Themes in Relationships
Introduction: This week we continue our study of Paul's letter to the Ephesians. (We will also see if I can quit writing "Ephesus" when I mean "Ephesians!") Paul's introduction in his letter to the saints reveals some themes for his entire letter and reveals some secrets for saints today. To explore these secrets, let's dive into our study!
- Grace and Peace
- What greeting do you normally give to others? (I normally say, "How are you doing?" or "Hi.")
- How many "How are you doing" people are there in the class?
- If that is your greeting, do you expect people to give you a meaningful answer? (Generally, I do not. On occasion people will act like I'm asking a real question, but that is rare. Normally, when someone greets me with "How are you doing?" I respond with my own "How are you doing?" Sometimes I respond with "fine," regardless of how I feel at the moment.)
- Read Ephesians 1:1-2. Paul greets the Ephesians (and us) with the phrase "grace and peace." This is a common way for him to greet his readers. See, e.g. Galatians 1:3. Do you think he means anything substantive by his greeting? Or, is this just his way of saying "How are you doing?"
- On whose behalf is Paul greeting us? (God the Father and Lord Jesus! I think this, more than anything else, shows us that Paul has meaning in his greeting.)
- On what basis can Paul claim to be speaking for God? (Notice that Ephesians 1:1 says that he is an apostle of Jesus "by the will of God." That means that Paul asserts God chose him to be His spokesman.)
- Can we take Paul's word for this? He was not one of the twelve disciples. If someone comes to you and says, "I speak for God," how would you react? (Read 2 Peter 3:15-16. Peter, who was one of the twelve apostles, refers to Paul's writings as "Scripture!" Paul is speaking for God.)
- Now that we know Paul has meaning in his greeting, what does he wish for us when he says "Grace and peace?"
- Is there a connection between what Paul wishes for us and the fact that he is speaking for the Father and Jesus?
- Read Ephesians 2:13-15. How has Jesus given us peace? (This shows us the deep meaning in Paul's greeting: "grace and peace." He is summarizing the plan of salvation. God the Father shows grace to us because of what Jesus has done on our behalf. What Jesus has done gives us peace with God the Father. Jesus has "destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility" between us and the Father which was created by our sins.)
- Spiritual Blessings
- Read Ephesians 1:3. Most Christians that I know are looking for blessings here on earth. What does Paul mean when he writes that God the Father has "blessed us in the heavenly realms?" (The "heavenly realms" does not refer to the sky, but rather refers to the place where God lives. We are given riches where God lives.)
- How is it that we are blessed? (We have spiritual blessings through Jesus.)
- How many blessings do we have? (All.)
- We have spoken in the past about our spiritual gifts. Does this mean that every spiritual gift can be ours?
- If not, what spiritual blessings, what spiritual wealth is ours?
- Read Ephesians 1:7. What spiritual blessing do we find here? (Forgiveness of our sins, our redemption.)
- Read Ephesians 1:18-20. What blessing do we find here? (Great power.)
- Read Ephesians 1:9. What blessing do we find here? (Knowing God's mystery, His will for humans.)
- Has there been a shift in God's promises to His people? In Deuteronomy 28 He promised material blessings to those who obeyed Him. Read Philippians 4:19. Has God now shifted the focus of His blessings to the spiritual realm?
- Should we care?
- Does it say something about our spiritual walk if we do care? (Yes. This is an important issue for us to contemplate. However, if you look at the context of Philippians 4:19 you will see that Paul is thanking the church for sending him material help. God wants to shift our focus to the more important spiritual realm, but He does not neglect the matter of material blessings.)
- Unity in Jesus
- Let's go back and read Ephesians 1:9 to find out more about this secret God wants to share with us. What about God's will is a mystery?
- Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-8. This gives us more insight into this mystery, this secret wisdom. What wisdom from God do we have that has been hidden in the past? (The gospel: our great God would humiliate Himself and die to save us. If the rulers of the earth understood this, they would not have taken part in killing Jesus.)
- Why are the "rulers of this age" coming to nothing? (Because they have just the opposite view of life. They take power from others. The Jewish leaders wanted Jesus dead because He was a challenge to their authority. They would help to put to death this "one man" ( John 11:50) to save their authority. Jesus, the "one man," voluntarily gave up His authority to give us life.)
- Read Ephesians 1:9-10. Putting in place this mysterious plan, brings unity between heaven and earth. Tell me how this happens? (It restores God's authority on earth (John 16:11), which was lost when Adam and Eve sinned. It gives us a representative, a mediator in heaven ( Hebrews 8:1-6). It opens to us the gates of heaven.)
- How does Jesus become the "head" of heaven (Ephesians 1:10)? (Read John 5:22-23. God the Father has given the judgment over the world to Jesus.)
- Read Ephesians 3:3-6. What other aspect of this mystery that brings heaven and earth together do we find here? Not only are heaven and earth unified, but what else is unified? (The gospel of Jesus is not just for the Jews, it is for the entire world. Everyone is eligible to learn the mystery of Jesus dying for our sins. Everyone is eligible to take advantage of this great spiritual blessing - the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.)
- Friend, how about you? God offers to let you in on His mystery. God offers to share His spiritual riches with you. Will you accept and follow Him?
- Next week: What God Has Done.