Archive for January, 2013

2 Timothy 1 (day 1126) 30 January 2013

1-2: The greeting in this letter is much like that of 1 Timothy, but there Paul was an apostle by the command of God while here his apostleship is by the will of God. Reading Paul’s letters it is often difficult to decide whether he felt invited to be an apostle or compelled to it.

3-7: We learn some personal details about Timothy and the relationship between Timothy and Paul. Timothy was from Lystra and was the son of a Jewish mother and a Gentile father (Acts 16:1). Now we learn that his mother’s name was Eunice and his grandmother’s was Lois, that Paul commissioned him to the work of evangelist through the ceremony known as the “laying on of hands,” and that when Paul left him to continue his journey the separation was a tearful one.

8-14: The great sweep of salvation history is covered in these few verses. Christ was “before the ages began,” then came in the flesh to abolish death and give life. Paul was appointed as herald, apostle and teacher, and because of that he has had to endure much suffering, including times of imprisonment. He tells Timothy to be brave and not shrink from the same suffering for the sake of the gospel.

15-18: Paul mourns the loss of others who served in Ephesus before Timothy, whether they broke with Paul or left the church altogether is not specified; Paul would have thought one was like the other in any case. Onesiphorus stands out, however, as one who remained under Paul’s tutelage.

 

2 Timothy 2 (day 1127) 31 January 2013

1-7: Paul uses a hodgepodge of metaphors to describe the work in which they are engaged; the good soldier, the enlisting officer, the athlete, the farmer. They are a bit tangled and it is confusing as to which are intended to apply to Timothy (the good soldier, the athlete or the farmer, perhaps?) and which apply to Paul (the enlisting officer, the athlete, the farmer?).

8-13: Paul says he is willing to endure every hardship, even chains, for the sake of “the elect,” i.e. those who will hear and receive the gospel and become believers. We should not be afraid to die with Christ, or to endure the suffering he endured because that makes us a partner with him to live and to reign. But denial of him reaps a reciprocal denial from him, although his faithfulness will never be compromised by our lack of faith.

14-19: Timothy is to warn “them” that they must be like Christ in suffering and enduring in order to share in eternal life with him. Paul roundly condemns Hymenaeus and Phletus for trying to convince people that the general resurrection of the dead had already taken place (see 2 Thessalonians 2:2).

20-26: Slipping now into the metaphor of household pots and pans, Paul says the faithful are like the more valuable utensils in the house. Stick to your guns, he tells Timothy. Live a life of mature faith not swayed by youthful pursuits but steady and pure. Stay away from controversy and be gentle but firm in correcting others; maybe your faithfulness will lead to their repentance. (Note that Paul is convinced that they are agents of the devil himself.)

2 Timothy 3 (day 1128) 1 February 2013

1-9: Paul sees distressing days ahead. From the extensive catalogue of ills, the kind that Paul is fond of listing, we see that the cause of those distressing days will be that many people will love everything but God. Jannes and Jambres were the magicians in Pharaoh’s court who, through their arts, were able to copy several of the miracles Moses cast against the Egyptians (see Exodus 7:11, 8:7 and 9:11). Their names are not in the Old Testament; Paul gets them from other popular Jewish literature, works of fiction that sought to fill in some of the missing details of the Biblical texts.

10-17: Paul beseeches Timothy to recall what he has seen Paul go through and how Paul conducted himself in difficult situations. (The persecutions he suffered in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra are described in Acts 13:48-14:20. But Paul also had much success in those places – remember that Timothy is from Lystra.) God can be trusted, he says, to come to the rescue of the godly people who are destined to come under persecution. Wicked people will grow in wickedness, but Timothy is to grow in knowledge of the scriptures and in his devotion to teaching others the way of salvation.

 

2 Timothy 4 (day 1129) 2 February 2013

          1-5: Paul foresees the day when people will look for “teachers to suit their own desires,” so he urges Timothy to teach as hard as he can, to be patient and never give up, to persist even when everything is going against him, to stick to it under all circumstances and to demonstrate the gospel by his own way of life. (It does seem to me that we now live in an age of “information” when people around the world can easily know all about Christianity without knowing Christ, and our age certainly fits the description given here.)

6-8: Paul apparently believes that his life is drawing to its close. He has lived the advice he just gave Timothy. The “crown of righteousness” is not to be imagined as a physical crown but rather a way of saying that God will account him, like Abraham, to be righteous because he has kept the faith (see, for example, Romans 4:9).

9-15: A number of people are named, some of whom played a prominent role in the establishment of churches around the Northern
Mediterranean world. Demas is sometimes named as Paul’s companion (see Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 1:24), and apparently is another with whom Paul had some sort of dispute. Crescens (not mentioned elsewhere) and Titus have also left him, but I don’t think he means that they, too, have had a falling-out with him – especially Titus. Luke, the beloved physician seems to have been a faithful and constant companion. Paul did have a falling-out with Mark (Acts 15:37-39), but apparently that rift has been remedied. Tychicus was someone on whom Paul depended as a messenger to his churches (see Ephesians 6:21, Colossians 4:7 and Titus 3:12). There are several Alexanders, though none of them are elsewhere identified as a coppersmith. The Alexander here mentioned is likely the same as the man condemned earlier (1 Timothy 1:20) along with one Hymenaeus. The mention of books and parchments is an interesting glimpse into Paul’s personal habits.

16-18: This is a most intriguing passage. We imagine Paul is in Rome where he was to be put on trial. He indicates that some kind of hearing or trial has taken place, and for whatever reason none of his friends were there to testify on his behalf; he felt deserted, he says. On the other hand, that hearing apparently resulted in no action being taken against him, and some have seen in the remark about being saved from the lion’s mouth an indication that Paul was acquitted and allowed to go free (throwing prisoners into an arena filled with lions was apparently one of the ways in which criminals were executed in Rome, and elsewhere in those days).

