Sources: I. Howard Marshall et al., Exploring the New Testament: A Guide to the Letters and Revelation (IVP, 2002); Raymond E. Brown, The New Testament: an Introduction (Doubleday, 1997); Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3d ed. (Oxford, 2004).
The Good News as Metanarrative Colossians and Ephesians are progressions (or descendants) of Paul's theology. Like expanding ripples in a pond, they witness to "the Christian revolution" unfolding as the good news takes hold as the controlling paradigm of Christian imagination.
Roman Christians soon reorder their whole culture (e.g., Augustine's City of God; see Robert Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought).
Then Celts envision the reign of Jesus in non-Roman terms, and so Christian faith survives the demise of the Roman Empire (see Robert Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization).
Confidence in the trustworthiness of God as creator and savior underwrites the development of the sciences and humanities in the medieval West.
Today the faith is re-creating cultures in the southern hemisphere (see Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom).
Is the gospel our metanarrative? Do we respect its universal significance?
Or do we relativize Jesus Christ and read this material selectively according to some other metanarrative?
The Good News Bearing Fruit and Growing: Colossians and Ephesians Colossians explores Christ's full significance (2:2: "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge") to
all creation (1:16: "all things"),
all former ways of thinking (2:8: "philosophy and empty deceit" — a specific 'Colossian heresy'? 2:16-23: "human precepts and doctrines"),
all nations (1:27: "how great among the nations are the riches"),
all human orders (2:15: "principalities and powers"; 3:19-25: "obey" etc.),
all followers (1:24: "my sufferings for your sake"; 1:28: "every one mature in Christ"),
all time (1:18; 2:10ff: "you have come to fulness of life in him"), and
all the lives of the saints and brethren (3:1ff: "seek the things that are above").
Philemon testifies to the concrete implications of this significance to the Roman institution of slavery.
Ephesians develops this sense while focusing on the Church's role in that full context:
It is the heir of God's eternal promise in Christ (1:3-14).
It may gain wisdom, revelation, enlightenment, hope, and power in that knowledge (1:15-23).
It is already raised with Christ's resurrection (2:1-10).
Its new humanity is at peace from the exclusions of Jews and Gentiles (2:11-22).
It broadcasts its good news to the principalities and powers (3:1-13).
Its message remakes and 'divinizes' those who understand it (3:14-21).
It involves a life worthy of this calling and destiny (4:1-16).
It demands an end to the futile nature and unenlightened life (4:17-24).
It imitates God-in-Christ
in a life of holiness and wisdom (5:1-20).
It lives in mutual submission that awaits eschatological transformation of old orders (5:21-6:9).
It fights Christ's apocalyptic war with weapons of the Spirit (6:10-20).
These texts hang together; reading only parts in isolation (e.g., Col. 2 or Eph. 5) amounts to misreading.