I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1:15-16, NRSV)
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1:15-16, KJV)
Paul's proud of the little community they've got going in Ephesus. Their faith must be pretty darn awesome if he's even heard about it in prison.
You who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both [Gentiles and Jews] into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:13-21, NRSV)
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both [Gentiles and Jews] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. (Ephesians 2:13-21, KJV)
Jews and Gentiles were once separate communities, but Jesus has made them into one big happy family. Now there aren't separations among people anymore. Well, provided all those people put their faith in Jesus.
Maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:3-6, NRSV)
Keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:3-6, KJV)
More talk of oneness and general getting along in the community. There's one God out there, one way of believing in him, and one ritual for bringing everyone into the fold. Everyone together now! "Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya…"
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16, NRSV)
He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
(Ephesians 4:11-16, KJV)
Sure, God gave everyone different gifts, but the whole community still needs to work together for the good of everyone. One of Paul's favorite images for the Christian community is the body. Shmoop might be a foot and you might be a leg, but we've all got to work together to keep the entire body moving along.
Let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:25-32, NRSV)
Speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:25-32, KJV)
Being part of a community isn't always easy. Sometimes people need to be reminded how to play nice with each other. Paul is big on getting along. Don't lie, don't steal, and don't get in fights. That stuff just causes big divisions within the group. He does have a point.
In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. (Colossians 1:3-6, NRSV)
We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth. (Colossians 1:3-6, KJV)
More praise for his recipients. Paul has heard good things about the Christians in Colossae. The news of their good work as a group has traveled far and wide.
Do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God. (Colossians 2:16-19, NRSV)
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. (Colossians 2:16-19, KJV)
Basically, don't let anyone tell you that you're doing this whole worshipping Jesus thing wrong, Colossians. These guys make up the true community because they're following Jesus in the right way. Anyone else? Well, they're just on the outside looking in.
There is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! (Colossians 3:11, NRSV)
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:11, KJV)
See? Everyone is equal now! Yay! Isn't community the greatest? (Warning: some restrictions may apply.)
Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. (Colossians 3:13-16, NRSV)
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:13-16, KJV)
More rules for how to get along in a group. Forgive each other and be peaceful no matter what. Yeah, this community stuff is hard work.
This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—for surely you have already heard of the commission of God's grace that was given me for you. (Ephesians 3:1-2, NRSV)
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward. (Ephesians 3:1-2, KJV)
We start with confinement right off the bat. Yup, Paul's writing both these letters from the Big House. We're hoping he makes parole soon.
Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God's grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ[…] I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory. (Ephesians 3:7-8, 13, NRSV)
Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ[…] Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. (Ephesians 3:7-8, 13, KJV)
Paul may be a "servant" and "the least of the saints," but that doesn't stop him from getting some major stuff done. Even though he's under lock and key, God has entrusted him with a mission that will free the world.
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called. (Ephesians 4:1, NRSV)
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called. (Ephesians 4:1, KJV)
Notice how Paul spins his jail time here. He's not a prisoner of the state or the Roman government—he's a "prisoner in the Lord." Because he went to jail for his service to Christ, Paul clearly sees his time in lock-up as part of a divine plan.
Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak. (Ephesians 6:19-20, NRSV)
And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:19-20, KJV)
Being a convict doesn't embarrass Paul. He's actually "an ambassador in chains." They might lock him up, but they can't stop him from spreading the message of Jesus. Preach on, prison Paul.
I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel. I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God's commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known[…] For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me. (Colossians 1:23-25, 29, NRSV)
I Paul am made a minister; Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God[…] Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily. (Colossians 1:23-25, 29, KJV)
Paul isn't bothered about being in prison. In fact, he's glad that he's suffering right now. For one, it shows how sincere he is and how far he's willing to go for Jesus. It also makes for a way better story 2,000 years later.
For I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face[…] I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ. (Colossians 2:1, 4-5, NRSV)
For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. (Colossians 2:1, 4-5, KJV)
Paul's body is confined, but his Spirit is free. This is actually one of the awesome things about a letter: even though Paul can't be with them in person, he can send a little piece of himself in the form of his words.
