E P H E S I A N S

AT-A-GLANCE

Chapters 1-3

Our Identity in Christ

REDEEMED TO SERVE HIM

Chapters 4-6

Our Life in Christ

RENEWED TO SERVE ONE ANOTHER

QUICK FACTS

Author: Paul, the Apostle

Original Readers: Christians in Ephesus and the surrounding Roman Province of Asia 

Date Written: c. AD 60-62

Written From: Prison in Rome

Key Verse: 2:19-20

Major Themes: Identity in Christ, Unity

DISCOVER THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF EPHESIANS

HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE INDUCTIVELY

OBSERVE

What does the text say?

There’s no better way to understand the literary context than carefully observing what is said.

INTERPRET

 What does the text mean?

In light of both the literary and historical context, what was the original intended meaning of this passage?

APPLY

How do I apply what the text means?

In order for us to grow and mature more into Christ’s likeness, we must apply the truths we discover in our lives.

Chapter 1 - Our Inheritance from God

OBSERVE

  • Observe who we are in Christ in this chapter.

  • Observe all the characteristics of God in this chapter.

  • In 1:3-14, observe all the things that God has done, and what believers have received.

  • Observe also WHY God did each of these things.

  • 1:13-14 — What are the parts of salvation, and the order as it is listed here?

  • 1:17-19 — What does Paul want his readers to know?

  • 1:20-23 — What does Paul say about Jesus here? 

INTERPRET

  • 1:17-19 — Keeping their background in mind, why would the Ephesian readers need to be grounded in these things?

  • 1:20-23 — Why might this picture of Jesus be helpful for Paul’s original readers? 

APPLY

  • What areas does my view of my identity, not line up with who I am in Christ? 

* HELPFUL NOTES

1:1 —  In the earliest manuscripts of Ephesians, the words ‘in Ephesus’ do not appear. This, along with the less personal nature of this letter leads most scholars to think that this was originally written as a circular letter, meant for many churches in this area. 

Chapter 2 - Becoming the Dwelling Place of God

OBSERVE

  • Observe who we are in Christ in this chapter.

  • How does Paul bring unity between Jewish and Gentile Christians in this chapter?

  • Observe all the things God has done in this chapter. Who were we when God did these things?

  • 2:1-10 — Observe the contrast between life before Christ, with life after Christ.

  • Find where Paul describes why God has created us. Why did God create us?

  • What is the new identity of both Jewish and Gentile believers in 2:11-22? 

INTERPRET

  • Why does Paul emphasize this unity between Jews and Gentiles?

  • 2:21-22 — What does it mean that together we grow into a holy temple of the Lord? How should this affect our lives?

APPLY

  • Are there areas where I am guilty of not seeking unity with other Christians? What can I do to change this? 

  * HELPFUL NOTES

2:17-18 —  This is a fulfillment of what was prophesied by 700+ years before, in Isaiah 57:19. 

Chapter 3 - Paul: Missionary of the Mystery of the Gospel

OBSERVE

  • 3:1-6 — How does Paul summarize what he just finished writing in chapter 2?

  • How do we have access to God?

  • 3:14-21 — What are all the prayer points of Paul for his readers? What is the end result that Paul hopes to see?

  • How is Paul’s life an example for his readers? 

INTERPRET

  • What does Paul mean by his statement in 3:6? What worldview issues of the original readers of this letter were being addressed here? 

APPLY

  • Read 3:14-19 again. How can I better be filled with all the fullness of God? 

  * HELPFUL NOTES

Paul’s use of the word “mystery” in this book, likely reflects the Mystery Cults of the region, who professed their “mysteries” as “secret knowledge” for the initiated. However, unlike the Mystery Cults who charge to know their “mysteries”, Paul freely proclaims this “mystery” to all people. 

WHAT IS THE ‘MYSTERY’ IN EPHESIANS?

Throughout Ephesians, Paul keeps talking about something he calls a ‘mystery’. What is this ‘mystery’, and why does Paul use this term?

Discover how the Greeks and Jews both used this term in different ways, and then discover how Paul uses it. What is the mystery, and what does this mean for us today?

Chapter 4 - Living in Unity

OBSERVE

  • Observe all the things that Paul wants his readers to do in this chapter.

  • Observe any repeated words that you see.

  • What are the gifts that Christ gave? What does it say is the purpose of these gifts? 

INTERPRET

  • What does Paul mean when he says to “walk/lead a life worthy of the calling” (keep in mind how Paul showed his life as an example for them in chapter 3)? How should their lives look both individually and corporately?

  • 4:24 — How does someone clothe themselves with the new self/man? 

APPLY

  • How can I lead a life worthy of the calling?

  • How have I done with putting away my former way of life? How can I do better? 

  * HELPFUL NOTES

In 4:22-24, the Greek word that is translated as “self” (NIV, ESV, NRSV) is anthropos, or “man/mankind”. This is the same Greek word that he uses in 2:15, for the new creation that God is creating. In light of this, what is Paul saying here? 

4:8-10 – WHAT DOES IT MEAN THAT “JESUS ASCENDED AND DESCENDED”?

In 4:8-10, we encounter a confusing and difficult passage. Paul says that Jesus ascended on high, and then descended into the lower regions.

What could this mean?  There are 3 ways that people commonly interpret this.

Chapters 5-6 - Leave Behind the Old Life of Darkness

OBSERVE

  • 5:1-20 — Observe the instructions Paul gives for imitating God.

  • 5:21-6:9 — Observe all of these instructions in light of Paul’s first command to everyone, in 5:21.

  • 5:21-6:9 — Observe how much space Paul gives to each group he is addressing?

  • 5:22 — How are wives to be subject to their husbands?

  • 5:25 — How are husbands to love their wives? How did Christ model His love for the church?

  • 6:1 — How are children to obey their parents?

  • 6:4 — How are fathers to raise their children?

  • 6:9 — How are the masters to treat their slaves?

  • 6:10-18 — What are all the parts of the “armor of God”? Why does Paul say this is important? 

INTERPRET

  • Why does Paul spend so much time addressing the husbands, while very little time addressing the wives? Why also address the fathers, while not addressing the mothers?

  • What does Paul mean when he tells the masters “do the same to them”? How might this be a revolutionary idea in a first century culture that is built on slavery?

  • Why was this concept of putting on the armor of God so important for the original readers of Ephesians? 

5:22-24 – MAN IS THE HEAD OF THE WIFE?!?

Is Paul being sexist in this passage? What does he mean that ‘wives are to submit to their husbands’, and ‘man is the head of the wife’?

When we look at these verses in light of the literary context – what is being said surrounding theses verses, and throughout the Bible – we will discover that it may not be as controversial as one may think.

APPLY

  • What area(s) of my old life do I still need to leave behind, so that I can live more like the new creation God has created me to be?

  • How can I apply Paul’s instructions for relating to my family, employers, and/or employees?

  • vHow can I “put on” the armor of God today? How will these things help me in my life? In which of these areas do I need to improve? 

  * HELPFUL NOTES

5:14 — It is not entirely clear what Paul quotes here. Some think it is a paraphrase of Isaiah 60:1, or Daniel 12:2. Others think that this may have been part of an early Christian hymn.

6:14-17 — Paul uses a visual imagery that would be very familiar to his whole audience: a Roman soldier. This imagery of the “armor of God” is first used in Isaiah 11:5, and 59:17, and then later used in the Apocryphal book, called the Wisdom of Solomon (5:17-20). 

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