TEACHING THE TEACHER
The Epistle to the Colossians
The church at Colossæ, to which the Epistle to the Colossians is addressed, had been founded not by Paul but by one of his helpers, Epaphras. A certain type of false teaching had been brought into the church by those who laid stress upon angels in a way that was harmful to the exclusive position of Christ. In reply, Paul sets forth in the Epistle the majesty of Jesus, who existed from all eternity and was the instrument of God the Father in the creation of the world. This was no new teaching; it is always presupposed in the earlier Epistles of Paul, and about it there was no debate. But in the Epistle to the Colossians, in view of the error that was creeping in through false speculation, Paul took occasion to set forth fully what in the former letters he had presupposed.
The Epistle to the Ephesians
The Epistle to the Ephesians is probably a circular letter addressed to a group of churches of which Ephesus was the center. In this letter the personal element is less prominent than in the other Pauline Epistles; Paul allows his mind to roam freely over the grand reaches of the divine economy. The Church is here especially in view. She is represented as the bride of Christ, and as the culmination of an eternal and gracious plan of God.
The Epistle to the Philippians
The Epistle to the Philippians was probably written later than the other Epistles of the first captivity. The immediate occasion for the writing of the letter was the arrival of a gift from the Philippian church, on account of which Paul desires to express his joy. Paul had always stood in a peculiarly cordial relation to his Philippian converts; he had been willing, therefore, to receive gifts from them, although in other churches he had preferred to make himself independent by laboring at his trade. But the letter is not concerned only or even chiefly with the gifts of the Philippian church. Paul desired also to inform his Philippian brethren about the situation at Rome. His trial is approaching; whether it results in his death or in his release, he is content. But as a matter of fact he expects to see the Philippians again.
Moreover, Paul holds up in the letter the example of Christ, which was manifested in the great act of loving condescension by which he