19-22: Another gathering of names. Aquila and Prisca (Priscilla) Paul had met in Corinth (Acts 18:2), and they had accompanied him on some of his journeys (Acts 18:18). Now they are apparently in Ephesus with Timothy. Onesiphorus was apparently a resident of Ephesus and a member of the church there (see 2 Timothy 1:16). Erastus was a helper who was paired with Timothy on at least one other occasion (Acts 19:22). Trophimus was a Gentile Christian from Ephesus (Acts 20:4, 21:29) who had accompanied Paul to Jerusalem – his presence there was apparently the reason for the riot that resulted in Paul’s arrest. Eubulus, Pudens, Linus and Claudia are not mentioned elsewhere. Claudia is a woman’s name (Claudius is the male counterpart), indicating that leadership roles in the church were shared by both sexes. Paul put together quite a team, didn’t he?

 

1 TIMOTHY (day 1120-1125)

 

          Here are all the references to Timothy in the New Testament outside the two letters addressed to him:

Acts 16:1: “Paul went on also to Derbe and to Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek.”

          Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Acts 16:3: “Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.”

          Top of Form

 

Acts 17:14: “Then the believers immediately sent Paul away to the coast, but Silas and Timothy remained behind.”Top of Form

Acts 17:15: “Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and after receiving instructions to have Silas and Timothy join him as soon as possible, they left him.”

Top of FBottom of Form          Acts 18:5:When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with proclaiming the word, testifying to the Jews that the Messiah was Jesus.”

Acts 19:22: “So he sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he himself stayed for some time longer in Asia.”Top of Form

Acts 20:4: “He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Beroea, by Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, by Gaius from Derbe, and by Timothy, as well as by Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia.”Bottom of Form

Romans 16:21: “Timothy, my co-worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my relatives.”

1 Corinthians 4:17: “For this reason I sent you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ Jesus, as I teach them everywhere in every church.”

1 Corinthians 16:10: “If Timothy comes, see that he has nothing to fear among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord just as I am;”

2 Corinthians 1:1: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth, including all the saints throughout Achaia:”

2 Corinthians 1:19: “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not ‘Yes and No’; but in him it is always ‘Yes.’”

Philippians 1:1: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:”

Philippians 2:19: “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you.”

Philippians 2:22: “But Timothy’s worth you know, how like a son with a father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.”

Colossians 1:1: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,”

1 Thessalonians 1:1: “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.”

1 Thessalonians 3:2: “…and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith.”

1 Thessalonians 3:6: “But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you.”

2 Thessalonians 1:1: “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:”

Philemon 1:1: “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our dear friend and co-worker,”Bottom of Form

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hebrews 13:23: “I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been set free; and if he comes in time, he will be with me when I see you.”

 

1 Timothy 1 (day 1120) 24 January 2013

1-2: It would appear that Timothy, along with Silas (Silvanus), was Paul’s most frequent companion. The two letters that follow purport to be from Paul to him while Timothy was working on his behalf in Ephesus. The letters show that the church began to be organized as an institution very early on, with rules for various levels of leadership.

3-7: First up, he urges Timothy to refrain from the kind of pseudo spiritual activities that occupied much of Greek culture and by which many Jews and, later, Christians, were led into inefficacious practices.

8-11: Paul has maintained that the purpose of the law is not to save but rather to convict (see Romans 3:28, 10:4; Galatians 3:10); here he gives another list of things which the law forbids.

12-17: He believes that Christ has made an example of him because he was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence.” In spite of this he received mercy, which he says proves that Christ came into the world to save sinners – himself being the foremost because he persecuted the followers of Christ.

18-20: He doesn’t want Timothy to wind up like Hymenaeus and Alexander. The sin of Hymenaeus was that he claimed the resurrection of the dead had already taken place (see 2 Timothy 2:17-18). Paul fleshed out his teachings about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Here he seems to be saying that anyone who doesn’t hold to that teaching is headed for a spiritual shipwreck.

1 Timothy 2 (day 1121) 25 January 2013

1-7: A few verses back (1:18) Paul hinted at instructions he would give. Here we have the beginning of his “training manual.” Rule #1: pray for everybody, even kings. He envisions a world of peace in which they can live in “godliness and dignity,” but such a world in his day and time depended on the well-being first of all of those who were in power. God wants everyone to be saved, he says, with which we Methodists agree. He quotes a portion of an early Christian hymn or creed, acknowledging one God and asserting that Christ is the mediator between God and humanity; then adds that he, Paul, is the herald to the Gentiles.

8-15: What he describes here is a traditional Jewish synagogue prayer service, with the men and women separated. His insistence that women should not teach men is consistent with prevailing Jewish mores, of course – remember that Paul had been a Pharisee – but we note that both Aquila and his wife Priscilla instructed Apollos (see Acts 18:24-26) in Ephesus. This happened while Paul was away, however, so maybe this is his way of telling Timothy not to let such a thing happen again. In any case, this passage reflects traditional Jewish understandings of gender roles, an understanding which created some conflict within the broader Greek culture.

 

1 Timothy 3 (day 1122) 26 January 2013

1-7: In this growing movement an organizational structure has become necessary. Who is in charge? Who has the authority to make decisions? We can see that by the time of this letter the church has established the offices of bishop and deacons. There is much discussion among scholarly circles about whether this arrangement is more reflective of Jewish or Greek community organization. The titles used are Greek. The bishop, or overseer, must be blameless, monogamous and respectable among other things. It is interesting that Paul, who never married, should picture bishops as married men with children. As such, their family is the church in microcosm, and their ability to manage the family is a good measure of their ability to manage a congregation. Some mellowing in the faith is a good thing, too, recognizing that rapid advancement contributes to vanity.

8-13: Deacons were given special duties in the congregation. An example is Stephen and the other 7 Greeks who were given responsibilities for the distribution of food to the widows in the church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:3-6). They, too, must lead exemplary lives. It would seem from verse 11 that women are allowed to serve in this office.

14-16: The reason Paul is giving these instructions is so that Timothy can keep things running in proper order until Paul is able to return to Ephesus. In verse 16 he quotes from another early hymn or creed.

 

1 Timothy 4 (day 1123) 27 January 2013

1-5: It seems Paul was constantly warning against false teachings of one kind or another. The particular aberration he’s writing about in verse 3 is typical of the kind of religious fads that were sweeping through the Mediterranean world of the time. I know of no cult that forbade marriage, though many religious groups, including Judaism, promoted fasting. The main thing Paul is saying is in verse 1: “some will renounce the faith.” He is telling Timothy to beware of every fad and every quack that finds its way to Ephesus. He is to protect his congregation from everything that threatens the pure faith in Christ crucified and risen.

