Study Guide

Ephesians and Colossians

Ephesians and Colossians Summary

The Epistle to the Ephesians

Here we have yet another letter from the Apostle Paul. You may remember him from such New Testament letters as Romans and 1 Corinthians. This time, Paul's writing to the church in Ephesus and, boy, does he have a lot to say.

Here's his message:

God is great. He gave the world Jesus and then he handpicked Christians to be his chosen people. Sure, it was sad when Jesus died on that cross, but some good stuff did come out of it. Because Jesus sacrificed himself, God is willing to wipe the slate clean and start over with humanity.

Plus, God has opened his doors to new members in his post-Jesus phase. Before, God only had a special relationship with the Jewish people. Now he's cool with anyone who wants to become a follower of Jesus. That means that Gentiles who dig Jesus are entitled to the same love and doting attention God has been lavishing on his people since he created this place we call Earth.

Wondering why Paul's writing all this stuff down in a letter? Well, besides the fact that he just loves writing letters, he's also in prison. Yup. He's doing time for Jesus. But he didn't want the folks in Ephesus to miss out on all his good advice. Advice like…

  • Love each other, Ephesians. That's a biggie. 
  • Wives should respect their husbands. 
  • Kids should listen to their parents. 
  • And slaves should most definitely obey their masters.

Hey, some of Paul's advice is better than others.

Remember, it's hard out there for a Christian. Paul suggests that the Ephesians put on the armor of faith to guard themselves from the naysayers out there. Sadly, this armor won't help much when these naysayers start throwing rocks. But at least it's something.

And that's all from Paul. Thank you, Ephesus! You've been a great audience!

The Epistle to the Colossians

This letter is a bit of a recap from what Paul wrote to the folks in Ephesus. Either Paul drafted both these letters at the same time or something really fishy is going on here.

Anyway, Paul wants the folks in Colossae to know that Jesus is the bomb. He's been around since the beginning of time and his mere existence is the glue that holds all of Creation together. Impressive. His death also saved the entire world. Seriously, when was the last time you did that?

Paul might still be in prison (no time off for good behavior), but he's still got some wisdom to dole out. The Colossians need to watch out for false teachers who are looking to lead them astray. They don't have to worry about all those pesky Jewish laws from the first five books of the Bible. (There's 613 of them, so that's a load off.) And wives, kids, and slaves? Keep on obeying.

Paul is nothing if not consistent.

See you when he sees you, Colossae! Paul out.

  • Ephesians: Chapter 1

    Hi, My Name is Paul

    • Paul here, writing to some folks in the Christian church in Ephesus (which was part of modern-day Turkey). What up, y'all?
    • So what should we talk about? Butterflies? Trees? Nope. Let's talk about God.
    • The Almighty is pretty awesome, says Paul.
    • For starters, he gave the world Jesus. He also handpicked Christians to be faithful followers of J.C. and adopted them as his kids.
    • God also passed on his grace and goodness. And because Jesus died, God opened the door for everyone in the world to be redeemed and forgiven for all kinds of bad stuff.
    • The Big Guy has also let Christians in on all kinds of cool divine secrets. Jesus is the key to most of them. But he's also got some pretty nifty ideas for the future (spoiler alert: it's going to involve some sweet rewards).
    • And just who will reap these rewards? Why, the followers of Jesus, of course.
    • They were the first ones to hear Jesus' message and believe in the truth. Nice job, early Christians.
    • Okay, God is totally great, right? But the folks in Ephesus are pretty neat, too.
    • Paul's heard about all the amazing things they've done, and he hasn't stopped thanking God for putting such nice folks on Earth since. Not even for one second. Not even to take a quick pee. Yup. Paul's dedicated like that.
    • Paul's also been praying that the Christians in Ephesus keep expanding their horizons and getting to know God a little better every day. Hey, the more you know.
    • After all, God raised Jesus from the dead and then set all kinds of amazing things in motion.
    • Right now, Jesus is hanging up in Heaven with God and sitting at God's right hand (hmm… wonder what's wrong with the left-hand chair?). He also gets to rule over everyone and everything. Don't worry, though. Jesus would never let all that power go to his head.
  • Ephesians: Chapter 2

    Only Mostly Dead

    • Okay, so these Christians are good now, but it wasn't so long ago that they were living pretty sin-filled lives.
    • As far as anyone knew, they were dead to God because they didn't know about him or his laws or promises.
    • Basically, these folks just followed everyone else in the world and did whatever it was they wanted. They ate what they wanted. They had sex with who they wanted. And they didn't even feel guilty about it the next morning.
    • Okay, so they were dead to God, but he's apparently a forgiving guy, because he went and made them come to life again. It's a miracle! By sin they had died (metaphorically), but through Jesus they started living again.
    • Now these believers have risen up to hang with Jesus. He does have that pretty sweet seat up there in Heaven.
    • Yup. God saved them. These Christians didn't "earn" salvation by being good people or something. (No bragging!) God gave it to them as a gift. We're guessing it came with a pretty nice bow on top, too.

