(last updated 4/25/22))
This letter was written to the church at Ephesus while Paul was a prisoner in Rome. Timothy was later a pastor to the Ephesians, and extra-biblical sources say the apostle John was their pastor even later. Ephesus was the capital city of the Roman province of Asia, or modern Turkey, and second only to Rome in size and importance. We read in Acts 18:19 of Paul's first brief visit to Ephesus, then his return in Acts 19. Between his visits, Apollos had been preaching, laying the foundation about Jesus Christ. When Paul returned, he stayed two years, so the Ephesians received more teaching than any other church. Paul wrote to the Corinthians while he was as Ephesus, that "a great and effectual door is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries, I Cor. 16:8-9. In the last half of Acts 20, we read of Paul's third brief visit to them and his words to the elders of the church.
Occult activity was very prevalent there. Ephesus was famous for temple of the goddess Diana, also known as Artemis--it was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. She was the patroness of sex--a vulgar idol with many breasts--and religious prostitution was part of Diana-worship. Due to Paul's preaching and his many miracles there, so many became Christians that the makers of idols started a riot because their livelihood was threatened.
At first glance, we may find this idolatry hard to relate to, but actually, goddess worship is alive and well today in our culture. It takes many forms--Catholics worship Mary and Marian apparitions. Mormons believe God has a wife and that they produce spirit-children which are up in heaven waiting to be born to earthly Mormon parents. New Agers believe in Mother Earth, often known as Gaia. Many people today identify themselves as pagans and may worship Sophia or Isis. Feminist liberal "Christians" are replacing male references in the Bible to female in some modern translations. No matter the name, the "queen of heaven" has been around, under various names, since Old Testament days, We find the queen of heaven in Jer. 7:18, 44:17-25, and Ashtoreth in I Kings 11:5,33. America is becoming more open to pagan trends and less open to Christian beliefs than ever in the past. We are not that far from the atmosphere of Ephesus.
The book is easily divided: the firsts three chapters are doctrinal, and the last three are practical. The first chapter and a half give the big picture of what it means to be a Christian. The next chapter and a half explain what it means to be the church. The last three chapters talk about our Christian walk. Isn't this what we want in a good sermon? Solid teaching--doctrine--and then an understanding of how that truth applies to everyday life.
1-2 Paul opens with his typical greeting, identifying himself as an apostle--why does he always do this? He then identifies the recipients of this letter--whom? What does he mean by "saints"? Perfect people? Extra-good Christians that have been promoted to the position of "saint"? Or just, all believers? This is how the Bibles uses this term. How does he further identify saints, besides their location? Saints are those who are set apart--by whom? for what? The faithful = believers. Which of the three members of the Trinity is NOT mentioned here? The Holy Spirit is never the focus; He is not to be our focus--Christ is. Some Christians focus on the Holy Spirit, but that is not biblical. He never draws attention to Himself--He always points to Christ. But Paul will talk about His role later.
He always opens with grace and peace, in that order--why? What is grace? God's gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. How do we have peace with God? By receiving His grace--receiving Jesus Christ. We don't receive grace through any external acts, as some churches teach--not baptism, not the Lord's Supper, not acts of obedience. Both grace and peace come to us through whom?
3 Now Paul begins an exposition of what it means to be a Christian--to be IN CHRIST. Watch for the repeated phrases, "in Christ," "in Him," "in the Beloved," in 3-14. We are in Christ, and He is in us.
We see "bless" used two different ways; how do we bless God? We say it, we tell Him. How does He bless us? Through what He does, and has done. What kind of blessings does the Christian have? What are our spiritual blessings?
In the Old Testament, God promised physical blessings to Israel in exchange for obedience to the Law. This is one of the biggest misunderstandings Christians have about the Bible and their expectations of the Christian life. They wonder why trials and unpleasant things happen in their lives. They read in Psalms and other Old Testament passages how God will reward obedience with health, wealth and long life. Many Christians fail to read carefully, to distinguish the differences between the Old and New Testaments, and to see that God did not promise those things to the church. We are not Israel, and we are not under the blessings and curses of the Law. In the dispensation of Law, that IS what God promised. We are not under law but grace; we are in the dispensation of Grace, or what we call the church age.
The early church had trouble with this concept also, and in many epistles we find Paul reminding them that we CANNOT combine grace and law. Yet many continue to teach this today. Paul clarifies here the type of blessings we should expect--where are our blessings found? Jesus warned us to expect trials and tribulations, John 16:33. This is repeated in Acts 14:22, Rom. 8:35, II Cor. 1:5, Phil. 1:29-30, I Thes. 3:3, II Tim. 3:12, I Pet. 4:12-19. We can see that the lives of the apostles were characterized by trials and difficulties, and the church lived under persecution. In the midst of our trials, what is God doing in our lives? II Cor. 1:4,9, 3:5, 4:7,15,17, 6:10, 7:4-6, 12:9-10, 13:4,11.
4-6 Paul continues his thought on spiritual blessings as he develops this long sentence that includes 3-6. What is the most important blessing we have received? When did this happen? Why did God do this? "Holy" is the same Greek word used above for "saints." It just means set apart. It does not mean sinless, nor does "blameless" mean sinless. The Bible does not teach that anyone is or can be sinless--only Christ. We know that we do continue to sin sometimes, yet we try not to, by His power. We are not blameless in our own eyes or in the eyes of others, but we ARE blameless in whose eyes? Why? When we are finally in His presence, will we be truly blameless?
What does it mean to be "chosen" or "predestined"? There are different views on predestination, so we want to look at this important topic. This word is only used in the KJV a few times: here, verse 11, and Rom. 8:29-30. In the NASB it also occurs in Acts 4:28 and I Cor. 2:7, where the KJV says "determined before" and "ordained before the world" so we see that the meaning is the same. God determined or ordained something before it happened. The question is, what did He determine? Some people think these verses are saying that God decided ahead of time who would be saved and who would not; who would go to heaven and who would go to hell. They believe that those who become Christians have no real choice because they HAD TO, because God already decided. They believe that those who don't accept Christ COULDN'T because God already decided. This view is called Calvinism.
Here in verse 5, what does "us" mean? Each individual by name, or the church? Paul uses "us," "we" and "our" throughout this passage. 3, God blessed us. 4, God chose us. 5, God predestined us. 6, God bestowed on us. 7, we have redemption and forgiveness. 8, He lavished His grace on us. 9, He made His will known to us. 11, we have obtained an inheritance, and we have been predestined according to His purpose. 13, we believed and were sealed. 14, we have an inheritance. Is Paul speaking of the church in this passage--what it means to be a Christian, a believer? Isn't Paul explaining that God planned all this before the foundation of the world, even though the church was not brought into existence until much later in God's plan--after His choice of Israel to first bring God's message to the world through the giving to them of the Law and the prophets? This is what Paul means by a mystery: although the church was not revealed as part of God's plan until now, with the Holy Spirit indwelling believers with power, it was part of God's plan from the very beginning--not an afterthought. Paul will speak more of this mystery later.
Do any of the verses that mention predestination say that God chose individuals and that they could not choose otherwise? How many did God call and desire to be saved, Mat. 20:16 and I Tim. 2:4? Did all accept His call? Those who accepted are those who are chosen. Those who are elected must still accept the position they are elected to. Through Christ's blood on the cross, God purchased tickets to heaven for everyone, but everyone must pick up the ticket with their name on it or else it's no good. Elsewhere in the Bible, are we told that we ourselves must choose and will be held responsible for our choice? Are we told we must believe and receive Jesus Christ? John 1:12, 3:16-18,36, 5:24, 6:29,40,47, 8:24, 11:25-26, 12:46, 14:1, Acts 4:4, 8:37, 10:43, 11:21, 16:31, 18:8, etc. Why are Christians referred to as believers?
Another related word is foreknowledge, which we find in Rom. 8:29-30 where it talks about predestination. Foreknowledge is also mentioned in Rom. 11:2 and I Pet. 1:2. Does God know everything before it happens? So we see that the Bible teaches that God not only knows everything ahead of time--He planned everything ahead of time. Does that leave room for us to make choices? We have already seen that the Bible says we are to make choices, and that there will be consequences for our choices. We don't know how that all works together, but the Bible says both are true. If indeed God DID choose individuals, apparently He saw into the future how we would choose, and based on that foreknowledge, He predestined us.
If we can't understand everything about God, does that make it false? Can we understand how He made the universe out of nothing but His spoken word? Can we understand how He raised Jesus from the dead? But can we believe those things? Why can we believe them? Our little human pea-brains, tainted by sin from the Fall, obviously cannot totally comprehend God. Has He given us enough information and evidence about Himself to believe? So don't feel bad if you don't "get" predestination. If we don't get it, can't we still believe the gospel, receive Christ, and live an obedient Christian life? It's also interesting to note that the few times that the Bible talks about predestination, it is never in reference to unbelievers, those who will end up in hell. This again lends weight to the idea that it is the church that is predestined, and not individuals.
