Paul wrote the letter we now call Ephesians while he was imprisoned in Rome (Acts 28). This letter was intended to be a circular letter, not just meant for the church in the city of Ephesus but all of the churches in the surrounding area. Paul sent Tychicus as an emissary to deliver this letter, as well as the letters to Colossae and the slave-owner Philemon. It is likely that Paul sent Tychicus to deliver this letter to the church in Ephesus, which was a port city on the Aegean Sea, on his way to Colossae.
Tychicus most likely also took this letter north to the churches in Smyrna and Pergamum and then back southeast to Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia. These are the same seven churches that John sent the book of Revelation and they formed a circle around the western portion of the Roman province of Asia Minor. Tychichus would have continued on to the churches in Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colossae (Col. 4:13) to deliver the letter of Colossians.
The primary reason that Paul wrote this letter was to refute an apparent disagreement in the churches that was creating factions and could have easily led to divisions and disfellowship among the believers. The crux of this disagreement was whether Gentiles had access to the inheritance of the nation of Israel bestowed on them through the Jewish Messiah, Jesus. Paul spent a large amount of time pastoring the church in Ephesus. This church was largely made up of Gentiles (people not of Jewish ethnicity). In fact, there were so many Gentiles converts in the city of Ephesus that it was cutting into the business of a man who made silver Artemis statues (Acts 19: 23 – 41).
This church also had some very high profile pastors. Paul started the church along with Priscilla and Aquila, whom he left there while he went to visit other churches. Later, Apollos pastored the church for a while until Paul came back. And after a while, Timothy and the apostle John both pastored this church. Sometime between the time that Paul left Ephesus for the last time (Acts 20) and when Paul was imprisoned in Rome (Acts 28), someone (or multiple someones) influenced the Jewish Christians in Ephesus and the surrounding cities to believe that Gentiles did not have access to the same inheritance through Jesus Christ that they did. And because of this teaching, Gentiles began to believe them. Paul wrote this letter to the Gentile Christians to encourage them that they did have access to Jesus Christ’s saving grace and the same inheritance as children of Abraham as the Jewish Christians.
Even though this letter was written to Christians two thousand years ago, it has valuable information that applies to people today. The first chapter is a beautiful description of the identity of a person who is in Christ. Some of the things that Paul says make up our identity in Christ are that we are blessed, chosen, holy, blameless, adopted into his family, redeemed, and lavished with grace. We are given wisdom, understanding and, best of all, the Holy Spirit. Paul tells those Gentile Christians and also us today that the Holy Spirit given to those, who put their hope in Christ, is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.
This Bible study takes excerpts from Ephesians to help you better understand our sermon series, but a thorough reading of the book is recommended because there are multiple themes running throughout this book including unity, maturity, servanthood, and self-sacrificing love that are beneficial to all Christians in every age.
Day 1 Reading: Eph 2: 1 – 10
The book of Ephesians lays out the spiritual journey of the believer better than any other. The first section of the second chapter describes in detail the spiritual state of a non-believer. They are spiritually dead because of their sins and they serve the ways of the world. They continuously gratify the desires of their flesh and do virtually everything out of a selfish desire. This is the spiritual state that everyone, who has not experienced the life changing power of Christ, live in. The decisions that they make and the actions that they take are influenced by their flesh and by the world. Not only that, but the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Satan), works through their sinful ways.
However, he goes on to talk about what theologians call regeneration. We were dead, but now we are alive. We are made into a new creation. Our old self, full of selfish and worldly desires, is gone and we are recreated into a new self that desires the things of Christ (2 Cor 5: 16 – 18). We had a heart of stone apathetic toward the plight of anyone other than ourselves, but are given a heart of flesh wrought with compassion for our neighbor (Eze 36:26). Before, we really only did something good if it benefitted us in someway. However, now, God has crafted us into someone who does altruistic good works for the benefit others through self-sacrifice.
Day 2: Eph 4: 17 – 32
In this passage, Paul talks about not living like the rest of the world. The world tells us that we should do everything that we can to make ourselves feel good and to avoid suffering at all costs. The Christian life is about addition and subtraction. First, what do you need to add to your life to be more like Christ? A better way of saying that might be what is the next step that you need to take to become more like Christ? Some of you may have students that have not made the decision to follow Christ and Jesus is what they need to add to their life. This decision is the next step that they need to take. Others may have students that have made that decision and Jesus is calling them to add a dimension to their spiritual growth such as having a quiet time or praying more. For others, the next step is to serve in a ministry at church or in their community. For others, it may be leading one of their friends into a life-changing relationship with Christ.
Second, what do you need to subtract from your life to be more like Christ? For some students, it may be a sin they struggle with that pulls them away from their relationship with Christ. For others, it may be a friend or a group of friends that pulls them away. For others, it may be too many distractions like extra-curriculars or video games or television. These things may not be bad necessarily, but if your student is choosing them over their relationship with Christ, they may need to cut something out.
Day 3: Eph 6: 10 – 20
Here, Paul uses a military uniform as a metaphor for the Christian life. When we do not live the way the world lives, the world will get hostile toward us. But we can take heart that Christ will protect us with his truth and righteousness. When we speak truth and back it up with how we live, some will react with hostility, but to others we will be Christ’s ambassadors. Paul uses this metaphor in 2 Cor 5 as well. But how we live is a direct reflection of Jesus Christ. In other words, people will make a judgment about Jesus based on what we say and how we live.
When we speak truth and back it up by how we live, we will naturally make disciples. First, other people will imitate us, as we imitate Christ (1 Cor 11:1). Imitation will lead to replication and replication will lead to multiplication. After people imitate our discipleship for a while, they will begin to have their own relationship with Christ and become disciples theirselves. One disciple becomes two disciples. Two becomes four. Four becomes eight. Eight…sixteen and so forth. That is multiplication.