with friends. But whenever we got to our destination we would part ways. It was an interesting friendship.

You learn a lot about a person when you are trapped in a moving metal box with them for countless hours. You find out their bad habits, their music interests, and eventually you get to the nitty-gritty secrets that nobody else knows. Maybe we just talked to each other about it because we knew once we got to our location, we would part ways and not feel the vulnerability or regret that comes from spilling out one’s heart… We are guys, so we probably talked about that stuff mostly out of boredom.

The conversation that sticks with me the most with John is one that we had that pertained to a girl he was interested in. I didn’t know her at the time, which is why he wanted my opinion on the matter. He knew I would be free of prejudice. He explained how he had a crush on this girl for years, and how there was now hope for them possibly being a couple in the near future. The wrench in the mix for him though was that she wasn’t a virgin… and he was. It was hard for him to get past the fact that she wasn’t “pure” anymore. John was upset that he “waited” for her, but that she didn’t wait for him. I shared with him something that caught him a bit off guard.

Who are we to say that Christ’s forgiveness isn’t good enough for someone?

I have a continuing love/hate relationship with the Purity Culture in the American Church. While trying to strive towards chastity, the people of God accidently replaced it with misogyny and legalism. Don’t get me wrong, I think people should be abstinent until they are married… but my problem is to put a label on the sin as though those who commit it are now dirty, discarded, and unwanted.

It creates cyclical problems of insecurity with no solution for wholeness.

Maybe it’s an argument of semantics, but “purity” is something that once it’s lost it cannot be regained. I remember hearing pastors and reading authors describe it as drinking dirty water or trying to continually rewrap and unwrap a birthday present. And purity rings, though with good intentions and great outcomes, can easily become a judgmental staple of condescending holier-than-thou-ism in the eyes of those who have a past, or those who have hurdles in the present.

We just need to be careful how we present chastity and abstinence.

Purity culture can also easily drift into sexism and misogyny. Purity rings can easily become like shackles on the young women in our church, while men get out mostly unscathed. If young males “stumble in their purity” it is just that – stumbling. But it is our young women who go through a transformation from pure to impure. I can only imagine the psycho-trauma caused from young women trying to remain “pure.”

But Christ has already brought about a transformation, and we have forgotten about it. We have been justified by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ (Rom 3:22). This is a court term saying that we have a status that has transformed our guilty verdict to innocent. It is saying that despite our guilt, we are now free to go, because of Jesus’ obedience to dying on the cross. Being righteous isn’t about perfection – that is sanctification. Being righteous is about being set in right relationship with a holy God.

It is saying, “The slate is clean. You are free to go.”

Don’t let any culture decide through subjectivity what has been clarified objectively through God. Even if it is the Christian Culture, remember that it can be fallible as anything else in this fallen world. Too often the church says everything it is against, and people forget all that it is for.

Be for chastity. Be for love. Be for forgiveness.

Luckily for John, he got over himself, and he and that girl ended up getting hitched. They are a great couple, and a wonderful godly example to all those around them.

The End is Near: A Revelation Revealed.

Recently, I posted a blog where I explained that some clichés are necessitated in learning. This isn’t one of them.

You can almost assume you are watching a B-rated movie when you see a scene featuring a homeless man holding a sign describing how the world is about to end. Whether it is central to the plot or added as a comedic relief, chances are there was something better that the movie could have done… like anything.

I understand that vampires and soon-to-be-zombies aren’t “hip with the youngsters” anymore, but mainstream media has now decided to go down the Post-Apocalyptic route like this is more acceptable and cool. It isn’t. It is like Hollywood forgot how bad the 60’s and 70’s were to the world and wanted to relive it in EVERY way (cue Daft Punk’s new DISCO song, “Get Lucky”).

One thing that I enjoy about being Pentecostal and from the Assemblies of God is its young, but rich, heritage. This year marks 100 years since it’s founding in the early 1900’s. A denomination marked by innovation, gender equality, and once pacifism and environmentalism, the A/G is currently getting recognized as one of the only Christian denominations flourishing in a world now marked by a decline in spirituality.

I think one of the things that I like about Pentecostalism is their grasp of a realized eschatology – and understanding that Jesus is coming soon. It is what drives their hearts. It gives their love for others perseverance as they know that time is short. Jesus is coming… and he will be here any time.

Just as life is a pendulum swing, I think that is true with the greater church’s view of the end. Where the church at large tries to hide behind the phrase that, “no one knows the hour,” Pentecostals equally cry wolf on many occasions. And people who are outside the church looking through its stained-glass windows see the Church as a some beatnik-crazed transient in a B-rated film with a sign reading, “The End is Near.”

The problem is the end IS near. It has been near for the past two thousand years. The church of the first-century realized that, the people of the early Pentecostal Movement realized that, and we need to healthily embrace it. I’m not saying that we need to preach that Jesus is coming every chance we get. But we need to be aware that he IS coming to set the world to rights.

Paul wrote about it all throughout the epistles in the New Testament. Many scholars talk about it as “now/not yet” theology – truths that hold merit now but will not reach their full fulfillment until the eschaton. We are reconciled along with the world, but it won’t be fully understood until Jesus returns. We are saved from the wrath of God, but it won’t be fully seen or understood until we reach the final judgment at the end of days. We are sanctified, but we won’t be like-Christ until we are with Christ.

Don’t run to the end times like a loon-radio-evangelist or a distraught homeless man, but don’t run away from the fact that Jesus is coming back. He is coming to close the inclusio that was introduced in Creation – the bracket of Old Creation and New Creation, when the world will be as it was before the Fall. We will be with God and He will be with us.

The end is near, and we are here now to help usher in the new world of tomorrow.

Egalitarianism and the Jim Crow Laws of the Church, Part Two.

Things will never change for the better if we don’t question the norm.

That is how I ended my previous blog post. In that post, I took a view throughout Salvation History and looked at women in the Old and New Testament, and the implications of water baptism and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to show that women deserve more recognition in the church. In this post, I will look into several women that Paul mentions in his letters, and Paul’s household codes.

If we look at how Paul treats women individually, then maybe we can make more sense of some of his more generalized statements that are made to women as a whole within certain areas. If Paul ends up having even a slightly altered view of women, we then have to consider that maybe Paul’s generalized statements were more meant for the specific cultures he was writing to at that specific time in history. This would mean that some of these writings of Paul don’t hold eternal truths within them, but again, give us a glimpse at how the early church was founded by giving us a look into their struggles during the first-century.