Back to verse 5. We who were sinners, in rebellion to God, are now what? Why? Because God is what? Isn't it God's ideal will that all would be adopted as sons? But did all choose to accept His call? Have all men been given enough evidence to believe in God, Rom. 1:20? Is it God's ideal will that they end up in hell? But will He permit that if they reject Him? 6, how do we receive God's grace? God's grace is the free gift of what? And what should be our response to that? 6, what is the purpose of God doing all this for us? Is it to point to ME, to make SELF more important? Who is it to point to?
7-9 "In Him" we have what? To redeem means to buy back, as in buying back a slave out of the slave market, to set free. Because He set us free, did we run off and do our own thing, or did we then choose to serve Him because of our love for what He did? We were slaves of what? Often we don't really see our sin as all that bad, so we need to be reminded. Bought with what? Which also gives us what? Because of our own good works, or...? Is God skimpy with His grace? The KJV shows 8 as all one thought; the NASB punctuates it differently. Punctuation was not in the original language so is supplied by translators and editors. Regardless of punctuation, what two qualities of God are brought out here? 9, what else has God done for us?
Paul speaks here of the mystery of His will--God's determinations and purposes. "Mystery" is not a who-dun-it but something revealed that God has not chosen to reveal before. Is Paul talking about God's will as His blueprint for our daily life decisions, that God will daily reveal to us His will about specific things we want to know? Or is the context about God's "Big Picture"--about the church as something in God's plan that He hadn't revealed in the Old Testament but is revealing now through the apostles, that was always part of His plan? Many people get confused about God's will, thinking that God will give us special knowledge about daily decisions or other things we want to know. Many books and sermons tell us the "secrets" to finding God's will, but we don't really find this concept in Scripture. What is God's prescription for life's daily decisions, James 1:5? How can we get more of that godly wisdom?
God purposed what things "in Him"? What else happens "in Christ"? Paul keeps emphasizing that idea--everything in God's plan is summed up in Christ.
10-12 "In Christ...in Him." The KJV and NASB punctuate differently at the end of 10 and beginning of 11. We have a couple of very long sentences, both packed with information.
The KJV uses in 10 the word "dispensation," translated "administration" in the NASB--a way of doing things. You may be familiar with the label "dispensationalist," which describes a person who holds to a particular interpretation of Scripture in which God deals with man, through the ages, in different dispensations--meaning, He administers things differently in different times, for His purposes. We find In Eph. 3:1-6 that Paul speaks of and explains the dispensation of grace. He explains that the church--all those, both Jew and Gentile, who have believed in Christ--is a mystery not revealed in past ages, but revealed now--not so much through Christ's teaching, but through the apostles and those with the gift of prophecy. This is how God is presently doing things. Before the church age, which is also known as the age of grace, He was dealing with man under the Law He gave through Moses. Before the Law, His way of doing things was through the God-given institution of human government, Gen. 9:1-6. Before that, man was governed by his God-given conscience. After the church age ends, God will deal with man in the earthly kingdom by placing Christ over them who will rule with a rod of iron, while Satan is bound. This understanding of Scripture is called Dispensationalism.
What does 10 say about this dispensation? Paul calls it (KJV) the dispensation of the fulness of times--the completing of God's program, the summing up of what? Has the fullness of times happened yet? What must take place then? Have all things in heaven and earth been summed up in Christ yet? When will that happen? So even from the very beginning, God's program was about who? God's big plan has been playing out in heaven; what conflict in heaven have we read about throughout the Bible? And has this same conflict been playing out on earth throughout history? It explains God's Big Picture; does it also help explain the conflict we each experience in our own lives? So life doesn't just "happen." Everything we experience fits into this Big Picture. 12, what is the point of our salvation?
13-14 "In Him...in Him." Believing follows what? What is meant by the "gospel"? Review I Cor. 15:1-5. When Paul presents the gospel, he always presents the resurrection; what does it prove about Jesus? Today many believe there is no such thing as truth, that truth is relative. "What's true for you is true for you, and what's true for me is true for me." Is this true? Isn't this just talking about each having his own opinion? But the Bible often uses the term "truth." The Bible says we CAN know what is true, and the Bible is truth.
What happens after you believe? We receive the Holy Spirit, who seals us. What is a seal? An image is impressed, guaranteeing the rightful owner of the sealed item. What is a pledge, or earnest? Why do we give earnest money when we buy a house? What does the Holy Spirit promise us later? Redemption means to buy back, like to buy a slave out of the slave market and give him freedom. So must we receive the Holy Spirit later on, as some teach? Being baptized, indwelt and sealed with Spirit does not come later, it happens at salvation. Paul says nothing about a separate experience. What is the purpose of our salvation--is it for US? This is the third time Paul says this; in the Bible, when something is repeated, we need to pay attention--it is important. Everything is for the purpose of bringing glory to God. He started in 3, telling us how God has blessed us, what these spiritual blessings are, and that because of what He has done, He is to be blessed/glorified. Bless is a funny word; God blesses us, and we are to bless Him. God blesses us by what He does; we bless Him by what we say.
15-17 Now Paul tells the Ephesians what he prays for them. Many of his epistles tell us how Paul prays, usually near the beginning. It is good to study what kind of things Paul prays for, and compare it to the things we pray for. Does He make suggestions as to what God should be doing? What's the first thing he does, 16? What can we learn by the fact that he mentions this first? And what things does he give thanks for, 15? These are things that should characterize all believers. What does he pray for them in 17? Is he praying that they will have "revelations" as in visions, or that God will reveal Himself to them as their knowledge of Him increases? More like "illumination" or what we might call "lightbulb moments." In I Cor. 12:8 he speaks of supernatural spiritual gifts, the "word of wisdom" and "word of knowledge." He does not identify these here as spiritual gifts, but He speaks of a spirit that should characterize all Christians--a spirit of wisdom and knowledge of God.
18-19 Paul uses an interesting picture: the eyes of our hearts. He prays what about those eyes? Does Satan try to blind our eyes? Why does he want us to be enlightened? So that we might hope for the best, or guess what God has in mind? We find all through the New Testament that we can KNOW many things about God, and KNOW we are saved. The Greek word for "hope" means expectation, anticipation, not wishful uncertain thinking. Isn't that hope what keeps us going? What can we know about our future, 18? What can we know about our present life, 19?
So is most of his prayer to/about God, or Jesus? We find that he speaks of praying to God, and that God has done what He has done THROUGH Christ. We have access to God the Father through Christ. God is central, not Christ; Christ has bridged the gap between us and our heavenly Father. Do our prayers begin with thankfulness, or with telling God our "to-do list"? Does he pray that their problems will be fixed, that their illnesses will be healed? From Paul's prayers, we can assume that the most important things to pray for are what?
19-21 The middle of 19 begins the next long sentence. We are assured of God's power acting toward us--power great enough to do what and what? Where is Jesus now, since He ascended into heaven? 21, speaking of rankings of angelic powers; compare John 12:31, Eph. 3:10, 6:12, I Pet. 3:22. Are Satan and God two equal powers of good and evil? We also see that 21 speaks of various "ages"--what is the next age to come after this one? In this age Christ is ruling from heaven, spiritually, but in the next age, He will rule physically over the entire earthly kingdom.
22-23 Clarifying He/Him: God the Father has put all things in subjection under the feet of God the Son, Jesus, and gave Jesus as head over all things to the church, which is the body of Christ, which is the fullness of Christ who fills all in all. Do we actually see all things under Christ yet? When will that happen? What is the age to come? The millenium earthly kingdom; following the rapture, the seven years of tribulation, and the second coming, Christ will rule for 1000 years. "Rule, authority, power and dominion" probably refer to ranks of angels (and demons). Ephesians is the book that really teaches about the church being the body of Christ. After Christ bodily ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit came to indwell believers with His power--the "fulness of Him who fills all in all." The church (all believers) is now His physical body through which He operates on earth, and He is the head.
22-23 sum up what Paul has been teaching about the church. Prior to the inception of the church (Acts 2) God had been dealing with Israel, the people He chose and used to reveal the Law and through whom would come the promised Messiah. But now God is doing something new; in 9 Paul calls it a mystery, which in the Bible means something in God's plan that had not previously been revealed but now is revealed. The church is a completely different group than Israel, which was primarily a chosen bloodline, not all of whom believed and were righteous. The church is one hundred percent believers--all who have believed in Christ from Pentecost in Acts 2 to the rapture, both believing Jews and believing Gentiles.
