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
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” We hear that phrase often today, but who said it first? King David of Israel.
“Jerusalem is built As a city that is compact together, Where the tribes go up, The tribes of the Lord, To the Testimony of Israel, To give thanks to the name of the Lord. For thrones are set there for judgment, The thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, Prosperity within your palaces.”Psalm 122:3-7
Peace between Jews and Gentiles is a powerful theme in Paul’s preaching and writings. Jesus Christ is the One who brings that peace. Jews had a big advantage in having peace with God. They were partakers in the covenants of God’s promise. Gentiles had a big disadvantage in having peace with God. They were strangers from the covenants of promise, “having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12) So, what made the difference? “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13)
Watch carefully in today’s study because Paul is going to open our understanding to God’s great plan of peace for Jerusalem, Israel and the world.
Ephesians 2:14-18 in Greek
For He Himself is our peace … αυτος γαρ εστιν η ειρηνη
For He Himself is an emphatic way of presenting the fact that Jesus is the only source of a Christian’s peace, whether Jew or Gentile. αυτος γαρ is an intensive use of the pronoun in Greek.
is our peace … Jesus is the peace of us .. the word peace is ειρηνη and means “all things joined together, wholeness, rest” .. the word comes from eirō, tie together into a whole ..
“The selection of the abstract εἰρήνη, instead of the simple εἰρηνοποιός, suggests that the point of the αὐτός is not only “He alone,” but “He in His own person”. It is not only that the peace was made by Christ and ranks as His achievement, but that it is so identified with Him that were He away it would also fail,—so dependent on Him that apart from Him we cannot have it. And He is thus for us “the Peace” (ἡ εἰρήνη), Peace in the absolute sense to the exclusion of all other.”Expositor’s Greek Testament, William Robertson Nicoll, Editor, 1897
who has made both one … ο ποιησας τα αμφοτερα εν
who has made .. ποιησας is a verb in the aorist tense, which means it is a simple past tense that shows an action has happened .. it is like a photograph that can be looked at and remembered .. the peace that Jesus made by making Jew and Gentile one is a past action that we can remember fondly .. to make peace is to join something together that has been separated .. Jesus made peace between Jew and Gentile who God had separated thousands of years earlier when He called Abram out of paganism to make a people for Himself ..
both one … αμφοτερα εν is the idea of two things being brought together into a unified whole (one) .. there are no longer two in Christ, but one .. Jesus made peace and made two into one .. this is amazing to think that God separated Abram out of the Gentile people to make a new people about 2,000 years before Christ died on the Cross to bring those two “people” together as one new people ..
and has broken down the middle wall of separation … και το μεσοτοιχον του φραγμου λυσας
has broken down is λυσας and is a verb in the aorist tense .. it is a simple past tense that shows an action has happened .. Jesus accomplished the breaking down when He shed His blood on the Cross (brought near by the blood of Christ, verse 13) ..
the middle wall of separation … the middle wall is μεσοτοιχον and means “barrier, partition, partition wall, middle wall” .. του φραγμου is “of separation” and means “fencing in, hedge, enclosure” ..
“This alludes to a wall in the temple that partitioned off the Court of the Gentiles from the areas accessible only to Jews. Paul referred to that wall as symbolic of the social, religious, and spiritual separation that kept Jews and Gentiles apart.”The McArthur Study Bible, 2nd Edition, Thomas Nelson, 2019
having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances … την εχθραν εν τη σαρκι αυτου τον νομον των εντολων εν δογμασιν καταργησας
having abolished in His flesh the enmity .. καταργησας is a verb in the aorist tense and means “annulled, rendered inoperative, make of no effect, abolished” .. Jesus made of no effect the enmity, εχθραν .. it means “hostility, alienation, enmity” .. that enmity was what Jews and Gentiles felt toward each other .. both were opposed to each other, they were hostile to each other, alienated from each other .. what Jesus did was to abolish that hostility in His flesh .. the words are εν τη σαρκι αυτου and mean “in the flesh of Him” .. the flesh here points to the human body of Jesus, the body prepared for Him to sacrifice (Hebrews 10:5) on the Cross .. Jesus “rendered inoperative, made of no effect, abolished” the hostility that had existed between Jew and Gentile, a hostility that came from God’s choice of Abram and the choices that followed .. a powerful display of how all of God’s choices are part of His eternal plan, even if separated by hundreds or even thousands of years .. what does that mean for us? There are differing views ..
