This week we enter into five other epistles (or letters) of the Apostle Paul to the churches: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians and II Thessalonians, and his letter to Timothy. For me it's so interesting to read Paul's letters, realizing his heart for the churches that he has planted. Hopefully the historical information below will give you fresh eyes as you read these letters and think about the issues they were addressing.
Ephesians - Here Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus (now Selcuk, Turkey) while he is imprisoned in Rome (about 62AD) to address the unity of the church between its many Jewish and Gentile believers. Ephesus was the second largest city in the Roman empire in Paul's day and home to one of the seven ancient wonders of the world (temple of Artemis). Paul started the church in Ephesus as recorded in Acts 18 and eventually he would send his young protege Timothy to serve as their pastor. One of my favorite passages is Paul's admonition in Ephesians 6 to put on the full armor of God.
Philippians - Philippians has a different tone than many of Paul's letters - it is written about 62AD to the church in Philippi (now Filippoi, Greece) which was one of the first church's that Paul ever started. From the tone of his letter, Philippi is often called Paul's "sweetheart" church. We also find here one of the most powerful and oft quoted pieces of Scripture: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13).
Colossians - Colossians is directed to the church at Colosse (now Honaz, Turkey) and was probably written during Paul's first imprisonment in Rome. Apparently, the church had been incorporating pagan elements into their practice including the worship of elemental spirits and Paul's letter declares Christ's supremacy over the entire created universe and reminds the believers to live godly lives.
I and II Thessalonians - The last two books this week are directed at the church of Thessalonica (which still exists today in Greece) and are written probably only months apart around 52AD. Paul only stayed with this church for a few weeks after beginning it and seems to be writing the first letter to encourage them in their faith and remind them of some important doctrines of the faith. Apparently there was some misunderstanding regarding the return of Christ and the second shorter letter appears to deal solely with correcting that understanding.
I Timothy - Paul found Timothy during one of his visits to Lystra where Timothy is mentioned as a disciple. From the Scriptures it seems his mother and grandmother were Jews who had become believers; the only thing mentioned about his father was that he was Greek. Timothy becomes Paul's traveling companion going to Phyrgia, Galatia, Mysia, Troad, Philippi, Veria and Corinth. Eventually around 65AD, Paul installs Timothy as the bishop of the church at Ephesus, a post he would hold for at least the next fifteen years. Timothy was eventually stoned to death when he took a stand against a pagan procession of idols, ceremonies and songs. This first letter from Paul to Timothy seems to deal mainly with forms of worship, organization of the church, the responsibilities of the bishops and deacons, and keeping faithful amid surrounding errors. There is a second letter and we will get to that next week.
Here is the schedule:
12, Sunday: Ephesians 1-4
13, Monday: Ephesians 5 - Philippians 2
14, Tuesday: Philippians 3 - Colossians 2
15, Wednesday: Colossians 3 - 1 Thessalonians 2
16, Thursday: 1 Thessalonians 3 - 2 Thessalonians 1
17, Friday: 2 Thessalonians 2 - 1 Timothy 2
18, Saturday: 1 Timothy 3-6
May God add His richest blessings to the reading, the hearing and the living out of His holy word. Amen.