Paul gives more teaching about what the church is here in Ephesians than in any other of his letters. He tells of all the privileges God now gives to the church, to those who are "in Christ"--things not said of or promised to Israel. (Israel was promised physical blessings if they obeyed the requirement to keep God's commandments.) 3, spiritual blessings. 4, holy and blameless before Him. 5, adopted as sons. 6, grace as a free gift not having to be earned, to be worked for). 7-8, redemption through Christ's blood (no more animal sacrifice), grace in abundance. 9-10, revealed to us His purposes in Christ in this new dispensation. 11, we who have been adopted have an inheritance; all this was God's plan from the beginning--the church was not an afterthought or a Plan B. 12, the purpose of the church is to be to the praise of God's glory. 13, all who believe in Him are sealed in Him by the Holy Spirit; we cannot unseal ourselves, nor can anyone or anything else, Rom. 8:38-39. Only the church is promised eternal security; we do not remain saved because of any works we do, but because of the free gift of His grace. 14 repeats this fact: a pledge, earnest money, is a down payment, a guarantee by the one who gave it that we WILL receive our inheritance. As he said in 11-12, those in Christ receiving this inheritance without working for it is to the praise of His glory. And finally, 22-23, the church--all those in Christ, who now have the indwelling Holy Spirit--together are Christ's body on earth, a body made up of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles. Even though He ascended to heaven He dwells in us and functions on earth through us via the power of His Spirit in us. None of this was said of those before or after the church age.
1-3 I used to think that there were 3 kinds of people: Christians, the wicked, and a large group in the middle. Does this passage support that thinking? What does God say people are like before they are saved? In 2, before we are saved, we are walking according to what two influences? And what further influence in 3? Even as believers, our three enemies are still the world, the flesh and the devil. The "flesh" is our old nature, described how in 3? Are all people "children of God" as many believe? Rather, what are we before we believe, in 2, and in 3? What do we learn about Satan in 2? Jesus also speaks of him as the "ruler of this world" in John 12:31, 14:30 and 16:11.
4-6 Our condition sounded pretty hopeless, "but..." These four verses are one long sentence. The subject is "God," the verbs are "quickened/made us alive," "raised," "seated." In the NASB, each of those three verbs are followed by two words--with Christ, with Him. Aren't these three actions what God the Father did for Jesus the Son when He was dead because of our sin? He made Him alive, He raised Him, and He seated Him in heaven with Him. God did those same things for us. Spiritually we have already been raised with Christ and seated in heaven, but physically this will actually happen later. We currently reside on earth, but where is our true home, Phil. 3:20? We are here temporarily as what, II Cor. 5:20?
WHY did God do these things, 4? Because of His great what? Because He is rich in what? Did He do this because we are lovable and worthy? So He took dead people and made them what, 5? And He did this--saving us--by His what? Paul will expand on this idea in 8. Again we see that phrase, 6, "in Christ."
7 When will all this be shown? Have we already physically died, been raised, and taken to heaven? Spiritually speaking, these things have already happened, but they have not yet happened physically. Eph. 1:3 said that the blessings for the church are spiritual blessings. Our physical lives may not reflect these things, but we know that at some point they will, because spiritually they have already taken place. So is this life what it's all about? Are God's riches promised to us for this life? God's grace, mercy, love, kindness and salvation for mankind are all done in Christ; are there many ways to God, as so many believe?
8-9 These are two of the most important verses explaining salvation. Why do we need saved--what are we saved from? Refer back to 5. What word tells what God does? What word tells what we do? What are other words for grace? A benefit, a favor, a gift, liberality. How does that explain what God has done for us? What is another word for faith? Belief, reliance on. Some think this means that we can't even exercise faith unless God gives us faith; but don't we all exercise faith in something every day? Someone may say, well I just don't have enough faith. Is it about how much faith you have, or what you have put your faith in? Is salvation of ourselves--is it something we can do? Rather, it is a what? This is so important that Paul says it again in other words. There is no room for pride in self-effort. For an example of this attitude, see how Daniel prays in Dan. 9:18. Why are these two verses so important? So can anyone get to heaven by being good enough, by presenting God with their "list"? We need to present this clearly to unbelievers we are talking to.
10 We = the church, all who are saved by grace. We know about creation, but now Paul speaks about a different aspect of God's creation--the creation of the church. Do good words play any role in our lives? What role? Is this speaking of works of the Law that lead to salvation, or works that result from salvation? 8-9 tell us that we can take no credit for our salvation; can we take credit for any good works we do following our salvation? So spiritually we have already been made alive, raised with Christ and seated in heaven, but until that happens physically, what we are doing physically?
As in the discussion in chapter 1 of predestination, we could ask, is Paul speaking of individuals or the church? Is he saying God has predestined specific acts that we will do, implying we have no free will in the matter? Or is he saying that God has planned this salvation for the church--this new group of Jews and Gentiles--and that this plan is no longer about doing works of the Law, but that our lives should be characterized by good works as a result of that gift God gave us by His grace, which we receive through faith? I lean toward the latter.
In 1-10 Paul has revealed more of what makes the church unique and different from Israel, from the dispensation of the Law. Before the church, believers formerly walked in the flesh, because, not being born again, they had not been given the new nature. He explains this more fully in Rom. 7-8. Three more times he emphasizes that salvation in the age of grace means, we are saved through God's grace (in Christ) on the basis of faith alone, apart from the works of the Law. The work has been done: prepared beforehand for us by God, and done by Christ on our behalf. Again, grace is a free gift, not earned.
The rest of the chapter explains that the Gentiles now have access to God on the same basis as the Jews, and are part of the church on the same basis as the Jewish Christians. This is the message that infuriated the Jews in Jerusalem to where they wanted to kill him, Acts 22:21-22. Read 11-16.
11-12 He is speaking to what type of people? Gentiles, or the Uncircumcision as they were called by the Jews (the Circumcision). Originally the Jews were the people God chose to work through--through them He gave the Law and the prophets. What was the spiritual status of the Gentiles in the Old Testament?
13 Gentiles could worship the God of the Jews at the tmple, but they were required under the Law to remain in the outer court, an area reserved for them. But this side of the cross, what has changed for Gentiles? Is salvation only for Jews? Are Gentiles second-class Christians?
14-16 Under the Law, Jews could have nothing to do with Gentiles, or they would become ceremonially unclean; what has happened to this distinction? Are they still under the Law? What is the "one new man"? The church--this is something new God has done (yet as we saw in chapter 1, it was His plan from the beginning). Barrier, dividing wall, enmity, peace, reconcile--had there been conflict between these two groups in the past? And perhaps to a certain extent within the church?
17-18 Who are those who were far away? Who are those who were near? Gentiles and Jews. Before salvation, some were nearer than others, but was anyone "there"? All need salvation. Do you see the Trinity referred to in these verses? 18 explains how the Trinity functions in salvation. Jesus Christ gives us access, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, to the Father.
19-22 Paul is still addressing the Gentile believers, "you." How did the Jews see the Gentiles before, 19? As outsiders. What is their status now, if they have received salvation through Jesus? Who are the saints? "Fellow-citizens" speaks of our citizenship where? 20 tells us the purpose of apostles and prophets in the early church; God spoke through them before they had the written New Testament. What did they provide for God's household (the church)? Does a foundation need to continually be laid? This confirms that the spiritual gifts of apostle and prophet are not ongoing and do not continue today, that they were given to the early church for a specific purpose.
A foundation is built on what? A cornerstone is important in a foundation since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, determining the position of the entire structure. Some think that Mat. 16:18 says Jesus would build the church on Peter, but is he the cornerstone? Which "rock" IS the cornerstone? Jesus, not Peter. Sometimes Paul likens the church to the human body, or the body of Christ, but here he likens it to what? Does this say that our church buildings are temples, where God dwells? Where does God's Spirit dwell? In the Old Testament, God's presence was in the Holy of Holies; He said He would meet with Israel at the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant, between the two cherubim. Only the high priest could enter there, once a year, on the Day of Atonement. The Holy of Holies was protected by a thick curtain or veil; what happened to it when Christ was crucified? Why?
1-3 Where is Paul writing from? Why? Because he had taken the gospel to the Gentiles. In the middle of his sentence, he seems to digress from his original thought, which he picks up again in 14.
Was the message of God's grace--the dispensation of grace which now replaces the dispensation of law--given through Jesus or through Paul? Jesus chose to reveal this AFTER His death, resurrection and ascension; He revealed it to Paul directly through a revelation, Gal. 1:11-12. We tend to think the New Testament is about the church, but actually, the Epistles are specifically for the church. Acts tells of the birth of the church, and a time of transition; God had been dealing with the Jews, under the Law of Moses, but now He was dealing with both Jews and Gentiles, as the law had been fulfilled and was no longer our rule of life. The means of salvation had not changed--faith in God's promised sacrificial Lamb--but God set up different ways by which He dealt with mankind at different times in history.
The Gospels are the story of the life and death of Jesus. We sometimes think Jesus came to institute the church, but He actually came to present Himself to Israel as their promised Messiah, and to offer them the kingdom. He did not explain at that time about the church or the age of grace, although He hinted at it (as did the Old Testament, but the church is not found in the Old Testament--Israel's blessings are not for the church). The word "grace" is only found four times in the Gospels, but 118 times in the rest of the New Testament. Those four references to grace in the Gospels all speak of Jesus as being full of God's grace--sinless. God's grace--salvation--is a person, Jesus Christ. (Note: Even though the "Hail Mary" speaks of Mary as being full of grace--sinless--this is completely unbiblical. Mary is never spoken of as being sinless or being full of grace; only Jesus is.)
