A note of introduction...
Do you love a great mystery? Well get ready as Paul reveals God’s “great mystery” in the books of Ephesians and Colossians! The apostle Paul writes these books from prison, probably in Rome around A.D. 60, as a source of encouragement to the first century Christians and to us today. The Christians of the first century dealt with many of the same temptations and struggles we do. We can learn much from Paul’s advice and admonitions.
In the first half of Ephesians, Paul discusses God’s great plan to redeem and unify the world. In the second half he gives practical advice on living a Christian life. The Ephesians were surrounded by false gods and great materialism. Ephesus was a mighty city and the center of Artemis/Diana worship (Acts 19:23-41), an enormous source of income. There was great opposition to the gospel being taught since this threatened the locals’ livelihood. Although faithful at the time of Paul’s writing, the church at Ephesus did not continue to follow the teaching put forth in the letter of Ephesians, since the Ephesian church is described as lawful but loveless in Revelation chapter 2. They are told if they do not return to their first love their lampstand/church will be removed. Would this warning be sent to your congregation today?
In Colossians, the theme of living a Christian life is continued as Paul stresses the power and glory of Christ. The Colossians struggled with false teachings. Although now extinct, Colosse was once a prominent city that had dwindled in size over the years. Despite its smallness, Paul took note of the faithful brothers in Christ there and sent them a letter. He prayed that God would fill the Colossians with the knowledge of His will so they would be able to see false teachings that relied on false humility, basic principles of this world and man’s traditions (Colossians 2). Is your church, regardless of size or prominence, aware of the traps of human wisdom that threaten to keep the true gospel of Christ from bearing fruit?
Like other Illuminations studies, this workbook is designed to be completed on your own and then shared in a small group. The lessons are based on the New International Version of the Bible. You should be able to answer all the questions by examining the text, your heart, your experiences and occasionally your favorite dictionary. Sometimes you will be looking at Ephesians and Colossians simultaneously, studying scriptures from both when they approach the same subject or theme. Come prepared to share with your group what God has spoken to you through His Word during your weekly study.
The lessons are divided into a daily format so you can spread your study time out over several days and let God’s words sink in as you pray for clear understanding and spiritual wisdom. Prayer is an integral part of this study. You will be asked to pray at the end of every study and sometimes during the lesson itself.
We give thanks to God for your willingness to open your heart to these lessons. We will not stop remembering you in our prayers.
Debbie McAfee and Marilyn Stinson