“Through His death, Christ abolished OT ceremonial laws, feasts, and sacrifices which uniquely separated Jews from Gentiles.”The McArthur Study Bible, 2nd Edition, Thomas Nelson, 2019
“So Erasmus, Vatablus, Estius, Cornelius a Lapide, Bengel, and others, including Rückert and Bleek; while Hofmann turns the notion of ἔχθρα into the mere ἀπαλλοτρίωσις of Ephesians 2:12, and, referring it to the estrangement on the part of the Gentiles towards the theocracy hated by them, removes the distinctive mark of reciprocalness demanded by the context.”Meyer’s NT Commentary, Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, 1832-1859
that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances … when we read the entire verse it becomes clear that the enmity (hostility) that was abolished in the death (flesh) of Jesus came from the law of commandments contained in ordinances .. the issue here is the Law God gave to Israel through Moses .. the Mosaic Law of commandments contained in ordinances (literally hundreds of them) were a separation between Jews and Gentiles, as God intended at the time .. He gave those ordinances to Moses for Israel to obey .. Gentiles who feared God were allowed to worship, but their relationship to God was different than Jews because of the Mosaic Law of commandments contained in ordinance .. what the death of Jesus on the Cross did was to καταργήσας (abolish, annul, make of no effect, render inoperative) those ordinances, thus bringing an end to the separation between Jews and Gentiles through Christ .. that was God’s plan all along ..
“This Law is abolished in the sense of being rendered inoperative (as καταργεῖν means), and it is defined as the Law τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐν δόγμασιν. What is the point of the definition? The article, which is in place with the ἐντολῶν, is omitted before the δόγμασιν, as the latter makes one idea with the former and further is under the regimen of a prep. (cf. Win.-Moult., pp. 139, 149, 151, 158). The Law is one of “commandments-in-decrees”. What is in view is its character as mandatory, and consisting in a multitude of prescriptions or statutes. It enjoined, and it expressed its injunctions in so many decrees, but it did not enable. The Law was made up of ἐντολαί and these ἐντολαί expressed themselves and operated in the form of δόγματα, ordinances.”Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1897
“Consisting in many institutions and appointments concerning the outward worship of God; such as those of circumcision, sacrifices, clean and unclean meats, washings, and holy days; which, being founded in the mere pleasure of God, might be abolished when he saw fit. These ordinances Jesus abolished, that he might make in himself — That is, by uniting them to himself as their head; of twain — Of Jews and Gentiles, who were at such a distance before; one new man — One mystical body, one church, renewed by the Holy Ghost, and uniting in one new way of gospel worship: so making peace — Between the two kinds of people, and even laying a foundation for the most sincere mutual love and friendship: And, or moreover, to complete this blessed work of making peace, that he might reconcile both, as thus united in one body, and animated by one spirit, not merely to one another, but unto God, by his death on the cross — By which he expiated the guilt of sin, and rendered God reconcileable, and ready to pardon the penitent that should believe in Jesus; and by which he procured for mankind, whether Jews or Gentiles, the Holy Spirit to work repentance and faith in them, and destroy that carnal mind, which is enmity against God, (Romans 8:7,) and all those sinful passions which are connected therewith, and which render men odious in his sight, and hostile to one another.”Benson Commentary, 1815
so as to create in Himself one new man from the two … ινα τους δυο κτιση εν εαυτω εις ενα καινον ανθρωπον
literally “so that the two he might create into one new man” .. Jesus is the Creator of the universe (John 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16), so creating one new man out of two is certainly within the realm of His ability and our belief .. Jesus’ death on the Cross was a creative process .. even though we think of it as primarily a payment for the penalty of sins, Jesus’ death was also creative .. Paul used the term brought near in the 13th verse when he wrote, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” You may remember that the Greek word ἐγενήθητε in verse 13 (brought) means “have come into being” .. The death and shed blood of Jesus on the Cross was instrumental in taking two hostile peoples (Jew and Gentile) and creating them into “one new man” (ενα καινον ανθρωπον) .. the word new (καινον) means “new in quality, fresh in development, unused, not found like this before” .. what Jesus created is not a re-making or re-shaping of the old men (Jew and Gentile), but something entirely new and unique .. there’s never been anything like it before .. Christians are not Jew or Gentile in the spiritual sense, they are spiritually “new” .. what came from that new creation?