But the Jews did not accept Him as their Messiah, so the kingdom was postponed, and will follow the rapture of the church, the seven years of tribulation as God 1) pours out His wrath on the evil of the unbelieving world, 2) purifies Israel; then He returns at the second coming, and institutes the promised earthly kingdom over which Israel will rule. This message is clearest in Matthew, which is the gospel written to the Jews, with many references to the kingdom and to fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
Because God's plan for Israel is now on hold, He is at this time dealing with the Gentiles through the church. Now, if Jews believe in Jesus, they become part of the church, just as in the Old Testament, if Gentiles believed in the true and living God, they had to become Jews, in order to be allowed to offer sacrifices in the temple as required. God's plan for the church--that believing Jews and Gentiles were equal and parts of the same body--was not revealed to the Jews in the Old Testament or even during Jesus' life; it was always part of God's plan, Eph. 1:3-14, but was not revealed until Jesus revealed it through Paul.
Hence Paul refers to it here as a mystery--something now revealed that had not previously been revealed. Paul refers to various "mysteries"--truths for the church that had not been revealed before, but now ARE revealed. These are not secrets, that only certain very spiritual people know or can understand. Some would like us to think that, that we need spiritual gurus to explain secrets from the Bible that only they happen to know. The Ephesians had many "mystery religions" of this sort. The Bible makes it clear that it can be known, understood and accepted by all who desire to know the truth.
4-7 Paul explains the same thing again in other words. In 3 Paul said this mystery was revealed to whom? In 5 he says it was revealed to whom? So it was not given only to Paul; God revealed the same truths to all the apostles and prophets. Revelations from God were not made to any and all Christians, as many Charismatics today claim; they were only given to apostles and prophets. We have already seen in various places that apostles were not ongoing throughout the history of the church; they were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ, and laid the foundation of the church. Through them God gave the teachings for the church that have been recorded and compiled as the New Testament.
We also saw in I Cor. 12-14 that prophets received messages from God. We saw that they did not receive anything different or more than what had been received by the apostles. The early church did not have a written New Testament, so apparently God continually confirmed His message to the church through those who had the spiritual gift of prophecy. Because men are subject to error and wrong motives, others who were given the gift of discerning or distinguishing of spirits were to pass judgment on those messages, I Cor. 14:29, confirming that the message did indeed come from the Holy Spirit, not some other spirit, I Cor. 12:1-3.
Does Paul say that revelations are being given (present tense--continuing), or that they were given (past tense--no more to be given in the future)? This is important, because many today believe that God is continuing to speak through prophets today, and that He is giving new truths. This is unbiblical. Some say their messages line up with the Bible, but if they are already given to us in the Bible, why would we need those messages to be given through a revelation? All we really need to do is to study the Bible more, where God has revealed everything He has to say, Jude 3 (once for all).
8-10 Does Paul consider himself the main apostle? or at least a very important Christian? Is Paul guilty of "false humility" or why would he speak of himself this way? Don't Christians often continue to feel the sting of their previous life before salvation, and wonder how God could use someone like them? Amazingly, God can transform and use anyone who has repented and been saved. Isn't it also true that as you mature, God speaks to you about sins that you weren't even aware of before, so that the more mature you get, the more you are aware of your sinfulness? The Old Testament saints were promised earthly prosperity if they obeyed the Law; what is the church promised, 8?
Three times now he has referred to this "mystery"--making it clear that the church has been part of God's plan from the beginning, not an "after-thought." Some skeptics say, "well, God's original plan didn't work, so He had to come up with Plan B." No--He knew from the beginning how man would sin, how man would act under the Law, and even how Christians would continue to struggle with sin and deception in the church age, as Jesus foretold in Mat. 13. He connects God's eternal plans to God's role as what, end of 9? This parallels what Paul said in Eph. 1:4. God didn't just create everything, then turn it loose to run the way it happened to turn out, as some believe; He had a plan from the very beginning, and His plan will turn out just as He has said.
What is one purpose of the church, 10? Who are the rulers and authorities in heavenly places? The angels (both good and bad) are watching us to learn about God's wisdom and plans. They are not all-knowing. They have limited knowledge, like us, I Pet. 1:12. Apparently they are wondering how it will all turn out. There is a drama being played out on the earth; we are the players, and they are the spectators, I Cor. 4:9, with the good angels cheering for the good guys, Luke 15:7. (Perhaps the demons cheer whenever evil prevails?)
11-13 So does God just make it up as He goes? Does He just respond to our actions? Some actually believe this, but the Bible says His entire plan concerning Jesus Christ, which He has revealed in the Bible, was from before creation itself. Because of what God did through Jesus, what do we now have that we wouldn't have had otherwise? Should we ever feel hesitant to take our concerns to God? Do those who don't have faith in Jesus Christ have access to God the Father? Is this just talking about going to heaven, or is it also talking about being able to access God the Father now, through prayer?
Many think Christianity and the Bible are mainly about Jesus, but I think it is about God. People want to go to heaven, our sin makes us unfit for heaven and for the presence of God, but God has made a way, by believing in His Son Jesus Christ who paid for our sins so we could be with God forever. In the light of the truths just presented, Paul hopes these believers in Ephesus won't be discouraged or disheartened by the fact that in order for them to receive these truths, Paul had to go through much trouble and persecution. They could actually glory in them, just as we can glory in what Christ had to endure so that we could be saved.
14-21 The rest of the chapter is Paul's prayer. Why do you suppose he often records his prayers, or things that he prays for? Don't we all have many questions about prayer--how we should pray, what kind of things we should pray for? Some Bible passages teach us about prayer; others record prayers of godly men as examples for us. If we take any of those out of context and try to build a doctrine on it, we can be misled. It's so important to read the whole Bible and compare all Scripture.
14 Paul seems to pick up the thought he began in 1, about prayer. People ask if they should pray to God or to Jesus; what does Paul do here? This seems to be the pattern in his prayers: to God the Father, through the Holy Spirit, because of Jesus and the way He made. I don't think it is wrong to pray to Jesus or the Holy Spirit, but the Bible does not teach us to do so. Compare what Jesus teaches about prayer in Mat. 6:9 and John 16:23.
What does "bow the knee" mean? What does it mean to bring someone to his knees? It is about submitting, yielding, acknowledging that someone else is over you. "Bow" is often used in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament Hebrew, interchangeably with words like worship, yield, serve. Is it important or required in prayer that we bend that joint in our leg? What kind of bowing IS required? What if we bow our knees but we are not bowing inside? What can happen when we major on rituals like bowing or repeating certain prayers? Can those rituals be either good or bad, depending on our thoughts and motives? Does kneeling make our prayer more reverent or more effective? Why do some people (and even some in the Bible) get down on their faces before God? Does the Bible teach we are to bow our heads and close our eyes when we pray? So why do we do those things?
What does this verse tell us about the kind of attitude we should have when we pray? Phil. 2:19, some day every knee shall bow before Him; in days past, people used to bow before royalty, but few today have that attitude or response. Perhaps the reason every knee will bow before Him is that when we find ourselves in His presence, we may have a reaction similar to Daniel's in Dan. 10:5-10. Perhaps our knees will just go so weak that we cannot stand in His presence.
15 Paul speaks of the whole family of God, in heaven and in earth. Who all might he be referring to? Mankind and angels? Jews and Gentiles? Comparing the context of what we've been reading, this may be another reference to God as the Creator, as in 3:9. Or it may be another reference to the bringing together of the Jews and Gentiles, as in 2:13-16. God is sovereign over all His creation.
16 What does the indwelling Holy Spirit provide to believers? Is this physical power? Where does the Holy Spirit dwell? KJV: hearts. NASB: inner man. Strong's: thoughts, feelings, mind, middle, heart. What if our outer man is weak or ill? What if we are weak mentally, or intellectually? So does Paul pray that everything would go good, that whatever their problems are, they would be fixed? What DOES he pray for them? This is a biblical way to pray for others. All believers receive the indwelling Holy Spirit the moment they are saved, but do we always rely on and avail ourselves of His power? Don't we tend to pray more for the needs of the physical man--safety, health--instead of spiritual needs? Can we know that it is God's will for everything to turn out good in every situation? Sometimes we say, "I don't know how to pray in this situation," as if God needs us to suggest how He ought to work it out. Can we always pray a prayer like this and know it is God's will? No matter how circumstances turn out--good or bad--what is God working in our lives? What if we don't feel strong? It's not about OUR resources--it's about His abundant resources.
