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
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 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, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
A large part of Paul’s missionary ministry was traveling, preaching and planting new churches, but he often used particular locations as his base of operations for long periods of times. Ephesus was one of those locations.
Paul traveled to Ephesus after spending almost two years ministering in Corinth. He met Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth. They became friends and traveled together to Ephesus. Paul preached in Ephesus for a short time, but felt compelled to return to Syria and his home church in Antioch. He left Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus to continue building the new ministry.
Paul returned to Ephesus and stayed there for three years, “so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10). It was during Paul’s ministry in Ephesus that God worked “unusual miracles” at the hands of the apostle, “so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them” (Acts 19:11-12). Many people who practiced magic in Ephesus brought their books together and burned them in sight of everyone. The value of them totaled 50,000 pieces of silver. “So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” (Acts 19:20)
Ephesians 2:4-7 in Greek
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us … ο δε θεος πλουσιος ων εν ελεει δια την πολλην αγαπην αυτου ην ηγαπησεν ημας
But God — δε θεος — two of the richest words in any language, especially in this context. Paul just outlined the worst possible condition of the human soul in relationship to the Almighty God — “by nature children of wrath.” So, the words “But God” offer great potential. What will God do for sinners who are “dead in trespasses and sins”?
who is rich in mercy — πλουσιος ων εν ελεει — the word ‘rich’ is πλουσιος and means “wealthy, abounding in, rich.” The word ‘mercy’ is ελεει and means “pity, compassion, mercy.” Talk about God’s richness with your group. He owns the universe and everything in it. Now, consider how rich He is in mercy, compassion, pity. Why would God take pity on sinful people under His wrath?
because of His great love with which He loved us — δια την πολλην αγαπην αυτου ην ηγαπησεν ημας — The words πολλην αγαπην mean “much in amount, plenteous, unconditional love.” The word ηγαπησεν means “to take pleasure in, to love and esteem.”
This is such an important point to share with your group. God loves us with a “great love.” That great love causes Him to take pleasure in us and esteem us. However, we are by nature children of wrath. We are sinners who sin. We are dead in trespasses and sins. God is both a God of wrath and a God of mercy. He loves those who are His enemies and under His wrath? What’s God to do in this situation?
even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) — και οντας ημας νεκρους τοις παραπτωμασιν συνεζωοποιησεν τω χριστω χαριτι εστε σεσωσμενοι — this is similar phrasing to 2:1, “dead in trespasses and sins,” νεκρους τοις παραπτωμασιν και ταις αμαρτιαις.
Even when is και οντας, “even being” .. even though we are in the position of being dead in trespasses, God did something that only He could do.
made us alive together with Christ — συνεζωοποιησεν τω χριστω χαριτι — The word συνεζωοποιησεν means “to make alive together with.” It’s aorist indicative active, which means God did this to us at a past time. We can be sure of it. God made us alive together “with Christ.” Even as we were buried with Christ in His death, we were raised to new life in Christ (also read Romans 6). We were raised “together” with Christ Jesus. We were dead in trespasses, but God made us alive together with Christ! How did He accomplish that?
(by grace you have been saved) — χαριτι εστε σεσωσμενοι — The word χαριτι means “by grace, kindness, favor” .. σεσωσμενοι means “rescue, heal, preserve, save.” We are rescued through the agency of God’s grace, kindness, favor.