6-10: He is to hold strong to the faith that has been passed on to him and instruct others in the Way, rejecting other ways. The goal is godliness, for that is the way to God, and the way to salvation. The last phrase, “especially of those who believe,” deserves some thought. The implication is that those who don’t believe will also enjoy a measure of God’s salvation because the whole world will benefit from the faith and godliness of believers.

11-16: Timothy will have to be especially diligent in his work to overcome the tendency some will have to take him lightly because of his youth. Reading scripture, preaching and teaching are the three tasks in which he is especially gifted. Paul encourages him by reminding him that he was especially commissioned by leaders in the church through the ceremony of the laying on of hands. Early Christians and other people of the time believed in the power of touch (see, for example, Exodus 30:29 and Leviticus 5:2).

 

1 Timothy 5 (day 1124) 28 January 2013

1-2: In other words, Timothy, treat your elders and your peers with respect. Don’t engage in inappropriate conduct with the young ladies.

3-8: Paul distinguishes between widows who have children or grandchildren and those who do not. The idea is that children and grandchildren have a responsibility toward their widowed mother or grandmother, and the church should not be burdened with their welfare. “Real” widows, those who are bereft of husband and children, should be honored, that is, taken care of. He has some harsh words to say about widows who “live for pleasure,” and for those family members who do not provide for their own relatives.

9-10: Within Greek culture, apparently, widowhood often precipitated behavior that was scandalous, a situation that was closely related to the fact that in that culture a single woman’s choices for gainful employment aside from prostitution were nearly nonexistent. It is likely that, very early on, congregations had official lists of widows (see Acts 6:1) for two reasons: first, they were a welcome source of workers within the church; second, since in that culture there few opportunities by which a woman could provide for herself, widows comprised a specific area of concern for the church to provide some welfare. Timothy, as the lead pastor of the church in Ephesus, would have the responsibility for maintaining the “widows’ roll.”

11-16: But the desire to care for widows also presented an opportunity for some to abuse the system, and Paul therefore separates widows into four categories: 1) those over the age of sixty, whose prospects for remarriage would have been almost nonexistent; 2) those under sixty who upon entering widowhood behaved in a way that brought shame to the church, “gadding about” and such; 3) those under sixty who upon entering widowhood pledged themselves to Christ and his service; and 4) those under sixty who upon entering widowhood pledged themselves to Christ and his service but later violated that pledge by remarrying. There is much confusion around verse 12, which speaks of “young” widows wishing to marry and thus violating their “first pledge.” But the “first pledge” is not a reference to their first marriage. It is a reference to those younger widows who decided to be placed on the “widows’ roll” of the church. Such a designation was considered in the early church to be a lifetime pledge equivalent to marriage. Verses 12 and 13 therefore refer to that fourth category. Paul’s advise is that young widows should not be placed on the “widows’ roll” in the first place, but instead be encouraged to remarry and start a family.

It does seem to me that women who were widowed between menopause and age sixty are by this rule kind of left in the lurch.

17-22: This paragraph is packed with lots of advice. First, elders (mature members of the faith publicly set aside for specific duties) are to receive a “double honor:” there is the honor of being given the responsibility, and then there is the honor of being compensated for their labors, particularly preaching and teaching. Second, without at least two witnesses any charge against an elder must be ignored. Third, where misconduct is proven a public denouncement against that elder must be made so that others will understand that such behavior is not to be tolerated. Fourth, he tells Timothy not to allow himself to be swayed or influenced by his personal relationships. Fifth, don’t be hasty to lift individuals up to positions of leadership; make sure they have a maturity of faith that can be trusted. Finally, make sure you yourself are a good example to everybody else.

23: Amen.

24-25: Sooner or later everything, good and bad, will be brought to light.

 

1 Timothy 6 (day 1125) 29 January 2013

1-5: Slavery was a simple reality in those days, and it is really an extraordinary thing that Paul, in seeking some human situation to use as a metaphor for his relationship to Christ, would declare that he was a slave of Jesus Christ (see, for example, Romans 1:1), and would often refer to other Christians in the same way. It is also typical of the mindset prevalent in the first century that, rather than view slavery as an evil social institution, Paul would be more concerned for the state of the soul of the individual slave. It is not that he approved of slavery or disapproved of it; it is simply that it wouldn’t have occurred to him that he could approve or disapprove of it. That is what is being expressed here. Paul’s advice is that, if a slave treats his or her master with respect, the master will not have cause to put down Christ or the teachings of the church. He is also concerned that Christian slaves of Christian masters might expect special treatment. He tells them instead that their master’s faith is all the more reason for them to serve diligently. Furthermore, he believes that to teach otherwise is ignorant and conceited, and will lead to a host of other maladies culminating in the slave’s thinking that “godliness is a means of gain.”

6-10: A couple of statements in this passage are often cited in popular literature. “We brought nothing into this world, so that we can take nothing out of it,” follows a reminder that we should strive to be content with what we have, as long as what we have is enough. Godliness is not a means of gain, but godliness with contentment is itself great gain. The other recognizable quote is in verse 10: “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Paul obviously believes that seeking wealth is the road to perdition that carries many an unsuspecting soul away from the faith.

But at what point has Paul stopped talking about slaves? Verse 2, Verse 5, or verse 10?

11-16: Always, though, Paul wants to point his friends to Christ. “Fight the good fight,” another oft-quoted bit of advice, sums up Paul’s idea of what living the faith means. It is a pursuit, a pursuit of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness, all of which are gathered up in the person of Jesus who is King of kings and Lord of lords.

17-19: On the other hand, if you happen to be rich, don’t despair! Guard against haughtiness and hope only in God because riches are fickle and fleeting, as too many have discovered to their despair. Paul’s point to Timothy is that those who have great riches should also be great in good works and in sharing. That is the only way they can “take hold of the life that really is life.”

20-21: Final words of encouragement and advice. The “profane chatter and contradictions” is probably a reference to sophistry, a popular debating technique of the day that relied on clever dialogue that twisted the facts.