    Gentiles Wanted

    • See, these Christians were Gentiles in the beginning. That just means they weren't Jewish. They also weren't circumcised like Jewish folks. That means they didn't have any relationship with God at all. They just worshipped their pagan gods and had no clue.
    • They also didn't know anything about all the promises that God made to his people way back in the Hebrew Bible. Gentiles weren't part of that stuff, so they clearly weren't going to be saved.
    • But now, because Jesus lived and died, God has pulled the Gentiles in for a nice warm, group hug.
    • Before, Gentiles were separate in God's eyes. Now they're part of his chosen people. There aren't two groups anymore—Gentiles and Jews. There's just one group. Everyone believes in Jesus, so everyone gets to benefit from God's promises.
    • Back in the Hebrew Bible, God also gave his people all kinds of laws to follow. Now, God has tossed all those out so that everyone can come to him on the same footing.
    • It's all because of Jesus (as usual). He died, and all the old feuds between Gentiles and Jews are over. Now there's just peace. It's a new humanity.
    • Gentiles aren't on the outside looking in anymore. They're citizens of Heaven. They've got the keys to God's house.
    • And this is the house that Jesus built…along with some help from the apostles and prophets. Sure, Jesus is the most important brick in the wall, but all believers—whether they're Gentiles or Jews—are there too.
    • Awww.
  • Ephesians: Chapter 3

    Jailhouse Rock

    • Now Paul drops a little bombshell. He's in prison.
    • Yup. He's been locked up because he's been spreading the good word about Jesus to all the Gentiles…and some folks are not happy about it.
    • See, there's a mystery afoot. Don't call Sherlock Holmes quite yet, though. It's not that kind of mystery. It's something the world didn't know about God. He is sort of mysterious.
    • But Paul has cracked the case. He now knows that God always intended to bring the Gentiles into the fold. Good sleuthing.
    • How does Paul know this? God told him. Even though Paul was the lowliest of all the saints (and the most modest!) God entrusted him with the special mission of bringing Jesus to the Gentiles.
    • So, really, don't be too bummed that Paul's in prison, he says. It's all worth it because he's doing it in service to the Big Guy.

    He Says a Little Prayer for You

    • On top of all this, Paul says a prayer for the Ephesians.
    • He hopes that God will strengthen them and that Jesus will be in their hearts every day.
    • Christians should be like plants with roots made of love. (Yep, love is a pretty big thing for Paul.)
    • That's because Jesus is so super loving. In fact, he loves them so much there's no way to really measure it. His love is longer and higher and deeper than anyone can even imagine.
  • Ephesians: Chapter 4

    One Rockin' Body

    • If Jesus loves his little followers, that means they should love each other.
    • Christians have a special bond with each other because of Jesus. That means they need to be humble, gentle, patient, loving, and peaceful with each other. Easy, right?
    • They're all united in one body because of Jesus. The church isn't just a group of random individuals. There's one Holy Spirit, one God, one way of believing in him, and one baptism. So act like it, says Paul.
    • Christians may be one body, but they all have different and individual gifts.
    • Some folks are apostles or prophets. Some are evangelists, pastors, or teachers. It's a mixed bag.
    • But in the end, all these jobs have the same purpose: making the church stronger. People can't really do anything on their own. But together, they're unstoppable.
    • Basically, Christians shouldn't act like kids who change their minds about everything every day. Kids are also really gullible and will pretty much believe anything. Kids these days…
    • Believers need to act like adults. Like the parts of the body they are. If they do the right thing, the body will. But if they decide to stop contributing one day, the whole body will collapse. Yikes.

