Ephesians: Our Immeasurable Blessings in Christ

Ephesians: Our Immeasurable Blessings in Christ

by John MacArthur
     
 

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Though attempting to live a transformed life by the power of the Holy Spirit, the church in Ephesus was immersed in an evil culture and surrounded by sin and pagan ways. Discouraged believers needed a reminder of God’s grace and love, of the blessings they had in Jesus Christ, and of their commitment to holiness.

Written by the apostle Paul as a letter of

Overview

Though attempting to live a transformed life by the power of the Holy Spirit, the church in Ephesus was immersed in an evil culture and surrounded by sin and pagan ways. Discouraged believers needed a reminder of God’s grace and love, of the blessings they had in Jesus Christ, and of their commitment to holiness.

Written by the apostle Paul as a letter of encouragement and admonition, Ephesians gives a refresher course in New Testament doctrine and provides a practical blueprint for Christian behavior. Through this letter, Paul shows us our continual need for God’s help and demonstrates that everything good we enjoy is an expression of His great love.

The MacArthur Bible Studies provide intriguing examinations of the whole of Scripture. Each guide incorporates extensive commentary, detailed observations on overriding themes, and probing questions to help you study the Word of God with guidance from John MacArthur.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780718035105
Publisher:
Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date:
12/29/2015
Series:
MacArthur Bible Studies
Pages:
128
Sales rank:
609,351
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Ephesians

Our Immeasurable Blessings in Christ


By John MacArthur

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2007 John F. MacArthur, Jr.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-3529-7



CHAPTER 1

The Riches of His Grace

Ephesians 1:1–14

Drawing Near

The book of Ephesians opens with praise and wonder at God's love and grace for His people. Yet we oft en fail to appreciate that love and grace ourselves. The famed nineteenth-century preacher Charles Spurgeon told a story of a minister who called on a poor woman with a desire to help her out of her financial straits. Money in hand, he knocked on her door repeatedly, but she did not answer. Eventually he left . Later, he related the incident to her at church. "Oh dear," she said, "I heard you, sir, and I'm so sorry I did not answer. I thought you were the man calling for the rent."

How does this story illustrate our tendency to misunderstand (and miss out on) the riches we have in Christ?

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Think about your own relationship with God. Have you ever responded or felt as this woman did? What things stop you from opening up your heart to all God has for you?

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As you begin this study, ask God to help you receive what He wants to give you.

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The Context

Paul spent three years pastoring the church at Ephesus and instructing them in the things of God. During that time he probably taught them all the great truths of this epistle. Because of Satanic opposition as well as the human tendency to forget what is true, however, Paul sensed the need for a letter of reminder and encouragement. He wanted to challenge his brothers and sisters in the faith to grow in grace and to stand firm in the midst of an evil age.

Rather than beginning with a long list of dos and don'ts, Paul began his correspondence with a refresher course in theology, answering questions such as: How is salvation accomplished? Why did God bestow His grace on us? What does the future hold for those who put their faith in Christ?

Paul recognized that such an emphasis on difficult doctrines was necessary because God-honoring behavior always springs from right beliefs. Christians who lack a proper theological foundation will not have a proper appreciation for what God has done, nor will they adequately understand the resources at their disposal in the life of faith.

In the following passage, Paul describes believers' infinite blessings in Christ. Specifically he gives a panoramic view of God's great salvation.


Keys to the Text

Predestination: Taught throughout Scripture, election is God's perfect plan for the destiny of His creatures; it conforms both with His love and grace and with human beings' responsibility to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. The energy that has driven God's plan of redemption from eternity past flows from the power of His love. He chose us and predestined us "in love" (Eph. 1:4–5). It is solely "because of His great love with which He loved us" that He raised us from our hopeless state of spiritual death (Eph. 2:4). Because He loved us with an everlasting love, He drew us to Himself (Jer. 31:3). Christ died because of God's love for us (Rom. 5:8). In other words, election is the highest expression of God's love to sinful humanity. Some people hate this doctrine. They try to explain it away or claim it's not fair. But in reality the doctrine of election is all about the eternal, inviolable love of God. Fairness is not the issue; grace is the issue. Election is the highest expression of God's loving grace. He didn't have to choose anyone. And He is, after all, God. If He chooses to set His love in a particular way on whomever He chooses, He has every right to do so. But for Christians, the knowledge that we are saved because of God's choice is the supreme source of security.


