Updated: Nov 10, 2020
Read Ephesians 1 before reading this blog.
Hello Bible study and welcome to the first week of studying Ephesians! We will be going on a 6-week journey through the Letter to The Ephesians studying the things awaiting us as believers and how to walk the Christian walk. So strap in because we’re in for a ride.
Ephesians is one of my favorite Books in the Bible. There are so many rich verses, a beautiful explanation of our salvation, and endless amazing promises laid out for us. This letter was written by Paul, formally Saul of Tarsus. Saul of Tarsus was known for being an intelligent, learned Jewish man, a Pharisee of the tribe of Benjamin. At a young age, he started in-depth study of the Law, the conduct for all Jewish people. Saul then became a huge prosecutor of Christians, often going into the homes of believers and putting them into prison, or worse, allowing and witnessing their death. Then, something happened. One day on a lovely voyage to Damascus (after the Resurrection) to arrest and extradite Christians, a bright light shone and blinded Saul. On this road, Saul was confronted by Jesus. Jesus asked "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." Saul then became Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, a proclaimer and teacher of the Good News. Talk about a testimony.
Out of the 27 Books in the New Testament, 13 of them were proven to be written by Paul. Discussion is still going on about him being not just the author of these 13, but author of many more, arguing that he actually wrote over 70% of the New Testament. He’s pretty much the Alexander Hamilton of the Bible.
The Book As A Whole
Ephesians was not written as the other letters, the other epistles, in the New Testament. Paul went around planting the seed, planting churches. He was committed to the growth of these churches and the Good News of Jesus Christ. So Paul wrote letters in means to water the seeds by writing back to his churches and addressing their problems. Ephesians is the only letter that does not follow this method. Ephesians was written not to address problems in the church of Ephesus but to explain the themes and doctrines of Christianity and advise them on how to walk this new walk.
The first three chapters in Ephesians are used to explain the doctrines of the Gospel and what awaits us as followers of Jesus Christ. The word Gospel literally means "good news". It narrates Jesus Christ's life and teaching to invite anyone to believe they can be free from the penalty of the Law and receive eternal life in Paradise with Him. From the work of Jesus Christ came a new man, a new woman, and a new society.
Ephesians 1:1-2 -- Paul’s greeting to the Ephesians: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In a few ancient manuscripts, there is a blank space where Ephesus would be. So instead of it saying Ephesus, there would literally be a blank, looking somewhat like this: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in _______ the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Many scholars believe the reasoning behind this was to have written this letter as a circular letter; written to not just one congregation (not just to Ephesus) but to be passed on through multiple cities, multiple churches, and multiple generations. The doctrines and themes of Christianity explained to all. That all may have an ear to hear and eyes to see for times then and times now.
Paul opens the letter praising God, who blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. He starts the letter on a real good note. Speaking of blessing after blessing; what God has done for us in Jesus! Through this, he is getting us to lift our eyes and see Heaven’s perspective: the Truth that God chose us before the creation of the world and marked out a path for us to be adopted as His kids. Paul understands how profound this seems. We humans are not used to being chosen and certainly not used to having a path marked out for us to become the heir of a kingdom, at least not me. So he goes on praying that we may open our eyes and our hearts to see this, to grasp it, to live by it.
Paul’s a pretty smart guy and his intention, with the Holy Spirit’s direction, in laying out the formation of Ephesians is genius. There’s not a single directive about how to live as a Christian until chapters 4 to 6. Why?
Well, let’s see here. If someone who is super fit came up to you and told you you need to lose 15 pounds, to change your eating habits, and start running 3 miles a day…. You’d be offended, discouraged, and have no desire to really change. But if they simply showed you how happy they are by now being fit, they told you of this newfound energy they have, how their acne is gone, how they’re getting amazing sleep… then you’d ask them how they did it and you’d listen to their guidance. The first three chapters are Paul saying he is happier than ever, having lost this weight, and the last three chapters are the workout plan.
But as we go through chapter 1, I’m going to break it down into 4 things that will help us understand Christianity.
3. Being Chosen.
Ephesians 1:2 “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul knew the essential place of grace and peace in the life of a believer. Receiving God’s grace comes before a walk in peace with Him. See, peace does not exist without grace. If you don’t have grace, you’d constantly be working, striving, and you’d be without hope. Grace tells us that even though you may have been disobedient in your past, He still chooses you. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, not by works, so that no one can boast.
You are not left out of the inheritance laid out for you in Ephesians 1. But as you read the great promises awaiting you, you might begin to question. This is too good. It can’t include me. Have you heard of all the bad things I’ve done? The ways I’ve disobeyed God (in ways I thought were secret)?