17 (first half) Again, Paul knows that these believers have the indwelling Holy Spirit, so he is talking about something more. Compare John 8:31, 17:17. What does I John 2:14 say about the young men? Who is the Word in I John 5:7, Rev. 19:13? Dwell: to reside, to dwell permanently. Abide: to stay, continue, dwell, remain, John 15:4,10. So what might Paul be praying? HOW can Jesus/the Word abide/dwell/be completely at home in us? By exercising our faith muscles, and by being in the Word. Then we can think more of God's thoughts and less of our human thinking.
17(last half)-19(first half) Paul uses an image of a tree; if it is firmly rooted and grounded, will it blow over in a storm? What is the parallel for the Christian? If all this is true of us, what else will be true of us--what will we be able to comprehend/know? Apparently this is something huge, something with many dimensions, yet it is not beyond us. No matter how much we think we understand it, there is still more to it. Keep in mind that the context is the mystery of the church--the Jews and Gentiles now being brought into one body. Do you think maybe the Jewish believers wanted to limit God's love to just them? Do we ever try to limit God's love? Isn't it hard to understand how God can love everyone? Does "love" mean He LIKES everyone? But isn't it just as amazing that He could love US? "Agape" love means to act on our behalf for our good, not to like us because we are so nice, cute, and sweet.
19(last half) What is the last thing Paul prays for them? In Acts we were noticing what was said about being filled with the Spirit, and saw that believers were not told to ask to be filled, but that this terminology was used to describe some believers. What things did he just pray for, that will cause this result? Compare John 3:30. More of Him, less of me. But does Self always want to decrease? We can always pray these things for other believers, knowing this is God's will for each of us. So who is in us: the Holy Spirit, 16? Christ, 17? the Father, 19? What does this passage teach us about the Trinity?
20-21 What do we learn about God here? Is this a formula to get anything you want? Does it say God will always do more than we ask or think? Does Paul say this in the context of praying for stuff we want, or for things to happen the way we want? What kinds of things has he been talking about praying for? When we pray for our own spiritual growth, or for others, is God limited in what He can do for us or them? Don't WE limit God because we don't understand or believe what He is really wanting to do? Are God's blessings seen in this passage as prosperity, physical blessing, freedom from stress or problems, health, ease? And how does this all happen, end of 20? And as this happens, what takes place in the church? Throughout all ages/generations--eternally. Does "amen" mean "end of prayer"? Rather, it means "YES!"--so be it!
This marks the end of the first half of Paul's letter, the doctrinal half, where he teaches us about God and His plan for the church.
1-3 Does Paul beg them to pray for him to get out of prison? Does he seem real upset about being there? Why would that be? Therefore: in the light of what Paul has explained up to now. How we live should be a result of what we know about God's truths. How does seeing the Big Picture help us daily? How might we be confused in our daily lives by NOT knowing God's Big Picture?
Is he saying that we are worthy of being saved? Is anyone worthy? Our worthiness is only found where? The word implies: in a manner that is appropriate. And what does he say IS appropriate for a Christian, based on what we know about God and the Big Picture? The newer NASB says "tolerance" but an older version says "forbearance"--being patient, bearing with others (not tolerating all beliefs or behaviors). Does meekness mean being a doormat? Moses was said to be meek; humble, the opposite of proud.
Some who teach what is called "lordship salvation" say that unless you have made Jesus Lord of your entire life, you are not truly saved. Is any Christian, especially a new one, capable of being totally yielded? Or does our yieldedness grow as we mature in our walk with Christ? Is Paul saying that the Ephesians are already totally yielded, or is he encouraging them to grow in these qualities? The Bible teaches that sanctification is a process; salvation happens in a moment, but sanctification takes place gradually over our entire earthly life. We saw in I Cor. 3:1-7 that the Corinthian believers were immature and walking like unbelievers in many ways, but Paul considered them believers.
Is it our job to create unity--oneness--in the church, 3? Or is it already there? Why? It's our job to make sure it doesn't "escape." How might Christians lose the unity of the Spirit? What can we do to preserve our unity? Paul will talk more about unity in this chapter--the only place Paul talks about unity. The NASB uses it also in John 17:23 and Col. 3:14, where the KJV uses "perfect," meaning complete. Yet today unity is stressed in the church, and that the way to do it is to downplay doctrine (biblical truths): hell, sin, repentance, the cross, the resurrection, and the fact that Christ is God. Is it really possible to have Christian unity if we don't agree on what the Bible teaches? What might happen if we try to create unity among people who don't believe the same?
4-6 The doctrinal unity that Paul refers to is clarified in these verses, as we see his repeated use of the word "one." That implies that even then, Christians were not in agreement regarding these truths. Do you see the three members of the Trinity referred to separately in these verses, each relating to the concepts mentioned in that verse? We often see that "Lord" refers to Jesus Christ, and "God" refers to the Father. Even though there is a church at Ephesus, and at Corinth, Galatia, etc., what does Paul say about the church in 4? There are local church bodies, and then there is "the church."
Remember that Paul has been explaining, in the previous chapters, about the mystery that Jews and Gentiles are now one body in Christ, because believing Jews and Gentiles are both indwelt by whom? The church is all those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit; the church is separate from Israel, and separate from those who believe after the church is caught up to heaven, who will not have the indwelling Holy Spirit.
It's not clear in 5 if faith refers to that which we believe, or the act of exercising our faith--but our faith is centered around whom? The Holy Spirit baptizes all who believe in Him, and our water baptism declares we are His followers. God the Father is sovereign; He is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. Yet in all these functions, we can say that each member of the Trinity is present and active.
7-10 Here we see each Christian is given a measure of God's grace--the gift of salvation, and also other gifts. Did all have the same gift, or in the same measure? Paul's quote from Psalm 68:18 gives us an interesting application of this verse to Christ. When did Christ descend into the lower parts of the earth, then ascend to heaven? This must be what He did during the 3 days His body was in the tomb. Who were the captives there that He took to heaven? When Jesus read from Isaiah in the synagogue, applying it to Himself, what did it say the Messiah would do? Again we wonder who these captives are.
What do we learn about the afterlife in Luke 16:22-23? Hades, often called hell, was actually two compartments, one for the wicked, and one for the righteous, called what? Hell is not the final place of punishment of the wicked; that would be the lake of fire, Rev. 20:14. But hell/Hades, apparently located in the lower parts of the earth, is presently a place of torment for the wicked. Before the resurrection, where did believers' spirits go when they died? Not to heaven--no one went to heaven until the Lamb of God paid the price of our salvation. They also went to Hades, to a pleasant place called Abraham's Bosom.
Those in the Old Testament who believed God and were looking for the Messiah, showed their faith by offering sacrifices according to the Law. They were saved by their faith in the coming Lamb of God, but until He came and paid for sin, no one could go to heaven and be in the presence of God. Apparently, following His sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus descended into Hades where their spirits were held "captive." In perhaps a play on words, He captured them and led them to heaven. He set them free, but they are His "captives," as are we--we are not our own, I Cor. 6:19. Paul continually reminds his readers that he is the prisoner of the Lord.
The Bible actually says very little about going to heaven when we die, or the idea of spending eternity in heaven. This is one of the few passages that speak of going to heaven. We learn that when Christ ascended to heaven, He took with Him those in Abraham's Bosom (believers). Following His second coming, and just prior to the millenial kingdom, they will receive their resurrected bodies and will be on earth with Christ as He reigns. Following the new heaven and new earth, the kingdom will go on eternally. The focus seems to be on being with Christ where He is, not on being in heaven.
11 Paul lists several of the gifts. This list is shorter than the others; perhaps he is only speaking here of leadership gifts, or perhaps, writing later than Romans and I Corinthians, the other gifts were already passing away, having served a temporary foundational purpose in the early church. We have already looked at apostles quite a bit. Prophets spoke under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as we saw in I Cor. 14. Evangelists apparently traveled around; Philip was one, Acts 21:8, and Timothy, at some of the time, II Tim. 4:5. Pastor means shepherd, one who guides and cares for. Jesus is called the Good Shepherd; Peter was told, "feed my sheep." Pastor-teacher may have been one gift, or they may be separate. This is the only place a pastor is mentioned. Leaders in local churches are generally called elders. The Greek word here for "teacher" means "master teacher" as we discussed when we looked at the gifts in I Cor.
12-13 The sentence continues; these gifts are for the equipping of who? For what purpose? What word in 13 implies there may be a termination of these gifts or of the need for them? Until they all arrive at an understanding of the truth and of Jesus Christ--that which unites them. As we saw in I Cor. 12-14, spiritual gifts were temporary, for the purpose of bringing believers to maturity, that they would not be as children or babes, I Cor. 3:1-4 and 13:11. The supernatural teaching gifts listed in 11 were to equip believers to be knowledgeable about Jesus Christ. This echoes what Paul just said in 3:19. Today how do we become knowledgeable about Christ? We have the entire, complete written Word of God. Those temporary gifts are no longer needed because God has said all He has to say; we all have access to all God's truth. Christian maturity is to be the norm in the church. Beware of those who claim to receive direct messages from God today.