 

 

2 Thessalonians 1 (day 1117) 21 January 2013

          Although called the second letter to the Thessalonians, many scholars are reluctant to ascribe the present epistle to Paul, citing a number of stylistic and content differences.

          1-2: The greeting is nearly identical to the one of 1 Thessalonians, the only difference being the double use of “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

3-4: His thanksgiving for them in this second letter is much briefer, though I am sure no less heart-felt, mentioning again the persecutions they have suffered (compare 1 Thessalonians 1:6).

5-12: Their persecution is evidence of God’s activity because a certain amount of affliction must pass before the judgment of the world and the resurrection of the dead (compare Romans 8:18-22). Everyone must suffer some affliction, it seems, and when Christ returns his followers will enjoy restoration while the actions of his enemies will be punished. The language about “mighty angels in flaming fire” is one of those things we would not expect Paul to write, but the remainder of the paragraph does mirror Paul’s sentiments elsewhere. However, the idea that Jesus might return with angels is not new with Paul (see Matthew 13:49, 25:31), and the accompanying flaming fire is an Old Testament image (remember the burning bush – Exodus 3:2?).

 

2 Thessalonians 2 (day 1118) 22 January 2013

1-2: It is clear that the congregation in Thessalonica is very anxious about the coming of Christ. In 1 Thessalonians the issue was their concern about those who die before the Lord returns. In this letter the issue is that they have been told by someone that Christ has already returned, and apparently it is someone who has claimed that the idea came from Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, which claim Paul obviously wishes to deny in the strongest terms. (We know today, of course, that such rumors are generated by folks like Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, authors of the “Left Behind” series of books that claim to be true to scripture, including Paul’s letters, but is only true to their fantastic extrapolations from a dozen verses gathered from here and there.)

3-12: How does he know Christ hasn’t returned? He gives his reasons here. First of all, he says, there has to be an event called “the rebellion.” Unfortunately, these verses are badly garbled in the Greek and there is little agreement among translators as to the exact meaning. The gist of it, however, seems clear enough. It is likely that the imagery employed here was familiar enough to Paul’s readers: There was a firm and widespread belief among Jews and Gentiles alike that there was a force of evil at work in the world in opposition to that which is good. Jews, of course, identified the impulse for good with the God of Abraham who created the world, and the impulse for evil with the devil, whose name, as we know from other ancient literature, was Beliar or Belial (see 2 Corinthians 6:15, where Paul contrasts God and Beliar as opposites). The common belief that had arisen among Jewish Christians was that, just as Jesus was God in the flesh, so there would arise one who would be the devil in the flesh. This one (in later writings called the antichrist) would gather around himself those who rejected Christ, and set himself up as God. Verse 4 probably conjured up in his readers’ minds stories of foreign despots of the past who had set up statues and emblems of other gods or of themselves in the temple in Jerusalem. First, however, the power that restrains him will have to be removed. The identity of that power is not revealed. One interesting guess is that he is referring to Rome. Paul, himself a Roman citizen, had been rescued on more than one occasion by Roman authorities.

It is important to understand here, I think, that Paul is setting up an opposition not only between God and Satan, but also between the church and those who side with the “lawless one.”

Christ will finally annihilate the “lawless one” with “the breath of his mouth,” an image which he possibly takes from Job 4:9 (see also Exodus 15:8, 2 Samuel 22:16 and Psalm 18:15).

13-15: Paul entreats them to ignore wayward teachings like this one, and hold to what he taught them while he was with them and in his letter, probably a reference to 1 Thessalonians.

16-17: These verses read like a closing benediction, and some have imagined the rest of the letter to have been added later. However, it might also be seen as a transition from one topic to another. Paul is simply telling them hold on to the hope that they have in Christ, and now he will move on to another topic.

 

2 Thessalonians 3 (day 1119) 23 January 2013

1-5: He is eager to get on with his mission and asks for their prayers to speed the work along. It is obvious that this is not one of Paul’s letters from prison. Indeed, many scholars believe that 1 Thessalonians is the earliest of all the letters of Paul that have been preserved and this one, if it is indeed Paul’s, must have followed on it in short order.

6-15: One final complaint has reached him, however. Some among them have apparently become freeloaders, and Paul will have none of that. He emphasizes his own industry (compare 1 Thessalonians 2:9). Have nothing to do with those who don’t contribute to the work, he says. Curiously, though, he doesn’t want them completely cut off. The point is to shame them into doing their part.

16-18: He closes the letter with his own handwriting, saying it is the mark in every letter he writes. All of his letters do not include this note about his own handwriting (but see 1 Corinthians 16:21, Galatians 6:11, Colossians 4:18, and Philemon 1:19), but it may be the case that he appends the final phrase or sentence in each letter’s closing. So far as I know, no manuscript has yet been found in which an obvious change in penmanship is evident at the closing – in other words, the original letters have never been found, only copies.

 

 

1 Thessalonians 1 (day 1112) 16 January 2013

          Paul’s stormy visit to Thessalonica is described in Acts 17. He was run out of town after only a few weeks and fled to Beroea where he was chased out again. He was spirited off to Athens then, leaving Timothy and Silas behind. Later, he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica (see 3:1) to determine how things were going. This letter and the one that follows were sent from Athens (see 3:1-5) in response to what Timothy reported back to him about divisions within the congregation and their unhealthy concern over when the Second Coming would take place and what would happen to people who died before Christ returned. Other issues are taken up as well.

1: The greeting from Paul, Silvanus and Timothy will be repeated in 2 Thessalonians. Silvanus is the Latin form of Silas.

2-10: The usual thanksgiving for the recipients of the letter follows. He commends them for their faith in the face of persecution. Paul had encountered violent opposition there, and it would seem that the church he started had to deal with the same opponents. Even so, their hospitality to other believers is remarked upon, as is their wholehearted rejection of pagan beliefs. In verse 10 he mentions their eagerness for the return of Christ, a subject on which he will comment in more detail later in the letter.

 

1 Thessalonians 2 (day 1113) 17 January 2013

1-8: Paul, as is his wont, establishes his “credentials” with them; that is to say, he reminds them that although he had been mistreated by the Philippians he nevertheless proclaimed the gospel to them in Thessalonica, which proves his courage and also goes some ways toward proving his message because he would not risk himself so if he were not confident that he was telling the truth. Furthermore, he reminds them that he treated them gently and cared for them deeply.

