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Prison Letters


The epistles to Colossians and Philemon


J. M. Davies



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The two letters to the Colossians and to Philemon were written at the same time, doubtless during Paul's first imprisonment in Rome. What we know as the epistle to the Ephesians was written at the same time also. They form a very important part of the prison epistles. In that way, Paul's imprisonment, which seemed such a catastrophe as it curtailed his activity in the gospel, became a means by which the church throughout its history in all countries has been immeasurably enriched. The two epistles (together with the Ephesian encyclical, which is probably the letter referred to in Colossians chapter 4 verse 16) were despatched by the hand of Tychicus, who was accompanied by Onesimus. It may be that Onesimus delivered the letter to Philemon in person, as may be inferred from Philemon 12 RV.

The two letters to Colossae are very different in character and tone. The one is polemical and heavily freighted with doctrine of the most important character concerning the very citadel, or the foundation truth of Christianity, the resplendent glories and the redemptive work of Christ. The other is personal and parabolically illustrates (without actually referring to them) some of the great truths of the gospel. In that way, they are complementary, and should be considered together.

Since both Ephesians and Colossians were to be read in the church at Laodicea, the last assembly of the seven addressed in Revelation 2-3, we shall not be wrong in concluding that they were intended as a prophylactic to preserve that assembly from its decadent state. And as those apocalyptic letters graphically portray the sad departure and decline in the history of the church's witness culminating in the nauseating state of Laodicea, it is evident that the two letters and their message are very relevant and necessary for the present time with its Laodicean state, when the compromising of truth with error is regarded by many as a Christian grace.

These epistles are bastions against the cults, the 'damnable heresies', the pseudo-scientific evolutionary theories, the militant cults such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and others, as well as the present trend towards the occult and the pseudo spiritual movements of which there are many. May it please God to bless this unpretentious volume to the profit of all who will read it, so that by His grace we may all become truly profitable.