14-15 Paul continues on this theme: what words do we see in 14 that emphasize Christian maturity? And in 15? What happens to immature Christians, 14? Sometimes we are misled by those who just aren't well-taught themselves, or who are off in some area. What other kind of people does Paul warn about? But this doesn't have to be, 15--what's the solution? Remember that they did not have the written New Testament, hence the need for supernatural gifts through which God spoke at that time.
What two things are needed to grow us into Christ, 15? Are we speaking love, or speaking the truth, 15? We hear much more about love than truth, but which is mentioned first? The truth always trumps love. Neither is enough by itself. What happens if you love without regard for truth? Or hold to the truth without love? Remember that Paul is talking about the truth of God: correct doctrine. If you want to be a mature Christian, what is the answer? So we find that love is an action--how we speak the truth. The Bible does not speak of love as of having to like everyone--is that even possible?
Verses mentioning both truth and love speak of a love of the truth, Zech. 8:19 and II Thes. 2:10. Which is the primary concept in I Pet. 1:22? Obeying the truth will result in what? John speaks much of love; how are we to love in I John 3:18? How does John love in 2 John 1:1 and 3 John 1:1? Does he love all equally? Which comes first in II John 1:3? Christians are to show love to all, but within the church, are we to be loving and accepting of those who do not hold to the truth--correct Bible teaching? This is a big problem in the church today, and is resulting in weak watered-down churches. Those churches believe that an emphasis on doctrine will divide--will it? YES! Is that a good thing? YES! It will keep the church pure by filtering out those who do not accept the truth and who would change it or delete it.
16 The church is likened to what? Not just a human body, but one that is growing. Individual believers are growing, and the church is growing. Is this talking about growing in numbers? How does a human body operate? How does this analogy apply to a church? Is Paul talking about a local church, or the church as a whole? Again we find that love is an action--what we do to grow or edify the church, and how we do it.
17-19 Some commentators say that Paul does not chastise this church or correct error, but the warnings in this chapter and the next imply that these problems are indeed going on. It sounds like some believers are still living like Gentiles. But it could be that he is just giving general teachings and warnings. Remember that he speaks of three groups of people: the church (saved Jews and Gentiles), Jews (unsaved), and Gentiles (all the rest of the unsaved). Gentiles are pagans, heathen. Do they sound much different than unsaved people today? Sin has always been sinful.
20-21 This sounds like chastisement. Do some new or immature believers fall back into old habits? He contrasts the ignorance of the unbelievers with what, 21? The solution to this problem is being taught the truth in Jesus; where do we find God's truth--the words and teachings of Jesus? Today many preachers say, just believe in Jesus, just accept Him, yet they don't teach people who Jesus is or what He did.
22-24 The religion of secular humanism is psychology, and the god of psychology is Self. The Bible has much to say about Self, and actually talks about two selves--the old self/nature and the new self/nature, especially in Rom. 6-8. Psychology says the answers are within us; what does 22 say about Self? What does 23-24 say about the new Self? Do these things happen automatically when you become a Christian? Do all Christians do this? Why not? Are we really righteous? Only in Christ, and therefore in God's eyes. It sounds like the Ephesians, like all of us, needed to be reminded to do these things.
25 From here to the end of this chapter we have a list of do's and don'ts. Do Christians sometimes lie? We are not only to hold to the truth of the gospel, we are to be truthful.
26-27 Is anger a sin? Anger is not the sin here. Can you be angry without sinning? Some think Christians should never be angry. What else does the Bible say about anger? A quick check of Strong's Concordance shows that most references to "anger" and "angry" are about God's anger. Why is God angry? At sin, at injustice. These are the kinds of things mentioned:
*The anger of the Lord (many references).
*God's anger was kindled (many references).
*Speaks negatively of provoking someone to anger--not of the one who is provoked as then being in the wrong and needing to forgive.
*God is slow to anger.
*Being slow to anger is good.
*Anger is not condemned in the 10 Commandments.
*Proverbs mentions the folly of: an angry countenance, being contentious and angry, being an angry person (one who stirs up strife). This is different than experiencing anger as God does, over what is unjust.
*Eph. 4:31 Anger here doesn't sound like righteous anger, because it is classed with bitterness, wrath, slander, clamor, and malice. This type of anger is wrong.
*Col. 3:8 Put off anger; surely this would be the anger mentioned in Eph. 4:31, not anger at sin or injustice.
*Col. 3:21 Provoke not your children to anger.
*Tit. 1:7 Be not soon angry.
*Mt. 5:22 Does this say anger is a sin? The rest of Scripture indicates that anger at what is sinful or unjust is proper. This verse doesn't specify that the brother had done something to him, just that he was angry at his brother, perhaps without a real cause?
If sin or injustice is not dealt with, then anger is not a wrong reaction. Don't some Christians stress love to the point that they are NOT angry at wrongdoing? That is to leave out half of Scripture, and is wrong theology--what the Bible calls false teaching. Might the LACK of anger at sin be a sin?
So we see that some anger IS wrong. Do some Christians have an anger problem? Does becoming a Christian immediately remove all our sinful behavior or personality weaknesses? What causes or brings out this wrong type of anger? Isn't anger about "me"? "How dare you do/say that to ME?" What are some solutions? Is it to try to stop the angry words when they want to come out, or is it to deal with the attitude that causes the anger? Is the problem the mouth (or, if violence is involved, the hands), or is it the heart?
So we see here that it is possible to be angry without it being sin. But if you do have anger, does it have to control you, end of 26? We are to deal with it, not let it fester. What happens if we don't, 27?
28 What else was going on in this church? Is this person's hands the real problem? What is? What attitude needs changed? Does God want us to have a strong work ethic? When we see a "brother" sinning or living a sinful lifestyle, should we assume they are not really saved? We see clearly in these letters that Christians do sin. A church is not a showcase for saints but a hospital for sinners. It's a support group, not a place to pretend we have it all together. What two positives do we see here that are God's will for us?
29 What else was a problem in this church? Is this saying that we can engage in no idle chitchat or kidding around, as the Puritans believed? Are we to try to sound super-spiritual all the time? Have you known Christians that try to sound like that? How does it really end up sounding? Or is Paul simply contrasting two good and bad use of the mouth, as he just contrasted good and bad use of the hands? How does a Christian decide which are "bad" words and which are OK? Might our lists vary? Because he uses the terms "minister grace unto those who hear" I wonder if he is specifically referring to teaching and preaching in the church? Is this still a problem today in pulpits?
30 Does Paul specify how not to grieve the Spirit? This is the only place we find this term, so we can't compare Scripture to gain enlightenment. So context is our best bet. Look at the verses before and after. Christians can and do sin in these ways, and these are things that grieve the Spirit, who dwells where? So He participates in everything we use our bodies for. How should this influence our behavior? What does it mean that He has sealed us? Can a true Christian lose their salvation? If you can, then what does "sealed" mean?? What about those we thought were saved but then left the Lord? I John 2:19. We are eternally secure. The Bible does not indicate that the Spirit comes and goes.
31 What else was a problem for some believers? These may be momentary or a way of life. Here we have the wrong kind of anger. What is bitterness? Why do people hold onto this? How do you get rid of it? What's the difference between anger and wrath? This has no place in a church or the life of a believer. Clamor: outcry, tumult. Evil speaking/slander could be against others or against God, as in blasphemy. Malice: badness, malignity, depravity, evil, trouble, naughtiness, wickedness. We are instead to be what, Rom. 8:29, 12:2? If you engage in, or feel trapped by, any of these sins, according to this verse, can you say, "I just can't help myself--I can't change"? "Put away" in the Greek implies: to lift, to raise, to sail away, to take up. So how might we "put away" sin?
32 In contrast to the negatives he just listed, now Paul gives the positive we are to aim for. Is this always easy? Does it always come natural to a Christian? Why? Has anyone offended us to the extent that WE offended God? So what did it cost God to forgive us? What does it cost us to forgive others? When we sin, are we to ask or beg God to forgive us? Or are we to thank Him that He HAS forgiven us?
It sounds, in this last half of the chapter, like there were problems in this church that Paul was addressing. It sounds like some believers had not put away their old ways and were acting like unbelievers. Have you ever seen Christians act like that, or done that yourself? We are forgiven the moment we accept Christ, but are we instantly changed? Does change happen automatically over time or do we need to do something? What do we need to do? Paul talked in Rom. 6-8 about walking according the what or the what?
1-2 In what way are we to imitate God? Do children imitate their parents? Paul defines love for us--HOW did Christ show us that He loved us? By His actions. Compare Luke 6:27, 32-33. John 3:16 tells us the same thing--HOW did God show the world His love? Does it mean He looks down on us like a kindly grandfather who smiles and pats us all on the head and says "I love you"? Rather, He sees our sin which He hates, so He DID something for us that we could not do for ourselves. Does John 3:16 contradict Paul? Who gave--God or Christ? Christ's death on the cross is described how? The Old Testament (especially Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers) makes it clear that God requires a blood sacrifice for sin, but animal blood could not forgive sin, only cover it temporarily. How does Christ smell to the Father? Why? Do we smell fragrant or do we have spiritual BO?