Paul and Women in Ministry:

In 1Corinthians Paul gives some instructions to the church on how to maintain orderly worship. Among them, Paul tells women to keep silent in the church (1Cor 14:34). However, Paul says enough things about women within the church that it (along with an extrabiblical understanding of 1st-century culture in Corinth) seems he is not stating this as an eternal truth. Dr. Craig Keener (graduate of my alma mater) states in his work, “Paul, Women, and Wives,” that he thinks that the women of Corinth were uneducated in regards to proper etiquette in Christian worship and did not know when it was appropriate to ask questions. Also, in chapter 11 of the book, Paul assumes that women were prophesying in the local assembly. For him to all of the sudden revoke this right as a whole seems to not make sense in context with the rest of the book.

1 Timothy 2:11-12 is another popular example where Paul says that a woman should not teach or be in a place above a man. But again, by looking throughout biblical theology as a whole and also looking at outside sources, such as the Church Fathers (below), makes it seem like Paul was not speaking an eternal truth. These verses should be taken the same way that 1 Corinthians is taken – that Paul was addressing something specific that Timothy had to deal with within the church in Ephesus. Some try to use the word “submit” and relate it to how Paul talks to wives in Colossians and Ephesians, but that was a household code written for wives whereas this was directed to women – they can’t be clumped together as concerning the same cause. In verse 12 the word that is used as “to use authority over” is a hapax legomenon, meaning that this is the only time that this word is used in all the New Testament. To try and understand what this word fully means within the context of Timothy or to Paul would leave the text wanting for more. This text is probably the strongest argument for the complementarian cause, but with the rest of the New Testament to consider, it does shift the burden of proof into the complementarian’s hands.

Since both of these texts which are against women being in ministry remain unclear at best, we now need to look at some of the other things Paul says concerning women in general and also women in ministry. If immediate context seems unclear, one then needs to move to general context, and from there to all the author’s works, until looking at the Testaments, and finally the Bible as a whole. In some of the cases I am about to present, the original manuscripts were altered because male scribes didn’t understand how Paul could say some of these things about women (which I will discuss below). However, if Paul had such a high view of women and assumed them to be in places of prominence in ministry,  then some of these passages which might lack clarity or don’t harmonize with the rest of Pauline thought were merely cultural to the places that Paul was writing to at that time.

The book of Romans is the most important book to look at when discussing the role of women in ministry. In Paul’s conclusion in Romans 16, Paul speaks of nine women specifically among the 26 people that are mentioned. Not only so, but he gives notable praise to seven of these women, which is more than the men! There is a group of four people that Paul gives praise to for working hard, among three of whom are women. Also, among the group Paul gave praise and recognition to, was possibly two married couples who appeared to be doing ministry together – Prisca and Aquila, and Andronicus and Junia. Chrysostom, who is one of the most well attested Church Fathers, says in regards to this section of Romans: “The women of those days were more spirited than lions, sharing with the Apostles their labors for the Gospel’s sake. In this way they went traveling with them and also performed all other ministries.”

Phoebe (16:1-2) is mentioned as being a “servant” of the church. The word in the Greek (here: “ousan diakonon”) literally means “servant,” but in Christian circles and to Paul here it obviously meant “deacon” (Phil 1:1; 1Tim 3:8, 12). Some people call Phoebe a, “ deaconess,” to give light to her role, but that term was not popular until the second to third century. She is the first recorded Church deacon in the bible actually! The first deacon ever mentioned is a woman. And though this might mean that she was in a lower position in the church under an elder or overseer, it should be noted that for some reason she was the only one mentioned in Paul’s final words to the church.

Phoebe is also mentioned as a woman who is a “patron.” This could point back to her in the role of deacon or could even mean that she owned or possessed some kind of property and hosted people at her home. Some believe she might have even gave Paul a place to stay during one of his missionary journeys (Acts 18:18). Though some find this hard to believe, there are other women in the bible who are mentioned as having possession of land (Nympha in Colossians 4, who arguably also might have been a pastor or overseer), and again, some scholars claim that women in Rome actually had more rights than women in the Eastern empire (Witherington, Balsdon). Caesar Augustus actually tried to put restrictions on women in Rome during his reign, which could mean that women might have been not following what we think to be the cultural norms of the time. Regardless, Phoebe is seen as both a deacon and a patron and as the person with whom Paul is sending his most attested letter. That says a lot for a woman.

Junia (16:7) is another highly-esteemed woman mentioned in Romans as being noted among the apostles and recognized as being imprisoned for her faith. Though some manuscripts disagree to whether Junia should be read as the obscure masculine name Junias, it is easier to explain why someone would change the text from a woman to a man rather than vice versa. NT Wright says in regards to this: “Don’t be put off by some translations which call her ‘Junias’, as if she were a man. There is no reason for this except the anxiety of some about recognizing that women could be apostles too.” Junia is mentioned along with her potential husband as being “among the apostles.”

Junia was not just well noticed in the eyes of the apostles as though she were outside the apostles, as some read or translate it. As Church Fathers Chrysostom and Origen attest, she was considered to be among the apostles, and not only so, but notable among them! She was an apostle. And being related to Paul, this would make sense because that would mean that she would also be Jewish – as all the Twelve Apostles were.

Paul then says that Junia and her husband actually knew the Lord before Paul – meaning that they were apostles before Paul (Paul calls himself the “last of the apostles” in 1Corinthians 15). For this and other reasons, some scholars, R. Bauckham notably, think that Junia might be the Latin name for Joanna mentioned in Luke 8. Joanna would be the Greek name for the Jewish name Yohanna. This was common in first-century Rome and is why Paul (Greek) goes by Saul (Hebrew) when he is among the Jews after he is saved, but then when he goes on his first missionary journey to the Gentiles he then goes by his Greek name Paul. If Junia is Joanna from Luke 8, this would make sense with how Junia came to the Lord before Paul and how she could be an apostle, and it also means that she would have been part of the group to have actually seen the risen Lord! She and her husband are given higher praise than any other people mentioned in the conclusion of Romans!

“The conclusion then follows that Paul has no problem with women as teachers (Priscilla) or leaders, proclaimers, or missionaries of the Good News. Indeed, it is hardly likely that a woman would be incarcerated in Paul’s world without having made some significant public remark or action. Junia said or did something that led to a judicial action.” – Ben Witherington

Paul and Women at Home:

Paul only references or talks about household codes in Ephesians (5:22-6:9) and Colossians (3:18-4:1). 1Corinthians 7 has a portion on marriage, but this was more generalized, cultural, and not in the form of a “code” like Ephesians and Colossians. Since both of these books are so alike (the two closest books in Pauline literature if not the whole New Testament), I will only focus on one – Colossians.

