BIBLE STUDY The Book of
Ephesians This study notes provide the core content of a group of bible studies on the Book of Ephesians. While the core message of the study has been captured for you to read, written text can not fully express the sense of anointing upon the discussion of the word or the joy of corporate fellowship. We encourage you to pray before you begin reading that the Lord would open your heart and mind to be receptive and responsive to God’s message contained within this study. There may be times when you find it difficult to reconcile God’s truth to your own opinion or worldview, God’s truth is eternal, it does not change, our understanding of the truth does change as we allow God to work in our hearts and minds. 1
Ephesians chapter 1 Read verses 1&2: INTRODUCTION Paul explains that he is an apostle (a special messenger of Jesus Christ), commissioned by God according to his divine will. He is writing to God’s holy people in Ephesus. This doesn’t mean that they are super spiritual and religious. In some translations they are called “the saints”. The meaning is that they are consecrated and set apart for God (sanctified). This is a choice we make when we accept salvation. We commit our lives to God and become faithful followers. Background: Ephesus was the centre of an oriental cult, adopted by the Romans and then the Greeks. At its centre was the worship of Artemis (Diana). It became a place of pilgrimage and consequently a place of trade. The silversmiths in particular benefited from making talismans and trinkets. When Paul visited Ephesus in AD55 he caused a commotion. He performed many miracles (Acts 19v11&12); he cleansed the synagogue of sorcery (Acts 19v13-20); he caused people to turn from worshipping Artemis to worshipping the true God (Acts 20v127); and he nearly got lynched by the crowd (Acts 20v28-41). Altogether Paul spent two years at Ephesus and established a strong church of believers there. This letter to the Ephesians was written several years later by which time Paul was in prison in Rome. Read verses 3-14: OUR RICHES IN CHRIST Contained in these verses are all the spiritual riches which Christ bestows upon us who are the saints (sanctified ones), his holy ones (set apart and dedicated to him), who are loyal and faithful followers. They are our spiritual treasure chest and they teach us about our standing and our privilege in God. A poor man with Christ has far greater riches than a billionaire without Christ. Consider the meaning of each of the following treasures: Verse 4: We are chosen in Christ. Jesus said, “You have not chosen me but I have chosen you.” (John 15v16) Our salvation can only be through his grace and nothing of ourselves because he chose us from the beginning before Creation. This is a mystery and cannot be explained – but it should make us feel very special. Verse 4: We are holy and blameless in his sight. Being chosen is a privilege but with it comes the responsibility to live for Jesus. Verse 5: We are predestined for a purpose – for the adoption to Sonship. We become Christians by being born again – the new birth. Biblical adoption is the conferring of adulthood on the believer so that he or she can receive their inheritance and their rights as an adult son. In Rome, upon adoption, a young man would have all his previous debts cancelled; he would be counted as equal to any other son in his new family; and he would share in the father’s inheritance. Christian women are also privileged to be adopted as sons so that they could be included in the inheritance. Read verse 6: By God’s grace, in Christ we are accepted. All who turn to him can know acceptance. Because he has chosen us we know this is true. Read verse 7: We have redemption and forgiveness of sins. To redeem means to purchase and set free by paying a price. Jesus has bought us with his own blood. Read verses 8-10: He has revealed God’s will to us. The “mystery” is the secret which was hidden within the Old Testament. God originally put a difference between the Jew and the Gentile, but in Christ he is uniting all things. We are part of this. Read verses 11&12: We have an inheritance in him. Because we have been adopted we are joint-heirs with Christ. We will inherit the earth, a crown, and a place alongside Jesus in heaven.
Read verses 13&14: He has stamped his mark/his seal on us. His Holy Spirit is the mark of authenticity and ownership. It is like the down payment which guarantees the final outcome. It’s like an engagement ring – a promise of commitment. Read verses 15-18: Paul here gives thanks for the faithfulness and love of the Christians and prays that they might know Christ better. The longer we walk in relationship with Jesus the more we should get to know him. Paul said he kept asking God to help the Ephesians to grow in their walk with God. For the same reason we hear sermon after sermon encouraging us in our spiritual growth and walk. Why is it important? Because it is then we fully realise the full extent of the meaning of the inheritance that we have in Christ and that he shares with us (as previously listed in the first part of the chapter). Q. Where does our revelation and enlightenment come from? (v17) W.W.Wiersbe says: To know God personally is Salvation To know him increasingly is Sanctification To know him perfectly is Glorification The better we know God the more satisfying our spiritual lives will be. Read verses 19-23: Paul emphasises here the greatness and wonder of God’s power, and that power that raised Jesus from the dead is still available to us (v19). Paul then stresses the sovereignty of Jesus who is exalted far above all (v21) and who rules over all. And yet ... he is the head of the church which he calls “his body”. We are not individual Christians in individual churches serving God in our own way. We are a body – His Body, working together in unity and filled with the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit (v23). Q. What is the connection between God’s power at work in Christ and God’s power at work in us? Without an understanding of this we cannot fully realise our inheritance in Christ and all that he has for us.