    What Not to Do

    • Followers of Jesus shouldn't live like non-believers.
    • The Gentiles out there don't have a clue. They do what they want and they really love sinning. It's so delicious to them…but that's not what Jesus would do.
    • A Christian doesn't live the same way everyone else does. If you believe in Jesus, you need to toss aside your old life and embrace your new one. The new life involves way less selfishness and way more holiness.
    • That means you shouldn't lie. It's okay to be angry, but don't let it fester too long.
    • Don't let the devil into your life. He's always looking for an opening.
    • Don't steal. Instead, work hard so you have something to share with those who need it.
    • Don't say mean and nasty things. Be kind (and always rewind).
    • Christians have been marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit. So don't tick the Spirit off. He's easily annoyed.
    • In short, just dump all the bitterness, wrath, anger, fighting, lies, and bad intentions and be excellent to each other.
    • Oh, and don't forget to forgive each other. After all, Paul says, God has forgiven you.
  • Ephesians: Chapter 5

    More Things to Avoid

    • Really, just be a good person.
    • Sex outside of marriage? Bad. Gossip? Bad. Greed? Bad. Anyone who does this bad stuff is most definitely not going to be part of God's kingdom. Sorry, sinners.
    • Christians shouldn't believe the lies people (who aren't Paul) will try to feed them, too.
    • It wasn't so long ago that these Gentile-Christians were hanging around in darkness without a clue about God. Now Jesus has turned on the light and they need to act like it. They can see everything now—they know which things are good and true. That's some strong wattage on that bulb.
    • Don't fall asleep. Well, don't fall asleep metaphorically.
    • And don't be stupid. Think before you do something God wouldn't like.
    • Don't get drunk, either. Instead of chugging wine all day, try gulping down some Holy Spirit. It's so refreshing.
    • And don't forget to sing! God's pretty into the whole praising-him-through-song thing.

    The Rules for Marriage

    • Everyone should serve everyone else. That's the way that Jesus likes it. He's way in favor of helping others.
    • Ladies, listen to your husbands. Obey them. Jesus is the head of the church and your husband is the head of your household. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, okay?
    • But husbands—you've also gotta love your wives.
    • Equality…?
    • It totally makes sense because Jesus loves his church. He also died to save his church, so good luck living up to that standard, gents.
    • Jesus was the one who made his church holy. It's kind of like a bride who takes a shower on her wedding day. Jesus is the one who pours down the water to clean her up and make sure she doesn't smell when she's standing up there at the altar.
    • That's the same kind of love husbands have to show to their wives. A man should love his lady like he loves himself. He should care for her like he cares for his own body. Hopefully his grooming habits are good.
    • That's why, Paul says, a man leaves his family and makes a life with his wife. Those two people become joined together as one person.
    • And that is why men should love their ladies and gals should respect their man.
    • Hey, no one said this was a feminist manifesto.
  • Ephesians: Chapter 6

    Kids Today

    • Kids should also listen to their parents. It's right there in the 10 Commandments. No breaking curfew or sneaking out the window when you're supposed to be grounded.
    • But on the other hand, dads shouldn't abuse their power or try to purposely tick off their kids. They should be loving and understanding and help teach their little rugrats the proper way to behave.

    Slaves for You

    • Same thing goes for slaves: obey your masters. Don't just follow orders when the master is watching, either. Do it all the time. Because God is always watching.
    • It might help to think of yourself as a slave for Jesus. Don't just listen and obey because some human master wants you to. Do it because God and Jesus want you to.
    • After all, God sees all the good things you're doing and he will reward you for not being rebellious and disobedient. So look for that.
    • Okay, but masters aren't totally off the hook either. Christian slave owners have an obligation to treat their human property decently. That means not threating them and stuff.
    • Masters need to remember that everyone on Earth is a slave to God. Even them. Everyone has God for a master.
    • As far as the Big Guy is concerned, there's no difference between slaves and their owners. They're all equal. In Heaven, of course. On Earth, folks should just still to their assigned roles.
    • …Status quo upheld.

    Onward Christian Soldiers

    • In general, Christians should just be strong in their faith.
    • They need to put on (spiritual) armor to protect themselves from this crazy world and the devil who's running loose.
    • Christians don't have to worry so much about flesh and blood people messing with them. It's institutions—like rulers and authorities—who can move society in a bad direction. In an evil direction.
    • They need to put on armor so they can withstand the blows that are coming.
    • Fasten the belt of truth and sport a breastplate of righteous. Put on shoes of peace and take a shield of faith with you. Slap on a helmet of salvation and swing the sword of the Spirit at the bad guys. Oh, yeah. Now, you look like a proper (symbolic) solider.