Here’s an interesting insight from Greek expert Dr. Kenneth Wuest –
“Now comes the interjection, ‘by grace ye are saved.’ We have here in the Greek what is called a periphrastic construction. This is used when the writer cannot get all of the details of the action from one verbal form. So he uses two, a finite verb and a participle. The participle here is in the perfect tense and was completed in past time,, having results existent in present time. The translation reads, ‘By grace have you been completely saved, with the present result that you are in a saved state of being.” Ephesians in the Greek New Testament, Eerdmans Publishing, p 66, 1953
and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus — και συνηγειρεν και συνεκαθισεν εν τοις επουρανιοις εν χριστω ιησου
and raised us up together — και συνηγειρεν — “to raise together, to raise along with”
and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus — και συνεκαθισεν εν τοις επουρανιοις εν χριστω ιησου — συνεκαθισεν means “to make to sit together” .. επουρανιοι means “of heaven, in the heavenly sphere” .. this is the same word Paul used in Ephesians 1:20 – “which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” Even as God raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, so God has raised us up together with Christ and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
You might wonder how we are “made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” while we’re still on earth. Good question! Jesus Christ is the ‘firstfruits’ of the resurrection. We are seated together with Christ in heavenly places because we are “in Christ Jesus.” Paul explained it this way to the Corinthians –
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” 1 Corinthians 15:20-23
that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus — ινα ενδειξηται εν τοις αιωσιν τοις επερχομενοις τον υπερβαλλοντα πλουτον της χαριτος αυτου εν χρηστοτητι εφ ημας εν χριστω ιησου
that in the ages to come — ινα ενδειξηται εν τοις αιωσιν τοις επερχομενοις .. literally – in order that he might show in the ages that are coming .. ενδειξηται means “show forth, make fully evident” .. αιωσιν means “a cycle of time, time span, age” .. επερχομενοις means “to arrive, to come upon” .. it literally means “in the ages that are coming one upon another.”
“The satisfaction of His love was God’s motive in quickening and raising them. The manifestation of His glory in its surpassing wealth is His final purpose in the same. The verb ἐνδείκνυσθαι occurs eleven times in the Pauline Epistles and Hebrews, and nowhere else in the NT. The active is very rare even in the classics, and is never found in the NT. Hence the ἐνδείξηται is to be taken as a simple active (not as = shew forth for Himself), all the more by reason of the αὐτοῦ. What is meant by the τοῖς αἰῶσιν τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις? Some give it the widest possible sense, e.g., per omne vestrum tempus reliquum quum in hac vita tum in futura quoque (Morus), “the successively arriving ages and generations from that time to the second coming of Christ” (Ell.). But it is rather another form of the αἰὼν ὁ μέλλων (Harl., Olsh., Mey., Haupt, etc.), the part. ἐπερχόμενος being used of the future (e.g., Jer. 47:11; Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 41:22-23; Isaiah 42:23; Luke 21:26; Jam 5:1, etc.), and the future being conceived of as made up of an undefined series of periods. In other cases reduplicated expressions, αἰῶνες τῶν αἰώνων, etc., are used to express the idea of eternity. God’s purpose, therefore, is that in the eternal future, the future which opens with Christ’s Parousia, and in all the continuing length of that future, the grace of His ways with those once dead in sins should be declared and understood in all the grandeur of its exceeding riches.” Expositor’s Greek Testament
He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus — τον υπερβαλλοντα πλουτον της χαριτος αυτου εν χρηστοτητι εφ ημας εν χριστω ιησου
exceeding riches of His grace — τον υπερβαλλοντα πλουτον της χαριτος .. υπερβαλλοντα means “to surpass, to excel, to exceed” .. πλουτον means “wealth, abundance, riches” .. χαριτος means “kindness, favor, grace”
in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus — αυτου εν χρηστοτητι εφ ημας εν χριστω ιησου .. χρηστοτητι means “goodness, excellence, gentleness, kindness” .. εφ ημας means “on us, upon us” .. εν χριστω ιησου means “inside, within” Christ Jesus.
This is remarkable statement from Paul. The apostle gave the Ephesians (and us) the key to God’s purpose in saving us by His grace. He will demonstrate to all creatures in the universe the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus!
Someone has said that Christians are God’s trophies and He will hold us up throughout all eternity for all to see how great is His grace, mercy and kindness. I like that and hope your group will enjoy it as well. We are so blessed to belong to God.
Observe – Write what you see
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 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, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7
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 2:8-10 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.