In the passages of Acts we read about Paul’s completion of his third missionary journey, including three years in Ephesus, then travel north to Troas, across the Aegean Sea to Macedonia, south to Corinth, and then by sea back to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, Paul is set upon by the Jews there who accuse him of trouble-making. He’s arrested (in effect rescued) by a Roman arrest and placed in jail in Caesarea for several years awaiting trial before various Roman officials (Felix, Festus, and Agrippa). He then appeals his case to Caesar and is sent, in Roman custody to Rome.
The journey to Rome takes the better part of a year, including a serious shipwreck and wintering on the island of Malta. The book of Acts ends with Paul spending two years under house arrest in Rome, but free to meet with and host people while he awaits his trial. It is during this time that he writes several of his later epistles.
The books of Ephesians and Colossians are somewhat similar in content, although Colossians is the shorter of the two letters. Both churches were located in what was known then as Asia (the current location of Turkey). Tychicus is identified at the end of both letters as the courier Paul is sending to the two churches to deliver these letters and inform them about his work in Rome. The letters, like most of the New Testament, were intended to be circulated among the various local “house churches” in the regions to which they were addressed.
The first half of the letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians are used by Paul to develop fundamental theological principles for the readers. Then the last half of the letters were intended to provide practical examples of how to live out the implications of the theology. Both letters deal very specifically with societal and family relationships and how Christians should conduct themselves.
We only have three more weeks to complete our one-year journey through the Bible. Next week we’ll look at Philemon, Philippians, James, 1 Timothy, Titus, and 2 Timothy. These letters (excluding James) will complete the writings of Paul.