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 also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
In Him also we have obtained an inheritance – en ho kai eklerothemen … It’s important to remember that we’re studying one long sentence – one continual thought. The words “In Him” flow from “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” to “also we have obtained an inheritance.” Jesus Christ is the “in Him” that connects both the idea of all things being gathered again in Him to our having obtained an inheritance.
The Greek word eklerothemen is used only one time in the New Testament – here in Ephesians 1:11. It is a verb in the aorist tense, indicative mood, passive voice, which means we did nothing in the process of obtaining an inheritance at a past time. Watch how the Greek plays out.
Eklerothemen comes from the words kleros (to assign by lot) and nemomai (to possess) and carries the idea of being chosen by someone to be their possession (property). The word eklerothemen translates literally as “we were lot cast as [His] inheritance.” Another way of understanding this concept is that we were designated as a “heritage.” The idea in the Greek language is not that we did something to obtain an inheritance, but that we were made an inheritance, designated as a heritage. We are God’s heritage, His possession through the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
Everything Paul has shared with us so far about receiving all spiritual blessings is that it is what we have is all from God. He is the Actor and we are the receiver in all these blessings. He chose us by lot (kleros) out of (ek) to become His possession (nemomai). Why would God do such a thing? Remember what Paul wrote a few clauses before – “having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself …” God’s Will is mysterious and His choosing us is according to HIS good pleasure which HE purposed in HIMSELF. We members of the Body of Christ are the Lord’s prized possession. All glory to God!
being predestined according to the purpose of Him – prooristhentes kata prothesin tou … Paul’s not done yet. He next tells us we were “predestined according to the purpose of Him.” The word “predestined” is prooristhentes, which comes from the words pro (before) and horizo (establish boundaries, limits). Greeks in the 1st century AD understood the word to mean pre-determining boundaries and limits and marking them out. The word is a participle in the nominative case, aorist tense and passive voice. Someone else marked us out beforehand, establishing boundaries and limits, for the purpose of the One Who marked out the boundaries.
Paul used the word earlier in verse 5 – “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will …”
Paul used the words “predestined” and “purpose” twice in this long sentence and both of them in the same context. In verse 5, God pre- determined us to adoption as “sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” In verse 11, God chose us to be His inheritance “being predestined according to the purpose of Him.”
Another way of looking at this is that God chose us beforehand and did something about it. It reminds us of what Paul wrote in verse 4 – “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world …” What we are witnessing here is the great plan and purpose of Almighty God carried out in the heavens and on the earth with us – you and me – being His prized possession. We have a unique relationship with God through the Redemptive Work of Jesus Christ on the Cross – “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
who works all things according to the counsel of His will – ta panta energountos kata ten boulen tou thelematos autou … Paul continues the theme of what God does. He “works all things according to the counsel of His will.” The word energountos comes from energes, an adjective meaning “energized, full of energy,” and has the idea of being successful at accomplishing a work goal. Ancient Greeks understood the word to carry the idea of someone successfully carrying out a plan from one stage of the work phase to the next.
God is successful at working out “all things” (panta – every conceivable thing) “according to” (kata ten – dominated by) the “counsel of His will.” The word “counsel” is boulen, which has in it the idea of both intelligence and deliberation. It is intention as the result of reflection that speaks to the plan of God. Boulen is the counsel of God preceding His decision. (Zodhiates) It speaks to a deliberate design. God had a plan to redeem a particular people as a prized possession even before He created the first person.