    So Long, Farewell

    • One thing that will help, too, is prayer.
    • Christians should pray for themselves and definitely pray for Paul. He needs those happy thoughts. He is in prison, after all.
    • And since it's tough for Paul to visit, he's sending along his friend, Tychicus, to give the Ephesians the full scoop on what's going on.
    • Finally, he's sending peace to all the faithful out there and wishing all good things for them. How nice.
    • And that's the end.
  • Colossians: Chapter 1

    Hello Again

    • Hey, there! Paul again! This time he's writing to a group of Christians in Colossae (which was located in what's now Turkey) with his friend and co-author, Timothy. Though, who are we kidding? Paul's totally running this show.
    • So what's he got to say this time?
    • Oddly enough, a lot of the same stuff he said to the Ephesians.
    • He starts out by thanking God for the Colossians. High fives, guys!
    • They know the truth about Jesus and they're living good Christian lives because of it.
    • See, they found out about Jesus from this guy named Epaphras. He's told Paul all about his little students in Colossae. It was a good report.
    • Paul still prays for them that they'll be strong in faith and keep growing and learning about God. Knowledge is (spiritual) power.
    • God rescued all his followers from a life lived in sin and darkness. Now they're forgiven and hanging with God in his amazing kingdom. Not too shabby.

    What Wouldn't Jesus Do?

    • All this happened because of Jesus. He's sort of a big deal.
    • Jesus is the physical image of God, who is invisible. He helped the Big Guy when he was creating the world. An extra set of hands is always nice.
    • Everything that exists was created through Jesus and for Jesus. He's more important than every single thing and his very existence holds all of creation together. If the church is like a human body, Jesus is totally the brains, says Paul.
    • He's always first in everything. He was also the first to die. Well, to die on a cross to save all humanity. Because of that God wiped the slate clean with humans and started over fresh.
    • Jesus also has many leather bound books and his apartment smells of rich mahogany.
    • But seriously, Jesus is probably the most important and interesting guy in all of creation, based on how Paul's describing him.
    • Christians owe Jesus one because they were at odds with God until he died. Now God has forgotten all about their sinful ways. He'll let bygones be bygones.
    • And as long as they keep the faith, Christians can keep these good times with God going. All they need to do is believe the stuff that Paul's told them. Easy peasy!

    Orange Is the New Paul

    • Just like in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul's in prison while he's writing this little note.
    • But don't cry for him, Colossae!
    • All his struggles are for something greater than him. He's fighting the good fight for Jesus and to spread God's word around the Roman Empire.
    • God chose Paul to tell all this stuff to Gentiles and help them to come over to the light side of the Force. So Paul's not worried. Even if he has to rot in jail, he's cool with it because God approves.
  • Colossians: Chapter 2

    Pauline Prison Blues

    • Prison is fine, but it's not a total cakewalk. Go figure.
    • It's mostly a bummer because Paul can't get out to see any of his fellow Christians. He has to settle for writing letters. Luckily, he's pretty good at that.
    • Paul wants all his Christian friends to know that the key is Jesus. He's the source of all God's wisdom and knowledge.
    • And he doesn't want the Colossians to listen to just any Tom, Dick, or Harry off the street, no matter how convincing these naysayers might seem.
    • He might not be physically present, but Paul's there with them in spirit.

    Time for a Clean Slate

    • Just keep living lives in Christ and everyone will be fine, says Paul.
    • Paul warns them not to be swayed by false teachers who swoop in with their fancy theories and lead nice Christians astray.
    • Human traditions and ideas don't mean anything. It's the stuff that God tells us that really matters. Figuring that out is kind of the trick, though…
    • See, the Christians in Colossae used to be non-believing Gentiles. That means they weren't circumcised like Jewish guys. But God dug the Gentiles so much he gave them "a special circumcision." In other words, they knew and understood God through Jesus, not through thousands of years of Jewish law, scripture, and traditions.
    • After Jesus died, God didn't worry so much about all the laws and traditions that he had made such a big deal about starting way back in Exodus.
    • God took those rules and the sins of the world and he nailed them to that cross with Jesus. Basically, he left them there and forgot about them and started over fresh with everyone.

