How Does Paul Encourage Us to Grow in Christ from Ephesians and Colossians?

Summary: Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Colossians were probably written at the same time. We have much to apply from the theology and application parts of these letters.


In my last post, I talked about the character the disciple of Jesus is developing from Paul’s encouragement in the letters of Galatians and Philippians. In this post, we continue to talk about character development from Ephesians and Colossians.

The Holy Spirit is working with us in our Christian character and conformity with Jesus. Paul covers so much ground in his letters to the Ephesians and Colossians. When Paul writes these letters, he is languishing in prison for the gospel of Jesus. Even while he suffers in chains, he encourages us to grow into the image of Christ.

These are two of four prison epistles Paul writes from house arrest in Rome. He is waiting to bear witness of Jesus before the most powerful man in the world, the Roman Caesar. Paul did not throw himself a pity party in prison. He had been working toward this goal for quite a while. What are you doing during your waiting for Jesus to return? Paul tells us by his actions to continue working for Jesus while we wait.

Character Development in Ephesians

Paul dedicates the first three chapters of Ephesians to the theology of being like Jesus. We walk in the spiritual blessings Jesus pours out on us. We received our salvation by grace through faith in Jesus and His sacrifice for us. He shares God’s mystery of salvation of Jews and Gentiles.

One favorite prayer comes from Paul’s prayer here in Ephesians 3. He asks God to make us rooted and grounded in Christ (Ephesians 3:14-21). In this beautiful request before the Father, Paul asks for us to not only be established in Christ, but to comprehend God’s goodness and deity.

Jesus works unity in His body because of the fivefold ministry through church leaders. He introduces five gifts given to leaders in the church (Ephesians 4:11). The gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers thrust the Church forward in the power of the Spirit.

Paul describes the unity and growth that comes through the Holy Spirit’s assignment of gifts to the people. We have learned about Jesus and how to put on the new self He has given us (Ephesians 4:25-32). Our new life in Jesus requires us to live differently than those around us in the world. Because of Jesus’s change in us, we speak the truth to one another in love (Ephesians 4:25).

Disciples of Jesus must learn from the Spirit how to control their anger. We learn from Jesus how to have righteous anger, to separate the evil things we would do in anger from the reason we are angry. You can have righteous anger for godly reasons. But even in our anger, we must not act out wickedly to those who cause our righteous anger (Ephesians 4:26, 31-32).

Uncontrolled anger destroys everyone around us. We must speak life in others, to encourage and

not grieve the Holy Spirit with our speech (Ephesians 4:31-32). We need to ask the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and the words we speak, and to help us control what we say even when we are angry.

In Ephesians 5, Paul encourages us to keep in step with the Spirit. Imitate God in your actions and speech (Ephesians 5:1-2). Keep from sexual immorality, foolish talking, and empty talk (Ephesians 5:3-6). Unbelievers use foolish talk, and we cannot partner with them and their different values (Ephesians 5:7-14).

We must walk in God’s wisdom and make the most of our time, (Ephesians 5:15-17). Paul tells us not to get drunk, but to be full of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Paul contrasts drunkenness with the Spirit’s leading. We encourage one another with spiritual blessing and thank the Lord for every good thing (Ephesians 5:19-20).

Paul calls us to submit to one another in love, and to follow Jesus’s example for us (Ephesians 5:21). He introduces household codes dealing with spouses, children, and masters and slaves (Ephesians 5:22-6:9). Marriage is a two-way street. Please don’t comment that because I’m single I shouldn’t talk about marriage. Paul was single too. The Bible calls us to act opposite our nature. Men tend to lustfully move from woman to woman. Women may disrespect any man, especially if their fathers were terrible examples of manhood.

Ephesians calls wives to respect and submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22, 32). When I do premarital counseling, it’s always the bride-to-be whose feathers get ruffled when I bring this discussion up. She who refuses to submit to her husband puts the first nail in the coffin of their marriage.

If your husband quotes this passage, remind him that the context says for all Christians to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). You do not have to submit to demands that go against God’s law or principles. If he knew you submitted to him, even if you disagreed,, and you respected him as a man, he would love you like no other woman.