Note that this is the counsel of “His will.” Thelematos is used most often for the Will of God in the New Testament and means “that which is desired.” Greeks of the 1st century AD understood that thelematos was an expression of pleasure toward something. It’s important in understanding the “will” of God to see that His Will is part of His “desire.” God does all that He does according to the counsel of “His desire, His will.” God’s desire for us led Him to express His pleasure toward us in Christ redeeming us on the Cross from sin and death.
that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory – eis to einai hemas eis epainon doxes autou tous proelpikotas en to Christo … “that” (eis) is a preposition often used to show a result. The word “trust” is proelpikotas, which comes from the words pro (before) and elpizo (hope for). This is another word that is found only once in the New Testament. It is a “hoped for before” (trust) in Christ. This “trust” is not the same word Paul will use later in Ephesians for “faith” and “believe” (pisteuo). Paul is addressing something else that was a part of God’s plan – “we,” a group of people who “hoped before” – possibly Jewish Christians, like Paul who hoped for Israel’s promised Messiah (en to Christo – in the Christ), who discovered God true plan in Christ as Lord and Savior of both Jews and Gentiles (a major theme in Ephesians as we will see later).
These “hoped before” people had a purpose – “should be to the praise of His glory.” Epainon comes from the Greek words epi (on, fitting) and ainos (praise). It means praise that is fitting, appropriate. It carries the idea of having an accurate recognition of something. Doxes comes from the Greek word dokeo (to seem) and means “opinion, judgment, view.” It is always used in the positive sense in the New Testament of having a “good opinion,” thus praise, honor and glory. Paul wrote that he along with others who had hoped before for the Christ had the purpose of being to the praise of God’s Glory.
In Him you also trusted – en ho kai humeis … Paul is writing to a church (or churches) in Asia Minor made up of mostly Gentiles. That makes the words, “In Him you also trusted,” a contrastive comparison to his earlier words, “we who first trusted in Christ.” The word “also” (kai) supports the idea that Paul is presenting two groups here – one being Jewish believers who had hoped before for the promised Messiah and the other being Gentile believers. The Greek word for “trusted” is not repeated in verse 13 – en ho kai humeis translates as “in the ones also yes.” The idea of “trust” is understood in the context, though not repeated. after you heard the word of truth – akousantes ton logon tes aletheias … The Gentiles were included as ones who “hoped” in the Christ “after” they “heard the word of truth.” Gentiles did not “hope before” for the Messiah because they had no part in the Messianic promise God made to Israel (more on that in chapter 2). They were included akousantes ton logon tes aletheias. The word akousantes (participle, nominative case, aorist tense, active voice) comes from akouo (to hear) and means “to pay attention, understand, perceive the sense of what is said, comprehend.” What they “heard” was “the word of truth” – ton logon tes aletheias. Logon (word) is more than just the name of a word. Ancient Greeks understood it to mean the “expression of thought.” The expression of thought the Gentile Christians had heard was “of truth” (tes aletheias). Greeks understood the word aletheias to be objectively what is true in anything being considered. It is “the reality lying at the basis of an appearance; the manifested, veritable essence of a matter” (Cremer); “truth as evidenced in relation to facts” (Zodhiates).
the gospel of your salvation – to euaggelion tes soterias humon … Paul further defined the “word of truth” the Gentiles had as “the gospel of your salvation.” The Gospel (to euaggelion) means “good news” and Paul adds that it is the good news of soterias humon (salvation of you). Greeks in the 1st century AD understood soterias to mean “deliverance, preservation, safety, salvation” from physical dangers. Soterias comes from the word soter, which translates as “savior, deliverer, preserver.” Ancient Greeks and Romans were familiar with “saviors” in their mythologies, but there are many differences between those mythological saviors and the True Savior, Jesus Christ. The mythological saviors were personally flawed and often petty and selfish. Jesus Christ was/is personally Perfect and always serious and magnanimous. The differences between Christ and the mythological “saviors” of Greece and Rome would have been obvious from the teaching and preaching ministries of Christians in the 1st century.