The first thing to note is that this is a household code specifically talking about husbands and wives – not men and women in general. If Paul was making a distinction that this was for men and women in general, he would have said so. This is specifically a “household” code. Another thing to remember is that Paul wrote with the assumption that these people (Wives/Husbands, Children/Fathers, Slaves/Masters) were living according to an already understood Christian ethic. Something to ask is, “who is the code intended for?” Is it intended for everyone, or did Paul have someone specifically in mind when he included this code in his letter?

Paul was obviously accepting norms and standards that were not arguable in that day, but even with that considered, Paul altered the way people perceived their household code of ethics. Notice that of the three pairs mentioned, the superordinate in all three would be considered one and the same person – the head of the household. The head of the household would not only be the husband, but he would also be father and slave master. With this in mind, it seems like Paul intended to limit the role of the superordinate – giving less restrictions and more rights to women, children, and slaves. This makes sense with the Pauline thought in Colossians, Ephesians, and elsewhere that all people are now equal because they are “in Christ” (Col 3:11; Gal 3:28). Should we today accept these roles as they are and even still allow slaves, or should we keep Paul’s spirit and lessen restrictions as the culture and time allows it?

With further context it makes sense now why women are told to “submit themselves” instead of the husband forcing the wife to submit. The verb (present/middle/imperative) is clearly in the middle voice and, according to James Dunn the words that are used are less harsh in the Greek than when Paul instructs children to “obey” their Fathers in the verses that follow (harsher word and a  present/active/imperative verb). Women were not expected to follow their husbands blindly as the children were more instructed to. And again, note that Paul expected that all of these people mentioned were to act Godly, in the way Paul instructed earlier in the letter. Consider that by husbands and wives each obeying their end of the instruction, the other one prospered: “From being loved, the wife too becomes loving; and from her being submissive, the husband learns to yield” (Chrysostom).

A friend told me the other day that he did not want to make a rule to allow women to lead and serve places in ministry because of an “exception” to the rule that seemed to permeate the New Testament – that only men should be in places of leadership. By looking at the New Testament, it seems that women were not an exception at all, but that they were an assumed and integral part of the growing church and had an equally active role within their homes.

It might be that I was saved because of the preaching and ministry of a female pastor. It could be that I like to be controversial. But with all the evidence considered, this is the conclusion I came up with; that women are equal – no separation of rank or submission. The Bible, along with an acute psychological and sociological understanding, has led me to this conclusion. If you are not sure where you stand on this situation or disagree, I challenge you to study it for yourselves and to ask yourselves the questions that people try to ignore. Again, things will never change for the better if we don’t question the norm.

To women,
Those who stand up for what they believe in,
Those through which churches meet and are grounded,
Those who are among the apostles and are seen well-noted,
This is for you.

Egalitarianism and the Jim Crow Laws of the Church, Part One.

Rosa Parks sat unmoved in her seat. A woman known to be so soft-spoken had apparently had enough. One can imagine how so humbly and quietly she would explain to the driver of the bus that she was not going to move from the seat she was in. What those in Montgomery might have called “separate but equal” was only separate. It surely was not equal. And Rosa knew that it was her right to stand up for what she believed in by staying seated where she was. When she was arrested that day, she probably didn’t realize the impact that she would have on her community and throughout the country. From the day of her arrest for over a year after, the Montgomery Bus Boycott took place, and momentum was building in what we now know as the Civil Rights Movement.

The problem with the Jim Crow Laws was that being separate wasn’t really being equal. The laws were taxing on all people in the African American community. Children were forced sometimes to walk to schools further away because the schools closest to them were for whites only. Some were refused jobs and services merely because the color of their skin. And it took the quiet yet unmoved voice of a meek woman in Alabama to stir the hearts of the people to finally say that enough was enough.

Today, in the church, I feel like there is a spirit of the Jim Crow Laws still alive but manifested within another group within society – women. Complementarianism believes that men and women are equal, but that God created them separately, and, with that, they have separate roles. With this they make sense of passages like that in Colossians and Ephesians where wives are told to submit to their husbands, and passages like that in Corinthians and Timothy where women are told not to speak in church, teach, or be in a spiritual position over a man.

But are men and women really equal if we force different roles on them?

How do we decide what these roles are?

Are they birthed within us or oppressed on us by centuries of conditioning?

And what does the Bible really say about the roles of men and women?

There are many passages in the Bible that can be taken as being for complementarianism or for egalitarianism. I will address important women throughout Salvation History before going into Paul’s letters, where things get more controversial. In this post I will specifically look into the Old and New Covenants. I apologize if I leave anything out, but for time’s sake, I can only write so much. I will try not to sound too scholarly or come across as condescending. Feel free to comment if you want to add to anything I address whether it is positive or negative.

The Old Testament:

In Genesis both man and woman are said to reflect the image of God (Gen 1:27-28). And though Eve was the one who ate the apple, Adam is seen as the type or the personification of sin within the world (see Romans 5) – a man once made in glory contrastingly seen as the carrier of sin in the world. This is seen more theological here rather than historical, but truth be told, I think that about most of Genesis. Genesis is written in the form of a myth – meaning that though many of the things said are true in some aspects, they aren’t meant to be literal or historical (especially the Creation story) so to make doctrinal statements on gender roles solely based on this passage would not suffice for either camp.

Rahab and Ruth are both women of importance in the Old Testament for a couple reasons. The fact that they are women mentioned in the Bible for helping bring along Salvation History is of importance, the higher importance being that neither of them were Israelites. The fact that God would use non-Israelite women to tell the story of how He was working within His Covenant people is phenomenal when considering all its implications theologically. Later, these women will even be included in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospels.

There are also many other notable women worth mentioning in the Old Testament. There are too many for me to mention them all, but here are a few. Deborah is both a judge and a prophetess, and she delivers the Israelites in a way equal to Gideon and Samson and others (Judges 4). Along with that, the prophesy in Joel 2 considering the outpouring of the Holy Spirit talks about it being imparted on both male and female. Esther is another woman of some notoriety, being used by God as a vessel – playing out further the story of Salvation History. There are more women who are of prominence in the Old Testament, but to say much of many of them would be speculation at best.

The Gospels:

The Gospels, believe it or not, have some pretty interesting things to say about women and their potential role in society. In Matthew chapter 1, like mentioned above, there are several women mentioned in Christ’s genealogy – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (though not by name), and Jesus’ mother, Mary. Luke’s gospel is especially full of instances where Jesus treats women (any person marginalized in society actually) differently in terms of the norm of his day. Luke 8 talks about Mary Magdalene traveling with the disciples. This is enhanced even more in Luke 10, when Mary is sitting with the apostles learning at the feet of Jesus. In this specific reference, Martha, her sister, gets rebuked for getting mad at Mary for not doing what was “assumed” of her by hosting and helping Martha serve the guests.