3-5 Here are some things that cause spiritual BO. "But"...so Paul is contrasting actions that are NOT based on love. Again we wonder if Paul is reminding them of these things because he had heard of some problems in their church. All the churches had problems, just like today. The KJV speaks of fornication (sex without marriage), which is a better and more specific term than immorality (NASB). Immorality is too general and can be defined differently be different people ("our relationship is not immoral--it's beautiful--we love each other!"). Greed or coveting includes the idea of avarice, fraud and extortion. Is Paul saying that Christians shouldn't joke around, 4? The implication is obscenity, buffoonery, always joking about sexual innuendoes like double meanings. Isn't this what most sit-coms consist of? God made us to enjoy humor, but there is always a temptation with humor to "cross a line." We should be characterized by what? If we're thankful, we aren't complaining, or joining in other peoples' complaining.
If we have ever committed one of the sins in 5, have we lost our salvation? As we just went through Galatians, we saw that we are not saved by works, or even faith plus works. Our salvation is not dependent on any of our works. Paul is not talking about sins, but people--people who are characterized by sin, particularly sexual sin and greed. He just finished saying that true believers ought not to be characterized by sin, especially sexual sin and greed. We also see here that greed/covetousness is the same as what? Why is that true? This is also found in Col. 3:5, Ezekiel 27 & 28, and Rev. 18.
6-10 Again it sounds like Paul is warning them about behavior he has heard about and is reminding them that it is not wise to play around with sin. Don't Christians do this sometimes--see how close to the line they can get, see how much sin is still OK, or tell ourselves that since I'm a Christian, this isn't really sin for me? Some had been deceiving themselves, or others, about this, 6. Are we easily deceived? If we want to engage in sexual sin, we can twist Scripture to justify what we are doing--Christians, even pastors, do it all the time. They came out of this pagan sexual culture, 8, and need to make a clean break. The Bible likens us to vines or trees that bear fruit; what kind of fruit should we be producing? This is similar to Gal. 5:22-23. Are we always pleasing to the Lord? But we all can do what, 10?
What is coming, one day, on sinful men, 6? Some teach that the rapture will not take place before the tribulation, that the church needs purifying and will undergo God's wrath, based on Dan. 11:35. Was Daniel written to and about the church? The church was not foretold in the Old Testament; Dan. 10:14 tells what people this is speaking about. God will pour out His wrath during the seven years of tribulation, after the church is caught up and removed from the earth, I Thes. 4:14-18, 5:9, Rom. 5:9.
11-14 Now Paul takes it further. It's not enough to avoid this sin yourself--what else are we to do? Here, as in every letter, Paul speaks of church discipline--taking action in these situations. Is he talking about dealing with Christians or unbelievers? Both? The immediate context is Christians dabbling in sexual sin. "Have no fellowship" (KJV)--do we continue to be friends, do we say "it's none of my business," do we accept them and their behavior in the church? We are to reprove (KJV), expose (NASB): convict, convince, rebuke, admonish. 12, they know better and are trying to keep their sin hidden from others and put on a good Christian act. How do we do reprove/expose their sin, 13? Should we go to the person who is sinning, or tell those who ought to know what is really going on? Should we just "turn on the light" by living a Christ-like life? Are there times we should just mind our own business, stay out of it and pray? Might there be different answers in different situations? 14, such Christians are spiritually asleep, lethargic. They need to do what? Again Paul mentions the light.
15-16 Apparently some in the church were walking how? He never says Christians who sin lose their salvation; he has said they need to do what, 3-10?--deal with their sin. To what, 14? (walk more carefully), to do what, 16, to not be what, 17? Are we doing these things? Or are we sleep-walking through the Christian life? He implies that some of them ARE being foolish. How should we be living, Luke 19:11-17? 17 How can we know this--where do we find this information? We are not looking for "signs" or listening for voices; God has already spoken. II Pet. 1:3-4 ("has granted", not "will grant"). Does this sound like it's hard to know God's will?
18-19 Does this say to never drink wine? Were some of them getting drunk? Instead of being filled with wine, what should they be like? Some teach that this is a command, that we are to actively seek to be filled with the Spirit; many say we are to ask for this, and some say we need to ask every day. I believe it is simply describing a Christian who is walking in the Spirit not the flesh. Studying through Acts, we noted every mention of being filled with the Spirit, and no mention was made of getting filled with the Spirit by asking. Rather, the context made it clear that this was a description of a Christian walking with the Lord--walking in the Spirit not the flesh, as Paul often talks about.
Charismatics have a practice called "drunk in the Spirit" based on this verse, but that is not at all what it says. Laughing hysterically, staggering around drunkenly, falling on the ground, with slurred speech: nowhere does the Bible teach that the Holy Spirit manifests Himself like this.
Instead of the actions and speech that characterize a drunk person, here is how a Christian--one who is filled with the Holy Spirit--might talk and act. Don't believers receive the Spirit when they believe? Can we "get" anymore of Him then we got? He is a person, not a force; does He come partway in, and come in more, little by little? Or do WE need to give Him more and more of ourselves? Isn't THIS how we can be more filled with the Spirit--by yielding ourselves more to His influence in our lives? How can we do that? By making choices, by obeying God's will. If we are full of Him, who will we not be full of?
Because it doesn't seem realistic to teach that Christians should be going around singing all the time, 19 sounds like Paul is speaking of the gathering of believers (which implies that their gatherings were instead being characterized by drunkenness, like in Corinth, I Cor. 11:20-22). Being filled with the Spirit seems to result in praise, and in submission/right attitude to others.
We can learn even more from this passage about music in the church by adding some explanations from Strong's Concordance.
Speaking to yourselves [antiphonal or responsive chanting or singing--like our responsive reading]
in psalms [a piece of music accompanied by voice or instrument; the book of Psalms]
and hymns [a Psalm or religious song with the idea "to celebrate" something about God]
and spiritual songs [songs that are not carnal, not appealing to the fleshly nature],
singing and making melody [to play on a stringed instrument, to sing psalms, to celebrate with music]
in your heart [with your thoughts, feelings, mind, your "middle"] to the Lord.
In context, Eph. 5:10, "proving what is acceptable unto the Lord" [trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord, NASB]. Our singing is not to be about what pleases us or our feelings, but rather, trying to learn what pleases God. We can use the Bible as our textbook on what type of singing pleases God. If we are not interested in trying to understand what the will of God is in any matter, Ephesians 5:17 says we are foolish. Our singing is to be for God, about God, glorifying to God, and done in the name/authority/character of Jesus. It is not for us, about us, or done in our own name/authority/character. It is not to glorify or magnify ourselves. Music in church is not for entertainment or to fill time until the message but is an important part of Bible teaching.
Hymn singing was introduced around the time of Martin Luther and the Reformation, with the purpose of bringing singing to the congregation, instead of limiting it to the monks with their chanting and plain-songs. Most Christians did not have access to the written Word at that time. Hymn-singing was seen as a way of reinforcing doctrine in the memories of believers; it serves that same purpose today. This is why the words of our songs are so important; instead of arguing about guitars/drums vs. piano/organ, we should focus more on the issue of biblical/meaty songs vs. unbiblical/fluffy songs.
20-21 This verse may continue to describe the singing, in which case our singing is to be strongly about thanking God. Our singing would be done in the name--in the authority or character--of Christ. Or perhaps it is continuing to describe the church gathering. Or it might be describing the believer. All would apply and be equally true. Shouldn't giving thanks be a primary focus?
21 sounds like Paul is describing the church. Because he uses this statement to introduce a long passage about being subject, it sounds like this issue may have been another problem in their church. If so, what may have been going on? Why in the fear of Christ? This may be the key to understanding what Paul is teaching in the next few verses. Why would God want us all to be subject to each other? What attitude does that demonstrate? What is the opposite attitude?
22-33 We need to read the whole passage to get a balanced perspective of what Paul is teaching. Don't forget the context--21. Within that Christian principle, Paul gives specific examples of how this looks in everyday life. First, to wives and husbands. Then in chapter 6, to children and parents, then to slaves and masters (which applies to us as employers and employees, or even teachers and students). Each has responsibilities. Today we tend to look at this is restrictive, but in that day, women, children and slaves were regarded as possessions; to them this may have been seen as freeing. Women, children and slaves in the church were equal with men and masters. Believers are to have harmonious relationships to one another. Note the important repeated idea--to the Lord.
