In this 12-week study through the book of Ephesians, Eric Redmond opens our eyes to Paul’s teaching about the astonishing grace of God that enables us to walk in love, holiness, and wisdom.
About the Author
Eric C. Redmond (PhD, Capital Seminary and Graduate School) is associate professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois, and pastor of preaching and teaching at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois. He previously served on the council of the Gospel Coalition and as the senior pastor of two churches. Eric and his wife, Pamela, live in Brookfield, Illinois.
J. I. Packer (DPhil, Oxford University) serves as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College. He is the author of numerous books, including the classic best-seller Knowing God. Packer served as general editor for the English Standard Version Bible and as theological editor for the ESV Study Bible.
Lane T. Dennis (PhD, Northwestern University) is CEO of Crossway, formerly called Good News Publishers. Before joining Good News Publishers in 1974, he served as a pastor in campus ministry at the University of Michigan (Sault Ste. Marie) and as the managing director of Verlag Grosse Freude in Switzerland. He is the author and/or editor of three books, including the Gold Medallion-award-winning book Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer, and he is the former chairman of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Dennis has served as the chairman of the ESV (English Standard Version) Bible Translation Oversight Committee and as the executive editor of the ESV Study Bible. Lane and his wife, Ebeth, live in Wheaton, Illinois.
Dane C. Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton College) is chief publishing officer and Bible publisher at Crossway. He serves as an editor for the Knowing the Bible series and the Short Studies in Biblical Theology series, and is the author of several books, including Edwards on the Christian Life. He is an elder at Naperville Presbyterian Church in Naperville, Illinois. Dane lives with his wife, Stacey, and their five children in Wheaton, Illinois.
Read an Excerpt
Overview: The Church in God's Plan
The audience of Ephesians was well-known to the apostle Paul (Acts 19). For two years the disciples in Ephesus observed Paul daily reasoning about the kingdom of God and teaching the Scriptures (Acts 19:8–10). This ministry resulted in a gospel witness spreading throughout the Roman province of Asia. The message of Christ reached those practicing dark arts and worshiping Artemis in this great ancient city, where demonic influence was strong.
Paul explains these believers' formation into a church as the work of Christ alone. The decree of God always included the formation of the beautiful bride of Christ — the body of Christ, of which Christ is the head.
Ephesians concerns the mystery of the church in the plan of God. The letter calls believers to walk in love, holiness, and wisdom within their local church congregation and in the world. Paul reveals that this mystery concerns earthly, present matters, as well as matters in the invisible realm, both in the present world and in the world to come. (For further background, see the ESV Study Bible, pages 2257–2261; available online at www.esvbible.org.)
Placing It in the Larger Story
The Lord revealed the inclusion of Gentiles in his plan of salvation when he called Abram and made promises to bless all nations through him (Gen. 12:1–3). From the beginnings of the Lord's dealings with Israel, Gentiles came to the God of Israel — as when Rahab and Ruth left their gods to follow him.
Even though Israel as a whole rejected their Messiah, Jesus told his initial Jewish followers that he would build the church and that they would have a significant role in its growth (Matt. 16:18). In doing so, he indicated that something new had dawned in the messianic age — an assembly, "my church," distinguished from greater Israel. The book of Acts shows that soon after the church's formation, Gentiles joined the assembly without converting to Judaism or following the Mosaic law. The inclusion of the Gentiles into the largely Jewish church raised strong feelings among both believing and unbelieving Jews (Acts 11:1–3; 21:20–25).
Ephesians explains the theology of the inclusion of those formerly outside the covenant with Israel. Believing Jews and Gentiles in Ephesus are part of a larger design. The church will transform the marriages, work, parenting, and morality of her members. She will become the true temple of God.
"We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).
Date and Historical Background
Paul wrote Ephesians during his first imprisonment (3:1; 4:1; 6:20). He is therefore writing in AD 62, about five years after his final meeting with the elders of this assembly (Acts 20:17–35). Christianity is still in its infancy, being only a thirty-year-old movement. Unlike other New Testament letters, one does not discern any error, conflict, or misunderstanding that prompts the writing of this letter. Paul writes simply to advance Christian insight and maturity.
I. Believers' Spiritual Blessings in Christ in God's Plan (1:1–14)
II. Prayer for Revelation about the Blessings in Christ the Head (1:15–23)
III. Mercy Making the Dead Alive by Grace (2:1–10)
IV. Breaking a Wall to Make One New Man (2:11–22)
V. Interlude on the Stewardship of the Mystery of Gentile Inclusion (3:1–13)
VI. Prayer for Love to Shape the Church, to the Glory of Christ (3:14–21)
VII. Christian Maturity as Trinitarian Unity within Gifted Diversity (4:1–16)
VIII. Call to Live (Walk in) a New Life (4:17–32)
IX. Walking in Love (5:1–14)
X. Walking in the Spirit in Marriage, Parenting, and Work (5:15–6:9)
XI. Standing Firm in the Real War (6:10–20)
XII. Final Greetings (6:21–24)
As You Get Started
Read the book of Ephesians as if it were a letter from the apostle Paul written to your own church. What stands out as unique or significant as you read? Write down your initial thoughts.
