Encountering the New Testament, 4th Edition

A Historical and Theological Survey

series: Encountering Biblical Studies


20. Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon

Chapter Intro Video

Chapter Objectives

  • Describe features of the towns of Ephesus, Philippi, and Colossae
  • Outline the content of the books of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon
  • State the purpose for each of these epistles
  • Evaluate critical issues that have been raised about each of the epistles

Chapter Summary

  1. Ephesus was noted as a center of emperor worship, the occult, idolatry, and spiritism.

  2. Ephesians consists of a series of statements about God, Christ, and salvation, followed by exhortations urging readers to reflect God’s truth and will in their lives.

  3. Critical issues raised concerning Ephesians involve the authorship and destination of the letter, the relation of Ephesians to Colossians, parallels with the Dead Sea Scrolls, the presence of gnostic ideas, and the nature of various doctrinal emphases.

  4. The church at Philippi was founded by Paul and Silas on the second missionary journey.

  5. Paul wrote the Letter to the Philippians to express his pastoral concern over their current situation, to let them know about his circumstances, and to prepare them for a visit from Timothy and possibly himself.

  6. In Philippians Paul identifies three groups hindering the gospel message: a group in the Christian community in Rome, a group not preaching the authentic gospel, and the self-centered Philippians themselves.

  7. Paul wrote to the church at Colossae to assure it of his interest and to warn it about false teachers who were misleading it.

  8. The basic message of Colossians is the uniqueness and preeminence of Christ.

  9. Paul spoke against legalism and asceticism in his Epistle to the Colossians.

  10. Paul’s Letter to Philemon, a personal friend, dealt with a runaway slave named Onesimus.

  11. Because a large percentage of the population in this era consisted of slaves, Onesimus’s situation was an important matter for Paul to bring to Philemon’s attention.

  12. In his treatment of Onesimus, Paul admonishes Philemon to go beyond the legal customs of the day and to consider standards of justice and love that are rooted in the character of God.

Study Questions

  1. Cite one way that modern society resembles the social world of ancient Ephesus.

  2. Name some of the major themes of Ephesians.

  3. What issues does Colossians deal with that are also pertinent issues today?

  4. Paul says much about Christ in Colossians. Give three facts about Christ based on what Paul teaches.

  5. Who are the “enemies” about whom Paul warns the Philippian believers?

  6. How does Paul’s presentation of Christ in Philippians compare to that in Colossians? Give two similarities and two differences.

  7. Why is Philemon an important document, seen in its ancient social setting? What applications can be drawn for it in the modern setting?