We are sharing a special series about teaching the Book of Ephesians in small groups. If you haven’t read the Introduction to the series, we invite you to read it here.
Whether you are interested in studying Ephesians for the purpose of teaching it to small groups or for your own personal study, we believe you will find this series helpful.
Basic Premises for Studying Scripture
- God is worth knowing
- His Word is worth learning and obeying
- Because God is worth knowing and His Word is worth learning, we will follow a proven method of knowing Him and learning His Word.
- We will use the I – M – D – I method of Bible study:
- Inductive – Methodical – Direct – Independent
- Inductive study – “logical, objective, impartial reasoning” … examining specifics of Scripture before reaching conclusions
- Methodical study – “a way or path of transit” (Greek – methodos) … focused on taking the proper path to gaining knowledge about God
- Direct study – “relying on Scripture as the primary tool for learning”
- Independent study – “original thinking combined with Spirit insight”
- Observe (See and Record)
- Question (Ask and Answer)
- Interpret (Determine the Holy Spirit’s Intent)
- Apply (How God’s Truth applies to your life)
Bible Study – The Group Process
We invite you to model the process of observing, asking questions for interpretation, interpreting for meaning, and applying for discipleship for your small group. This process may be new to some of the people in your group, so going through it with them for awhile may help them feel comfortable with how to do it.
One of the biggest mistakes people make in reading the Bible is trying to interpret the meaning of individual verses before observing everything in the verses. Studying in context also helps keep us from making incorrect interpretations. That means starting the observation process at the beginning of each Bible book.
The challenge in studying alone or with the group is trying to determine the meaning of passages in the Bible before assuring that we’ve observed everything in the passages and asked every possible question. We carefully answer all of the questions before reaching a conclusion to the meaning.
Read the Scripture and go through each step with your group. You may be able to cover observation,questions, interpretation and application in one meeting, but don’t rush the process. It takes time to see everything in a text, ask good questions, get good answers to those good questions, interpret the meaning of the text and apply the meaning to life. If it takes two or three meetings to do that for each text, that’s fine! The goal is to rightly divide God’s Word, not finish by a certain date.
Observe – Write what you see
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.”
It’s important to remember that these verses are part of the same sentence Paul started in verse 3. There is no change to the context or thought pattern. Verse 7 is simply a continuation of what Paul was saying in verse 6. As we saw in Part 2 of our study, we are graciously favored and accepted by God in “the Beloved,” Christ Jesus.
In Him – this connects directly to “the Beloved” at the end of verse 6. In the sphere of the Beloved …
We have redemption – echomen ten apolutrosin … verb is present tense, durative in action – “we are having redemption”… “redemption” comes from the word apoluo, “set free, send away, send off” … the Greek idea of redemption here is of “deliverance, release, setting free.” It was used for letting someone or something go free for ransom paid. The word ten is the definite article in the Greek, which points to the specific “redemption” that the writer and reader understand and the concept of ownership. The person who paid the price for redeeming something could claim legitimate ownership of that something. Christians have their “redemption” (freedom paid by ransom) “In Him,” in Christ the Beloved.
Through His blood – dia tou aimatos … the word “blood” comes from aima, “blood, death, murder” … Jesus was murdered and His blood was the price paid to ransom us … dia (through) is the preposition of intermediate agency … “redemption” comes “through” the blood of Jesus Christ.
The forgiveness of sins – ten aphesin ton paraptomaton … “forgiveness” comes from the root words apo, “from,” and hiemi, “to send” … aphesin denotes a dismissal, release, cancellation, and is used for the remission of sins … it was used during Bible times for things like releasing a prisoner and letting go of a debt … “forgiveness” specifies the particular quality of “redemption” (Vincent) … this word reminds us of the goat in the Old Testament that was offered as a sin offering on the Day of Atonement. The priest placed the sins of the Israelites on the goat (symbolically), then released the goat into the wilderness never to be seen by Israel again (Leviticus 16) … “sins” is paraptomaton and means “a falling aside, transgression, wrongdoing, misdeed, deviation from truth and uprightness.” It speaks to results of our sinful nature.
according to the riches of His grace – kata to ploutos tes charitos autou … the word kata is a preposition with the meaning of “down,” and is understood by the idea of “domination” and “control” … the word ploutos means “wealth, abundance, preeminent, plentitude, riches” … charitos is “grace, kindness, favor, benefit, blessing” … it is the opposite of krisis and krima, “judgment” and “condemnation” … though we are deserving of God’s judgment and condemnation, He forgives us completely dominated/controlled by His grace based on the redemption we have in the Blood of Jesus Christ. (Hallelujah!)
which He made to abound toward us – hes eperisseusen eis hemas … the word “which” (hes) refers to God’s Grace (“riches of His grace”) … “which He” (God) “made to abound” toward us … the words “He made abound” comes from the single Greek word eperisseusen … it means “to exceed a fixed number or measure, to cause to overflow in abundance, to be more abundant, to be in greater abundance” … another way of understanding the use of the word is to say something is “more than enough” … God has made “the riches of His grace” to “overflow in abundance” toward us … “toward us” is eis hemas and means that the overflowing abundance of the riches of God’s Grace is aimed specifically at us. God manifested, or made known, His Grace to us in superabundance. We are the goal of God’s Grace!