Two prayers and one request for prayer in Ephesians each revolves around revelation and mystery (1:15–22; 3:14–21; 6:18–20). What might this tell you about Paul's hope for believers who read Ephesians?
In reading Ephesians, what words and ideas are repeated? How might you group some of these words and ideas together under larger headings that point to Paul's main idea in Ephesians?
As You Finish This Unit ...
Using the prayer of Ephesians 1:17–23, take a few minutes to ask the Lord to reveal to you and your church more and more of his will for his glory as you begin this study of Ephesians.
1 Demon – An evil spirit that can inhabit a human being and influence him or her to carry out its will. Demons are fallen angels, created by God and always limited by him. Jesus and his followers cast out many demons, demonstrating Jesus' superiority over them. All demons will one day be destroyed along with Satan (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10).
2 Messiah – Transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning "anointed one," the equivalent of the Greek word Christ. Originally applied to a person specially designated for a particular serving role, such as king or priest. Jesus himself affirmed that he was the Messiah sent from God (Matt. 16:16–17).CHAPTER 2
Believers' Spiritual Blessings
The Place of the Passage
Paul begins Ephesians by revealing that the church is a spiritual entity initiated and formed by Christ, leading to a social identity of earthly relationships. The blessings of the church's heavenly identity become the basis for the new kind of conduct Paul exhorts the church to practice.
The Big Picture
Ephesians 1:1–14 shows that the church is part of the plan of God from all eternity. God forms the church in Christ to bring himself glory. This is a demonstration of God's grace based on the work of Christ and intended to accomplish God's will both here on earth and in heaven.
Reflection and Discussion
Read through Ephesians 1:1–14 and make note of significant words and concepts. Then review the questions below concerning this introductory section to Ephesians' discussion of the church and write your notes on them. (For further background, see the ESV Study Bible, pages 2262–2263; available online at www.esvbible.org.)
1. Apostolic Greeting and Initiation of Themes (1:1–2)
Paul writes to this church as an "apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God." What authority does his designation as "apostle" give to this writing? What might the phrases "of Christ Jesus" and "by the will of God" say about the motive of the writing? Why will the combination of this motive and authority be important to the remainder of this letter?
The believers who comprise this church are identified as "saints" who reside "in Ephesus." How does the first term influence the second? How should a local congregation view itself in light of what "saints" means in relationship to both the Lord and fellow believers?
Paul calls this church "faithful in Christ Jesus" and communicates grace and peace to them from God. What sort of relationship with God is indicated by a judgment of their faithfulness? Why might such a congregation need grace and peace from the Father and Jesus Christ?
2. Revelation of Spiritual Blessings in Christ from the Father (1:3–10)
"Blessed be" denotes that Paul is offering praise to God for the spiritual blessings listed in the verses to follow. The blessings are anchored "in Christ"— in his person and work in salvation — and "in the heavenly places." List the spiritual blessings "in" and "through" Christ mentioned in 1:4–6. What defining boundaries do "in Christ" and "in the heavenly places" place on "chosen in him," "predestined," and "adopted"?
Paul includes "redemption" and "forgiveness of our trespasses" among the blessings lavished upon believers by grace. What does this working of grace indicate about the Ephesians' previous and current condition?
Several terms indicate the Lord's intentions for spiritual blessings: "that we should be," "in love" (1:4), "to the praise of his glorious grace" (1:6), and "to unite all things in him" (1:10). These intentions align with God's eternal will (or "purpose" or "plan"; 1:1, 5, 9, 10). How would you summarize the earthly and eternal goals of the work of Christ in the church and for every believer?
3. Revelation of Spiritual Blessings in Christ through the Spirit (1:11–14)
In 1:11, "in him," "predestined," "purpose," and "will" carry over previously mentioned truths related to the believers' spiritual blessings. According to these truths, how do believers gain an inheritance in Christ? What is the goal of this inheritance, and why might it carry special significance for those "who were the first to hope in Christ"?
The work of Christ in redemption, which began in eternity past, includes the sealing of the Holy Spirit. Hearing the truth of the gospel actualizes this sealing (1:13). What role, then, does belief play in the entire tapestry of salvation discussed in 1:3–14? What assurance of salvation does the working of the Spirit provide?
Read through the following three sections on Gospel Glimpses, Whole-Bible Connections, and Theological Soundings. Then take time to consider the Personal Implications these sections may have for you.