Also, in Luke 24, Mary and other women are attested as being the first women to witness the resurrected Lord. At the time, women’s testimonies were seen to be of low value (they couldn’t even hold testimony in court!). So, the fact that the Gospel writers include women testimonies in their letters is astounding. These are not only mentioned in Luke, but there are references of women in the other resurrection accounts as well.

The only other Gospel account of relatively high prominence is the Samaritan woman in John 4. In this passage, Jesus talks to a woman who is living in adultery. In this pericope, Jesus tells her that worshipers of God won’t be judged by the nationality they were born in or what Temple they worshiped at, but that God is now looking for people who will worship in Spirit and in truth. In all of the Gospels, this is the most plainly Jesus ever speaks of who he is as Christ and Lord. For him to say that to a woman is again crazy to contemplate!

Marks of the New Covenant:

Some people look at what Paul says in 1Corinthians 14 and 1Timothy 2 to say that women should never speak in church or be in a role of leadership, but Joel’s prophesy that is fulfilled in the New Testament at Pentecost seems to differ. At Pentecost, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was given as a mark of the New Covenant – God’s Spirit now dwelling within each believer. God’s Spirit isn’t just given to men but also to women, and both were expected to exercise those gifts (Acts 2). Acts 21 mentions women who were known for prophesying. Women were seen as an integral part in the early church and were expected to exercise in spiritual gifts, some of which I will specifically note in my next post.

Another mark of the New Covenant was baptism. Baptism at the surface doesn’t seem to be equalizing men and women, but I think that it is a minor theological point that God was putting across at the New Covenant. Let me explain. The people of God in the Old Testament were the Israelites. To be a part of the people of God one had to be born in. The mark to show that one was an Israelite, a follower of God, was specifically circumcision. The mark of circumcision was started in Genesis 15 when Abraham made his covenant with God. God said He would bless the whole world through Abraham. A mild problem with circumcision though was that it was a sign that only the men had within the community.

The sign that a person is now part of the people of God, the church, is baptism. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward change of status within believers. And all believers, man and woman, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, were all linked in water baptism and by the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The sign was no longer only something that Israelite men could possess, but it was an act that all people could willfully participate in! To be a believer meant to break the tradition of the former practices that separated the people of God from the outside world, and to now embrace the old and “new” traditions which are now to bring all people together in Christ. This is at the heart of the Gospel and almost every other book of the New Testament.

The church today doesn’t have a problem having a woman in an unpaid position. They just don’t call her a pastor but a “pastor’s wife.” But as soon as she is officially recognized and given a salary, the gloves come off. Many within the church also don’t have a problem if a woman works as a children’s pastor (in some churches it is expected!), but they have a problem when a woman is put in a position over men who are her own age. This is inconsistent if one is using 1Corinthians or 1Timothy as a basis for their “complementarian” claim.

Just as Rosa Parks opened the door for the Civil Rights Movement, there are many women who recently have opened the door for women’s rights and women in ministry within the church. Some of the first people to start the Pentecostal Movement in the early 1900’s were women. Aimee Semple McPherson is another woman evangelist who reached prominence in the 1920’s and 1930’s. There are also many women missionaries throughout the years who should not be forgotten either.

There are so many women who have not only impacted the church, but they have impacted Salvation History and the history of the world at large. I don’t think that God has a problem with women in ministry; if he doesn’t have a problem then neither should we. And even though this is only half of the argument, I encourage you to study the subject yourself. Dig into the Scriptures. Study them for yourself. There are so many questions that need answered theologically, philosophically, and psychologically. But let’s not be afraid to push the door open. Things will never change for the better if we don’t question the norm.

Birthday Suit Buffoonery.

What is the point of taking off our clothes?

Well… to put new clothes on. Duh!

Why don’t we just wear the same clothes every day?

Well… because that is gross and unhygienic.

It seems so dumb to explain it this way, but we get naked to get clean and change in to clean clothes. We wear a myriad of different garments, because sometimes the clothes we have on get dirty. I know… you thought it was because Capitalism told you that you needed to have BOGO shirts that are marked-up because they have a company’s personal logo (or is it, “billboard”?) written on it. But you have a closet full of clothes, because sometimes you have to take old clothes off and put new ones on.

I was doing some research in Colossians and reached a point in chapter 3 where Paul was telling the Gentile Christians to “put off” their old selves and “put on” their new selves. Paul focused on telling the believers not to partake in sexual sins specifically (Col 3:5) and sins of speech (Col 3:8). He said that by believing in Christ, they had taken off their old selves and had put on themselves a new self which was in the image of its creator – an image similar to Adam before the Fall (Gen 1:26-28).

I think the church has focused too much on taking off the old self and has forgotten about putting on a new self.

And people are just living life confused in their birthday suits.

All I hear from Christians is everything every person is doing wrong. Secular music is doing this, or public school is doing that. They forget to tell people the things they should be doing instead. They don’t notice the good things that some people are already doing either.

Paul here in Colossians 3:5, 10, and 12 specifically uses words that are associated with putting on and off clothing. Imagine the believers, after accepting Christ, stripping all the dirty and putrid clothes that once represented who they were. Cool. Their slate is clean. But if they would have stopped there, then they would be naked – spiritually in the buff. They needed to put on themselves clothes that marked what they were as believers – clean clothes like those of their Creator.

Now some would think that Paul would go on to explain personal characteristics that the believers needed to have to be holy. But Paul calls them holy before he tells them what they needed to do!!! Their holiness was not measured by what they did; it was a status of who they were now as God’s chosen people. These virtues are considered an application of their holy standing before God. These virtues don’t make them holy! “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…”

Also, Paul did not encourage virtues to the Colossians that could be attained by one person alone. Paul shared virtues that could only be shared within a community – compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. These are things that each individual had to work on within them selves but for the sake of the community. Paul then shifts to how the community has to act together – with forgiveness, love, in peace and with thanksgiving.

I see so many people judge others for all the wrong that they are doing, when they themselves aren’t doing any good.

They just aren’t doing anything evil.

And that just makes them naked:

A truly indecent exposure.

Sometimes we can get so focused on working on ourselves that we become hermits and forget that Christianity isn’t for ourselves. It is for others – receiving reconciliation and being a part of that reconciliation to the world (Col 1:20-23)! The only vice in Colossians 3:5 that wasn’t sexual in nature was about self-centeredness – which was then called, “idolatry.” Don’t live for yourself.