thus making peace … ποιων ειρηνην .. ποιων means “manufacturing, making, constructing” .. ειρηνην means “joining together, wholeness, rest” .. In Christ, Jews and Gentiles come together as new people, joined together, whole, able to rest in who they are in Christ Jesus our Lord, reconciled to one another through the shed blood of Jesus .. that reconciliation brings permanent peace (rest and wholeness) .. Paul wrote the Corinthians about the new creation and reconciliation we have in Jesus Christ and the responsibility we have to share this truth with others ..
“Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”2 Corinthians 5:16-19
“Christ does not exclude anyone who comes to Him, and those who are His are not spiritually distinct from one another.”The McArthur Study Bible, 2nd Edition, Thomas Nelson, 2019
“The new creation and the new union have their ground and principle in Christ. What was contemplated, too, was not simply the making of one man (ἕνα ἄνθρωπον) where formerly there were two, but the making of one new (καινὸν) man. The result was not that, though the separation between them was removed, the Jew still remained Jew and the Gentile still Gentile. It was something new, the old distinctions between Jew and Gentile being lost in a third order of “man”—the Christian man.”Expositor’s Greek Testament, William Robertson Nicoll, Editor, 1897
and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity … και αποκαταλλαξη τους αμφοτερους εν ενι σωματι τω θεω δια του σταυρου αποκτεινας την εχθραν εν αυτω
and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross .. Paul continues the theme of reconciliation .. we are reconciled to God in one body (the body of Jesus) through the Cross .. the word reconciled is αποκαταλλαξη and means “change completely from one state of feeling to another” .. Jews and Gentiles were both at enmity with God before Christ’s death on the Cross .. the death of Jesus Christ made reconciliation with God and each other possible ..
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”Romans 5:6-11
thereby putting to death the enmity … the enmity between God and men and between Jews and Gentiles were put to death when Jesus died on the Cross .. this takes us all the way back to the Garden of Eden where the enmity between God and humans began .. that enmity increased through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel), and through the Law God gave Israel through Moses .. thousands of years later, God put to death all of that enmity through the death of His Son .. a remarkable event indeed ..
“Through the person, sacrifice, and mediation of Christ, sinners are allowed to draw near to God as a Father, and are brought with acceptance into his presence, with their worship and services, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, as one with the Father and the Son. Christ purchased leave for us to come to God; and the Spirit gives a heart to come, and strength to come, and then grace to serve God acceptably.”Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706
And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near … και ελθων ευηγγελισατο ειρηνην υμιν τοις μακραν και τοις εγγυς
And He came and preached peace to you .. the word “came” (ελθων) is an aorist participle and translates as “having come” .. that speaks to the first coming (advent) of Jesus .. He preached peace to you (ευηγγελισατο ειρηνην ὑμῖν) translates as “He proclaimed the Gospel peace to you” .. the Gospel (good news) that Jesus preached on earth was the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Mark 1:14) .. In Mark 1:15, Jesus said “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” .. Repentance and faith are at the center of Jesus’ preaching .. true peace comes from true repentance and true faith ..