Chapter 2 Read verses 1-5: Having talked about who we are and what we have in Christ, Paul reminds us of who we were. We were dead people spiritually speaking; we could not respond to spiritual things; we followed the ways of the world and because we ignored God we didn’t deserve his grace and love. BUT ... because of God’s love and mercy and grace and gift of Jesus, we have been saved from the consequences of our sin. And there is so much more ... Read verses 6-9: It has been said that we are not raised from the dead and left to live in the graveyard! Paul says that our spiritual position is that we are raised with Christ and seated with him! It is all by God’s grace. Grace means: Unmerited favour; blessings we have not earned; kindness from God that we don’t deserve; or God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense Salvation is a gift, not a reward and there is absolutely nothing we can do to earn it. But there are things we can do after we have got it! Read verse 10: We are God’s handiwork – a work in progress. We are like the unfinished tapestry or the uncut diamond in the hand of a master craftsman. When he looks at us he sees the finished article because we are in Christ Jesus. But the analogy ends there because we are not inanimate objects or robots. He has created us for a purpose. We have been saved for service. We were created (our new creation as spiritual beings in Christ Jesus) to do good works. God has prepared in advance a ministry for each of us to do – all as separate and different parts of his body working together for his glory. Q. Do you know what your ministry is – what good works God has prepared for you? 3
Read verses 11-22: (This is a long passage where Paul argues the point that both Jews and Gentiles are reconciled through Christ.) Verses 11-13: Paul was a Jew but he was called to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Before Christ there was a great division between the “circumcised” -the Jew, and the “uncircumcised” – the Gentile. Jews were to keep themselves and their nation pure by not marrying Gentiles. God had called the Jews to be separate – for a reason. They were part of the covenant of promise (v12), a people who continued the holy line through which one day the Messiah would come. But now that the Messiah – Jesus Christ – had come, the Gentiles were “brought near”, that is they could also come into faith in the Living God. Verses 14-18: Picture the Temple building: first and lowest is the court of the Gentiles, then the court of women, then the court of Israelites, then the court of priests and finally the Holy Place of God’s presence into which no-one had access (apart from the High Priest, once a year). The unbelieving Gentile was shut out from the sacrificial area – he had no way of atoning for his sins. But, Paul says in verse 14 that Jesus destroyed that barrier! He did it first by his death on the cross and the veil in the Temple was ripped from top to bottom by God. He did it secondly by bringing peace (verses 14&17). And he did it by removing the barrier of the Law and replacing it with Love. Verses 19-22: Gentiles and Messianic Jews are now fellow citizens, built not on the Law of Moses, but on the apostles and prophets. Together we are a building – a new kind of Temple – in which God lives by his Holy Spirit. (see also Rev 21v12&14) Q. Think about what barriers might need removing in your life or the life of your church so that all people have access to God.
Chapter 3 Read verse 1&13: Paul refers to himself in verse 1 as the “prisoner of Christ” because at the time of writing he was in fact under house arrest in Rome and probably chained to a Roman soldier. Notice he didn’t see himself as a prisoner of his circumstances, rather – he saw it as a privilege. Neither did he see it as something to cause discouragement. Q. If we were/are part of the suffering, persecuted church would/does our attitude match that of Paul’s? Read verses 2-6: God had already spoken to Peter in a vision (in Acts 10v9-48) and shown him how that salvation was for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews. And now Paul says in verse 3 that he too had had a special revelation from God. The “mystery of Christ” is that both Gentiles and Jews share in the promises of God and are heirs together with Christ. Read verses 7-13: Paul talks about his apostleship as a privilege, given to him by God’s grace. This was his ministry – to broadcast the gospel which for ages had been kept like a secret (a mystery) waiting to be revealed. And his desire was that through the church this ministry would be perpetuated: we can approach the throne of God with boldness, freedom and confidence (v12) because the barriers have been removed. Q. How did Paul manage to continue his work in prison? Read verses 14-21: Paul prays for the people within the church (us!) that they will, in practice, be the Temple (dwelling place) of Christ, rooted and established in love and filled with the fullness of God. Why? The answer is in verse 18. Q. What does verse 18 mean to you? Have you experienced it?
