Today we begin a 13 week study of Ephesians. Paul wrote this letter while in prison, under house arrest in Rome. The earliest manuscripts do not have the words “at Ephesus” in verse 1, therefore many scholars believe the letter was written to the churches in that region of Asia Minor. Ephesus was the largest city and most likely was the “Mother Church” for several churches in neighboring cities like Colossae and Laodicea. So this letter was to be circulated among the churches in the region.
Ephesus was more than a cultural center; it served as the headquarters of the cult dedicated to the goddess Artemis (or Diana). The temple to Artemis had become one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Paul’s preaching of the gospel had threatened this powerful cult. (See Acts 19) But Artemis was only one of many false gods from which to choose in this wicked place. At one point, Paul spent over two years in Ephesus.
In the first three chapters of Ephesians Paul discussed the new spiritual life believers had in Christ. In chapters 4-6, Paul encouraged the believers there to display their new walk or life in Christ.
1. Think about some of the awards and recognitions you have received. What were the selection criteria for the award?
There are some awards we work very hard for, and we feel either proud of the accomplishment if we win or discouraged if we lose. Then there are those recognitions we weren’t expecting, and we often feel humbled and grateful to be recognized in such a way.
2. When we think about being chosen by God, do we tend to view it as an award we work hard for or news that humbles us?
In Ephesians 1, we learn we have been chosen for an unbelievable honor—to be in Christ! Being chosen drives us to focus not on the skills of the recipients but on the generosity of the Giver. The Ephesians lived in a place where people chose their gods. Paul spoke of a God who chose them! Wow what great news!
Introduction! Read Ephesians 1:1-2 Discuss briefly.
Chosen! Read Ephesians 1:3-6
(Be glad we aren’t reading this in Greek. Verses 3-14, in Greek are one long complex sentence.)
1. Is there anything in these verses that suggest we did anything to deserve being chosen?
2. If not, then what was God’s motivation, according to verse 4?
What we call “love” is often very conditional. You’ve probably experienced relationships where you felt like the other person was saying “I love you ‘if’…” or “I love you ‘because’…” But when Paul says that God chose us “in love,” there were no conditions attached. We’ve come to know that as “Agape”. This is Love that is unconditional to all.
3. Has anyone in the class gone through an adoption? Would you briefly share your experience with the class?
4. In what ways is adoption an even stronger illustration of God’s relationship with us than biological childbirth? (God takes the initiative in salvation. He predestined—marked out beforehand—that people separated from Him by sin would be reconciled to Him through His Son’s sacrifice.)
5. When did God choose to bless those who trust in His Son? (In His infinite wisdom and sovereignty, God had a plan to save humanity before He created the universe.)
6. How can we who are wicked and evil be “holy and blameless in His sight”? (It is only in Christ that we can be seen as Christ is.)
7. How should God’s choosing us impact our view of life?
8. How should His choice to offer salvation impact our attitude toward God?
9. In what way should we live differently because of it?
Read verse 6. It is only by His grace and within Jesus that we are favored.
A family can choose to adopt a newborn baby and see that baby as innocent, unspoiled, and morally neutral. But what if you aren’t adopting a newborn, but instead an older child who has some baggage in his background? Here’s where we start to see the difference between being “chosen” and being “redeemed.” This is another way to illustrate coming into God’s family.
Redeemed! Read Ephesians 1:7-12
1. What is God’s purpose in our redemption? (Verse 12. “That we…might bring praise to His glory.”)
2. What does “redemption” mean? (Redemption is the ransom paid to liberate us from sin and death! We were slaves to sin and the ransom could only be paid by the blood of the perfect sacrifice—Jesus. In the ancient world, if a slave was to be freed by paying a ransom, someone else almost always had to pay it.)
3. What makes redemption such an incredible blessing? (Redemption grants forgiveness. Our sins are literally washed away and forgotten upon receiving Christ Jesus. Redemption lets us in on what God is doing, giving the spiritually dead new life in Christ!)