    Watch Out for False Teachers

    • Because these Gentile-Christians are circumcised in their heart, they shouldn't worry about anyone who claims they're not up to snuff with God just because they're not physically circumcised.
    • They also shouldn't panic about what foods they eat, or which festivals they celebrate or what they should and shouldn't be doing on the Sabbath. God is so over those things. He just wants everyone to put their faith in Jesus.
    • Christians also shouldn't listen to anyone who worships angels or worries too much about visions or only understands things with their tiny human brain.
    • Um, isn't that everyone?
    • These false teachers need to focus on Jesus—he's the head of this body (remember?). That's the only way to keep the body and the individual parts healthy and happy. Otherwise, we're gonna need to start amputating toes over here.
    • Besides, if Christians are dead to the world, then why would they need to worry so much about all the worldly things they're doing? No bacon? No work on the Sabbath? No touching unclean things? It's kind of minor stuff in the grand scheme of things.
    • Paul thinks those are things Christians don't need to worry their pretty little heads about. People think they're being holy when they do these things, but in reality, following these rules doesn't have any effect on a person's heart, says Paul.
    • Sorry, law-lovers.
  • Colossians: Chapter 3

    They Used to Be Bad to the Bone

    • Basically, Paul doesn't want Christians to worry about all the petty things going down on Earth. Just stay focused on Jesus and all will be well.
    • That means no sex outside of marriage. Don't do impure or lustful stuff or desire evil things. And definitely don't be greedy. It's a tall order.
    • Back when the Colossians were Gentiles, they did all this bad stuff. But now that they're believers, things are different.
    • They shouldn't be angry or cruel or mean or gossipy. They also shouldn't lie. Well, unless a fellow Christian asks if her toga makes her look fat.
    • Christians basically have a whole new wardrobe. They need to put on their holiest ensemble and not those sinful rags from last season. That was the ugliest skirt God has ever seen
    • The awesome part is that this means that everyone is equal in God's eyes. He doesn't see a difference between Greeks or Jews or foreigners or slaves or free people. Jesus is cool with everyone. Group hug!
    • Really, just do good stuff. Be compassionate, kind, humble, meek, and patient. Forgive other people. Oh, and love. Don't forget to love.
    • Bottom line, according to Paul: let Jesus be a part of your life, and you'll be happy and awesome and thankful for everything in your life.
    • Paul's quite the self-help guru.

    Our House Is a Very, Very, Very Holy House

    • Speaking of self-help—Paul's got loads of other helpful tips for keeping an orderly household.
    • How about some thoughts for the ladies?
    • Wives, obey your husbands, just like you would obey God himself. Talk about putting your man on a pedestal.
    • But gents, love your wives and don't be huge jerks to them.
    • Kids, listen to your parents. Yeah, they can be lame, but it's the right thing to do.
    • Dads, don't be cruel to your children. You might actually push them to rebel and that would not be good.
    • How about slaves? They all get to go free, right?
    • Not exactly. Slaves should obey their masters, too. They're also supposed to be cheerful and obedient all the time. No slacking off when the master is away, okay?
    • Just pretend that you're slaving away for God. You'll get your reward in Heaven! We guess that's one thing to look forward to…?
    • Don't forget, though—anyone who does the wrong thing will be punished. Fingers crossed that God actually has the whole "owning humans" thing under this "wrong stuff" category.
  • Colossians: Chapter 4

    Don't Forget…

    • Oops! One little leftover from the previous chapter got tucked into this one:
    • Masters need to treat their slaves fairly. God is watching.

    They Need to Pray

    • Aside from keeping a household structure that's totally conformed with 1st-century Roman life, what else are Christians supposed to do?
    • Well, pray.
    • Thank God in prayer. And pray that Paul gets out of prison soon. Seriously, the food in the slammer is terrible.
    • They also need to be smart when it comes to non-believers. A Christian certainly can't deny the truth about Jesus, but that doesn't mean he or she has to stir up trouble.
    • In other words, pick your battles very carefully.

    Friends of Yours, Paul?

    • Paul is sending along this letter with his friend Tychicus (you may remember him from such biblical letters as Ephesians). He's gonna give the Colossians all the updates on Paul. No worries.
    • Tychicus is also coming with Onesimus (you'll also see his name in the Epistle to Philemon).
    • Aristarchus sends his best wishes from lock up. Barnabas's cousin, Mark, does, too. Jesus (who people call Justus, probably so he doesn't get confused with the way more important Jesus in Paul's life) also says hi! These three dudes are Jewish-Christians, and Paul's been really glad to have them around.
    • Epaphras, who's a Gentile-Christian, is hanging out, too. He's the one who founded the church in Colossae, so he's really hoping things work out there.
    • Luke and Demas say howdy, too.
    • Paul wants them to pass along his best to everyone in Laodicea. Especially Nympha (she hosted church in her house).
    • Once this letter has made the rounds in Colossae, they can send it onto the churches in Laodicea. Everyone gets a taste of Paul's goodness.
    • Paul ends the letter by signing his own farewell. He tells his readers to "remember my chains." Not as catchy as kthxbai, but it's totally Paul's style.