Paul's Letter to the Ephesians

Discovery for Teachers

Paul's Letter to the Ephesians

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Ephesians 1:1 through 6:24

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” (Ephesians 4:1)

BACKGROUND

Ephesus was a strategic seaport, ranking in importance with Alexandria in Egypt, and Antioch in Syria. It was located on the western edge of Asia Minor (which is now Turkey) near the present-day city of Izmir, and was the most important Aegean Sea port on the main route from Rome to the East. Ephesus was a religious center as well, and was famous for its magnificent temple of Diana (the Roman goddess), also known to the Greeks as Artemis. The temple was a structure considered to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Ephesus was a large international tourist center, and so profitable that its leaders opened the first world bank. Its population at that time was about 300,000, making it one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire.

Paul had been a missionary for about seventeen years before he reached Ephesus. After two of his fellow missionaries had gone for several months and laid the groundwork, Paul arrived and set up his customary headquarters for evangelism in one of the provinces. Along with the colleagues he had brought with him and some Christians already in Ephesus, he began a network of home churches. This network eventually spread to other areas of Asia.

Paul’s first converts were probably Jews and “God-fearers.” God-fearer was the Jewish term for a Gentile who wanted to follow the worship of the Lord but did not want to formally renounce his culture or undergo circumcision. The new converts were usually from the middle-class, looking for truth and security but not quite ready to completely change their lifestyles and attitudes. If the head of a household decided to follow Christ, his children, wife, slaves, and clients usually followed too. So the young church was built of individual households, meeting in the home of one of the more prosperous members. As a church outgrew the house, some households broke off and began to meet in another house. Thus, the early church in Ephesus continued to grow. Paul and his team spent more than two and a half years in Ephesus gaining converts and training leaders.

This letter to the Ephesians was written while Paul was in prison in Rome from A.D. 60-62 and sent to the Ephesian church with Tychicus. Unlike other letters he wrote, this letter was not written to address any particular problem in the church. It was written to strengthen and encourage the Ephesian church. It was also possibly circulated around other churches in the area for the same purpose. In it, Paul described the nature and appearance of the church. He challenged believers to function as a living body of Christ on earth.

The Book of Ephesians can be broken down into two major sections. The first three chapters deal with doctrine (the calling of the church), and the last three deal with application (the conduct of the church). The overall theme of the book is the unity of believers.

In chapter 1, Paul began with a prayer that the church may have wisdom and revelation. In chapters 2 and 3 he discussed the believers’ positions individually and corporately before God, and the mystery of their calling. He ended with a prayer that their faith might be strengthened through the love of God.

Chapter 4 is a pivotal point in the book. Paul admonished the believers to walk worthy of their calling in Christ. In the last three chapters alone, there are thirty-five directives that speak of the believer’s responsibility to conduct himself according to his individual calling. Throughout chapters 4 and 5, Paul discussed the Christian’s walk in unity, holiness, love, light, and wisdom. In chapter 6, he concluded the book by instructing believers regarding how to endure spiritual warfare.

Like the Ephesian church, we are called to know Biblical doctrine and then live it out before the watching world. A loving, unified church is a strong church that unbelievers will be drawn to.

SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS

  1. In the first verse of chapter 1, Paul refers to “the faithful in Christ Jesus.” What would it take for others to characterize you as faithful in Christ Jesus?

    Faithful–what an excellent reputation! Such a label would be an honor to any believer. A response might include: being strong in your commitment one day at a time; trusting God in the hard times of life as well as in the good times; and being consistent in the “little things.” Expand this list to adapt to the age, spiritual maturity, etc. of your class.
  2. In Ephesians 1:3, Paul wrote that God had blessed the believers with all spiritual blessings. List some of the spiritual blessings God has bestowed upon you. What is the greatest spiritual blessing? After compiling your list, take a moment to thank God for these blessings.

    With your class, make a list of the blessings Paul mentioned in chapter 1. Your list should include: The believer is chosen and called of God. We are redeemed through Christ’s Blood, which gives us eternal life. The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual wisdom. Discuss how these blessings are an integral part of the life of the believer.
  3. What do Ephesians 1:7 and Ephesians 2:13 tell us about how we are brought closer to God?