9-12: In addition, he worked among them without demanding any payment (in contrast to other wandering teachers of the day), and he did not take advantage of anyone but lived an exemplary life among them, encouraging them to do the same.

13-16: Having commended himself, now he commends them: they received Paul’s teaching as being from God. He gives them high praise by comparing them with the churches in Judea; they have persisted and thrived in spite of being persecuted by their own neighbors, which was what had happened in Judea.

17-20: Finally, remembering how he had been chased out of town by enemies of the gospel, he places them high on his list of all the churches with which he has been associated, and paints a picture of bragging about them to Christ when he returns. This is high praise indeed.

 

1 Thessalonians 3 (day 1114) 18 January 2013

1-5: Paul, now in Athens and fearing the work he did in Thessalonica might be undone by the kind of persecution he himself had suffered there, sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to see how they fared.

6-10: Timothy has just brought back a good report and Paul’s gratitude and relief overflow.

11-13: He hopes to be able to return to them. Perhaps he did. On his last missionary journey he traveled again through Macedonia to Greece following an altercation in Ephesus, and back through Macedonia on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:1-4). On that trip he is accompanied by two Thessalonians, Aristarcus and Secundus, which may indicate that he did indeed make it back to Thessalonica. Aristarchus traveled extensively with Paul and is mentioned as well to have been in prison with him (Colossians 4:10). Secundus is named nowhere else.

 

1 Thessalonians 4 (day 1115) 19 January 2013

          1-8: As always, Paul is concerned that their lives reflect their faith. Their sanctification (being set apart for sacred use) is God’s goal for them, he says. However, living holy lives was not part of the popular Greek culture of the day, and Paul was concerned that they might fall into the kinds of practices that were all too common in that time and place, and so his emphasis here is on the need for sexual purity. He insists that they cannot reject this teaching without rejecting God and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

9-12: Love for one another was to be the hallmark of the church, and Paul is also concerned with the face that the church presented to the world. “Live quietly,” he tells them. “Mind your own affairs.” He wanted them to be diligent and self sufficient so that they would not have to depend on non-believers for their sustenance.

13-18: In these verses he addresses one of the issues that bothered some of the folks in Thessalonica. When Christ returns, what happens to those who have already died? He assures them that those who have died will not be left out or left behind. All who believe in Jesus will be raised with him, he says – those who have died no less than those who are living. In fact, to reassure them, he insists that the dead will be raised first. Verses 16 and 17 have been the source of some of the most incredible speculation imaginable. Paul’s readers would have understood these words metaphorically. He is using imagery from Exodus 19:13-16 which describes the people preparing for Moses to go up on the cloud-enshrouded mountain to meet with God. They are told that they are not permitted to go up the mountain until they hear a heavenly trumpet sound a long blast. The trumpet blast is emblematic of the invitation God gives for them to join him in the clouds on the mountain which reached into the sky, or into the air, as it were. This is the picture Paul conjures up to describe what will happen when Christ returns and calls his people to himself.

 

1 Thessalonians 5 (day 1116) 20 January 2013

1-11: As to when the return of the Lord might happen Paul tells them what Jesus told the disciples, that the day of the Lord will come “like a thief in the night,” suddenly, without hint or warning. Their job is to live exemplary lives in the community and help each other.

12-22: He leaves them with some final instructions: honor the leaders of the church, avoid dissention, admonish the lazy ones, encourage the anxious, help the weak, exercise patience, do good to one another, rejoice, pray, give thanks, don’t “quench the Spirit” (bureaucracy can do that) or despise those who prophesy, check out everything you are told carefully and hold on to what is good. And, by all means, avoid evil of every kind.

23-28: He ends the letter with a blessing for them and asks that they pray for him and his companions as well. He commands them to read the letter to everyone in the church and wishes the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to be with them.

 

 

Colossians 1 (day 1108) 12 January 2013

          Colossae was situated on the Lycus River in southwest Asia Minor (Turkey), about 100 miles east of Ephesus. So far as we know Paul did not start the church there and never visited it (although the comment in 2:1 may simply be a reference only to latecomers in the church at Colossae.) Some commentators believe it was the hometown of Philemon because at the end of the letter Paul says he is sending Onesimus there (4:9), but of course it is impossible to know whether it might be the same Onesimus mentioned in his letter to Philemon.

The reason for the letter is to head off a developing heresy which has been brought to Paul’s attention, perhaps by Epaphras (who is mentioned at 1:7 and 4:12). The authorship of the letter has been called into question by those who believe the vocabulary is not authentically Pauline, but I see no damage our understanding or interpretation of it if we take the letter to be from Paul’s hand.

The letter contains few hints that might help us locate Paul’s whereabouts when it was written.

1-2: A typical greeting, purporting to be from Paul and Timothy (as is the case in 2 Corinthians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians).

3-8: First, he gives thanks to God for their faith, as reported to him by Epaphras who apparently was one of the leaders in, and perhaps even the founder of, the church in Colossae.

9-14: We see in this paragraph the first hints of the heresy mentioned above: Paul emphasizes his desire that they have spiritual wisdom and understanding and lead lives worthy of the Lord, and that they be strong in the faith and prepared to endure “everything with patience.” Verse 13 is the only occurrence of the phrase, “the power of darkness.” This initial section of greeting, from verse 3 to verse 14, is more protracted than in any others of Paul’s letters.

15-20: He emphasizes now the divinity of Christ, that “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” leading scholars to speculate that the heresy brewing in Colossae may have had to do with a denial that Christ was God’s Son.

21-23: Next, Paul emphasizes the humanity of Christ, that he died and that his death resulted in the reconciliation of believers to God, leading scholars to speculate that the heresy brewing in Colossae may have had to do with a denial that Christ was truly human and therefore did not really suffer death.

24-29: He wants them to understand that his mission, his burning desire, is to bring Gentiles to faith, a mature faith, in Christ.

