It is difficult for us to think about the first century society in its proper context. This was a pre-Christian world which did not have the legal and moral framework which have been built into our Western Europe societies. There were many commonly accepted habits which would be totally unacceptable for the average British person. For instance, in Ancient Rome, fathers were endowed with nearly limitless power over their family, especially their children. "The father's power" gave him legal rights over his children until he died or his children were emancipated. These powers included the right to arrange marriages or force divorce, expose a new born child if he did not want him/her, and even disown, sell, or kill his child! Paul always recognised the deadly power of sin. The NLT translates the Greek here as 'harden', but a more accurate translation would be 'petrify'. Sin causes us over time to lose all sense of right and wrong completely. We no longer enjoy committing the sin as we used to do, we are driven to more outrageous ways of sinning, but we discover that we are enveloped in the desire to sin and the ability to do right is almost completely lost. We no longer bother to hide what we do, but explain that we are only doing what any other person would secretly want to do, we are the courageous ones! When someone becomes completely caught up in sin in this way, they no longer care for anyone apart from themselves, not even their nearest loved ones. This is what many in the churches Paul wrote to had been like, but they had been changed, transformed by the light, power and love of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, Paul encourages them to take off their old clothes and to put on the righteousness and holiness which God is offering. Recently, we ran an Alpha course at Bearfield. I recall a video clip of a man giving his testimony. He had experienced a lawless childhood and as a young adult and had spent years in prison, known for his extreme violence. When he mistakenly attended an Alpha in prison his life had been transformed and he was now married with children. Nothing is impossible with God! 'Would you be free from the burden of sin? There's power in the blood, power in the blood; Would you over evil a victory win? There's wonderful power in the blood.'
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