FORGIVENESS. As sinners we have offended God, broken his laws, disobeyed his commands, and rebelled against his will. This puts enmity between our Maker and us. If this breach is not repaired, the sinner remains in jeopardy of punishment from God. However, in the death and resurrection of Christ, the Lord himself has provided for our forgiveness. (Matt. 27:28). It is an act of his grace toward us (Eph. 1:7–8).
ATONEMENT. Although mentioned directly only once in 1:3–14, the death of Christ is the centerpiece of spiritual blessing. As the Levitical code states, "It is the blood that makes atonement by the life" (Lev. 17:11; see Heb. 9:22). Christ's life-giving act provided the blood sacrifice that atones for the sins of believers. The cross of Christ is central to all the spiritual blessings we read about in Ephesians.
GOD'S DECREE. Terms in Ephesians 1:1–14 such as "will," "purpose," "plan," and "counsel" reveal that God has a decree from eternity that cannot be altered or thwarted (Prov. 21:30). As ruler of the universe and eternity, he controls the outcomes of all things, bringing them to their completion. That doesn't mean our own choices don't matter; we still must exercise our will and believe in him (Eph. 1:13). Yet God's decree establishes the entire plan of salvation for the church. The decree guarantees that God will obtain glory for the full working of salvation (1:6, 12, 14), which will include the final sanctification of believers (1:4, 14). This is the fulfillment of the plan that God announced in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15). The disobedience of Israel and the church, whatever form it may take, will not at any stage truncate the plan of salvation, because God's decree remains in force (Rom. 8:28; 11:29). This planned togetherness of Jews and Gentiles in the church was not clearly revealed prior to Paul and his fellow apostles (Eph. 3:4–10); hence God calls it a "mystery," meaning a secret previously hidden but now revealed (1:9–10).
INHERITANCE. God's promise to Israel was that they would be his "treasured possession among all peoples" (Ex. 19:5; Deut. 7:6; 26:18; Mal. 3:17) and he would give them a land (Gen. 15:18–21; Ex. 3:8; Deut. 26:1–3). Peter reveals that all believers in Christ share this same promise of being the inheritance of God (1 Pet. 2:5–9). Through the work of Christ, believers receive the inheritance of Christ himself and the riches of eternity (Eph. 1:11, 14, 18; Heb. 9:15; 1 Pet. 1:4).
ELECTION. Just as the Lord lovingly chose Israel from among the nations as his own people (Deut. 7:7–8; 10:15; Hos. 11:1; Mal. 1:2), so in mercy the Lord lovingly has chosen those he will save from all the people of the earth (Rom. 9:11–13; Eph. 1:4–5). This choice is part of his eternal decree, occurring before the creation of the world or any of its inhabitants (Eph. 1:5; 2:10). The choice is in Christ, not man; therefore, it does not rest on any foreseen decision of any human person (2:9). Gloriously, in his act of election, God chooses to save people who deserve his greatest wrath and who would otherwise never choose to come to him. Election is the only way anyone receives salvation in Christ. Those who are chosen will experience God's eternal mercy (Rom. 8:29–30).
GUARANTOR. When the Lord wished to assure Abraham that he would receive the promised inheritance, the Lord himself sealed the covenant, making the promises depend on his character alone (Gen. 15:7–21). Similarly, in order to guarantee the work of salvation from beginning to end, the Lord gives the Spirit of God as the guarantor (or down payment) of our inheritance. The presence of the indwelling Spirit in believers secures salvation for the elect forever. It guarantees that those predestined to be holy and blameless will not lose the gift of Christ but will acquire its full possession.
Take time to reflect on the implications of Ephesians 1:1–14 for your own life today. Ponder what the Lord is doing in you to bring glory to himself. Make notes below on the personal implications for your walk with the Lord of the (1) Gospel Glimpses, (2) Whole-Bible Connections, (3) Theological Soundings, and (4) this passage as a whole.
1. Gospel Glimpses
2. Whole-Bible Connections
3. Theological Soundings
4. Ephesians 1:1–14
Excerpted from "Knowing the Bible: Ephesians, A 12-Week Study"
Copyright © 2016 Crossway.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
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Table of Contents
Series Preface: J. I. Packer and Lane T. Dennis,
Week 1: Overview: The Church in God's Plan,
Week 2: Believers' Spiritual Blessings (1:1–14),
Week 3: Prayer for Revelation (1:15–23),
Week 4: The Dead Alive by Grace (2:1–10),
Week 5: One New Man (2:11–22),
Week 6: An Interlude on the Mystery of Gentile Inclusion (3:1–13),
Week 7: Prayer for Love (3:14–21),
Week 8: Christian Maturity (4:1–16),
Week 9: Walking in a New Life (4:17–32),
Week 10: Walking in Love (5:1–14),
Week 11: Walking in the Spirit (5:15–6:9),
Week 12: Standing Firm in the Real War (6:10–24),
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