who were afar off and to those who were near .. this speaks to the context, which is the Gentiles who were afar off and the Jews who were near .. Jesus preached peace to both and that’s still our message today .. our Gospel of peace is to all people .. we are reminded of what is written in Isaiah 57:19 – “I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near,’ Says the Lord, ‘And I will heal him.” .. some NT manuscripts repeat the word for peace (ειρηνην) twice – και ελθων ευηγγελισατο ειρηνην υμιν τοις μακραν και ειρηνην τοις εγγυς (Westcott-Hort)
“The repetition of the word ‘peace’ in the R.V. is expressive; if the subject had been merely peace between the two classes of men, we should not have had the repetition; the repetition denotes peace between each of the two classes and a third party, viz. God. It is remarkable that the Gentiles, ‘those that were far off,’ are mentioned here before the Jews, ‘those that were nigh.’ In point of chronology, the Jews came first; but the order is here transposed, probably to emphasize the offer of the gospel to the Gentiles, and to show that spiritually they were as near as the Jews.”Pulpit Commentary
For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father … οτι δι αυτου εχομεν την προσαγωγην οι αμφοτεροι εν ενι πνευματι προς τον πατερα
Notice the Trinity reference here … “through Him” (God the Son), “by one Spirit” (God the Spirit), “to the Father” (God the Father)
Paul has given us, in one sentence, one of the best insights into how God saves .. salvation is “through” Christ, “by” the Holy Spirit, “to” the Father ..
What is “salvation” if not access to God the Father .. προσαγωγην means “come toward, a bringing to, admission, to open a way of access” .. as Jesus told His disciples – “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6) .. the only way anyone can have access to God the Father is through God the Son by God the Spirit .. that’s how salvation works ..
“God the Son provides the way into the Father’s presence through the Blood of His Cross, God the Spirit conducts the saint in and presents him, and God the Father is the One into whose presence the believer is brought.”Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Ephesians, Kenneth Wuest, Eerdmans Publishing, 1953
“No sinner has any right or worthiness in himself for access to God, but believers have been granted that right through faith in Christ’s sacrificial death (cf. 3:12; Rom. 5:2). The resources of the Trinity belong to believers the moment they receive Christ, and the Holy Spirit presents them before the heavenly throne of God the Father, where they are welcome to come with boldness at any time.” The McArthur Study Bible, 2nd Edition, Thomas Nelson, 2019The McArthur Study Bible, 2nd Edition, Thomas Nelson, 2019
“‘Access’ is properly ‘the introduction’ (used also in Ephesians 3:12; Romans 5:2), a technical word of presentation to a royal presence. So says Chrysostom, ‘We came not of ourselves, but He brought us in.’ The corresponding verb is found in 1Peter 3:18, ‘Christ also suffered for sins—the just for the unjust—that He might bring us to God.”Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, 1878
“Ephesians knew that in their prayers and other exercises they did really stand before God, and felt as children to a Father. How came this to pass? ‘Through him.’ Sinful men have not this privilege by nature; ‘Your iniquities have separated between you and your God’ (Isaiah 59:2). They need a Mediator; Jesus is that Mediator; and through him, both Jews and Gentiles enjoy the privilege. But right of access is not enough; in approaching God and holding fellowship with him there must be some congeniality of soul, a fellow-feeling between God and the worshipper; this is effected through the same Spirit. Some render ‘in the same spirit, or disposition of mind.’ This is true, but not all the truth; for the question arises – How do we get this suitable disposition? And the answer is – It is wrought by the Holy Spirit. As the state of the soul in true intercourse with God is substantially the same in all, so it is brought by the same Holy Spirit. In fact, this verse is one of the characteristic texts of Ephesians, in which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are brought together.”Pulpit Commentary
Observe – Write what you see
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”EPHESIANS 2:14-18
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 2:19-22 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.