4. What does it mean to “trespass” and how do we trespass in God’s sight? (“Trespass” means commit an offense against a person or a set of rules. We go outside the boundaries God has established for us in His Word.)
5. What’s God’s ultimate purpose for creation? (God administers world events, gathering all the pieces into a cohesive whole and bringing everything into fulfillment in Christ. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” God’s will and purposes are perfectly accomplished in Heaven—one day it will be that way with “things on earth” as well, in the Messiah!)
6. Why is knowing God’s ultimate purpose for creation a blessing? (Knowing God is summing up all things in Jesus gives life purpose even when circumstances don’t seem to add up. That may not take away today’s heartache, but it gives us hope for the future.)
I have to keep reminding myself that God is the sovereign Ruler of all creation and I am to be subject to His will and plan. It will all work out for my good and His glory in the end!
7. How does the truth, that Jesus is the only way to gain redemption serve as motivation to share the gospel with others? (Without Jesus they will suffer in hell separated from God eternally!)
When Paul used the word “mystery” in verse 9, he didn’t mean that God’s will is a secret to be uncovered or a puzzle to be solved. Instead, Paul described God’s will as a “mystery” because it can only be understood by revelation from God Himself. We will look a little deeper into this subject in session 5.
Typically, when something valuable changes hands, a legal document bearing the seal of a notary establishes ownership and validates the document. In the final section of verses, we’re going to see how God has established proof of ownership over our lives.
Sealed! Read Ephesians 1:13-14
Paul had no qualms about connecting election with the faith of the individual believer. Election and faith worked hand in hand in the gospel of their salvation! Anyone who accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior was and is a chosen one!
1. How does one receive this inheritance Paul is talking about? (This inheritance is for all who receive the Spirit—meaning they hear the gospel and believe in Jesus as Savior.)
Each person of the Trinity plays a role in salvation. God the Father chooses and adopts; God the Son redeems and forgives; God the Spirit seals and secures. In Paul’s day letters were sealed with wax and the writer’s seal was placed in the hot wax. The seal also played a role to insure no one opened the letter other than the one it was intended for. So it signified the owner and secured it until the proper person received it.
2. How can we be certain we will obtain our inheritance? (We are sealed by the Holy Spirit which indicates ownership, authenticity, authority, and security. God gives each believer the Holy Spirit at conversion. The Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives signifies we belong to God and guarantees we will finally and fully enjoy every spiritual blessing Christ has given us.)
When we make a down payment on a major purchase, we get to experience the benefits of the purchase, even though it isn’t fully ours yet. We still get to live in the house or drive the car, despite the fact that we have only made an initial payment. This is similar to what Paul meant when he said the Holy “Spirit is a down payment of our inheritance.
3. How does the gospel of grace build assurance into the life of the believer? (God didn’t have to send His Son to redeem me. It is only by His “glorious grace” that we are chosen to be redeemed. To think that God chose me to spend eternity with Him is a humbling thought!)
Summarize and Challenge!
1. How can we express humility and confidence at the same time? (I am humbled at God’s amazing grace that chose me to redeem. But at the same time, I am confident that the indwelling Holy Spirit will supply everything I need to be all He wants me to be!)
2. What are you doing with God’s blessings?
3. Do you think on them? Take them for granted?
4. Do you marvel and rejoice at what God has graciously chosen to bless you with in Christ?
By way of review, consider the following from Eph 1:3-14:
· In Christ, believers receive every spiritual blessing v. 3
· In Christ, believers were chosen before the world began v. 4
· In Christ, God’s grace has been given freely v. 6
· In Christ, believers have received redemption and forgiveness v. 7
· In Christ, God will one day bring all things together in unity v. 10
· In Christ, believers receive an eternal inheritance v. 11
· In Christ, believers have hope v. 12
· In Christ, believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit v. 13
“Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above you Heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!