Ephesians chapter 4 Paul’s letter takes a change of direction at this point. He has set out the Christian doctrine and explained our standing in Christ as joint heirs with him. And now he goes on to explain that with these rights come responsibilities. In other words he is saying: In love, this is what Christ has done for you; how are you going to respond to that love? Key verse: Live a life worthy of the calling you have received Key theme : UNITY
Read verses 1-3: Grace will bring unity The words Paul uses are words which describe God’s grace in a person and are a result of the fruit of the spirit. Think about the practical meaning of each word and how each quality would encourage unity. Humility: This word encompasses a wide variety of meanings: lack of pride; putting others before ourselves; being lowly and content; being like Jesus; not thinking too highly of ourselves. Humility is – putting Christ first, others second and ourselves last (and not feeling hard-done-by!!) Can we have humility without having a love for others? Gentleness: This word means meekness but not powerlessness. We can be meek but still have authority. We can be kind but fair. We need gentleness in order to love everyone and yet not condone sin. Patience: We need patience to put up with each other’s foibles! The fuller meaning of patience is longsuffering and forbearance. This is a grace that we cannot have unless we have God’s love in our hearts. Effort: Sometimes these qualities don’t come naturally and they require hard work! There are times when we struggle to maintain the grace that Christ’s love requires of us. Is this because we forget just how much Jesus has shown us his love? Paul recognises that sometimes there is disunity in a church and the people must be willing to work at a way of restoring their unity. It is the responsibility of every individual Christian. Peace: Peace is absence of conflict. We may not always see eye to eye with our fellow believers but there is a way to maintain peace – by being in unity in the Spirit, both with each other and with God. Our peace with others begins with our being at peace with God. Q. So, how is unity maintained in a church or does it just happen? Read verses 4-6: Our Biblical foundation for unity Love and grace is not enough! We need an understanding of the Word of God and doctrine. The Bible tells us we cannot have unity with people of other religions, or even with non – believers. To be in unity we have to share the same faith and the same purpose. Q. Why is it that good intentions, sincerity, love, respect and tolerance are not enough?
The Bible’s teaching is very clear: There is only One Body (v4) – the Body of Christ. We are parts of HIS body and not another’s. We should have unity with the local church body as well as with the universal church. There is only one Spirit (v4) – dwelling in each of us, the same Spirit is in me as in you. We are therefore united in this same Spirit. We are not meant to be solitary, but in fellowship with God and each other. There is only One Hope (v4) – we have been jointly called to a heavenly destiny where one day we will worship in perfect unity. 5
There is One Lord (v5) – If Jesus Christ, the one Lord, is Lord of our life and we worship him in obedience, how can we not be in unity? There is one Faith (v5) – referring to faith in the basic doctrine of the gospel. To depart from the Scriptures would bring about disunity. There is one Baptism (v5) – Baptism by the Spirit into the Body of Christ (symbolised by Baptism in water) – baptised into unity. There is one God and Father (v6) – We are not just a Body, we are Christ’s Body; and we are all united by being members of one family with the same Father.
Q. How many times is the word “one” mentioned in verses 4-6? Does this have any significance?
Read verses 7-10: God gave us the Holy Spirit When Christ ascended on High he ‘gave gifts to his people’ – he left the Holy Spirit to enable us to live and work for Him. A spiritual gift is not a natural ability but something extra to help us to witness and to work together in unity. (For spiritual gifts see: 1 Cor 12v4-11 & 27-31 and Rom 12v3-8)
Read verses 11-13: And God also gave us pastors and teachers. Apostles are ones who are sent with a commission, chosen by God. Prophets are the ones who proclaim God’s truth. Evangelists are the ones who preach the good news of the gospel. Pastors are shepherds of God’s “flock”, the congregation. Teachers are those who feed God’s “flock” with the Word of God. These verses support the model of Team Ministry within the local church. They also support the model of Body Ministry – so that God can use anyone in the fellowship to play a part in building up his church, and bringing the church into the place of unity.
