Tag Archives: Prison Epistles

Epistle to the Philippians

The last of four Prison Epistles, Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians as he anticipated his release from prison (AD 61 or 62). Epaphroditus, who had visited Paul in Rome (Philippians 2:25; 4:18), was to deliver the letter to the Philippians. Unfortunately, Epaphroditus took ill during his stay in Rome, delaying his return home and delivery of the letter (Philippians 2:26–27). As a result, this letter was not delivered at the same time as the other three prison letters.

While Paul’s letters to the Galatians and to the Colossians addressed issues they were struggling with, he wrote to the Philippians to express his appreciation and affection for these believers. More than any other church, Apostle Paul felt a very deep connection with the Philippians, with his affection clearly evident throughout the letter.

In this letter, Paul confirms the faith of this community, encouraging them to continue to be a living example of Christ; cautioning them against Judaizing teachers; and expressing gratitude for their Christian bounty. This letter specifically portrays Jesus Christ as a humble servant (Philippians 2:5–11), teaching this community that believers can only live in harmony by modeling the humility of Jesus Christ with one another. Offering his own life to Christ as an example, Paul expressed that he had found great joy and contentment in serving Christ in the wake of suffering. By centering their lives on Christ rather than on their struggles, Paul said that they, too, would experience true joy in their life.

This loving message, while written to the Phillipians, is intended for all believers ….today and back then. Like many, I often get caught up in the daily pace and pressures of life and find myself overlooking the many blessings God has provided me. I have a loving husband, a beautiful home, meaningful work, and a bounty of love from family and friends. Yet at times desperate to find that ever elusive joy, I seek solace in other people, other places, and at times in material possessions only to discover that none of these provide lasting joy. Taking a closer look at my life, I realize I need to shift my focus. By dwelling on life’s challenges rather than on my blessings, I am allowing those challenges steal the very joy I seek. Upon shifting my focus, I discover joy all around me in the form of God’s many blessings.

Both Apostle Paul and the Philippians knew this, saying that true joy only comes through humble faith in Jesus Christ; in fellowship with other believers; and in serving others in the name of Jesus Christ. It was a life Philippian believers came to know and is a life that remains available to all of us today.

This letter consists of four chapters:

  • Chapter 1, Paul offers up thanksgiving and prayers for the good work of grace in the Philippians; expresses his affection and prayers for them; and fortifies them against being cast down at his sufferings. Encouraging them to stay strong in spite of the suffering they may face, Paul expressed that he offered his life to Christ and stood prepared to glorify Christ whether with his life or his death. He begins this loving letter encouraging the Philippians to continue to profess and spread the gospel .
  • Chapter 2, Paul cites the benefits of believers who share the “mind of Christ”, modeling his kindness and humility of spirit and behavior. Teaching this community about the humanity of Jesus Christ. Paul cites that He laid down His glory and became a perfect human man in order to rescue and restore mankind back to a relationship with God. Paul exhorts Philippians to be living examples of Christ to the world and concludes this chapter by citing the purpose for his visit to Philippi.
  • Chapter 3, Paul cautions the Philippians against false teachers. Renouncing his own past , Paul expresses the great joy he has found in offering up his life to Christ. He encourages the church to press forward with the spreading the Gospel, citing himself as an example to other believers.
  • Chapter 4, Paul again exhorts Philippians to stand fast and to rejoice in the Lord. Instructing believers the importance of being well-grounded in prayer and thanksgiving, Paul offers praise and thanksgiving to God thanks for the many provisions they are blessed with, “my God shall supply all your needs.”

Where do you find joy in the midst of a trying circumstance?

Letter to the Ephesians

Commonly known as one of four Prison Epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon), the letter to the Ephesians was written by Apostle Paul during his first Roman imprisonment). Having written three of the four letters (Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon)  around the same time (AD 60–61), Paul had Tychicu hand deliver the letters accompanied by Onesimus (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7–9; Philemon 1:10–12).

Unlike 2 Second Corinthians or Galatians where Paul added personal touches about his own life or that of the recipients, the letter to the Ephesians stands out as being more formal. Rather than responding to a theological or moral dilemma, the heart of this letter focuses on what it means to be a Christian… both in faith and in practice … regardless of what is going on in the world.

Paul divided his letter into two main parts consisting of three chapters each, or six chapters in total.

The first three chapters focus on faith, discussing the spiritual riches believers possess in Christ:

  • The gift of undeserving grace from God our Father, making salvation possible.
  • The gift of redemption from God the Son, Jesus Christ whose life, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, makes reconciliation and a closer relationship with God our Father possible.
  • The gift of wisdom and guidance from God the Holy Spirit during our spiritual walk, enlightening our heart, mind, and spirt, making a Christ-centered life possible.

The last three chapters provide instructions for living a Christ-centered life. Following Jesus’ footsteps, we are asked to serve the needs of others out of our love and reverence for Christ, with the goal of preserving unity, love, harmony, and victory in all our relationships:

  • Called to walk in unity, we are asked to preserve unity of the Spirit by maintaining a proper attitude and edifying the body of Christ with the grace God has given us.
  • Called to walk in love, we are asked to live a life demonstrating our love for God and for others while living a life as children of light and wisdom.
  • We are called to walk in harmony, preserving harmony in relationships beginning with those who are in our household, with guidelines for maintaining a healthy relationship among husbands and wives; parents and children; and masters and servants.
  • We are called to walk in victory. Equipped with the whole armor of God, we are asked to stand strong in the power of the Lord.

Discussing a wide range of moral and ethical behaviors, the letter to the Ephesians is a powerful “how to” guide designed to help us live a Christ-centered life according to God’s purpose for us. As we continue to grow in faith, complacency often sets in with temptations quickly sidelining us for a time. This letter is an extraordinary gift from Apostle Paul to help us stay on course.

What is one way in which you can live a more Christ-like life?