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
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
Ephesians 1 is a demonstration of God’s great purpose and power in supplying redemption through Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2 is a demonstration of man’s great need for that redemption and how God meets it.
Paul’s theme of the dire spiritual condition of the human race runs as a lengthy thread through Paul’s sermons and letters. By the time Paul wrote Ephesians, he had already written Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Corinthians and Romans. He made it abundantly clear in those letters that the salvation of God was the only hope people have.
The heart of the Gospel is both the desperate need of the sinner and the abundant supply of the Savior. As a person understands how needy they are and how unable they or anyone else are to help them, their hunger for salvation grows. The key to being saved begins with the knowledge that they are lost.
If you don’t know you’re lost, why would you respond to someone who offered to show you how to be found? If you don’t know you’re dead, why would you respond to someone who offered you life? If you don’t know you’re a sinner, why would you respond to someone who offered you forgiveness?
Ephesians 2:1-3 in Greek
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins … και υμας οντας νεκρους τοις παραπτωμασιν και ταις αμαρτιαις
dead is a translation of the word νεκρους (nekrous) and means “lifeless, corpse, dead”
trespasses is a translation of the word παραπτωμασιν (paraptōmasin) and means “false step, falling away, trespass”
sins is a translation of the word αμαρτιαις (hamartiais) and means “failure, missing the mark, sin”
The words “He made alive” are not in the Greek text. They were added by the translators to understand the context of 1:22-23 and 2:5-6 –
“And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” 1:22-23
“even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” 2:5-6
Paul reminded his readers that before they were blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” they were “dead in trespasses and sins.” It’s important that we always keep our past spiritual condition of death in view as we move through the new life God has given us. It should help to keep us humble and focused.
in which you once walked according to the course of this world … εν αις ποτε περιεπατησατε κατα τον αιωνα του κοσμου τουτου
once is a translation of the word ποτε (pote) and means “formerly, once ever”
walked is a translation of the word περιεπατησατε (periepatēsate) and means “to conduct yourself, walk around in ethical sense”
according to is a translation of the word κατα (kata) and means “bring down, against, complete” … the idea here is conforming to or being dominated by something
the course of this world is a translation of the words τον αιωνα του κοσμου τουτου (ton aiōna tou kosmou toutou) … αιωνα means “a space of time, a cycle of time” .. κοσμου means “ordered system, world order
The cycle of life in this world impacted us before we were saved. We ordered our behavior, our conduct, in the sphere of the age in which we live with all its appeal and direction.
according to the prince of the power of the air … κατα τον αρχοντα της εξουσιας του αερος
prince is a translation of the word αρχοντα (archonta) and means “ruler, chief”
power is a translation of the word εξουσιας (exousias) and means “authority, weight, delegated power”
air is a translation of the word αερος (aeros) and means “air we breathe, lower air”
The chief ruler of the air around us (earth’s atmosphere) impacted our behavior (our walk) when we were dead in trespasses and sins.
the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience … του πνευματος του νυν ενεργουντος εν τοις υιοις της απειθειας
spirit is a translation of the word πνευματος (pneumatos) and means “wind, breath, spirit”
It’s important to remember that Satan, who is the prince of the power of the air, is a supernatural being. He is an angelic spirit. Psalm 104:4 reminds us that God “makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire.” They live in the spiritual world that is mostly invisible to humans.
works is a translation of the word ενεργουντος (energountos) and means “operating, working, engaging in work”
sons is a translation of the word υιοις (huiois) and means “descendant, sharing nature with father, son”
disobedience is a translation of the word απειθειας (apeitheias) and means “not persuaded, willful unbelief, obstinacy, disobedience”
Every human being shares a spiritual nature with Satan. Jesus told a large group of people following Him that they were of their “father the devil.” He said, “the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44)
What is Satan’s spiritual nature? He is obstinate and willfully disobedient. We are born with that nature.
among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh … εν οις και ημεις παντες ανεστραφημεν ποτε εν ταις επιθυμιαις της σαρκος ημων
we all are a translation of the words ημεις παντες (hēmeis pantes) and means “I/We everyone, of every kind, all” .. Paul included himself in this statement.
once conducted are a translation of the words ανεστραφημεν ποτε (anestraphēmen pote) and means “return, turn back, at one time, formerly”
lusts is a translation of the word επιθυμιαις (epithumiais) and means “passionate longing, passionate desire, lust”
flesh is a translation of the word σαρκος (sarkos) and means “carnal, fleshly nature, flesh”
Every human being lives in the world of the flesh – a world of strong and passionate desires and longings. It’s interesting to note how Paul connected our lifestyle of passionate desires with sharing the disobedient nature of Satan.
fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind … ποιουντες τα θεληματα της σαρκος και των διανοιων
fulfilling is a translation of the word ποιουντες (poiountes) and means “doing, making, acting, causing, fulfilling”
desires is a translation of the word θεληματα (thelēmata) and means “a wish, preferred will, desire”
flesh is a translation of the word σαρκος (sarkos) and means carnal, fleshly nature, flesh”
mind is a translation of the word διανοιων (dianoiōn) and means “thought, understanding, intellect, insight, mind”
This is an interesting parallelism of the two clauses. The word “the flesh” in the first clause includes both “the flesh and of the mind” found in the second clause. The nature we share with Satan includes passionate feelings and desires and thoughts.
What Paul introduces us to in Ephesians 2 is the totality of the sin nature that plagues every human being. The “sin nature” includes sins of the “world,” the “prince of the power of the air” (Satan), and the “flesh.”
and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others … και ημεν τεκνα φυσει οργης ως και οι λοιποι
nature is a translation of the word φυσει (phusei) and means “inherent nature, inner nature”
children is a translation of the word τεκνα (tekna) and means “descendant, child”
of wrath is a translation of the word οργης (orgēs) and means “settled anger, passionate anger”
others is a translation of the word λοιποι (loipoi) and means “the remaining, the rest, others”
Verses 1-3 are a powerful indictment of the sinfulness of human beings. We share the sinful nature of Satan and are through that nature “children of wrath.” We are all under God’s wrath.
[You may want to share insights from Paul’s letter to the Romans concerning the wrath of God on humans as you summarize – Romans 1:18-32]
Observe – Write what you see
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” Ephesians 2:1-3
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 2:4-7 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.