    Ephesians 1:7 says we are redeemed through the Blood of Christ; Ephesians 2:13 says we are drawn nigh (near) by the Blood of Christ. Bring out that sin is a barrier that separates us from God. Only the Blood of Christ can break down that barrier, provide redemption from sin, and draw us closer to God. What is meant by the phrase, “Pleading the Blood,” and how do we do that? You may wish to ask your class to share personal examples of times when the Blood availed in their lives.
  4. In Ephesians 2:14, we read that Christ has “broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” The Temple had a wall separating the Jews and the Gentiles, but Paul was indicating that the Gospel is for all. What “walls” might we build today that God might want broken down?

    God does not want any barriers that prevent true unity in the Body of Christ. Some walls might be physical, racial, socio-economical, political, age, gender, appearance, etc. They may even be walls of division due to hurt feelings or other offences that occur. Christians have the responsibility to search their hearts and make sure they have clear consciences with both God and man. If there are any barriers, they can be removed by asking God for forgiveness, which then provides the peace that Jesus gives. They also have the responsibility of going to their brother or sister and making any offences right.
  5. Give the progression in Ephesians 3:20 from the first thought in the believer’s mind to God’s full purpose achieved in our lives. What is the power that works within us?

    We think, we ask, we receive, then we use what we receive according to the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. Bring out ways that God is able to do more for our spiritual lives than we could ever ask him for or even think possible. Develop the word “able” as an acrostic: almighty, boundless, limitless, everlasting. It is up to us to ask for these things and to seek His will in our lives. Then the power of the Holy Spirit can work more fully in us.
  6. In chapter 4, what instruction does Paul give about how we should walk worthy of our calling?

    Class response should bring out that one key element to unity in the Body of Christ is humility (verse 2). Christ taught this throughout His time on earth. The other key element to unity is endeavoring (verse 3). The Greek word for endeavor (spoudazoô), means “to use speed, to make an effort, to be earnest (do or give diligence), labor.” The point should be made that unity doesn’t just happen. It takes a concerted effort among believers, with the help of the Spirit of God.
  7. Ephesians 4:11 lists a number of gifts (callings) that are given to different believers by God. Write down each of them, then alongside each one, note how that gift benefits the Body of Christ. Why does God give these gifts?

    •    Apostles: To establish churches
    •    Prophets: speaking God’s Word to the Church
    •    Evangelists: do mission work to gain converts
    •    Pastors: to lead the converts
    •    Teachers: to instruct the converts

    Discuss with the students how these gifts apply today and why God gives them. He gives these gifts for the perfecting (bringing to spiritual maturity) of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying (building up) of the body of Christ, until we all come to the unity of faith and are not carried about with every wind of doctrine (verses 12-16).

  8. In Ephesians 5:1, Paul instructs his readers to be followers of God, “as dear children.” Explain what you think he meant by this.

    Just as children imitate their parents, we should imitate Christ. In verse 2, we read that Christ’s great love for us led Him to sacrifice Himself so that we might live. Our love for others should be the same — a love that goes beyond affection and leads to self-sacrificing service. What are some ways this type of love will be evidenced in our daily lives?
  9. In Ephesians 6:18, we read that we are to pray always, with all prayer and supplication (petitioning) in the Spirit, and with perseverance and supplication for all saints. Review your prayer time this week. How have you prayed for others? How have you persevered in prayer for them? What steps can you take to improve this aspect of your prayer time?

    This would be a good time to bring out the importance of praying without ceasing and earnestly interceding for others. Obviously one cannot physically close his eyes and pray at all times, but to be in an attitude of prayer throughout the day is important. Praying for others is important because it helps us to think less of our own needs and more about the needs of others. We find that when we are praying for another brother or sister, not only does it help them but it also helps us. We benefit because we are privileged to share in their victories and blessings. There is also a sense of renewed unity among the believers when they pray one for another. Steps that can be taken to improve this area in our lives might be a prayer journal, note cards, or a prayer list, and should include a time set aside each day to pray for others.

CONCLUSION

It is a great privilege and encouragement to be a part of the family of God. As we walk together with other believers, we must be faithful in our individual walk with God, consistent in our prayer lives, and strive for unity among the believers. If we do this, we will experience the many spiritual blessings God has in store for us.