As Christians we can get tripped up by “works”. It is common for many to think that works determine our salvation. “If I do this, if I volunteer here, If I’m kind here, won’t I be saved?” “What if I study the Bible more, pray harder, try harder to be loved, then will He notice me and save me?” We must know this isn’t true. Good works do not equate salvation.
Now on the flipside, if we know this isn’t true, then we must address the latter. We must know that our bad works, our past sin doesn’t keep us from grace. The bad works we did in our old life don’t keep us from being made anew in Christ. We look back on our past and we think “God I’ve done this and this and this in my past, I fell from you and as a result, fell into sin, how could I ever receive grace from that? How can I receive any inheritance?” Just as works won’t save you, past works won’t stop you from being saved.
I want you to take some time to prayerfully ask God of a sin you are having trouble forgiving yourself for. A sin that you can’t see He has ever forgiven you of.
Now I want to remind you: because of the sacrifice on the cross, we are free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. Not barely free, abundantly free. God is so rich in love, kindness, and grace, that He sacrificed His only begotten son for your freedom.
Ephesians 1:3. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
Paul is still praising God for the blessings! Paul is so good at praising God, did you know all his letters start with thanksgiving? Fun fact.
In Greek, there’s actually two words for “blessed”. One of them means happy. But this Greek word meaning “blessed” literally means “to speak well of.” God has spoken well of us. Not only does God love you, He speaks well of you.
We can throw around this word “love” without power in our culture. We forget the true weight of it. Someone can say they love you. But if someone speaks well about you, either to your face or when you’re not around, that means something else. Not only has God shown you love in the Acts of Service by sending His son to die for you on the cross, in Gifts by blessing you in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ, but now in Words of Affirmation for literally loving you so much He speaks well of you. How cool! And now as a daughter of the King (someone flooded with the words of His love for you) you are literally written into his Will.
3. Being Chosen
Ephesians 1:4-5 MSG “Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, He had you in mind, had settled you as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt you into his family through Christ Jesus.”
He already had you chosen... now it is your decision to choose Him back. He is always knocking on the door (Revelations 3:20), but it’s your decision to open it. God has been on a mission to adopt you. And He actually took great great pleasure in planning this.
When we do choose Him back, Paul tells us we are then united with Christ. The word united came from the Latin word unitus, "to unite," which in turn has its roots in unus, which means "one." We are one with Christ. He is yours and you are His.
Oftentimes we have a hard time thinking that Jesus actually hears our prayers, that He knows our heartache, and that He sees our situation. The truth is, He is closer to you than any other physical object could be. That’s because He is one with you.
Wrap your head around this: You were actually chosen to be adopted. God made you and chose you. The King of the universe sought you out and adopted you to be His daughter. So to make sure you know that you’re His, He marks you with a seal. In Bible times, a seal was placed to mark a finished transaction, to show ownership, and ensure security. And this seal, this guarantee, brings my last point: freedom.
Once you heard of the truth and believed it, you were made free. You have been made anew in Christ Jesus when believing in the Gospel. It is by Christ that you find yourselves home free. It is by the grace of God that He sent the Holy Spirit to free you from the penalty of your old life. The Holy Spirit took you and signed His name on you and lives within you… yes you have the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead! (Romans 8:11) This Holy Spirit has sealed your acceptance into His Kingdom with a permanent seal, and now Jesus is on the mission to deliver you Home. This is a signet from God, a promise that you will receive everything God has for you.
The letter to the Ephesians will take us on a journey to see our lives from Heaven’s perspective. So I leave you all with a challenge this week: to view every aspect of your life and yourself from the perspective of Heaven. If only we looked at our lives, at others, at ourselves with “Heaven’s perspective” how much more would we love generously and not let little frustrations get us down? How blessed would we be with eternal mindsets?
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."
1. What is one truth you have trouble believing in or you had trouble believing in when you put your faith in Jesus?
2. What is one blessing you have received this week that you can’t wrap your head around? (it’s that good)
3. What is one sin you have trouble forgiving yourself for?
I thank you for the Letter to the Ephesians. How true Your Word is. Thank You for Truth that lasts millenniums. I ask glorious Father, that You give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that I may hold fast to Your Truth and that I may know You better. I pray that the eyes of my heart may be enlightened so that I know the hope in which you have called me, the riches of Your glorious inheritance to Your holy people and Your incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength You exerted when You raised Christ and seated Him at Your right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
I thank You Lord for giving me unmatched grace, wonderful blessing, choosing me, and giving me freedom. Oh, Lord, how great you are. Teach me in Your ways to be more like your Son, Lord Jesus Christ.
In your Name I pray,