Bible Study

Ephesians 1

Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, it, stop jot down anything that jumps out at you: read the passage again. Then use the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

What is the passage saying?

Apostle (v 1): this literally means someone sent with a message. The apostles were the small group of followers Jesus chose to lead the church after He would die.

Ephesians is a letter from Paul which traditionally is addressed to a church in the city of Ephesus, located on the west coast of modern Turkey although early copies of the letter don’t address this specifically to Ephesus, but a general letter to the saints who are also faithful.

However, Ephesus was a major urban centre of Asia on the Aegean Sea. The first century population is estimated at 300,000, making it one of the larger cities of the Roman empire. It was extremely prosperous as a commercial centre, provincial capital, and port city. It was known for its many monuments, theatres, and temples and was an international tourist centre. It was so profitable that its leaders are thought to have operated the first world bank. It was filled with political fighting, divided between the rich and a poor dehumanized underclass. There is more written about this church than any other in the New Testament. You can read more about its beginnings in Acts 18-20.

Grace (v 2): this is when we are given a gift or favour which we do not deserve.

Spiritual gift from the heavenly world (v 3): in this chapter, this is another way of saying God has given us everything we need for our relationship with Him.

Paul is writing from house arrest in Rome, where he is in prison for telling people about Jesus.

Paul begins this letter with much enthusiasm. Even though he is in prison, it seems like he was having a good day! He simply reminds us of how blessed we are that God has done so much for us through Jesus. Adoption into God's family, God’s grace in our lives, forgiveness of sin, knowledge of God’s plan, and His Holy Spirit living within us. He especially stresses that this was God’s plan from before the beginning of the world (v 4,5,9,10,11).

V4 Paul uses the words "chosen" and "predestined" to describe those who follow Jesus.

There is some debate about what exactly these words mean. 

Some think these words imply that God decides who will be saved and who

will not, giving us no choice in the matter.

However, this is not consistent with the many scripture verses that emphasize our free will to choose or not choose God.

Remember, when reading the Bible, we must look at it in its entirety, not just one isolated verse at a time. So perhaps the people God chooses are the people he knew would choose Him. God is all-knowing, which means he knows in advance who will choose Him and who will not.  So, His choosing us "before the creation of the world" does not necessarily negate our free will. And "predestined" does not necessarily negate our free will either. To be "predestined" simply means that there is a destination set in advance. So, the idea could simply be that God set the destination in advance of "adopting" those who chose Him.

We are not saved because we deserve it but because God is gracious and freely gives salvation.

In the second half of this chapter, Paul tells the Ephesians that he keeps praying that God will enable them to see these blessings. In reading this chapter you see how clearly Paul saw God’s love and how this perspective gave him hope and joy in a life that could easily have been very discouraging.

Holy Spirit (v 13): In the Bible, God is spoken of as one being, but as existing in three different forms (or persons) at the same time. The Holy Spirit another way of speaking of God. The Holy Spirit is God's guarantee that we belong to him and that he will do what he has promised.

The Holy Spirit works in us to transform us now, and what we experience now is a taste of the total change we will experience in eternity.

V16 Paul prays that the letter’s recipients would know God better and be enlightened to see the hope, promises, and power they have in Jesus.

Paul finished this chapter by writing about Jesus. He says that Jesus was raised from the dead, is in heaven, is above all power and authority, and is head over everything for the Church, which is his body.

Christ’s body (v 23): this is a common name for the Christian church. The church is the physical presence of Jesus on the earth now – it represents Jesus – and is controlled by Him as a body is controlled by its head. This image also communicates that Christians have an extremely close relationship with Jesus.

So what? 

Verse 12 says that our purpose in life is that “we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.” The reason for our lives is to bring glory to God. We are not the stars of our stories, God is. Our role is to point to Him. When we make our lives about glorifying God, our lives become much bigger.

Verse 14 The Holy Spirit is God's guarantee that we belong to him and that he will do what he has promised.

Verse 15 Paul's prayer should probably help us to see what we should focus on in our own lives, and what we should pray for others: knowing God better and understanding the hope, promises, and power we have in Jesus.

 

How will you apply this passage?

Is your life focus about you or God?

Who is the star of your story?  

What if you made God the star of your story?

What would that look like? How would you do it? How might it improve your life?

How often do you pray for other people (friends, family, the people in your group)?

If you do pray for them, what do you pray for?

Why don't you start to use Paul's prayer as an example in praying for the people you care about?