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
“Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”
Paul often spoke about ‘laying’ foundations. He told the Corinthians that God had called him to be ‘as a wise master builder’ and lay ‘the foundation.’ Paul was quick to add – “for no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3)
Ephesians 1:3-14 is the ‘foundation’ Paul revealed about Christianity. As we’ve already seen, Paul presented in a powerful display of spiritual wisdom and insight how God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit worked together from ‘before the foundation of the world’ to –
- Bless us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ
- Choose us in Christ for the purpose of our being holy and without blame before God
- Mark us out beforehand for adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to God
- Accept us in the Beloved
- Redeem us through the Blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ
- Make known the mystery of His will for us to us
- Give us everlasting inheritance
- Seal us with the Holy Spirit of promise
- Guarantee our inheritance until our redemption as God’s purchased possession, to the praise of His glory
What’s next? Paul’s prayers for God’s people. Because Paul knew the majesty and depth of God’s purpose, Paul also knew the challenges Christians would face in living out God’s purpose. Look carefully at what Paul prayed for the Ephesians because it is what we need to pray for each other.
Ephesians 1:15-18 in Greek
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints … δια τουτο καγω ακουσας την καθ υμας πιστιν εν τω κυριω ιησου και την αγαπην την εις παντας τους αγιους
The Apostle Paul noted that he had heard of both the Christians’ “faith (pistin)” in the Lord Jesus Christ and their “love” (agapēn) for all the saints. That is certainly the goal every pastor should have for members of their local church, the goal every parent should have for their children, and the goal every Christian should have for themselves and those believers with whom they fellowship. There is a special connection between our ‘faith’ in Christ and our ‘love’ for fellow believers. We are part of a unique family.
do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers … ου παυομαι ευχαριστων υπερ υμων μνειαν υμων ποιουμενος επι των προσευχων μου
Paul wrote that he did not “cease” (pauomai) to give thanks for the Christians at Ephesus (and other churches). He mentioned those Christians (probably by name) in his prayers (proseuchōn).
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory … ινα ο θεος του κυριου ημων ιησου χριστου ο πατηρ της δοξης
Paul prayed to God the Father, who is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Father of glory.
may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him … δωη υμιν πνευμα σοφιας και αποκαλυψεως εν επιγνωσει αυτου
Paul prayed that God the Father would give Christians “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” in the “knowledge of Him.” The word “wisdom” is sophias and means “clarity, insight, skill.” The word “revelation” is apokalypseōs and means “uncovering, unveiling.”
the eyes of your understanding being enlightened … πεφωτισμενους τους οφθαλμους της διανοιας υμων
Paul asked God to ‘enlighten’ (pephōtismenous) the ‘eyes’ (ophthalmous) of the Christians’ ‘understanding’ (kardias). This is a prayer for internal understanding that will lead to an improvement of the inner self. The word kardias addresses the mind, character, will and intention of an individual. That’s where Paul wants Christians to be enlightened.
that you may know what is the hope of His calling … εις το ειδεναι υμας τις εστιν η ελπις της κλησεως
One purpose of that ‘enlightenment’ was that Christians would know what is the ‘hope’ (elpis) of God’s ‘calling’ (klēseōs). The word elpis means “confident expectation.” The word klēseōs means “invitation” and is always used for a divine calling in the New Testament.
what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints … αυτου και τις ο πλουτος της δοξης της κληρονομιας αυτου εν τοις αγιοις
Another purpose was that Christians would know what are the ‘riches of the glory’ of God’s inheritance in the saints. The word ‘riches’ is from the Greek word ploutos. It means ‘wealth, abundance.’ The word ‘glory’ is doxēs – ‘praise, honor, glory.’ ‘Inheritance’ is klēronomias and means ‘an apportioned inheritance based on being an heir.’
Observe – Write what you see
“Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saint” Ephesians 1:15-18
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 1:19-23 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.