 

Colossians 2 (day 1109) 13 January 2013

1-7: Laodicea was some ten miles down the river from Colossae. The churches in Colossae, Laodicea and Hieropolis (5 miles across the Lycus River valley from Laodicea) were close and had much in common. Paul says he is struggling for them but the nature of the struggle is not specified. Perhaps he is struggling for his freedom in Rome so that he can visit them. He is obviously concerned that they might be led astray by “plausible arguments,” and encourages them to continue just as they were taught.

8-15: His concern about false teachings is amplified in verse 8. He cautions them to guard against philosophy which he sees as an enemy of faith, against the “empty deceit” of those who promise what they cannot deliver, against human tradition that nullifies the law and the will of God, and against “the elemental spirits of the universe,” probably a reference to pagan beliefs in demons and such. He now refers to faith as “a spiritual circumcision,” making us wonder if the so-called circumcision party was active in Colossae as well as Philippi. Faith, expressed in baptism, is a kind of death, he says, out of which we are resurrected with Christ into freedom from the law.

16-19: A number of issues are mentioned here over which the Colossians are apparently jousting with religious peddlers: dietary restrictions, observance of holy days, self-abasement, angel worship and vision mongering. Hold on to Christ, he says, and don’t be distracted by false teachings.

20-23: The Colossians have apparently been impressed by some who are teaching strict religious practices based on the idea that certain human-made things are holy. They’re not, says Paul.

 

Colossians 3 (day 1110) 14 January 2013

1-4: Faith in Christ causes us to seek the things that are above; that is, to seek what is God’s will and God’s way. This seeking will culminate in Christ being revealed, or made known – and by this Paul can only mean the return of Christ. When that takes place his followers will also be made known and will participate with him in glory – the future glorious reign of Christ when all things will be made new. I think that is a fair representation of Paul’s meaning here.

5-11: Paul believed that committing oneself to following Christ meant automatically that one would cease doing those things that are not pleasing to God – the things of the flesh, as he would say. Faith in Christ results in a renewal of a person’s character. Sin and sinful attitudes are laid aside. Barriers between races, nationalities and classes are erased.

12-17: The ideal Christian community is described, based on that harmony that results when people live and act out of love and mutual respect for one another.

18-19: Likewise, husbands and wives are to let love be the guide in their relationship – wives, with “fitting” subjection (that is, within the context of the prevailing culture) and husbands with loving regard.

20-4:1: The same mutual respect and loving treatment should be applied in other relationships as well: children and parents, slaves and masters. The general rule is to treat others the way you would treat Jesus Christ.

 

Colossians 4 (day 1111) 15 January 2013

2-4: Typically, Paul ends with some general instructions and encouragement and asks for prayers for himself and his companions.

5-6: There is also concern for how outsiders view Christians and the church, so he cautions the Colossians in their behavior toward them. Verse 6 does not refer to what we today term “salty speech” of course, but rather to the kind of discourse that has been preserved through faithfulness. In other words, don’t let anyone lead you astray from the gospel you have been taught.

7-9: He is sending Tychicus and Onesimus to them. This is likely that same Onesimus who is the subject of Paul’s letter to Philemon.

10-14: He sends greetings from Mark, Jesus Justus, Epaphras, Luke and Demas. Mark and Justus are the only Jewish Christians with him, he says; the others are Gentile Christians. Mark, whom he identifies here as a cousin of Barnabas, may be that John Mark about whom Paul and Barnabas had a falling out (see Acts 15:37-39), and who is mentioned a number of time as one of Paul’s closest companions. He is included in the letter to Philemon, along with Demas, Epaphras and Luke. That lends credence to the idea that Onesimus, mentioned in verse 9 above, is indeed the slave of Philemon. Jesus Justus is not mentioned anywhere else. Epaphras was named earlier (1:7) and is here identified as one of them, that is, a Colossian. Luke is thought to have been the author of the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Paul had some kind of falling-out with Demas (see 2 Timothy 4:10), but, whatever the cause of the rift between them, it was apparently healed because Demas is named again in Philemon (1:24) as a loyal companion. All of these connections demonstrate how dynamic and connected the church had become throughout the northern Mediterranean world during the lifetime of Paul.

15-17: Final greetings and instructions: We do not know whether Paul ever visited the church in Laodecia: it is only mentioned in Colossians and Revelation (1:11 and 3:14), but was within a dozen miles of Colossae and so communication between the two congregations would have been expected. Nympha is named only here; I think it is logical to assume that she was the hostess of the little congregation that had been started in Hieropolis, which was only just across the valley from Laodicea. There is a hint in verse 16 that there was also a letter from Paul to the Laodiceans; if so, it has been lost. The mention of Archippus is the best evidence we have that Philemon was indeed part of the congregation in Colossae, because Archippus is greeted also in the letter to Philemon (1:2). The charge to him in verse 17 may indicate that he was the one Paul expected to support his request to Philemon that Onesimus not be punished.

18: Several of Paul’s letters contain this epilogue (1 Corinthians 16:21, 2 Thessalonians 3:17, Philemon 1:19).

Philippians 1 (day 1104) 8 January 2013

          Philippi was located on the northern shore of the Aegean Sea in Macedonia. It was established by Philip, father of Alexander the Great, and was later the site of the victory of Antony over Cassius. The Battle of Philippi secured the Roman Empire some 40 years before the birth of Jesus, and Philippi was rewarded by being made a Roman province. Paul’s visit there, during his second missionary journey, is recorded in Acts 16.

1-2: The letters to Philippi and to Timothy are the only places where bishops (or “overseers”) and deacons (or “helpers”) are mentioned, but reveals a rather extensive organizational structure in the church very early on.

3-11: The opening thanksgiving and prayer for the recipients of his letter is a typical Pauline feature.

12-14: Paul tells them that his imprisonment has been a blessing because it has emboldened others to proclaim the word.

15-18: There is also some rivalry and competition for leadership in the early church. We have seen that in other letters, especially Galatians. But Paul takes the high road here: regardless of the motives of others who have preached in Philippi, Paul is grateful for all who proclaim Christ.

19-26: Paul believes that his imprisonment (probably in Rome) very well might result in his death, but that does not burden him. Death to Paul was simply the doorway through which he would be united with Christ. Still, he allows that his continued presence might provide some needed leadership in the church in Philippi, and hopes to visit them again.