Don’t make an idol of yourself.

Live for others. Don’t just strip yourself of all the bad in your life, but embrace the good. Put on a new change of clothes! Reach out to others. Love binds all virtues together (Col 3:14). It binds all people together. And it is contagious! You can’t live for God if you are not living for others – in your house, in your church, in your community.

For the sake of us all, will you put on some clothes?

Colossians 1:15-23

This was my senior project for college. I omitted my Master Text Summary and Homiletical Outline. Aside from that, this is pretty much what I spent my last semester in college doing. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it… wait… I hope you enjoy reading it exponentially more than I enjoyed writing it!

Colossians 1:15-23

Background Information

In verse 1 of chapter 1 of Colossians, Paul is mentioned, along with Timothy, as being associated with the book. Many scholars today argue whether Paul really wrote Colossians (Witherington 1), whether it might have been a close disciple to Paul (Dunn 36), or whether it might have even been a disciple of Paul writing with a Pauline influence (Dunn 35). This is such a debated topic because of the progression of Pauline thought, the different use of vocabulary in Colossians (and Ephesians) from the rest of Paul’s writings, and the different rhetorical style in which Colossians is written. Oftentimes, Philemon is paired with Colossians when looking at authorship because both mention Paul and Timothy and both are written to people in Colossae (Dunn 37).

Dunn believes that Paul was the author of Philemon, but merely gave his stamp of approval to the true writer of Colossians, who he thinks is Timothy (38). Witherington, however, seems to be hesitant to this notion and thinks that Paul is the sole writer. Witherington states that there is a style change not because of a different author, but probably because of the change of demographic which Paul is writing to. Because of this locative change, Witherington concludes that Paul is writing in an Asiatic rhetoric in Colossians (and Philemon and Ephesians), a different rhetoric from that of his other writings (100-102).

Witherington does, however, give leeway to Dunn’s hypothesis and says that Timothy could have co-authored these late works, or that he was at least the scribe of them. This is because of Paul’s statement in Colossians 4:18 where he states he is “writing in his own hand.” Witherington states: “In fact, it may not be Paul himself that should be praised for the rhetorically impressive style of these documents. Perhaps not Paul but Timothy knew this style, having grown up near Asia, and Paul was content to have him compose these documents accordingly to make them more nearly words on target” (25). With all facts in consideration, I seem to agree more with Dunn that Timothy was the writer of Colossians, which explains the style change and the slightly more progressive ideology, but allowing for the Pauline thought to still shine through. Though the burden of proof rests more on the heads of those with this notion (Witherington 100), it seems to fill in more gaps than does the idea of Paul being the author.

There is also tension in the date with which Colossians is written. If Pauline, Colossians can either be dated near the date of Philemon in the mid-50’s prior to 2 Corinthians and Romans which is during Paul’s Ephesian prison experience (Dunn 40), or dated in the early 60’s during Paul’s house arrest in Rome (Witherington 19). Both Dunn and Witherington agree that it is more likely that Colossians was written during Paul’s house arrest in Rome, Dunn giving it a 10% edge (in his opinion) to that of the earlier date in the mid-50’s. This also makes Colossians the last of the Pauline letters – which is what’s held traditionally (Dunn 40-41). There seems to be no concrete evidence leaning to one date over the other, and though tradition does not equal proof, it does place the burden of proof on those with the opposing claim. Thus, I agree with Dunn and Witherington that Colossians should be dated to Paul’s house imprisonment in Rome in the early-60’s.
By looking at Colossians 2:1, it can be further deduced that Paul had never been to Colossae personally. Paul gives credit to Epaphras for ministering the gospel to the people (Col 1:6-7, Dunn 22). Geographically, Colossae is located in the southern part of the Roman province of Asia, being a part of the Lycus valley. In A.D. 61-62, around when the letter of Colossians was written, there was an earthquake that laid the city of Colossae in ruins (Dunn 23). But since Paul and Timothy had never been to Colossae, it makes sense as to why they aren’t more personal when talking about this instance, if even it had occurred before Colossians was written.

“A significant feature of the Lycus valley cities, including presumably Colossae, was the presence of a substantial Jewish minority,” states Dunn (21). And Witherington echo’s this idea of Paul and Timothy writing concerning Jewish practices when he states that: “what Paul [and Timothy are] addressing is recognizably Jewish, with concern for circumcision (2:11–13; 3:11), observance of the Sabbath (2:16), and food rules (2:16, 21)” (109). Both Dunn and Witherington are in agreement that Colossians was written concerning the Jewish influence in the Lycus valley, though they disagree to the severity. Regardless of influence, it is true that there was Jewish false teaching that was influencing the church (Dunn 23). This seems to be why Paul and Timothy write such a long section regarding Christology in Colossians 1:15-23 (Witherington 111).

Colossians 1:15-20 is what Witherington calls the narratio. This section has an early Christian hymn in it, centering on the divinity and sovereignty of Christ. The narratio is followed by 1:21-23 which he calls the propositio or the “thesis statement.” The propositio lays out the foundational argument/pronouncement which will be discussed for the rest of the book (Witherington 20,138). Dunn, however, wraps 1:3-23 in an extended version of thanksgiving – having 1:15-20 being a “hymn of praise” and the following in vv. 21-23 to be the intended response of reconciliation (41). I agree more with Dunn, that this is the developing introduction of thanksgiving, preparing the reader for the rest of the letter that is to come.

“Most directly, 1:15–20 is an explanation of the directly preceding verses (1:13b–14): ‘the son of his love, in whom we have the redemption, the forgiveness of sins’” (Beale 851). The author does a good job from flowing from one topic to another. 1:15-23 lays the foundation of what the author wants to get across for the rest of the letter; that Christ is first and foremost (Withertington 128). As Ben Witherington III puts it, “The thesis statement in 1:21–23 thus begins to apply lessons learned from the Christ hymn which will be fleshed out at length in 1:24–4:1” (138).

Textual Criticism

Colossians 1:15-23 has two different textual variants included in the Greek New Testament of the United Bible Society. Both are rated with the letter C, which “indicates that the Committee had difficulty deciding which variant to place in the text.” One of them is also in brackets indicating that “the enclosed word, words, or parts of words may be regarded as part of the text, but that in the present state of New Testament textual scholarship this cannot be taken completely certain” (Aland 2-3). These words are διʼ αὐτοῦ (included in brackets) in verse 20 and ἀποκατήλλαξεν in verse 22.