in all wisdom and prudence – en pase sophia kai phronesei … sophia, which translates as “wisdom,” was a very important word to the ancient Greeks … it included the ideas of intelligence, ability to learn, practical and speculative wisdom, sound philosophical thinking, sound judgment in all matters of life, cleverness and skill in the arts and handicrafts, and unique abilities in mathematics and the sciences … Greeks viewed sophia as the most noble wisdom … phronesei comes from the word phren (the mind) and phroneo (to think with the mind, have a mindset) and means “to have understanding” … the word was used by the ancient Greeks for both prudence in governing one’s personal life wisely and for practical wisdom … Paul’s use of sophia and phronesei here in Ephesians speaks to both the ability to think wisely and the skill to use wisdom in the challenges and demands of life.
having made known to us the mystery of His will – gnorisas hemin to musterion tou thelematos autou … the word gnorisas comes from the root ginosko and means “to come to know, to take in knowledge, to recognize, to understand” … musterion comes from the root word mueo, “to initiate into the mysteries,” which comes from muo (to shut the mouth) … it means “hidden thing, secret” … Paul uses the word musterion six times in Ephesians, five times in 1 Corinthians, four times in Colossians, two times in Romans, two times in 1 Timothy and one time in 1 Thessalonians. The only other writer who used musterion multiple times was the Apostle John in Revelation … the word has a different meaning in the Greek than the English word “mystery.”
Musterion was used for something that was unavailable to people through natural means and could only be revealed through Divine revelation and illumination (thus the idea of information known by an initiate). Once revealed and illumined, the information was relatively easy to understand … the “mystery” Paul wrote about here is the “mystery of His will” … the word “will” is thelematos from the root word thelo, “to will, have in mind, intend, to purpose” … the idea here is that God had a secret intention at a past time that He revealed at this time.
according to His good pleasure – kata ten eudokian autou … this is the second time Paul has used the word eudokian (good pleasure) in context of what God does … the first usage was in verse 5: “according to the good pleasure of His will” … as a reminder, the Greek word comes from eu (well) and dokeo (to seem) and carries the idea of “gracious purpose, satisfaction with a good object in view, pleased with a choice.” In verse 5 and verse 9, the context is tied to God’s will. Verse 5 dealt with God’s choice from before the foundation of world to adopt us as sons. Verse 9 deals with the redemption we have through the Blood of Jesus, and the resulting forgiveness of sin, that is according to the riches of His Grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, which is dominated by “His good pleasure.” Isn’t that amazing! The will (desire, purpose) of God was dominated by His good pleasure. God’s decisions are not based on a “whim” of a sovereign, but are instead the reasoned intention of the loving God to bless us. God does what is good for us; that’s what drives His purpose and intent.
which He purposed in Himself – hen proetheto en auto … the word proetheto comes from pro (before) and tithemi (to set, put, place) and means “a setting forth, to place before, to set before one’s self, to purpose, determine.” God purposed this good pleasure “in Himself.”
that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times – eis oikonomian tou pleromatos ton kairon … the word “dispensation” is oikonomian and comes from the words oikos, which translates as “house,” and nomos, which translates as “a law.” Oikonomian is used nine times in the New Testament: six times by the Apostle Paul and three times by Luke in his Gospel account. Paul used the word three times in Ephesians. The literal translation of oikonomian is “house law.” Greeks in the 1st century AD understood the word to signify the management of a household. English translators have chosen to use “dispensation” and “stewardship” to explain its meaning. Though some people have understood the word to mean a period of time or era, the idea is how someone manages and administers a household. That includes purpose and planning on the part of the manager.
This “household management” is “of the fullness of the times.” The word “fullness” (pleromatos) is used 17 times in the New Testament: 12 times by Paul and 5 times in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark and John). Pleromatos is a singular noun in the genitive case. The idea of both fullness and fulfillment. It comes from the root word pleroo, “to make full, to fill up.” This particular “fullness” is “of the times” (ton kairon). The word kairon is a singular noun in the accusative case and means “a measure of time, a larger or smaller portion of time.” When used for time, kairon signified a fixed or definite period, an epoch time, a season or opportune season. Paul wrote that God manages His household “of the fullness of the times.” For what purpose?
He might gather together in one all things in Christ – anakepsalaiosasthai ta panta en to Christo … God’s purpose for managing His household of the fullness of times is so that He “might gather together …” The word anakepsalaiosasthai is a combination of the words ana (an emphatic meaning “again”) and kephalaioo (“to sum up, gather together in one”). A key here is the word ana, since it speaks of gathering “again.” It is in the middle voice and means “to gather together in one, to reunite under one head.” God is going to gather again in one “all things in Christ.” What are those “all things”?
both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him – ta epi tois ouranois kai ta epi tes ges en auto … God will gather together “again” in one all things in Christ “both which are in heaven and which are on earth” in Him. The word “heaven” is ouranois and was understood by Greeks of the 1st century AD to mean the visible heavens (e.g. blue sky, sun, moon, stars), the air (atmosphere), and the peculiar seat and abode of God (gods), of angels, and glorified spirits. The earth (ges) was used by Greeks for the planet, the land, country, region, soil, ground and mankind. God, in His household management of the fullness of times, will gather together again in one all things in Christ, which includes those things “in heaven” and “which are on earth” and He will do that “in Him.” God will do all of this “in” Christ. The Father does everything for His Son and The Son does all things for The Father. What this means is that all things in heaven and on earth were once “together” in Christ and in the management of the “fullness of times” God will “again” gather together all things in heaven and on earth in Christ.
Observe – Write what you see
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.”” Ephesians 1:7-10
Question – Ask and answer questions based on observations
Interpret – What is the Holy Spirit’s intent in these verses?
Apply – How can you apply these spiritual truths to your life?
We will look at Ephesians 1:11-14 in the next part of our series, Teaching Ephesians.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.