27-30: He urges them to be strong and keep the faith in the face of opposition. When Paul was there before he was put in jail for causing a disturbance when he healed a slave girl of a “demon” that earned money for her owners. He and Silas were miraculously freed from the jail (see Acts 16, beginning at verse 16).

 

Philippians 2 (day 1105) 9 January 2013

1-5: Paul knew that the church would not survive if it became a place of competition and striving, and so he pleads with the congregation at Philippi to “be in full accord” and “of one mind.” He tells them to put others first even as Christ had considered his own life to be forfeit for the good of all.

6-11: An early Christian hymn. Christ, though divine, willingly humbled himself as a frail human being who suffered and died. Early on, Christians saw the death of Jesus as a sacrifice that he willingly made in their behalf. Having done so, God raised him and put him over heaven and earth. Given this, every knee indeed should bend and every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord. Paul leaves us to wonder if every knee ever will bend.

12-13: Verse 12 is another of John Wesley’s favorite verses: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” We don’t save ourselves; only God can grant salvation. But God will not do so without our willing participation. Salvation does indeed depend on our acceptance of it; and to accept salvation is to accept Jesus Christ as “the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”

14-18: Paul asserts that his imprisonment and likely execution will not be in vain if they will only “hold fast to the word of life.”

19-24: He plans to send Timothy to them as soon as he knows the outcome of the charges under which he has been imprisoned, but hopes himself to be able to come to them as well. Verse 21, “all of them are seeking their own self interests,” is an indication that Paul lost some support while he was in prison in Rome (see 2 Timothy 4:16).

25-30: In the meantime he will send Epaphroditus, who has been to Philippi at least once already (see 2 Timothy 4:18). Epaphroditus has been ill, he says, but has recovered, and longs to see them again.

 

Philippians 3 (day 1106) 10 January 2013

          1-3: As he has in others of his letters, Paul warns them against those who would “mutilate the flesh,” a reference to circumcision. Paul was convinced that for Gentiles, being circumcised was tantamount to trusting in a human ritual instead of in God. There is no reason to be “confident in the flesh,” he says.

4-6: The so-called “circumcision party” has nothing on Paul. He is as genuinely Jewish as they come. He lists the proofs of his pedigree (see 2 Corinthians 11:22 for a similar sidebar) – a genuine circumcised Jewish Pharisee who persecuted the church.

7-11: None of his striving to obey the law means anything at all, he says, compared to the value of knowing Christ Jesus as his Lord, and he is willing to give up everything in order to share in the resurrection of Christ.

12-16: The goal Paul is speaking of is the salvation that comes through faith in Christ, which means relinquishing any reliance on the stipulations of the law (such as circumcision) which do not have the power to save but only to condemn.

17-21: He entreats them to stand strong in the faith, and not be swayed by the “enemies of the cross of Christ.” Heavenly things, not earthly things, are the things for which we are to strive. “Our citizenship is in heaven” is a striking phrase. If one is a citizen of heaven, then one’s fellow citizens are also fellow believers. That is why in Christ there are no divisions, no Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free (Galatians 3:28).

 

Philippians 4 (day 1107) 11 January 2013

1: Verse 1 really belongs to the previous paragraph in chapter 4. Paul re-echoes his call for them to “stand firm in the Lord in this way,” meaning that they should live according to Paul’s teachings, not according to the way of the circumcision party.

2-3: Perhaps these verses show the reason Paul has been emphasizing the importance of being of the same mind. Two women, Euodia and Syntyche , are apparently involved in a disagreement that threatens to spill over into the congregation. Paul acknowledges that they have been important contributors to the life of the congregation, and assures them that in spite of their differences their “names have been written in the book of life,” meaning that they belong to Christ and their conflict will not undo that bond. Neither Euodia, Syntyche nor Clement are mentioned anywhere else in scripture.  Other early Christian writings identify him as Clement, bishop of Rome, a late first century leader in the church and the author of a letter to the church in Corinth known as 1 Clement. Scholars are not unanimous in this identification, however.

4-7: The word “rejoice” occurs 9 times in this little letter, significant enough to make rejoicing one of the primary themes of it. Rejoice, be gentle, have faith that the Lord is near, pray and give thanks. That is the formula for lasting inner peace.

8-9: Set your mind on these things – honor, justice, purity, pleasantness (to be distinguished from pleasure), commendableness, excellence and praiseworthiness: Piece o’ cake.

10-20: Paul is determined to make it understood that he needs no earthly thing and is content with whatever befalls him, but he does want to thank them for the gift they sent him by Epaphroditus. He remembers that they had supported him before, when he was laboring for the gospel in Thessalonica – not that he needed their help, of course. He is certain that God will repay them for their kindness; even though he didn’t need it.

21-23: The closing of the letter reveals that among the Christians in Rome with Paul are certain “members of the emperor’s household.” This must certainly be a reference to none other than the royal entourage of Caesar himself, though perhaps not to his own family. Very early on the gospel message attracted men and women from every social stratum. Typically, Paul sends greetings from the others who are with him, although in this case none of them are named. “All the saints greet you” is often thought to be a reference to the other apostles, whose company Paul was proud to claim.

 

Ephesians 1 (day 1098) 2 January 2013

          Ephesus was located at the western end of Asia Minor (Turkey) on the Aegean Sea. Paul’s visit there is described in Acts 19. He stayed for about 3 years (Acts 20:31), longer than in any other place. Still, owing to certain vocabulary differences, many scholars doubt that this letter was written by Paul. Further, there is manuscript evidence that the original letter was addressed generally to “the saints who are faithful in Christ Jesus,” and not specifically to Ephesus. All this speculation aside, it is a well crafted treatise which beautifully describes what it means to be a Christian. In a sense it is more a sermon than an epistle. We note also that it was written from prison (see 3:1, 4:1 and 6:20), a circumstance that certainly fits with Paul’s career.

1-2: A typical salutation pronouncing the grace and peace of Christ on its readers, including us.

3-14: A summary of the theology presented in the letter, that through Christ we are adopted as God’s children, forgiven and redeemed through his blood, and have become partners with God in the redemption of all things.

