Player needs JavaScript turned on.

Ephesians Colossians and Philemon Overview

You may have noticed that the reading skipped over Philippians and the letters of Paul that started with “T” to intentionally have these 3 grouped together.

There is a link between them.

Ephesians and Colossians are linked by content.

They follow the same general template and in places say nearly the same thing.

It’s as if Paul wrote them back to back while the same thoughts were on his mind.

For example…

Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart, giving thanks always for everything to God…            -Ephesians 5:19-20a

Teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.            -Colossians 3:16b

Colossians and Philemon are linked by location and people.

Philemon lived in Colossus, and the church probably met in his home.

Onesimus was his runaway slave, who was saved under Paul’s ministry from prison in Rome.

Both letters probably arrived at the same time!

Read Colossians 4:7-13

Read Philemon 1:1-2, 23-25.

Another thing that links these letters is that they are 3 of the 4 Prison Epistles.

They are all thought to be written in the early 60’s during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome described in the last chapter of Acts.

What is the other Prison Epistle?         -Philippians

Ephesians and Colossians really reinforce that who we are in Christ comes before what we do for Christ!

The first half of each book is devoted to a dissertation of who we are in Christ, featuring dozens of statements about our position in Christ!


Ephesians is the 49th book of the Bible, the 10th book of the New Testament and the 5th of Paul’s Letters.

Ephesus was the most important city in what we now call Turkey.

It was at the crossroads of many trade routes.

Things we know about Ephesus:

  • It’s name means “desired one,” and it was home to 300,000 people
  • The Temple of Diana was there, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world
  • The temple was bigger than a football field, 425 feet long, 220 feet wide
  • The temple had 126 pillars of marble 60 feet high, 36 overlaid with gold and jewels
  • It was four times larger than the Parthenon in Athens! 
  • Thousands of priests and priestesses worked there, many as cult prostitutes
  • The temple was easily visible from the west in the harbor as ships arrived
  • A commercial center with warehouses lined the banks of the Cayster River
  • Many people were employed making idols of Diana, also called Artemis
  • 3 great highways came in and out of Ephesus to the North, South, and East
  • It was the capital of the western part of Asia Minor
  • It also held a stadium as big as two football fields that held 50,000 people
  • The Pan-Ionian games were held there each May
  • It regularly held fights, sometimes beasts against beasts, sometimes men against beasts
  • But Ephesus primarily prided itself for being the “guardian of Diana.”
  • So intertwined was the Temple with the economy it became a great bank
  • Merchants and political figures mixed business, religion, and pleasure there
  • One commentator has aptly called it “the Vanity Fair of the Ancient World”


Paul started the church in Ephesus in Acts 19.

Acts 18-20 have a lot to say about Ephesus.

Look at his heartfelt warning to the Elders in Acts 20:29-30.

Ephesus is also a recipient of one of the 7 letters of Jesus in Revelation 2-3. 

Read Revelation 2:4        Worried about leaving their first love.

Ephesians is written by Paul alone.

3 chapters of who you are in Christ, than 3 chapters of relational commands.

The theme of Ephesians 2 sections can be understood by reading 2 verses:

1:3               4:1

Outline of Ephesians:              Dr. Harry Adams

The blessings Christians have                               chapters 1-3

The behaviors Christians should exhibit              chapters 4-6

Paul is so excited to tell them who they are in Christ that he creates the most run on sentence in the New Testament; 1:3-14 is one sentence in the Greek!

Let’s read it, and stop me when it says something true of a believer in Christ!

Ephesians is second only to Romans in its careful presentation of Christian Theology.

It is my personal favorite of all of Paul’s letters!

Read Chapter 2:1-10

Gives the basics of the gospel!

We are totally dead in sin until made alive by Jesus.

We are saved by grace through faith, not works!

The truly saved will exhibit lots of good works!

Relational commands:

Read Ephesians 5:21-6:9

The Christians’ Armor:

Read Ephesians 6:10-20

Don’t forget the “model” prayers presented in Ephesians!


Colossians is the 51st book of the Bible, the 12th book of the New Testament, the 7h of Paul’s Letters.

Colossae lay about 100 miles east of Ephesus in the Roman province of Asia.

It had been a key city, along an ancient trade route. But a newer road bypassed Colossae, and it was in decline in New Testament days. In AD 60 it was struck by a major earthquake.

The neighboring city of Laodicea was now more important politically speaking.

