SS 9-13-20 Ephesians- An Overview
History- Ephesus was a port city on the west coast of Turkey. It was founded in the 10th century B.C. and was the home of the temple to Artemis, the goddess of, among other things, fertility, which allowed–and even called for– all kinds of sexual immorality as part of their feasts and rituals. It was certainly an evil place by Christian standards.
Paul spent three months striving with the Jews at the local synagogue, then he split off and began the church to which he writes this letter. We must note that the letter is rather informal and has the earmarks of a circular letter, meaning that it was circulated among the churches in the area. We can consider our church as one of these.
The letter itself has six chapters. The first three are doctrinal teaching, meaning that they explain what God was up to and how our salvation happened, and the second three are applications of what we learn in the first three.
Chapter 1 explains God’s overall plan for us from an eternal perspective.
Chapter 2 describes who we were before Christ and who we are in Christ from an eternal perspective. It also goes into detail about God’s plan to create one new man out of two: Jews and Gentiles.
Chapter 3 expands the plan for the Gentiles and includes Paul’s powerful prayer for his readers.
Chapters 4, 5 and 6 are chocked full of descriptors for the Christian life based upon who we are in Christ according to the first three chapters.
Chapter 4 includes our call to be humble and patient (v2), our oneness in Christ (v4-6), the equipping of the saints (v11-16), the put-off/put-on passage (v20-24), and how we should interact with others (v25-32).
Chapter 5 includes following Christ’s example (1-2) with no hint of immorality (v3-7), how to please the Lord as children of light (v8-17), being filled with the Spirit (v18-20), and submission to one another (v21-33).
Chapter 6 includes commands for children, fathers, slaves, and masters (v1-9), the battle and the armor of God (v10-20), and a final greeting (v21-24).
We begin with verses 1 and 2:
Read Ephesians 1:1.
- Paul is the Paul of Acts. He is an apostle of Christ Jesus because of his Damascus Road experience. He revealed something neat in Acts 26:16-18. Let’s read it. Anyone have the NLT?
- By the will of God- What was God’s will for Paul according to what we just read?
- Saints- Christians, holy ones.
- “In Ephesus” is not in the most ancient texts, which gives weight to the idea that it was/is a circular letter.
- The faithful in Jesus Christ- “in Christ” is used over 10 times in the first 13 verses and over 130 times throughout the epistle (in Him, in the Beloved, etc). Most of the time, we think of Christ being in us (Col. 1:27). What do you think it means to be “in Christ?”
Read Ephesians 1:2.
- Grace-unmerited favor (does someone have an Amplified Version?)
- Peace of God- Jesus gives us His peace (John 14:27)
- Our Father- That’s BIG.
- The LORD Jesus Christ- “The LORD” or “Adonai” is the OT reference to God. Paul is calling Jesus “God.” Any self-respecting Jew would get this reference. Gentiles, on the other hand, might think of slave owners as “lord.” Still, if they sat under Paul’s teaching any at all, they would come to understand very quickly that Jesus is God (see Phil. 2:5-11).
Next week, we will be studying verses 3-14. Want to know what God was up to before the creation of the world? Come next week and we’ll talk about it!
Around the tables:
- Why study the Bible?
- What would understanding God’s plan mean to you?
- Is there a “best” version from which to read?
- Would you commit to reading at least the first 14 verses of Ephesians this week? Every day?