15-23: This section of thanksgiving mirrors that in Romans 1:8-15 and 1 Corinthians 1:4-9. Paul follows his thanksgiving for them with his prayer that they will grow in wisdom and knowledge and power to do God’s will, which is to redeem the world under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

 

Ephesians 2 (day 1099) 3 January 2013

1-10: It is such a simple faith. People (including those in the present) lived according to the passions of the flesh (which results in all kinds of ills such as jealousy, deceit, anger, lust, etc.), under the influence of “the ruler of the power of the air,” a reference to a popular belief in evil spirits that work counter to God’s will. Even so, God’s love for us did not fail, but though we were dead through sin God saved us by “raising us up” with Christ. Verse 8 was frequently quoted by John Wesley in his sermons. God’s grace does not depend on anything we do, but solely on God’s love for us.

11-22: Paul assumes, of course, that the Jewish people are God’s chosen people, and that Gentiles were initially left out of the covenant God shared with them. But through Christ those who were “far off” have been brought near. Christ has broken down the wall between Gentile and Jew. It is no longer the law that binds us in covenant to God, but faith in Christ reconciles us to God and to one another. Christ is the cornerstone that holds the temple of faith together. In those days the cornerstone was not a decorative feature. It was the capstone at the top of the arch which bore the weight of the wall. We can picture the two sides of the main entrance curving to a point at the top where the cornerstone joins them, symbolic of Jews and Gentiles joined in the saving sacrifice of Christ.

 

Ephesians 3 (day 1100) 4 January 2013

1-6: Paul recalls his commission to be “the apostle to the Gentiles.” Verse 3 would seem to refer to his Damascus road experience, but the expression “as I wrote above (or before) in a few words” is curious; his call to preach to Gentiles came some years after the Damascus road experience. Moreover, his earlier accounts of the Damascus road experience do not indicate that he received anything that could be called an “understanding of the mystery of Christ.” It would seem there was another experience of revelation, the account of which has been lost.

7-13: He asserts that the purpose of the gospel is to reveal God’s purpose that was hidden until the coming of Christ, which is to draw all the world to him through Christ so that Gentiles as well as Jews are included in God’s promise of salvation and eternal life.

14-19: The theme of universal access to God’s grace continues with the reference to “every family in heaven and on earth.” Paul’s hope, his prayer, is that all of them will grow in the knowledge and in the spirit of God through the love of Christ.

20-21: This reads like the end of a letter, or of a sermon, but does not necessarily have to be interpreted as such. The ascription of glory does, however, represent at the least a conclusion of the present line of reasoning and gives the reader a clue that the letter is about to take a different direction.

 

Ephesians 4 (day 1101) 5 January 2013

1-6: The different direction signaled at the end of the last chapter is to address the subject of the need for unity within the body. That unity is secured by attitudes of humility, gentleness, patience and love for one another. There is, after all, but one God who called us to one hope through one faith, sealed by one baptism.

7-16: God’s grace is the gift we receive in Christ. Verse 8 quotes an early hymn, and verses 9-10 add commentary to it. If Christ ascended, he must also have descended – this verse is why some versions of the Apostles’ Creed add the statement “he descended to the dead.” The gift of God’s grace results in the conferring of special abilities that will result in equipping the church with the leadership it needs to mature in the life to which God calls us. Maturity in the faith is proven by steadfastness in carrying out God’s will for unity and avoiding distraction from conflicting doctrines.

17-24: So, Paul tells the Gentile Christians that they should stop acting like Gentiles; that is, those Gentiles who behave according to pagan mores that encouraged self indulgence.

25-32: Instead, Christians should live by a different set of attitudes, and here Paul gives an impressive list. Would that every congregation should memorize verses 31-32!

Ephesians 5 (day 1102) 6 January 2013

1-2: To love as Christ loved means to give yourself up for the other. That is what Christ did for us, and that is what the followers of Christ should do for each other.

3-5: Still, Paul finds it necessary to list forbidden behaviors which would seem to be obviously contrary to the life God has called us to live.

6-14: The use of light and darkness as metaphors to refer to life with and without a covenant relationship with God is common throughout the New Testament.

15-20: Live carefully, he tells them. Focus on God’s will. Be inebriated by worship, not by wine.

21-24: Paul’s advice to wives, which has spawned so much controversy in recent times, reflects the culture in which he lived. Rather than interpret his words out of contemporary sensibilities, remember that his emphasis on submission is grounded in the idea of the lordship of Christ over all of us.

25-33: Husbands, for their part, are to give themselves up for their wives as Christ gave himself up for the church. In other words, love her so as to be willing to die for her. Something to think about.

 

Ephesians 6 (day 1103) 7 January 2013

          1-9: As we have seen in others of Paul’s letters, he teaches a reciprocal respect between those in authority and those under authority. Parents should be honored, and this injunction is given with Biblical support (Exodus 20:12), and parents have a responsibility for their children’s education – to be brought up in the “instruction of the Lord.” Likewise, slaves are enjoined to obey their masters as they would obey Christ. Masters in return are to treat their slaves without malice. While we do not agree with slavery, these instructions would have provided a distinct improvement in the conditions of those who were under such a burden. For an example, see Paul’s entreaty to his friend Philemon concerning the slave Onesimus (Philemon 1:15-16).

10-17: These are perhaps the best-known verses in Ephesians, the so-called “whole armor of God” passage. Paul wants them to be able to “stand against the wiles of the devil.” How do you do that? Well, with honesty and righteousness, by practicing peace and by keeping faith, knowing that your salvation is secure through the Spirit of God. But Paul’s way of saying it is much more colorful.

18-20: His final request is that they pray for “the saints” (probably a reference to the apostles who are spreading the gospel) and for him to be faithful in his preaching. That he would have the opportunity to preach although imprisoned supports the theory that the letter was written from Rome where, although a prisoner, his imprisonment was quite relaxed (see Acts 28:30-31).

21-22: Tychicus had accompanied Paul to Macedonia on his last missionary journey (Acts 20:4) and was likely acquainted with some of the leaders of the church at Ephesus (see Acts 20:17. The mission of Tychicus to Ephesus is also mentioned at 2 Timothy 4:12.)

23-24: The closing is a bit unusual. The reference to those who “have an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ” is unique in all the Bible.