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The Blue Letter Bible

Dr. J. Vernon McGee :: Prison Epistles

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THE PRISON EPISTLES


A quartet of men left Rome in the year A.D. 62, bound for the province of Asia, which was located in what was designated as Asia Minor and is currently called Turkey. These men had on their persons four of the most sublime compositions of the Christian faith. These precious documents would be invaluable if the originals were in existence today. Rome did not comprehend the significance of the writings by an unknown prisoner. If she had, these men would have been apprehended and the documents seized.
When they bade farewell to the apostle Paul, each was given an epistle to bear to his particular constituency. These four letters are designated the “prison epistles of Paul,” since he wrote them while imprisoned in Rome. He was awaiting a hearing before Nero who was the Caesar at that time. Paul, as a Roman citizen, had appealed his case to the emperor, and he was waiting to be heard.

(1) Epaphroditus from Philippi (Philippians 4:18) had the Epistle to the Philippians.

(2) Tychicus from Ephesus (Ephesians 6:21) had the Epistle to the Ephesians.

(3) Epaphras from Colosse (Colossians 4:12) had the Epistle to the Colossians.

(4) Onesimus (Philemon’s slave) from Colosse (Philemon 10) had the Epistle to Philemon.

These epistles present a composite picture of Christ, the church, the Christian life, and the interrelationship and functioning of all three. These different facets present the Christian life on the highest plane.

EPHESIANS presents “the church, which is his body” (Ephesians 1:22, 23) — this is the invisible church, of which Christ is the head.

COLOSSIANS presents Christ who is “the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18). The emphasis is upon Christ rather than on the church.

PHILIPPIANS presents Christian living, with Christ as the dynamic: “I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

PHILEMON presents Christian living in action in a pagan society. “If thou count me, therefore, a partner, receive him as myself. If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee anything, put that on mine account” (Philemon 17, 18). The gospel walked in shoe leather in the first century — it worked.

In EPHESIANS, Christ is exalted above all things, God having “put all things under his feet” (Ephesians 1:22). Christ is the center of the circle of which the church is the periphery.

In COLOSSIANS, Christ is the fullness of God (pleroma). He is the periphery of the circle of which Christian living is the center (Colossians 2:9, 10).

In PHILIPPIANS, Christ is the center of the circle; Christian living is the periphery. The kenosis (emptying) is given (Philippians 2:5-8).

In PHILEMON, Christ is both the center and circumference:

“Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints” (Philemon 5).

Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon
Outline for Galatians ← Prior Section
Notes for Ephesians Next Section →
Notes for Galatians ← Prior Book
Notes for Philippians Next Book →
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