Unleashing the Text

Read 1:1–14, noting the key words, phrases, and definitions next to the passage.


Ephesians 1:1–14 (NKJV)

1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:

2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,

5having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

6to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

8which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,

9having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,

10that 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 — in Him.

11In 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,

12that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

13In 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,

14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

blessed (v. 3) — from the same Greek word as "eulogy," which means to praise or commend. It refers to God's kindness to us as well as the appreciation or thanks we express back to Him.

He chose us (v. 4) — This refers to God's pretemporal, sovereign act of electing who will be saved, a common theme in Paul's writings (Rom. 8:29; 9:11; 1 Thess. 1:3, 4; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:10).

adoption as sons (v. 5) — the spiritual act whereby God brings a regenerated believer into His own family (see John 1:12)

redemption (v. 7) — The Greek word means to "buy back" or "ransom." Used in a salvation context, it refers to Christ's death on the cross that paid the price required to purchase the elect from the slave market of sin.

dispensation of the fullness of the times (v. 10) — The Greek word translated "dispensation" is the word from which we get our English word "economy." It means God's perfect arrangement or administration of events and history to accomplish His plan. The phrase here refers to the millennial kingdom at the end of world history.

sealed with the Holy Spirit (v. 13) — The spiritual act in which the Spirit of God, at the time of conversion, indwells a new believer and secures and preserves his or her salvation.


1) From this passage, identify the past, present, and future aspects of God's work in our lives (vv. 3–6, 6–11, 12–14). Why do you think Paul takes such a broad view?

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2) Go through and underline the various references to the members of the Trinity — God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. What unique role does each play in the salvation process?

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3) Several times in these verses we are granted insights into God's purpose(s) for salvation. Why did God predestine us to adoption as sons (v. 5)?

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4) What do you think "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (v. 6) means? How is this idea also reflected in the last phrases in verses 12 and 14?

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(Verse to consider: 1 Cor. 10:31)

5) The text states clearly that God receives glory, pleasure, and praise from our salvation. What does Paul say that we receive from the gracious hand of God?

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Going Deeper

Read Romans 3:21–26 for more insight into what Paul has to say about our salvation from the penalty of sin.

21But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,

22even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;

23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

24being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

25whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,

26to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.


Exploring the Meaning

6) How does this passage in Romans compare and contrast with the teachings in 1:7?

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7) Read Romans 15:7. In this verse, Paul reminds the Christians at Rome that they have been received (that is, "accepted") by Christ. This theme is echoed in 1:6. What is so significant about this concept?

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8) What aspect of our salvation mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:21 makes us acceptable in God's sight?

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Truth for Today

During the great depression of the 1930s, many banks would allow their customers to withdraw no more than ten percent of their accounts during a given period of time because the banks did not have enough reserves to cover all deposits. But God's heavenly bank has no such limitations or restrictions. No Christian, therefore, has reason to be spiritually deprived, undernourished, or impoverished. In fact, he has no reason not to be completely healthy and immeasurably rich in the things of God. The Lord's heavenly resources are more than adequate to cover all our past debts, all our present liabilities, and all our future needs — and still not reduce the heavenly assets. That is the marvel of God's gracious provision for His children.


Reflecting on the Text

9) What one truth has impacted your life the most from this passage, and why?

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10) Have you been living as though the "good news" of salvation is not all that good? If so, what specific steps can you take this week to live out your great salvation?

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11) Take the time to write your own list of "riches of grace" and blessings for which you are thankful, and praise God for His love and grace in your life.

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Personal Response

Write out additional reflections, questions you may have, or a prayer.

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Additional Notes

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CHAPTER 2

Prayers That Please the Father

Ephesians 1:15–23

Drawing Near

Consider the following typical prayers of many Christians:

~ "Lord, bless us today."

~ "Father, please help me fi nd a parking spot close to the entrance."