Q. Can you summarise all the means God has provided for us in order that we can live in unity? (Think about v.7, v.4 & v13)
Read verses 14-16: Growing together in unity – a stable church If children receive no teaching or guidance they won’t grow into mature, responsible adults. Likewise, if Christians do not receive teaching they will not have the correct knowledge to base their actions on and will be “tossed back and forth” with no clear direction. Paul says here that we – the Body of Christ - need fellowship and teaching in order to grow into the mature Body of Christ and unity. We need our leaders and each other. “We belong to each other, we affect each other and we need each other”. (WW.Wiersbe) Q. What things can divide a fellowship? Q. What things can unite a fellowship?
In the first half of chapter 4 we looked at the means that God has provided for us in order that we can live in unity, i.e. – His Grace, the Doctrine and example of the Prophets and Apostles, the Gifts of the Spirit, and help from teachers and leaders. And Paul starts this next section with the word “So” (or “therefore”). In other words, God has done this for you – this is how you should live for him.
Read verses 17-19: Live God’s Way We must not live as the people in the world do (Gentiles, non-believers). We belong to a heavenly kingdom and should act accordingly. As our country has separated itself from Christian principles we see that verse 19 has become increasingly true. The Greek meaning of the words “sensuality and greed” implies covetousness. In other words, people covet more than one partner, more material things, more food etc. and they see no wrong in it. Our actions are a result of the way we think (v17).
Read verses 20-24: We are a new creation Sermons, Sunday school lessons, Bible studies, nurture groups etc. all exist to teach us about Jesus who proclaimed to be The Way. As we believe in Him and trust in Him we walk in his Way. We make that decision to “put off the old self” and “put on the new self” (v22&24). Q. How do we do this? (v22) Is it something we do, or something we wait for Christ to do in us?
Read verses 25-31: Five things we are to “take off” 1. Falsehood – an intent to deceive someone. 2. Anger – annoyance about a grievance. 3. Stealing – taking something that is not yours. 4. Unwholesome talk – anything that pulls down rather than builds up 5. Bitterness – unforgiveness kept in the heart
Q. If we practise any of these things, as Christians, who do we hurt? (see verse 30)
Chapter 5 Read chapter 4v32 – 5v2: Five things we are to “put on” 1. Kindness – giving rather than taking/ opposite of greed 2. Compassion – reacting in love and understanding 3. Forgiveness – not holding a grievance or being bitter 4. Love – love as Jesus loved, unconditionally, whoever they are 5. Sacrifice – giving ourselves, our money, our families for Christ 7
Q. How do we do these things? (see v1) If we do these things, as Christians who do we please?
Read verses 3-7: A reminder We must guard our minds against thoughts and talk that are not pleasing to God. Sadly, the Christian community is not immune to sexual sin (immorality, sexual perversion and sexual abuse). God’s Word says it is wrong and God expects us to be disciplined in our thoughts and deeds – perhaps we sometimes forget that he knows our every thought. And every action begins with a thought. But no one sin is worse that another. Obscenity, foolish talk, harmful gossip, adultery – all harm other people and harm our relationship with God.
Read verses 8-14: Walk as Children of the Light God has brought us into the Light. Therefore we should walk in the light. As we wake up and walk in the light “Christ will shine on us”, making us lights too (v14). Paul says we should have nothing to do with sins that take place in darkness (or in privacy) but that we should find out what pleases the Lord. We are to be: Pleasing – find out what pleases the Lord (10) Proactive – we should be in control of our thoughts and our actions Positive – we should be lights for God (v14)
Look at the advice given in verse 27 of chapter 4. Q. How do we do this in practice? (Think about modern temptations: the media, the internet, current sexual norms in our culture, jokes, addictions etc.)
Read verses 15-17: Do not be foolish, but wise We are to be wise. This doesn’t mean we have to be clever (although we are meant to understand God’s will – v17) but it means we have to be circumspect, we have to live our lives carefully with our eyes open and fixed on Jesus. The opposite of being wise is to live our lives foolishly (v17) or carelessly with no real aim.
Q. Do we plan our days so that we can use them wisely so that we can make the most of every opportunity (v16)?
Read verses 18-20 - First the negatives, now we get the positives: Be filled with the Spirit – continually knowing God’s presence Speak to one another with Psalms – share Scripture together Sing spiritual hymns and songs – singing is not just for Sundays! Make music from your heart – experience deep joy in the Lord Always thank God for everything – a natural response to God’s goodness. A grateful heart promotes harmony, peace and love. 8
Read verse 21- an underlying principle Submission is not about position of authority. It is about respecting the other person and it is about bringing order and harmony into relationships; whether they are concerning man/wife, family, school, work, community etc. Paul’s advice which follows concerns the way in which Christians should act in the context of Christian relationships where Christ’s love is the anchor and standard for that relationship.
