Lesson Seven Continued

COLOSSIANS – correction

Colossae had been an important city on the trade route between Ephesus on the Aegean Sea and the Euphrates River but in Paul’s day it had become a small market town.

Paul wrote this letter to a church which was founded by Epaphras, one of his converts from Ephesus. The church had become the target of false teachers and led to Epaphras’ visit to Paul in prison in Rome and the subsequent letter to the Colossians.

Although Paul did not clearly describe the false teaching, we can deduce the nature of the heresies from the statements he made to refute what the false teachers were teaching. The heresy had different elements to it.

  1. Ceremonialism. It had strict rules about permissible food and drink and religious festivals (2:16-17), and circumcision (2:11; 3:11).
  2. Asceticism (self-denial, abstinence from physical and worldly pleasure, often to pursue religious and spiritual goals). “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (2:21; see 2:23).
  3. Angel worship – see 2:18,
  4. Depreciation of Christ – This is implied in Paul’s stress on the supremacy of Christ (1:15-20; 2;2-3:9),
  5. Secret knowledge – The Gnostics boasted of having secret knowledge but Paul insisted that all knowledge and wisdom is to be found in Christ (2:2-3),
  6. Reliance on human wisdom and tradition (2:4, 8).

This heresy has both Jewish and Gnostic elements, probably a mixture of extreme Judaism and early Gnosticism. “The term “Gnostic” comes from the Greek word gnosis, which means knowledge.  Gnosticism was a complex religious philosophy which taught that salvation could only be achieved through secret knowledge,” (attained only by special people and hidden from ordinary believers). (http://www.herealittletherealittle.net/index.cfm?page_name=Colossian-Heresy)

They taught that spirit was good and matter was evil, hence they denied the true humanity of Jesus and considered His earthly life and suffering to be unreal.

1 AND 2 THESSALONIANS

Thessalonica was the capital of the province of Macedonia, the largest city, and a busy seaport city at the head of the Thermaic Gulf on the Aegean Sea.

Paul began his ministry in the Jewish synagogue in Thessalonica but left abruptly after a brief stay (See Acts 17:5-10). The new converts were left with little support in the midst of persecution.

Paul wrote his letter

  1. To encourage recent converts in their trials (3:3-5),
  2. To give instruction about godly living (4:1-8,
  3. To urge them not to neglect their daily work 9$11, 12).
  4. To give assurance  about the future of believers who die before Jesus returns (4:13,15)

The theme of the second coming of Christ dominates both of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. Every chapter of his first letter ends with a reference to Jesus’ return.

Paul wrote a second letter not long after the first one with the same theme and exhortations as the first letter.

1 TIMOTHY – instruction and exhortation

1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are referred to as the Pastoral Letters because they were personal letters to young pastors whom Paul had mentored and left in charge of the churches at Ephesus and Crete respectively.

Paul left Timothy in charge of the church at Ephesus during his fourth missionary journey while he went on to Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3) to refute false teachings and to supervise the affairs of the growing church and especially the appointment of qualified church leaders (3:1-13; 5:17-25).

2 TIMOTHY – encouragement

After Paul’s release from prison in Rome in AD 62/63, he undertook another missionary journey (fourth) during which he wrote to Timothy and Titus. Then he was imprisoned in Rome a second time under Nero, c. 66-67 AD. He lived in a house during his first imprisonment in Rome (Acts 28) but the second time he was in cold dungeon and chained like a criminal (1:16; 2:9).

Paul wrote a second letter to Timothy for at least three reasons:

  1. He was lonely. Some of his friends had deserted him, others had left and only Luke was with him. He longed for Timothy and wanted him to join him,
  2. He was concerned about the welfare of the churches during the time of persecution under Nero. He urged Timothy to guard the gospel (1:14), to persevere in it (3:14), to keep on preaching it (4:2) and, if necessary, to suffer for it (1:8; 2:3).
  3. He wanted to write to the Ephesian church through Timothy.

TITUS – instruction

Titus was one of Paul’s converts and a great help to him. Titus, whose name is mentioned 13 times in Paul’s letters, worked with Paul in Crete following Paul’s release from his first imprisonment in Rome. He commissioned Titus to remain in Crete and complete some unfinished work there and wait until his replacement arrived after which he was to meet Paul at Nicopolis on the west coast of Greece (3:12).

Crete is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean. Its people were known for their dishonesty, laziness and gluttony. Paul sent a letter with Zenus and Apollos when they were on a journey through Crete to give Titus personal authorization and guidance in meeting opposition (1:5; 2:1, 7-8, 15; 3:9), instructions about faith and conduct, and warnings about false teachers. He also told Titus about his future plans for him (3:12).

PHILEMON – a personal plea

Paul wrote this letter to a believer in Colossae who was a slave owner whose slave, Onesimus, and stolen from him and run away which was punishable by death under Roman law.

Onesimus had met Paul and, through his ministry, had become a believer. Paul wrote on his behalf to ask Onesimus to pardon him and receive him back as a slave and as a Christian brother.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

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