22-24 Wives are to voluntarily submit to husbands (NASB)--why and how? Is it because the husband is so great or worthy? So why should the Christian wife willingly submit to him? Should she first be submitting to the Lord? If she isn't, will she be able to do this, or even want to? What does this picture? Is it always easy to submit to Christ? So will we always find it easy to submit to a man? But that is God's ideal will. He holds the man responsible for leadership (as we saw in the Garden of Eden); the woman is his equal but has a different role. Why do women react so strongly against this passage? Might it have anything to do with Gen. 3:16? This punishment happened because of what? It was not this way in the beginning. Now there would be a power struggle. As we deal with this issue, or with the pain of childbirth, we are to be reminded of what? Who tempted the man to disobey God? Woman is to recognize man's position before God and not usurp his authority. Note: Titus 2:9 speaks of the wife obeying the husband, but actually the Greek word is the same as used here for submit, so the meaning would be the same.
25-27 The responsibility of the husband is given much greater space. Is the husband's job any easier? Is he given permission to be a dictator or despot? Is he commanded to have romantic thoughts, words, and actions? Is Christ romantic toward the church? What DID He do? So what is the husband to do? In the Bible, we continually find that love is about action, not feelings--what kind of action? 26-27 give us some information about the church. What is He doing in our lives? He is working on gradually changing us; does He use marriage to change both husband and wife to become more Christlike? How are we cleansed? What is the ultimate outcome, 27? Does that mean we become sinless? We are only holy and blameless how? The church is pure in Christ; we are already clothed in Christ's righteousness. As we saw in Dan. 11:35, it was not the people that need purifying--Israel does, and that is one of the purposes of the tribulation.
28-31 How does the man love his body--admire it? Or, feed it, clothe it, protect it, strengthen it? 29 gives us a definition of love. Which way does Christ love us? Why, 30? Does God's plan for marriage include two men or two women? This quote is from Genesis; this was God's plan and His directions from the beginning.
32-33 So Christian marriage pictures what? The church is the bride of Christ. In the Jewish wedding tradition, the betrothal is as binding as marriage and lasts a year, a time period to prove that the bride is pure. The bride's price is paid by the groom. She prepares her garments; the groom will come for her, unannounced--he is off preparing a home for her. His father will determine the day of the wedding; she knows the approximate time but not the day or hour. He arrives with a shout and a blast of the shofar (trumpet) and carries her away to his home. We can see the parallels. In the Old Testament, Israel is called the wife of Jehovah (often an unfaithful wife); in the New Testament, the church is the spotless bride of Christ, and the wedding has not yet taken place.
Is the wife commanded to love her husband? Why? Women naturally love--but do they always respect their husband? Don't wives often struggle with the desire to usurp his God-given authority? Do men often struggle with the concept of loving, and loving selflessly? So God commands them to love. Again we see that love must be about actions, because feelings of love cannot appear by command. Is the man always worthy of respect? Is the woman always lovable? These commands can be obeyed if we remember it is about choices, not feelings. We are to do this as to whom?
1-4 Paul continues on the topic of Christian submission to one another. Since Paul addresses children, they must have been part of the teaching ministry of the early church. They were being taught what Christian children were to be like. Obey: heed, listen, do. (Note that wives were NOT told to obey their husbands.)He repeats one of the 10 commandments; what is it about obeying and listening to your parents might result in longer life and things going well? Why are mothers not mentioned? Apparently fathers were the disciplinarians then; what danger is there in disciplining? we see that God holds them responsible. Parents are to what and what? and children are to what? So we have God's ideal for family life: husbands and wives, parents and children. Do things always work out this nice and tidy in Christian homes? Why?
5-9 Slavery was a fact of life in that culture, as in many cultures throughout most of history. Becoming believers and part of the church created a unique situation. Did Paul tell the slaves to start an uprising and break free of slavery? Were masters reprimanded for owning slaves? Is the gospel about changing society? Don't some Christians and churches today think that the church is called to social activism? Do we find any biblical basis for social activism as being a role of the church? Might individual Christians or groups of Christians decide to get involved in causes that are just?
How would you answer someone who says the Bible is bad and promotes slavery because it records many instances of slavery and does not condemn it? Today we see slavery as evil, but it was also a way for poor people to live and be taken care of; a man might even choose to sell himself into slavery to pay a debt. Here we find God's ideal for slaves and masters. Slaves, or employees, are to obey those over them; again, note that wives were NOT told to obey their husbands. How do these guidelines apply in our workplace, or in school? 8 repeats what common Bible principle? So in this extended section on submission, we see that humility is the mark of the believer, no matter his or her station in life. Authority is presented, but is it for the purpose of humiliating the other party or keeping them under your thumb? Isn't this why unbelievers have trouble understanding this section of the Bible?
10-12 Is God's plan to make Self stronger? How do we learn to depend on Self less? How can we be strong in the Lord? II Cor. 12:9-10. Paul often uses the phrase "put on"--put on Christ, the armor, the new man, love, compassion, humility, gentleness, patience (the fruits of the Spirit). How do we "put on" these things--are they all ways of saying the same thing? So we are responsible for doing this. Do some not put it on? Why would anyone do that? What results from putting them on?
What do we learn here about Satan? The Bible tells us that we have three enemies: Self/the flesh, the world/its influences, Satan/demonic influences. Paul describes the spiritual Mafia--interesting terminology and description. Sounds dangerous! Dan. 10 gives us some insight on the battle going on in the spiritual realm (and also sheds light on how we react when we truly see an angel--not like the fluffy stories we hear today).
13 Put on the full armor = take up the full armor. So do we need to make choices and take actions? If we do not do these things, what might our Christian life be like? So how do we attack Satan? Should we turn and run as fast as we can, ducking or hiding? Instead we are to what and what? Does this sound like we should expect the Christian life to go pretty smoothly for us?
14 Again we are told to do what, not attack or run? What is our primary weapon? Where do we find truth? Today truth is being watered down more and more, even in the church. That type of truth will not protect us from the enemy. The Bible uses the term, gird your loins, as putting on your belt (girdle) and getting ready for action. Notice how I Pet. 1:13 uses it as a metaphor, with a similar meaning to what Paul says here. The belt holds their flowing garment out of the way, or holds the armor in place. What is a breastplate for? What gives us this protection? Ours? Christ's? Both?
15 What item do we need now? Are bare feet ready for action? We need to be sure-footed. Preparation might mean preparedness. What kinds of peace does the gospel bring? So even though we are being attacked by the enemy, we can have what?
16 What do we also need? The Roman shield was metal, large and rectangular, door-sized and shaped. This is our protection against the darts/arrows/spears/missiles coming from Satan and his forces.
17 What is our helmet of protection? Why does our mind need protecting? Will any of the things already mentioned help the unbeliever? Take = receive, accept. Salvation = save. Those who have not received Christ are in danger of a mortal head wound--death. What is our one weapon? Are we good at wielding our sword? How can we get better at it? Do we wait until a battle to practice? This symbol for God's Word is found various places in the Bible; compare Heb. 4:1, Rev. 1:16, 19:15. So here we see the Holy Spirit equated with Christ the Son and with God the Father--the Trinity. So Paul uses terms of dressing ourselves to help us understand how all this works in our lives: put on, take up, gird yourself, shod.
18 Now that we are armed, what is our strategy besides stand firm and resist? When, how often? I Thes. 5:17 says to pray without ceasing--what does that mean? Prayer isn't specified as one of our weapons to put on, but it is the only action we are to do other than wield our sword effectively. Do we just pray for ourselves? Pray for the other soldiers in this battle. Why does he have to remind them to be awake, on the alert? Relying on the Holy Spirit in us, we can pray effectively, because He prays for us and enables our prayers. What else should characterize our prayer life? So which hymn is more scriptural--"Onward Christian Soldiers," or Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus? Some Christians think the church should go on the offensive against the evils of society, but we don't see that in the Bible. What ARE we to do? bring the gospel to the world.
19-20 How does Paul want them to pray for him? Also interesting is what he doesn't ask; what about his chains (imprisonment)? Not that they shouldn't pray for that, or for God's provision and protection for him, but what is his priority? The mystery of the gospel: God is doing something new--the church is something new. Is he traveling and planting churches now? So why does he still need boldness to speak? How is he an ambassador in his current circumstances?
21-24 Paul's closing remarks to the church at Ephesus. Tychicus, the pastor of this church, delivered the letter, and also took Paul's letter to the Colossians--the church at Colossae. Paul hadn't written about his circumstances as a prisoner but Tychicus would fill them in. What do we learn about him? "Us" would be Paul, "Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas", Col. 4:19. What qualities does he mention in 23? Is love without faith any good? Isn't that what we hear in the world today? 24, incorruptible love/sincerity. Compare the closing of I Cor. 16:22. His benediction on them is grace: salvation in Christ Jesus. This makes us wonder if some were naming the name of Christ but not in sincerity--not because they truly loved Him. This may be a reference to the false teachers--the Judaizers. So grace/salvation is NOT theirs. Here is one of Paul's few references to God's love or loving God. As we saw in Acts, the focus of his preaching was not on sharing the love of God, but on the resurrection. Most of what we read about love is from the apostle John, in the Gospel of John and in his epistles--I, II and III John.
Copyright 2013 Jan Young
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