Read verses 22-29 – harmonious living Both husband and wife are to submit to Christ. If the husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church (a high standard to attain to) there should be no problem in the wife submitting to her husband. “The couple who pray together stay together” because they both seek God’s will in their marriage. This is why we are advised not to marry unbelievers. (2 Corinthians 6v14-18).
Read verses 30-33 – a picture of the church The church is Christ’s Body and also His Bride. Christian marriage should be a reflection of our relationship with Christ, but it also teaches us about the nature of that relationship. He loved us sacrificially and in thankfulness we submit to Him. Just as husband and wife become “one flesh/body” so it is with Christ and his Church. And both natural and spiritual relationships should never be broken.
Ephesians chapter 6 Read verses 1-4: a harmonious household Paul continues his instructions for harmonious living. Children should obey their parents but parents should respect their children and teach their children in such a way that they want to obey them. And the onus is on Christian parents to give their children teaching about Christian love and the Gospel of Salvation through Jesus Christ. Read verses 5-9: harmony in the workplace. There were millions of slaves in the Roman Empire. Paul’s advice to the Christian slaves was not that they should claim their rights or rebel against their masters - they were to obey and respect them as if they were doing the will of God from their heart. And he encouraged Christian slave owners to treat them fairly as they were both servants of God. Q. How should verse 7 impact on our lives? “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.”
Read verses 10-12: Don’t fight the system – fight the real enemy. All Christians – wives, husbands, children, parents, servants, slaves and masters – are reminded to be strong in the Lord (note: not strong in speech or determination or political power, but in the Lord). This doesn’t mean we do nothing when we meet unfairness and opposition , because Paul explains that opposition to Christians comes from Satan (the powers of darkness and spiritual forces), not from man (v12). So our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the enemy, Satan. So we shouldn’t fight against the person but we should wrestle against Satan in prayer. Prayer is always the answer. 9
Q. How do we identify if something is Satanic? (Note: If Satan uses a person to bring us down in some way, that does not mean that the person is Satanic) Satan is called the Accuser: He wrongfully accuses us Satan is called the Destroyer: He tells us we are worthless Satan is called the Deceiver: He twists the truth Often we identify a person behind the accusation, or the demeaning words or the lie. We want to get even with them – we want to react against what they have said or done, but Paul is saying we should be praying against Satan who has instigated it in order to take away our peace. As Christians we should seek to bring God’s harmony.
Read verses 13-17: The Armour of God Christians do not fight against things in the same way as non-Christians. Our weapons are not physical but spiritual. We have the following to help us in our spiritual battles: The Belt of Truth: Our standard for truth is God’s Word. Read the Bible, know the Bible and learn Scriptures. Use the Word of God when in trouble. Stand on the true and reliable promises of God and trust Him to fight for you. Write down Scriptures to help you, highlight them in your Bible when they speak to you so that you can rely on them in the time of need. We put on the belt of truth and withstand the Deceiver.
The Breastplate of Righteousness: Our protection doesn’t come from having weapons to defend ourselves with. It comes from the fact that we have been made right with God and He is our shield. We put on His righteousness and can withstand the Accuser.
The Feet of Peace: We are to bring the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ into every situation. He has given us His peace. (John 14)
The Shield of Faith: We must know what we believe and in whom we put our faith. Then we will be able to deflect the “darts” that are sent our way to pull us down. With the Shield of Faith we can withstand the Destroyer.
The Helmet of Salvation: The enemy often tries to “get to us” through our mind by sowing seeds of doubt and worry. At these times we must protect our head (mind) by reminding ourselves that we have been chosen by God for salvation and we belong to Him.
The Sword of the Spirit: This is the Word of God (see also Truth above). It is our protection, but out of all the armour it is our weapon. With it we are able to tear down the enemy’s strongholds in our lives and in the lives of others.
Read verses 18-20: Prayer is the Key Pray all kinds of prayer, at all times, on all occasions, in all places! We are to pray for our leaders and our brothers and sisters in Christ and especially for those who are in the forefront of spreading the gospel. 10
Q, Why do evangelists need special prayer for protection?
Read verses 21-24: Final Greetings Paul wants us to pray but he also wants us to be encouraged. He prays for peace for the church. He sends love to the church. And he pronounces grace on those who love the Lord. Peace love and grace are the foundation for a harmonious church that will be a good witness to the Lord.