In this week’s Bible Study, we’re looking at Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus—a diverse group of Jews and non-Jews from various ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. The Ephesians didn’t have much in common, yet Paul is very clear that in the family of God, all are equal recipients of God’s grace through Jesus.
Societies have always categorized people into different hierarchies of value, but Jesus came to create a new humanity that is unified across all dividing lines. What does it mean to be a new unified humanity in a culture where followers of Jesus can be found on both sides of many controversial issues? How can our allegiance to Jesus compel us to have patient and meaningful dialogue with those whose views differ from our own?
In the book of Ephesians, we see how the gospel story affects believers’ everyday lives. God the Father planned throughout history for Jesus to create a multi-ethnic community of followers. Comprised of Jews and non-Jews, these followers form the covenant family God promised to Abraham. They live in unity as one body in their families, neighborhoods, and churches because of God’s grace.
There are several key themes throughout Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. What stood out to you most in the video, and why?
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he speaks to Jews and non-Jews, two groups that were divided by so many factors it would have taken an act of God to unite them. In the first three chapters, Paul teaches about the great measures God took in order to make these two groups into one new humanity in Jesus. Then in the last three chapters, Paul shows them how Jesus’ unifying work should impact every relationship and aspect of their lives.
Scripture, prayer, and their relationships with each other equip them to put off their old humanity and put on new humanity that mimics Jesus and marks them as mature followers of Jesus.
Energized by the Holy Spirit, believers also stand tall against the spiritual evil that threatens their unity as a Church family and maturity as followers of Jesus.
Reread Ephesians 1:9-10 and 2:11-22 and note all the words that communicate unity (both, all, together, etc…).
What are two groups in your community that disagree with one another about a current issue?
God the Father always planned to create a covenant family of restored humans who are unified in the Messiah Jesus and energized by the Holy Spirit.
God’s grace invites Jews and non-Jews to join Jesus’ resurrected life and His covenant multi-ethnic family, a new unified humanity that lives together in peace.
The gospel unifies diverse believers who are all empowered by one Spirit to serve and love each other as they build up the Church body.
Paul challenges every Christian, including families, slaves, and masters, to take off their old humanity, put on new humanity, and be restored into God’s image.
Paul closes the book of Ephesians with a challenge for believers to stand firm against spiritual evil that undermines unity and compromises their new humanity.
Growth in Jesus requires speaking the truth in love (see Ephesians 4:15). Think about the two groups that came to mind in the question above. What happens in these groups when truth is not spoken in love or when love is spoken without truth?
Consider the needs of the person or group that has opposite views from you. What truthful and loving words do you think would most benefit them today? Think about Ephesians 4:29.
Take note of the dangers of dealing with anger inappropriately (see Ephesians 4:25-31). How do you think fractured communication can make us vulnerable to the satan’s work and grieve the Holy Spirit?
Reflect on Jesus’ example of sacrificial love (see Ephesians 4:32-5:1-2). Who needs your forgiveness today? Take time to pray for them.