~ "God, forgive me where I've failed You, and help me to live for You today."

What (if anything) is right about these prayers? What (if anything) is wrong with them? Explain.


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What part does prayer play in your daily life?


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The Context

While discussing the marvelous acts of God and the great spiritual inheritance that believers in Christ possess, the apostle Paul spontaneously erupts into prayers of thanksgiving and praise. Remember, this was a church that was near and dear to his heart (see Acts 20:17–38). His affection for this particular fl ock and his passion to see them grasp the glorious riches of grace drove him to his knees.

With a backdrop of God's cosmic plan of salvation and in light of eternity, Paul's intercession takes on a weighty quality. He makes no trivial requests here. These recorded prayers serve as a wonderful model for how to pray for those we love and for whom we have been given responsibility to care for in the faith. Inspired as they are by the Holy Spirit, they also reveal the priorities that are on God's heart for His people. Let's look now at the kind of prayer that pleases the Father.


Keys to the Text

Prayer: Fellowship and communion with God involving adoration, worship, praise, thanksgiving, supplication, petition, confession, repentance, meditation, dedication, and intercession. Based on the confidence that God hears His children, Christian prayer is addressed to God as Father through and in the name of Jesus Christ, His Son. Prayer is drawn partly from the urgency of human needs and partly from the promise and challenge of God's Word. Personal prayer is shaped by the awareness of God's presence. Corporate prayer is the living breath of the church. Through prayer the church resists the assaults of Satan (Matt. 26:41; Eph. 6:13–20), receives the gifts of grace (Acts 4:31), seeks deliverance, healing, and restoration for the saints (Eph. 6:18; James 5:15; 1 John 5:16), supports evangelization (Col. 4:3–4), and hastens the return of the Lord (Rev. 22:20). (Nelson's New Christian Dictionary)


Unleashing the Text

Read 1:15–23, noting the key words and definitions next to the passage.


Ephesians 1:15–23 (NKJV)

15Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,

16do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:

17that 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,

18the 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,

19and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power

20which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,

21far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

22And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,

23which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

love for all the saints (v. 15) — the hallmark of God's people (1 John 4:8, 20–21)

do not cease (v. 16) — an echo of the same idea found in 1 Thessalonians 5:17

spirit of wisdom and revelation (v. 17) — a disposition of godly knowledge and insight that is possible only for a redeemed, sanctified mind

enlightened (v. 18) — illumined or given light; a reference to the Holy Spirit's ministry of continually illuminating spiritual truth for the child of God

exceeding greatness of His power (v. 19) — The same awesome power that raised Christ from the dead and exalted Him into heaven is made available to every believer in Christ.

principality and power and might and dominion (v. 21) — terms used frequently in Jewish writings to designate the various ranks of angelic powers


1) What characteristic(s) of the Ephesians prompted Paul to be thankful? Why?

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2) Underline in the passage the specific items (nouns) that Paul appealed to God for on behalf of the Ephesian church. One request was that their "spiritual eyes" might be opened, and thus come into a deeper knowledge of God. Why was this foremost among the apostle's concerns for his flock?

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(Verses to consider: Isa. 6:1–8; John 17:3; Phil. 3:8–11) 3) How does Paul describe the power of God? Why is it significant that Paul prays for the Ephesians to "know" this power rather than to "receive" this power?

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Going Deeper

Read Colossians 1:9–12 and consider how Paul and his associates prayed for the Colossian believers under their care.

9For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

10that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

11strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;

12giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.


Exploring the Meaning

4) In what ways does this passage specifically echo the Pauline teaching that right thinking leads to right living?

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5) Colossians 3:2 says, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth." How does this admonition relate to the manner in which Paul prayed?

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(Verses to consider: Matt. 6:33; 2 Cor. 4:18)

6) How should the truth that Christ is exalted above all (1:20–23) alter the way you live every day?

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(Continues...)

Excerpted from Ephesians by John MacArthur. Copyright © 2007 John F. MacArthur, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, president of the Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry. In more than four decades of ministry, John has written dozens of bestselling books, including The MacArthur Study Bible, The Gospel According to Jesus, and Slave. He lives in Los Angeles.

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