Ephesians is one of my favorite books of the Bible. The very first full chapter of the Bible that I memorized was Ephesians 5. My hope and prayer is that as we read this week that we will experience the grace, and peace, and power that we all need to lead a life of holiness, to live like Jesus.
Paul greets the Ephesians by expressing his hope that they will experience the grace and peace of Jesus Christ.
How does our faith bring you hope and peace?
This letter is dense in the spiritual truths that Paul addresses, and he starts right at the beginning. Paul says that God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” This is the first instance of Paul mentioning God’s choice of us or predestination (see Ephesians 1:5, 11; 2:10). One of the cornerstones of Wesleyan theology is that human beings a have some freedom, enough freedom to choose to respond to the grace of God available in Christ Jesus. This freedom is made available to us through what Wesley called prevenient grace. The Wesleyan/Arminian view is contrasted with extreme forms of Calvinism which says that God has predetermined who will and who will not be saved such that human beings have no choice, but salvation or damnation is determined in advance by God (in theological terms, this view is called double-predestination). For more information about Wesley’s view of predestination I refer you to this excellent article by James Pedlar, Assistant Professor of Wesley Studies and Theology at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto.
God has determined beforehand that types of behaviors that are appropriate for His people. What are you doing to discover what those behaviors are?
Why did God choose us in Christ? First, so that we would be holy and blameless. Second, so that we would be adopted as his children. Third, to bestow His glory and grace on us. Many Christians believe that salvation is a “get out of jail free” card. What they fail to understand is that salvation is the first step in a lifelong pursuit of becoming holy. Holiness has two aspects. The first aspect is an existential reality; that is, when we receive Christ, we are made holy. The theological term for this is justification. The second aspect of holiness is a quality of the Christ-followers behavior. We are set apart from the world as His people who are to demonstrate his character. The first aspect of holiness has to do with who we are; the second aspect has to do with what we do. Holiness in our behavior means that we think and act like Jesus. We live like Jesus. Our behavior conforms to the way to life that Jesus taught and modeled. Holiness has to do with who we are and what we do.
What aspects of your life set you apart as a believer in Jesus?
How does your life reflect the holiness of God in Christ?
For those who believe in Jesus, who have been chosen by God and experienced his grace and peace, we have received redemption, forgiveness, and insight into His will. We have also received an inheritance in Christ, though it is held in “escrow,” so to speak. As an assurance that our inheritance awaits us, God has given us the Holy Spirit.
How do you recognize God’s grace in your life?
How peaceful do you feel in your life right now? What’s robbing you of your peace? What will you do about it?
What evidence do you have of the Holy Spirit in your life?
Paul begins this section by offering a prayer for the Ephesians. This is one of two prayers for the Ephesians covered in this week’s reading (also see Ephesians 3:14-19). In this section Paul mentions several things he prays for the Ephesians: 1) he gives thanks for them, 2) spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, 3) that the eyes of their heart will be enlightened so that they will know a) the hope of his calling, b) the riches of God’s inheritance in the saints, c) His surpassing power to those of us who believe.
This is a great prayer for yourself or for other believers. Who will you pray this prayer for this week?
Beginning in verse 19b, Paul gives us a justification for how all these things are possible. They are consistent with the power He demonstrated when He raised Christ from the dead and with the authority He has given Christ after His resurrection. Paul writes about the nature of who Christ is.
What does this passage tell us about who Christ is?
Given what we know about Christ, how should we live our lives?
How is God demonstrating His power in and through you?
In verses 1-3, Paul describes the human condition prior to coming to faith in Jesus Christ. All of human beings are dead in trespasses and sins. This is consistent with the “ways of the world.” There is a spirit at work in the world whose purpose is diametrically opposed to the work of the Holy Spirit. The spirit of the world is leads people to disobey God’s commands, whereas the Holy Spirit leads us to obey God’s commands. The spirit of the world leads us to unrighteousness. The Holy Spirit leads us to righteousness. Paul notes that everyone of the Ephesians, and by extension all of us who are reading or writing this blog, were (or are) subject the “prince of the power of the air.” We were (or are) all children of wrath; that is, headed for eternal separation from God.
How has your life changed since coming to know Christ?
How do you sense the presence of the “spirit of the world?”