Husbands, if you’re not willing to give your life to save your wife, it’s time to learn to love sacrificially and unconditionally (Ephesians 5:25). Be the first to defend her honor. That doesn’t mean you have two beat someone up to do it. But if it comes to that, be prepared  Don’t speak about her vulnerabilities with anyone else. It’s none of their business. Guard your wife and your marriage in thought, speech, and action. Don’t look at other women in her presence or absence. Don’t aggravate or provoke her. If she knew you never spoke about her except to praise her, and that you would die for her, she would submit to you and respect you.

Next, Paul addresses overbearing fathers with their children (Ephesians 6:1-4). Demonstrate and teach godly character to your children by example. Help them grow into the person God made them by not forcing them into your mold. Learn what makes them different and fabulous, and fan the flames of that unique character. They must feel safe with you more than with anyone else.

Paul speaks to both masters and slaves (Ephesians 6:5-9).. Although it’s not a perfect correlation, Christian employers and employees can learn from this passage. When you work for a Christian employer or not, we must be obedient. We may want to get away with things out of sight. But that we must be hard workers no matter what.

Some employers take advantage of their employees, treating them as slaves. But this should not be! Paul reminds those masters who have power that their Master is in heaven watching their conduct. Christian employer, treat your employees the way Christ has treated you. When we become Christians, we treat one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. And we treat those who don’t know Christ in ways that make them want to know Him. Be the best representative of Christ you can be.

Ephesians closes with a bang! Ephesians 6:10-20 addresses spiritual warfare and being ready as a soldier of Christ for the spiritual battlefield every day. Paul uses the armor of the Roman soldier he is chained to so he can show us how as Christians we don’t back down from a spiritual fight.

We do not fight against other people, but that we fight evil spiritual beings (Ephesians 6:12). Be prepared to use your spiritual armor of God, the Christian character He is making you to have him become. Bathe yourself in prayer before you face any spiritual forces of wickedness (Ephesians 6:19-20).

Character Development in Colossians

Many scholars believe Paul wrote Ephesians and Colossians together. Some thoughts Paul gives him Ephesians he also gives in Colossians. I will only mention new content and its application. There is something for every disciple of Jesus in both letters.

Paul thanks God for the Colossian Christians (Colossians 1:3-14). We should be thankful for fellow Christian believers. He prays powerfully for the Colossians, and we should readily pray for fellow disciples. In beautiful doctrinal language, Paul speaks of the preeminence of Christ and reminds us what Jesus has done for us (Colossians 1:15-23).

Paul then addresses his suffering for the Church and Christ (Colossians 1:25-2:3). He reminds us that as Christians we suffer for Christ. We must witness to others despite our suffering. We must remain strong witnesses to other Christians and to the world of His power in us.

In chapter 2, Paul strikes familiar themes from Ephesians of the mystery of God and being made alive in Christ. He speaks of our adoption into the family of God in the same way the Israelites understood circumcision, as a sign of God’s covenant. We are part of the new covenant Christ has inaugurated. We must remain strong in spiritual warfare, fighting spiritual battles and every attempt of the devil to give us Christians stinking thinking (Colossians 2:8).

He brings out the same issues from in Romans and Galatians, that the Colossians must not turn to other Gospels of religions ideas instead of a relationship with Christ (Colossians 2:16-23). Don’t allow yourself to turn to other doctrines that sound easier, or to think you can replace Christ with man-made rules.

In Colossians 3, Paul moves from theology to application. He states the theological idea of putting on Christ (Colossians 3:1-17). When we put on Jesus like a coat, we stop obeying our flesh and serve Christ alone. Don’t live the divided life. We must think of heaven without being no earthly good. We put away the things we used to do, like acting out of anger, sexual immorality, idolatry, malice, obscene talk, and divisions.

Instead, we are truthful, compassionate, kind, peacemakers, living in harmony with others. We worship Jesus together with Christians. The household codes are very similar to the ones in Ephesians. In chapter 4, Paul addresses our speech, because that matters to Jesus as His representatives (Colossians 4:6). He reminds us how to act before unbelievers, and also to make the most of every opportunity. Paul has given us much not to think about, but to do. Disciples of Jesus grow in such godliness not only in thought, but in speech and action.

Growth Challenge

As with Paul’s other letters, what sticks out to you? That’s probably the Holy Spirit telling you what He wants to work on next. Asked Jesus this week to write this character on your heart.

Up Next

We have talked about the encouragement and application from Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Colossians. Next, we continue to look at character development in Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians and Philemon.

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