This past week we began our study of Ephesians with an overview of Paul’s letter. We will go into each chapter more in-depth in the weeks to come but last week was primarily a chance to view the letter in its entirety; An opportunity to discover general facts and details about the letter. A few key words like walk, grace, and body as well as repeated phrases such as in Christ or in the heavenly places might have stood out to you during the reading this past week.
Our assignment for the week instructed us to mark the verses that referenced the author and the recipients of the letter. Reading, marking, and recording the observed text allows us as students to really notice what the scripture says and also helps lay the foundation to properly understand, interpret, and apply scripture to our lives. I am always amazed at what I missed during a casual reading from what I gain with a more thorough and careful reading.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 1:1,2
The very first word of the letter to the Ephesians informs us that Paul is the author of this letter. Secondly, you might have noticed that Paul calls himself “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” In order to be an apostle, a person had to have been taught by Jesus Himself. What a claim to make! Acts 9 records Paul’s extraordinary conversion experience from a zealous destroyer of those who were followers of Jesus to becoming a humble servant of Jesus. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says;
“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, …For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, …Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” 1 Corinthians 15:1,3-10
Paul also states several times throughout the letter that he is a prisoner, an ambassador in chains for Jesus. (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1; 6:20) Given the timeframe of this letter, Paul was likely imprisoned in Rome. Paul also states that he was given insight and made a minister to the Gentiles by God.
“…by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, …which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.” Ephesians 3:3-7
Regarding the recipients, a few details should have been observed. They are saints in Ephesus and perhaps surrounding villages as I stated in the Introductory Post. We also learned according to the letter that these faithful had formerly walked according to the course of the world (Ephesians 2:2) but they had been saved by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:5,8) They are also according to the text uncircumcised Gentiles (Ephesians 2:11), believers in Jesus Christ, and have become fellow citizens of God’s household with the saints. (Ephesians 2:19)
In Lesson 1, we were also assigned an optional portion of Acts to read if time permitted: Acts 19:1-20:2. This passage describes Paul’s initial arrival in Ephesus. Understanding the relationship Paul had with the church in Ephesus and the cultural atmosphere helps us to better comprehend and appreciate this letter to the Ephesians.
We concluded our Week 1 assignments by taking time to consider what truths we might have learned from our study and how those truths affect our lives. And finally, we were to record our observations about the author, recipients, and chapter themes on the charts provided.
Precept Ministries offers a video lecture series as an accompaniment to this study. In the Lesson 1 video, Kay Arthur shared basic information concerning the formation and composition of the Bible. She then directed the viewer through the points of scripture on how God called His people, established a covenant with them, gave the promise of a Messiah, and the creation and giving of the Law. She continued by highlighting passages that revealed that when the Israelites were unable to follow the law and sinned that God told them of a time when He would give them a new covenant written on their hearts. Kay Arthur concluded her message by interspersing the Old Testament story with correlating passages from Ephesians showing how the letter reflects the story of the history of the Jews and their journey as God’s chosen people.
This letter was written to encourage believers to be in union with Christ and in union with one another. During the next 9 weeks, we will learn much about how to walk holy and blameless, how to stand firm, and how to be worthy of the calling we have received.
Begin Lesson 2 this week. If you’d like to join in, more information can be found here.