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8, NRSV)
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (Colossians 2:8, KJV)
Don't be taken "captive" by lies. Paul might be in physical lock-up, but he's spiritually free. He's warning the Colossians not to fall into any traps and get caught up in a prison of lies.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch"? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. (Colossians 2:20-22, NRSV)
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? (Colossians 2:20-22, KJV)
Jesus died and bought freedom for Christians. So why live like you're still a slave? God has set aside all these laws so that his people could freely worship him.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong has been done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, for you know that you also have a Master in heaven. (Colossians 3:22-4:1, NRSV)
Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons. Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. (Colossians 3:22-4:1, KJV)
Okay, Paul's talking about literal slavery here, but he also goes a little figurative with the whole thing. Slaves and their masters need to behave in an orderly way because God is the master of everyone. Masters might be physically free, but they're still bound to serve God. Don't worry. He's an old softy.
Pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should. (Colossians 4:3-4, NRSV)
Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. (Colossians 4:3-4, KJV)
Again, Paul's keeping the magic going even from a jail cell. They may be able to put Paul in chains, but they can't keep God's word from getting loose.
I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. (Colossians 4:18, NRSV)
The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. (Colossians 4:18, KJV)
Well, that's a fine good-bye. Paul doesn't do a regular send-off. He asks his readers to remember all he's gone through and that he's in prison because of Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NRSV)
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV)
Okay, so God just saves people. Nothing we can do to help this process along. Well, it looks like we won't need all these principles and morals after all…
So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:25-32, NRSV)
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:25-32, KJV)
Just kidding! Paul's got loads of advice for how to live a good and moral life. His main point is that people who believe in Jesus do good things for each other. That means not fighting and arguing and gossiping about everyone else.
Now how are we gonna entertain ourselves?
Fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:3-5, NRSV)
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:3-5, KJV)
Well, there goes all the fun of Saturday nights in Ephesus. Even though God has forgiven everyone's sins, that doesn't mean that Christians can go right on sinning. If you know what God expects of you and you do the wrong thing, you'll get shut out of his kingdom pretty darn quick.
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be associated with them. (Ephesians 5:6-7, NRSV)
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. (Ephesians 5:6-7, KJV)
Don't be disobedient, says Paul. God wants you to follow his rules. Sure, you haven't earned his favor by being good, but don't tick him off by being a huge jerk.
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:15-17, NRSV)
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:15-17, KJV)
Now being drunk is out, too. Mainly, Paul wants people to act in a way that's smart. Paul's advice: don't go around doing whatever you want because that has consequences in the end.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13-17, NRSV)
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13-17, KJV)
This is one principled suit of armor. Defending yourself against evil is like getting ready for a fight. Personally, we're pretty psyched about the way we look when we're wearing Shoes of Peace.
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7, NRSV)
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7, KJV)
Faith and works go hand in hand. If you truly believe in Jesus and want to follow him, you'll act like it. Paul clearly thinks faith is the most important thing, but faith also leads to goodness. A faithful person is a principled person, says the P-Man.
Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:5-10, NRSV)
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him. (Colossians 3:5-10, KJV)
Sex and greed are bad, says Paul. Christians have started a new life as believers, so they can't afford to fall back into their old sinful ways. God forgave them once, but don't think he'll be so lenient next time.
Remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called "the uncircumcision" by those who are called "the circumcision"—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:11-12, NRSV)
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:11-12, KJV)
In Jewish society, there are groups that are in and groups that are out. The Gentiles? They're definitely out. Paul believed that God would be on their side and that the Gentiles would be left out in the cold. Well, until Jesus came, that is…
You must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ! (Ephesians 4:17-20, NRSV)
Walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ. (Ephesians 4:17-20, KJV)
Again with the Gentile-bashing. Sure, non-Jews held most of the actual power in Roman society, but they didn't have spiritual power according to Paul.
Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33, NRSV)
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33, KJV)
This passage totally upholds social norms…until you get to the end. In Roman society, the wife was supposed to obey her husband. Period. But Paul envisions a world where different classes of people serve each other. Husbands have an obligation to their wives and wives an obligation to their gents.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother"—this is the first commandment with a promise: "so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4, NRSV)
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4, KJV)
Another one that sees equality in two unequal groups. The Ten Commandments don't have a sub-rule for fathers—they just say that kids should obey. But Paul tacks this on to curb fatherly abuse of power.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ[…] And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality. (Ephesians 6:5, 9, NRSV)
Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ[…] And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him. (Ephesians 6:5, 9, KJV)
More clashes between the classes. This one's pretty radical. Sure, slaves should obey and submit, but their owners also have to show a little restraint. Roman slave-owners didn't really have any restrictions on what they could do to their human property. Paul seems to think that they could catch more flies with honey than with the flyswatter.
In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! (Colossians 3:11, NRSV)
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:11, KJV)
This is actually pretty crazy when you think about it. Social distinctions and classes have ceased to exist because of Jesus! God isn't gonna play favorites once you set foot in Heaven. On Earth, it's a different story though…
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. (Colossians 3:18-19, NRSV)
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. (Colossians 3:18-19, KJV)
Sure, Paul thinks that different social groups should treat each other kindly, but that doesn't mean he's quite ready to tear down the entire patriarchal system just yet. P.S. We've heard this one at weddings before. How romantic?
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything […] Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, for you know that you also have a Master in heaven. (Colossians 3:22, 4:1, NRSV)
Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh […] Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. (Colossians 3:22, 4:1, KJV)
Or free the slaves. It would take about 1,500 more years before people started feeling bad about that.
Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5-6, NRSV)
Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. (Colossians 4:5-6, KJV)
Social norms are out…but also kind of in. Notice that Paul's walking a fine line here. He wants everyone to know they're equal in God's eyes, but he can't risk making trouble with outsiders. Here, he even tells Christians to be careful what they say. Society is a dangerous thing.
God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:20-23, NRSV)
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:20-23, KJV)
Talk about a transformation. Jesus went from poor, crucified peasant to ruling all of Creation. That's pretty good work right there.
God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7, NRSV)
God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7, KJV)
But Jesus isn't the only one going through a transformation. Christians are, too. Before Jesus, people were steeped in sin. Jesus' coming changed all that.
In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:5-6, NRSV)
Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel. (Ephesians 3:5-6, KJV)
Check it our: everyone's changing. Gentiles were definitely not in God's good books before, but now they're God's chosen people. All it took was a little Savior power, apparently.
Surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:21-24, NRSV)
If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:21-24, KJV)
Before they knew about Jesus, these Gentiles were immoral jerks. Now they know better. Their knowledge of Jesus has transformed them into better people. With way nicer clothes!
Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true […] Therefore it says, "Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." (Ephesians 5:8-9, 14, NRSV)
For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light […] Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. (Ephesians 5:8-9, 14, KJV)
You know the drill. These guys were in the dark and then it was like someone turned on a flashlight when they found out about Jesus. It's like they've woken up and come alive after being in the dark clutches of death.
You who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. (Colossians 1:21-23, NRSV)
You, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven. (Colossians 1:21-23, KJV)
Sure, you might have been evil before, but Jesus' death has washed all that away. The slate is wiped clean and the sinner is turned into the saved. Neat trick!
In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:11-14, NRSV)
In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross. (Colossians 2:11-14, KJV)
God's making a lot of changes here. First, he's welcoming uncircumcised Gentiles into the fold. They're circumcised in their hearts. Then, he's getting rid of all the old laws that he was so big about people following in the Hebrew Bible.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations? (Colossians 2:20, NRSV)
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances. (Colossians 2:20, KJV)
So if the laws are done and over with, why are Christians still worrying about them? What part of transformation did they not understand?
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3, NRSV)
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3, KJV)
Note the key word here is "if." If Christians really believe in Jesus, they'll be transformed into totally new and awesome people. Nothing less will do.
These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things. (Colossians 3:7-8, NRSV)
In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these. (Colossians 3:7-8, KJV)
Old life vs. new life. Now that these Gentiles are Christians, they need to turn over a new leaf. Sure, pagan parties are fun. No one ever said change was easy.