In verses 4-7, Paul describes the new state of the Ephesians, and by extension all who believe in Christ. In His mercy and love, despite our sinful state, God brought us to life in Christ. We are no longer children of wrath, but God’s children. God desires to, and has promised to, show us His kindness “in ages to come,” in fact, for all eternity.
Ephesians 2:8 & 9 may be two of the most well-known verses from any of Paul’s writing. Our salvation is not dependent in any way on anything we have done. Salvation is entirely dependent on the grace of God in Christ.
How is it that we can be saved and it’s not our own doing? Why would God set up salvation to work this way? (see Romans 3:23)
In verse 10 touches on two themes we have already seen: holiness and predestination. The good works that Paul refers to are acts of holiness that are consistent with His character and the holy character He has placed inside us when we are saved. God’s being and human behavior consistent with His character have existed from time and eternity.
Paul reminds the Ephesians that there was a time when they were excluded from fellowship with God. They were not a part of God’s covenant community Israel. As a result, they had no hope. Even today, people who are not a part of the covenant community of faith in Jesus Christ have no hope in this life or the next.
If this is true (and it is) why are we not telling more people about the grace and hope God offers in Jesus?
Just as he did in verse 4, Paul draws a contrast between the Ephesians pre-salvation state and their post-salvation state. Now that they know Christ, they have been brought near to God. In Jesus Christ, the Gentiles and Jews have been reconciled and merged into one group in Christ. Does this mean that Jews are still the people of God based on God’s covenant with Abraham? No. The new covenant is based on the gift of grace and faith in Christ. Jews and Gentiles are “one body to God through the cross.” Through the cross God established an new covenant community.
Who is welcome in God’s covenant community?
To what has God called His covenant community? (see Ephesians 1:4)
Beginning in verse 19, Paul uses a construction analogy to describe the purpose of the reconciliation of the Jews and Gentiles. Christ is the cornerstone. The foundation is the apostles and prophets. The Ephesians are being built, as a community, into a holy temple in which the Holy Spirit of God dwells.
If we are all necessary parts of the whole “building of Christ” what happens when one of us leaves the building?
If there is any legitimate complaint about Paul’s writing, he is wordy. In so many words, Paul tells the Ephesians in this section that he is stewarding the grace that God has given him. This grace has revealed to him that the Gentiles are included in God’s plan of salvation and that he is a steward of the grace of God intended to benefit the Gentiles. Further, Paul is empowered by the grace of God for this ministry. The Ephesians have access to God through faith in Jesus.
What grace has God asked you to steward? Is there a particular group of people God has called you to serve?
How do you experience the power of God as you steward the grace He has given you?
We are not sure what difficulties Paul may specifically be referring to in verse 13, but we do know that he encountered a great deal of opposition to his ministry as evidenced by his list of struggles in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. It would be understandable that the Ephesian church would be discouraged in their faith if the person through whom the grace of God had been revealed to them was encountering these types of difficulties.
Have you ever been discouraged in your faith?
How has viewing the struggles of others influences how you have handled your discouragement?
But Paul prays to God the Father the Ephesians, and by extension each of us, will 1) be strengthened through His Spirit in their inner person, 2) have Christ dwelling in our hearts, 3) be rooted and grounded in love, 4) be able to comprehend the length, breadth, height, and depth of the love of Christ, 5) be filled full with God. I love Paul’s enthusiasm for Jesus’ love. The love of Jesus extends infinitely in all directions. There is no place that God’s love in Christ does not reach. No one is excluded from God’s love. Unfortunately, we know that some will reject His love and suffer the consequences of that rejection (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21).
What do people who are strong in their “inner person” do differently than those who are not as strong?
What does it mean to be rooted and grounded in love?
How do we demonstrate God’s love to those who have rejected God’s love?
Paul concludes this section with a doxology; not the doxology that we typically think of, but a word of praise to God nonetheless. Paul praises God saying that He is able to do far more than what we can even think or imagine and that He does so using the same power riased Jesus from the dead and that is active in our lives as believers. Then he prays that God’s glory will be present in the church and in Christ Jesus for all eternity.
Based on God’s capacity, how big should we be thinking and imagining?
How is God’s glory present in your life? In your church?
What do you think? Leave a comment below!
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