The gospel may have been brought to Colossae by Epaphras, who had become a Christian through Paul’s witness in Ephesus.

Some false teachers apparently arose who told the people to worship angels and observe Old Testament laws/ regulations.

Apparently Epaphras went to Rome to talk to Paul about these things.

So Paul writes a letter to them that tailors some of the things he had said to the Ephesians to their doctrinal needs.

2 chapters of who you are in Christ, then 2 chapters of relational commands.

Colossians is written by Paul and Timothy.

Was Paul dealing with false teaching?                     See 2:4, 8

Jesus is superior to regulations                                2:16

Jesus is superior to angels and anything else            2:18

Jesus is God                                                            1:15 

Let’s read 1:13-20, where Paul rebukes those who would lessen Jesus Christ’s deity.

Theme of Colossians:     Christ is Above All and you are complete in Him!                                                    1:15             2:10


Philemon is the 57th book of the Bible, the 18th book of the New Testament, and the 13th and last of Paul’s Letters.

Philemon is the shortest letter of Paul that became Bible, but very significant! 

The reason Philemon is last of Paul’s letters is that they are arranged longest to shortest.

Think of it: an entire book of the Bible devoted to an appeal to free a slave!

Surely that is the Bible’s final word on slavery!

It has been computed that in the Roman Empire there were 60,000,000 slaves. In Paul’s day a kind of terrible idleness had fallen on the citizens of Rome. Rome was the mistress of the world, and therefore it was beneath the dignity of a Roman citizen to work. Practically all the work was done by slaves…Basically the life of the slave was grim and terrible. In law he was not a person but a thing. Aristotle lays it down that that there can never be friendship between master and slave, for they have nothing in common; “for a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave.” If the slave ran away, at best he was branded on the forehead with the letter “F” for fugitivus, which means runaway, at worst he was killed. The terror of the slave was that he was absolutely at the caprice of his master…A Roman writer lays it down: “Whatever a master does to a slave, undeservedly, in anger, willingly, unwillingly, in forgetfulness, after careful thought, knowingly, unknowingly, is judgment, justice, and law.”                         -William Barclay

Verse: if you can get your freedom, do it!

The New Testament is not interested in telling governments what to do: it is interested in Christians knowing what God expects them to do!

Read Philemon!

Philemon’s theme could well be stated best by Galatians 3:28…

The one chapter book lets us know that Onesimus was Philemon’s runaway slave.

In a Roman prison Paul led him to Christ.     1:10

Onesimus’ name means “useful.”

From what Paul says in verse 11, it makes it sound like perhaps he may have been referred to as “useless.” But now he has proven himself “useful” in God’s service.

Now this is key: Paul makes Onesimus go back and reconcile with his master before going into full-time ministry.

Many people in ministry are running away from someone or something, and until they get that right they will simply not be as “useful” as they could be in the ministry.


A Closer to our day Onesimus and Philemon: George Leile from Danny Akin’s book 10 Who Changed the World!

The very first Baptist missionary: before William Carey and Adoniram Judson.

George  Leile

The first Baptist to take the gospel from his homeland to a foreign land!

1782  -         George Leile goes to Jamaica

1793  -         William Carey goes to India

1812  -         Adoniram Judson goes to India, then Burma

1750  -         Leile born an African American slave on a plantation in Virginia

What he later learned of his parents     -         Page 88

1773  -         Leile hears a Baptist pastor named Matthew Moore and is converted

Henry Sharp, his owner and a Baptist deacon, let him travel and preach

1775  -         First ordained black Baptist pastor in Georgia

In Savannah, founded the First African Baptist Church in North America.

Many souls saved!           Read page 89

Shortly after that, his owner, Henry Sharp freed him permanently.

1778 -         Henry Sharp killed in rev. war; his children try to get George back

1782  -         George travels to Jamaica as an indentured servant to remain free

He paid off his debt and was free again!

He immediately planted a Baptist church there at the Kingston Race Course.

Over the next 8 years, he baptized 500 people!       

He also fought for emancipation in Jamaica, even going to prison for preaching sedition! After 1805, it was illegal to preach to slaves; he did it anyway!

1833  -         All slaves in Jamaica emancipated.      July 31, 1838 – all vestiges.

Around that time, the number of Baptists in Jamaica had grown to 20,000, and Leile’s converts planted churches in North America and all the way to Sierra Leone in Africa!