In doing the preliminary work for these two texts, the manuscripts were pretty split as to whether διʼ αὐτοῦ (v 20) is omitted or not in the text. Bruce Metzger states: “In order to represent the two points of view it was decided to retain the words in the text, enclosed within square brackets” (Metzger 554). Not only so, but this phrase adds no effect to the passage. Theologically – the passage would be translated with roughly the same meaning. For this reason, I will not continue with this phrase. However, if more time were available, further development of textual criticism is preferred.

When looking at verse 22, the possible readings are 1) ἀποκατήλλαξεν, 2) ἀπήλλαξεν, 3) ἀποκατήλλακται, 4) ἀποκατηλλάγητε, and 5) ἀποκαταλλαγέντες. These grammatical variants are important because it is the same verb used with a different person, number, and voice. While variants 1) and 2) are 3rd person singular with an active voice, variant 4) and variant 5) are in the passive voice – variant 5) being a participle. Arndt does not recognize variant 3) as an alternative reading of the verse. This is a misspelling and will be ignored as a possible word (Arndt 112).

Textual Criticism Chart

By looking at the dates of the individual MSS, variants 1), 4), and 5) all have MSS and early church fathers that support their readings. However, variant 5) has a poor geographical distribution and can be assumed to be added in as a misspelling or as a way to add meaning to the text. Variant 1) and 4) both have relatively early manuscripts supporting their reading. Variant 1), “he reconciled” Metzger says, “is well supported… and provides acceptable sense” (554). He then goes on to say: “On the other hand, however, if this were the original reading, it is exceedingly difficult to explain why other readings should have arisen” (554-555). Variant 4), “you were reconciled,” seems to make more sense with the change of subject, “ὑμᾶς” occurring in verse 21. With this anacoluthon Metzger says that, “only ἀποκατηλλάγητε… can account for the rise of the other readings as more or less successful attempts to mend the syntax of the sentence.”
With this said, it does seem to note that variant 1) would also appear to be the harder reading, having the change in subject in the middle of the paragraph. This however, also makes the reading less harmonious. Several words have to be added into variant 1) for there to be clarity as to who is reconciling, in whose body there is reconciliation, and who is considered to be reconciled by this act.

As far as this word is used in other Pauline epistles, this passage is one of only a few where the verb ἀποκαταλλάσσω is used (Arndt 112). Metzger stated that a majority of the Committee felt since external testimony seemed to agree more with variant 1), that the Committee therefore chose variant 1) as the reading. Metzger also stated that the passive voice of variant 4) would be harsh of Paul and unlike something that he would normally use (555).
With internal evidence being fairly equal, and with external evidence not weighing enough (in my opinion) to fall on either side, with all the problems that face variant 1) syntactically, variant 4), ἀποκατηλλάγητε, seems to be the more likely reading.

Personal Translation

1:15 He is the image of the invisible God,
The firstborn over all creation,
1:16 For in him all things were created
In the heavens and upon the earth,
The visible and the invisible,
Whether thrones, whether dominions,
Whether rulers, whether powers;
All things were created through him and for him;
1:17 And he himself is before all things
And in him all things hold together,
1:18 And he is the head over the body, which is the church;
He is the beginning,
The firstborn from the dead,
That in everything he himself may be first,
1:19 For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell
1:20 And through him to reconcile all things to himself,
Making peace through the blood of his cross,
[Through him] Whether the things on the earth, whether the things in the heavens.
1:21 And you once were alienated and enemies to (your) minds by evil works,
1:22 But now you were reconciled by his fleshly body, through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach before him,
1:23 If indeed you remain in the faith, being established and firm, and not being shifted away from the hope which is the Good News that you heard, of which is being preached in all creation under the heavens, of which I, Paul, became a servant.


a. Syntactical Analysis:
Problem: In verse one, is the use of the genitive in the phrase “πάσης κτίσεως” reference, partitive or subordination?
Solution: Wallace uses this phrase in his textbook as an example of both genitive of reference (128) and genitive of subordination (104). Wallace rules out this phrase being a partitive genitive for several reasons. Dunn also states in agreement and elaborates that this is the phrase through which the popular Arian doctrine developed (89). “If this [phrase] were partitive, the idea would be that Christ was part of creation, i.e., a created being. But Paul makes it clear throughout this epistle that Jesus Christ is the supreme Creator…” Context alone shows that Paul throughout the epistle is correcting the idea of an improper Christology (stated above) within Colossae (Wallace 128).

Wallace states that this is most likely a genitive of subordination (128). Lukaszewski translated the phrase as a genitive of subordination as well in the “Lexham Syntactical Greek New Testament” (524). However, genitive of subordination is usually only involved where the head noun implies some rule or authority (Wallace 103). A lexical analysis of πρωτότοκος (see below) will give more clarity as to whether it does give an idea of rule or authority. Wallace ends by saying that, “although most examples of subordination involve a verbal head noun, not all do” (104). Genitive of reference wouldn’t change the overall meaning of the text besides adding unneeded ambiguity, and with the overall context of Colossians focused on Christology and the deity of Christ; genitive of subordination appears to be the best choice.

Problem: Is “ἐν αὐτῷ” in v. 16 a dative of means or of sphere?
Solution: Interpretations are split as to whether this is a dative of means or a dative of sphere. Dative of means, “is used to indicate the means or instrument by which the verbal action is accomplished” (Wallace 162). Wallace defines the dative of sphere as such: “The dative substantive indicates the sphere or realm in which the word to which it is related takes place or exists” (153).

O’Brien thinks that this is a dative of sphere, and I agree with him for good reason. There are other places in this passage where the author uses διʼ αὐτοῦ to refer to Christ’s instrumental work as Creator. Though Paul or Timothy could be using this as a literary device, with context in mind, it seems as though they were intending something greater than mere means. A dative of sphere points that: “God’s creation… takes place ‘in Christ’ and not apart from him” (O’Brien 45). This phrase points not to Christ being the Creator (something evident in context), but points more specifically that nothing takes place apart from him. Dative of sphere should be the proper interpretation.

b. Lexical/Theological Analysis:

1. πρωτότοκος is used twice in this passage, once in verse 15 and also in verse 18. The translation of this word is “firstborn,” and in both instances it is used in the nominative case. The Dictionary of the New Testament states the rarity of this word – in that it is not used prior to the Septuagint (Kittel 871). O’Brien states further that: “The term ‘firstborn’ was frequently used in the LXX (130 times)… to indicate temporal priority and sovereignty of rank” (44).
Arndt states that the term “firstborn” in this passage has a “special status” to it (Arndt 894). Christ is seen as the firstborn of creation and of humanity in that he raised from the dead.