in whom also, having believed – en ho kai pisteusantes … Paul wrote that having believed in Jesus Christ for salvation, a major aspect of the “good news” of the Gospel is that Christians received “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” That included the Blessings from the Ministry of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise – esphragisthete to pneumatic tes epaggelias to hagio … Ephesians is not the first time Paul taught or wrote about the Ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians. In fact, Paul is not the first person to teach about the Holy Spirit. The doctrine (teaching) of the Holy Spirit began in Genesis 1:2 where He was “hovering over the face of the waters” of Creation. Jesus revealed His purpose for sending the Holy Spirit to the disciples (John 16:5-15), then sent Him on Pentecost to empower the disciples for their great ministry (Acts 2). Peter preached about the power of the Holy Spirit and warned disciples about the consequences of lying to Him (Acts 5). The apostles knew the importance of Christians being filled with the Holy Spirit for service (Acts 6) and Stephen spoke harshly to his enemies about their resistance of the Holy Spirit (Acts 7). The Holy Spirit demonstrated God’s decision to save Gentiles (Acts 10) and called Paul and Barnabas for the special mission of opening the door of faith for Gentiles (Acts 13).
One of the primary Ministries of the Holy Spirit is to “seal” believers. The word “sealed” is esphragisthete and comes from sphragis (a seal or signet). It is the first aorist passive indicative, which means believers were “sealed” by someone else at a past time. In this case, God sealed believers with His Holy Spirit. The seal or signet ring was used to signify ownership and security in the 1st century world. It had been done for centuries before and is still used today in many types of personal and legal situations. It also confirmed, proved and authenticated documents sent from one individual to another. The Holy Spirit residing in a believer is proof that the believer belongs to God.
Believers are sealed by “the Holy Spirit of promise” (to pneumatic tes epaggelias to hagio). The word “promise” (epaggelia) is another legal term and was understood as a summons or a promise to give something or do something. It comes from the words epi (upon) and angello (announce, proclaim, messenger – as in an “angel”) and speaks to a fitting or appropriate message. The Holy Spirit is what was promised to believers. Remember what Jesus said in John 16: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” And in Acts 1: “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Jesus promised He would send the “Promise of the Father” and He did what He promised. The Holy Spirit living in believers is the Lord’s “seal” of ownership and security.
who is the guarantee of our inheritance – hos estin arrabon tes kleronomias … The Holy Spirit of God is “the guarantee of our inheritance.” The word “guarantee” in Koine Greek is arrabon. It is a very old word which may have come into use by the Greeks from the Phoenicians. It was originally earnest money that a purchaser would deposit as a promise that they would complete the purchase. If they did not complete the purchase, the purchaser would forfeit the earnest money to the seller. It is a type of “downpayment, pledge.” The modern Greek word arrabona is used for an engagement ring. It is the promise of a groom that he will complete the marriage promise and marry the bride.
What does the Holy Spirit guarantee? “our inheritance” (tes kleronomias) Paul used a similar word translated “inheritance” in verse 11 where he said that Christians are God’s inheritance, His heritage. The word he used here, kleronomias, means “inherited property, an inheritance.” The word is used 14 times in the New Testament – once each by Matthew and Mark, four times by Luke (2 in Luke and 2 in Acts) and nine times by Paul. Three of those uses are in Ephesians. The idea of Christians being “an inheritance” of God is an important theme of the epistle. The word was also used to designate someone as “an heir” of the inheritance.
until the redemption of the purchased possession – eis apolutrosin tes peripoieseos … Paul said that the Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee that He will complete the purchase. The Spirit of God lives in the bodies of believers, and as such is a promise that God will complete the purchase and take them to be with Him forever. That’s why Paul wrote that the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance “until the redemption of the purchased possession.” Christians are called “the redeemed” many times in Paul’s letters, but the fulfillment of our redemption is still future. The word “redemption” is apolutrosin, which comes from the words apo (from) and lutroo (to redeem). It means “to let go free for a ransom.”
Paul wrote that the Holy Spirit is the “guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.” The words “purchased possession” are the one Greek word peripoieseos. Christians are the “purchased possession.” Jesus purchased us by redeeming us “through His blood” (verse 7). Our Lord’s Sacrifice on the Cross paid the price in full. This is another primary theme of Ephesians.
to the praise of His glory – eis epainon tes doxes autou … The Work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian is “to the praise of His glory.” These are the same words Paul used in verse 12 when he wrote about those who were first to hope in Christ “should be to the praise of His glory.”
Observe – Write what you see
“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:11-14
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 1:15-18 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.