Study Guide

Ephesians and Colossians Freedom and Confinement

Freedom and Confinement

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.

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