In the New Testament whenever this word is used in the singular case it is always in reference to Christ. In Romans 8:29, 1Corinthians 15:20, Acts 26:23, and Revelation 1:5, “firstborn” is used to give priority of time, not supremacy. In this passage however, the majority of commentators agree that “firstborn” is intending supremacy (O’Brien 44). Kittel agrees that, “the idea of even a figurative birth or begetting is no longer a clear element in πρωτότοκος in these passages” (874). Witherington states: “It is probable that prōtotokos indicates Christ’s relationship to creation while eikōn indicates his relationship to God the Father” (134).

In texts outside of the New Testament Dunn states: “As the sequence of parallels with motifs characteristically used of Jewish Wisdom in these verses will confirm, the writer here is taking over language used of divine Wisdom and reusing it to express the significance of Christ, if not, indeed, taking over a pre-Christian hymn to Wisdom” (89). Christ is the antitype of the wisdom in the Old Testament that was an essential agent with God the Father in creation. Though the word “wisdom” isn’t used at all in Colossians 1, its undertones stick out like a thorn. With this Graeme Goldsworthy states that “the order established by God in creation is that which can make for order in the lives of God’s people” (189). Christ being the “firstborn” points to the idea that he was the creating agent of Wisdom with God the Father that crafted the earth and all that is in it.

The term for “firstborn” in verse 15 also has theological ramifications when looking at its idea of supremacy. If Christ was the firstborn over creation, then this means that the gospel (the life and death of Christ) was not an afterthought of God, but that God’s plan from the beginning of creation was to point to the Christ and his salvation. This has implications that cover the whole duration of salvation history – that all things were created “in him, for him, and through him” (Goldsworthy 204).

2. πλήρωμα is used in verse 19. It is translated to be “fullness” and is in the nominative case. Arndt defines it more specifically in Colossians 1:19 as, “the state of being full” (830). In the LXX, πλήρωμα is always translated to mean spatial fullness (Kittel 299). O’Brien goes on to explain that it is always with an active meaning in the Old Testament: the sea and its fullness, the earth and everything in it, and the world with all it contains (52). The word has a wide range of meanings in the New Testament, and, “Because of its wealth of meaning Paul is relatively fond of the term” (Kittel 302).
πλήρωμα is used one other time in Colossians, in 2:9 which states: “For in him the fullness of deity dwells bodily” (ESV). In Colossians “fullness” has the undertones of both the attributes of God and the fullness of God being pleased to reside in the personified Temple – Christ. O’Brien elaborates that this word often coincides with God and His dwelling place. Beale agrees when he says that this passage seems to have references to Psalm 67 in the LXX and especially the targumic version (855). Paul and Timothy were writing to the Colossians that Christ has become the new Temple. “He is the one mediator between God and the world of mankind… God in all his divine essence and power had taken up residence in Christ” (O’Brien 152-153).

The Dictionary of the New Testament adds that the full meaning of “fullness” ultimately entails completeness. “The word πλήρωμα emphasizes the fact that the divine fullness of love and power acts and rules in all its perfection through Christ. The choice of the word is thus easy to understand. It is selected because it suggests completeness” (303). The completeness of God was pleased to reside in Christ.

Theologically, this passage is rather weighty. In one instance, it has further implications to Christ’s deity, shrugging off Gnostic notions and pointing to Christ inhabiting the “fullness” of God (O’Brien 52). In another possible definition of meaning, if “fullness” does point to the presence of God residing in Christ rather than the Temple, then there are theological and eschatological nuances that also need to be addressed. From a biblical theological perspective, if Jesus replaces the Temple then this makes perfect sense as to why there will be no Temple in Revelation 21:22. Where the people of God once found their meaning and purpose and life centered around the Temple where the presence resided, now the people of God, the church, must center their lives around Christ. He is the Temple – where the “fullness” of God dwells.

c. Further Theological Analysis:
Colossians itself shows the progression of Pauline thought. Even though Timothy most likely wrote the letter, it has definite Pauline influence. Dunn notes that the Christology is becoming more developed in Colossians than it ever had been before. He also notes that there is a realized eschatology here that is far more developed than Paul’s earlier writings, such as Romans. And rhetorically, Timothy and Paul add in a set of “household rules” in here only in comparison to that of Ephesians (Dunn 36). This shows definite progression of Pauline thought since that of Galatians, also taking note to the tone change in which he is correcting the false teachers he addresses in Colossians (Witherington 107).

How is ecclesiology of Pauline thought more developed in Colossians? In verse 18a, it states, “And he is the head over the body, which is the church” (translation mine). In Paul’s earlier letters, the word for “church,” ἐκκλησία (though in verse 18 it’s used in the genitive) was used to refer to the local assembly of believers. In Colossians and Ephesians, however, ἐκκλησία seems to be used to refer to the universal church around the world (O’Brien 59-60). Not only so, but this universal church seems not to be a physical one, but seems to be moving more in to the realm of the metaphysical. O’Brien goes on to say that, “each of the various local churches are manifestations of that heavenly church…” (61).

In Colossians 1:15-23, reconciliation is a huge theme of this passage, and one with theological implications. The word used for “reconciliation” here is ἀποκαταλλάσσω. It only occurs in Colossians 1 verses 20 and 22, and once in Ephesians. “Since it is never found prior to Paul, it is perhaps coined by him” (Kittel 258). The idea of reconciliation here is not just that the agent has been reconciled, but also that there are eschatological nuances. Reconciliation has been acted on by God, and is waiting for the time when it can come to completion at the eschaton (Dunn 103). This is reconciliation that has been promised since the Fall (Genesis 3).

“Underlying all of this is both the righteous and holy character of God on the one hand, and the loving character of God providing a substitute so that we need not endure the punishment for sin” (Witherington 136). Ultimately, reconciliation points not only to the fact that God needed to reconcile his relationship with man, but it also points to Christ as the means to which reconciliation is brought forth. And because Christ reconciled “all things,” we in turn know that we are reconciled (Colossians 1:22). “The vision is vast. The claim is mind-blowing. It says much for the faith of these first Christians that they should see in Christ’s death and resurrection quite literally the key to resolving the disharmonies of nature and the inhumanities of humankind, that the character of God’s creation and God’s concern for the universe in its fullest expression could be so caught and encapsulated for them in the cross of Christ” (Dunn 104).


The key center for Colossians 1:15-23 is verse 20a: “And through him to reconcile all things to himself, making peace through the blood of his cross” (translation mine). Christ, the subject for the first half of this passage, is the agent through which reconciliation is offered. He is worthy of praise, because he is Lord (vv 15-20). And because he reconciled all things to himself the Colossians in turn have reconciliation with God (v 22).

Verse 15 lays down the foundation: that Christ was at Creation with God. He wasn’t a created being, but he was the personified Wisdom that worked with God the Father in creating the heavens and the earth ex nihilo (v 15, see above). This lays out his sovereignty over all creation further pointing out his divinity. Everything finds its purpose in Christ (v 16) and is contingent to him (v 17). He held the fullness of the deity (v 19).

Christ also is the head over the church, both locally and the invisible church universally (v 18a, see above). Despite different locations and beliefs and nationalities, all communities of believers can come together in unison and worship Christ – the head. The hymn in 15-20 is clearly Christocentric. O’Brien says that Paul is talking about Christ in a way which no one had ever previously talked about anyone. “Christ is unique, for he is the ultimate goal of all creation” (62). All things in vv 15-20 focus on who Christ is, and what he has done on behalf of the Colossian believers.

And in verse 20, Paul and Timothy switch to what Christ has done. Through him, all things are reconciled. This is an act that has “now/not yet” tones to it. All things are reconciled (including the Colossian believers, v 22), but are waiting for a future eschatological fulfillment in the eschaton – inaugurated reconciliation (O’Brien 53). Dunn states: “The implication is that the purpose, means, and manner of (final) reconciliation have already been expressed by God, not that the reconciliation is already complete” (103). Though this is huge, the fact that the author of Colossians writes that “all things” are reconciled gives the readers hope that all things are being mended together by Christ’s atoning work. This points to Christ’s propitiation on the cross, and is a message of his lordship and his sacrifice (see above).

Verse 21 makes a shift in subject, switching from the subject of Christ, to now the believing people of Colossae. Paul starts by making a statement of their former life before they knew Christ stating: “and you once were alienated…” (translation mine). O’Brien says that there is an idea of a general to specific: that “and enemies to your minds” and “evil works” if a further explanation of how they were alienated (66). This again points to their hopelessness of where they once were before they knew Christ.

“Having painted a grim picture of the Colossians’ pre-Christian and pagan past Paul proceeds to describe the turning point when God acted mightily on their behalf…” (O’Brien 67). In verse 22, Paul and Timothy make a switch to the current state of the Colossians, that they were “reconciled by his fleshly body” (translation mine). This points to the physical body of Christ, and that his body was the means by which they received reconciliation (O’Brien 68).

“The divine act of reconciliation had two phases: the means (‘in the body of his flesh through death’) and the objective (‘to present you holy …’)” (Dunn 109). Not only was the church reconciled to Christ, but the infinitive (παραστῆσαι) is used to connote purpose. They were reconciled in order to be presented holy before God (Dunn 109). This has legal tones to it – that the people who were once in wrong standing with God should be “irreproachable” when they approach him at the eschaton (O’Brien 68-69).

“Paul counters this by suggesting that believers need to continue to live in hope, standing firm on the foundation of the faith they already have assented to and believe in” (Witherington 141). Paul ends this section in verse 23 when he presents a conditional sentence warning them not to shift away from the hope that the Good News presents (O’Brien 69). He has laid out an argument that the Gospel that he presented is the accurate one. This is combating any of the false teaching that was going around in Colossae (Witherington 141, also see above). Paul ends this discourse by saying that this is the true Good News which he himself is a minister of (v 23). He is saying that if anyone else is preaching a gospel other than what he is then it is lacking and not the true Gospel (Witherington 141).

This passage is pointing to who Christ is, what he did, and then has application for the Colossian believers. This is all centered on the theme and is focused-in on the reconciliation brought forth by Christ. The believers in Colossae are reconciled through him, and all things can be reconciled through him because he truly is the Lord.

Works Cited

Aland, Kurt, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, Maurice. Robinson and Allen Wikgren. The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition (With Morphology). Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1993; 2006.

Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Beale, G. K. and D. A. Carson. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007.

Dunn, James D. G. The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: William B. Eerdmans Publishing; Paternoster Press, 1996.

Goldsworthy, Graeme. Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001.

Lukaszewski, Albert L. and Mark Dubis. The Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament. Logos Bible Software, 2009.

Metzger, Bruce M. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. New York: United Bible Societies, 1994.

O’Brien, Peter T. Word Biblical Commentary: Vol. 44. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher. 1982

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich. electronic ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-.

Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics – Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Zondervan Publishing House and Galaxie Software, 1999.

Witherington, Ben, III. The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians : A Socio Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007.

For the Love of God, Man!!!

The holidays usher in a bunch of different emotions for people. Some people are excited to spend the season with their families. Some are excited for presents. Some see it as a time to get religious. Others see it as a time to give their opinion on religion.

For Christians, many focus on the birth of Christ and are reminded of the sacrifice he gave on the cross. They are reminded of forgiveness and charity and grace. They absorb this into their systems and are filled with great adoration.

The birth of Jesus is the introduction to the greatest life ever lived. It is easy to want to skip to the end of the story just by looking at the introduction, and for most people that is what happens with Christmas. People see the virgin birth, grin, and then thank Christ for the cross. But without the incarnation, without the birth, without his life, the cross would be insignificant.

I was helping a friend of mine study for a theology final that she is taking in a few days. We were going over the incarnation and its implications, its reality and the heresies that threatened Christianity. While going over the incarnation, I was reminded the meaning of Christ’s birth. I think Colossians sums it up pretty well: “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily…”

In the first century, there were at least two things that the Jewish people didn’t expect about the Christ:

That he would suffer and die on a cross,

And that he would be God…

Christmas shows us that God was willing to strip Himself of His glory and dwell with His creation. The incarnation points to God’s sovereignty as well as His love for man. God loved mankind insomuch that He would die for mankind, but also loved mankind insomuch that He would become a man himself! It is so profound!

“Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth…” – Charles Wesley

During Christmas, let’s make sure we remember forgiveness, grace, and the resurrection, but let us focus on the fact that God was willing to take on flesh and dwell among us. Christ, though being God, didn’t consider it a thing to be taken for granted. He was born in the stables, not even having a bed or a crib, lived the life of a servant – washing his disciples’ feet, and ultimately died the cruelest of deaths – the traitor’s death of a crucifixion.

Remember God came in the likeness of man – a baby that couldn’t even take care of himself.

Be reminded that He laid aside His glory to be a fragile and vulnerable man.

And be encouraged that He did it all out of love.

“We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary…” – An excerpt from the Chalcedonian Creed