The origins of the Church in Ephesus are told in Acts 19. Paul writes to the Christians there from prison. There is a useful overview of the letter online at: https://thebibleproject.com/explore/ephesians/ [Eph 1:3-10 is used as a canticle, “A Song of God’s Grace” in the CofE.]
1. Why would you say you were fortunate or lucky?
2. Read Eph 1:1-2. 2 words describe the Ephesian Christians, and Paul wishes 2 things for them. What is the significance of each?
3. Read Eph 1:3-10. Ask what we are given, verse by verse. Which are most important to you? Which had you not thought about before?
4. How do your answers to question 3 compare with answers to q 1?
5. How do God’s plan and God’s love interact in these verses?
6. Read Eph 1:11-14. What does v 12 suggest is the purpose behind our being blessed and chosen?
7. What does the gift of the Holy Spirit indicate? (compare Acts 19:1-7)
8. Read Eph 1:15-23. The Ephesians may be blessed, but clearly they haven’t “arrived” – Paul wants more for them. What? (2 things in v 17, 1 in v 18, 1 in v 19). Are these things we might also need?
9. What is said in v20-23 about the status of Jesus? How does he compare with other authorities? What is his role in the Church?
As we finish discussion, let’s take a couple of minutes to say Eph 1:3-10 together, and then in silence bring to God what we have learned or now want to give thanks for, or other matters of importance, and end with the Lord’s Prayer.
Session 2 Ephesians 2
1. Read Eph 2: 1-3. Do you recognise a time in your own life when you were “deserving of [God’s] wrath”? Is it fair to say that creatures who live for themselves, without regard for their creation and saviour, deserve to suffer the consequences of their behaviour?
2. Read Eph 2:4-10. How far does this Good News of God’s love depend on verses 1-3?
3. Paul speaks of God acting in love and mercy before we did – or deserved – anything good. In what ways does this matter? How should it affect our attitude to people “outside” church and faith?
4. How do you feel about God “showering grace and kindness upon us” (v7 in The Message)
5. “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith”. Explain, in different words, what this means – and why it is good!
6. Why no boasting?
7. What are we made for?
8. Read Eph 2:11-22. The early Church brought together Christian Jews and Christians who had never been Jews. Both shared a faith which gave them equal status – a big change! How far do Christians recognise all people of faith as equal? What distinctions do you think still cause us problems?
9. Who are the key members of “God’s household”?
10. What would it mean to be outside this people?
Perhaps we will use last week’s ending again?
Session 3 Ephesians 3
1. Read Eph 3:1 If chapter 1 has spoken of blessings, and chapter 2 of grace, Paul pauses here to remember his status as a prisoner. What do you think Paul’s enemies or competitors made of his imprisonment?
2. Read Eph 3:2-13. (These verses seem to be in (brackets) – v14 follows on from v 1.) How well would the Ephesian Christians have known of Paul’s ministry?
3. If Paul had a special calling to preach to the Gentiles, and the 12 apostles mainly to Jews, what did this say about God’s plan? Was there to be any distinction in status in the Church?
4. What is the mystery of verse 9? Does it help to read different translations to make sense of verses 9 – 11?
5. How does v13 link these thoughts to an understanding of Paul’s imprisonment – that it is not a disgrace, but all part of a plan?
6. Read Eph 3:14-21. (we now follow on from 3:1, and the previous chapters). Why is God’s fatherhood important (vv14, 15). Which families are we thinking of here?
7. 3:16-18 are a powerful and wonderful prayer – for what? What effect would the answering of this prayer have on us and others?
8. 3:20-21 are sometimes used, like the Grace, as a doxology or service ending. How does the idea of glory link to 3:10?
9. For Paul and the Ephesian church, the unity of Jew and Gentile was important and revolutionary. What relationships in today’s church might be just as radical and surprising? Do they bring glory?
Take a little time in silence to think of God’s plan for the world, and for you individually. End saying together Ephesians 3:16-21 for one another and our church.
Session 4 Ephesians 4
1. If you have looked at thebibleproject.com, you will know that chapter 4 begins the 2nd part of the letter, turning to the consequences of what God has done for us. Read Eph 4:1. In what ways is this a summary of Christian life? Why is it so important that our Christian life is a response to grace received? (compare Eph 2:9)
2. Read Eph 4:2-3. Where does this model of behaviour come from? How would we know if we were understanding or practising it correctly?
3. Read Eph 4:3-6. Unity is important, but what defines it? Who are we to be united with? – and why?
4. Read Eph 4:7-16. To whom do vv 8-10 refer?
5. v 11 describes different gifts, but the emphasis here (as in other lists in Romans 12:4ff, 1 Corinthians 12) is on the unity. Gifts from the same giver, and for what purpose?
6. vv13-16 describe a church which has grown from first faith to – what? What is the picture, and the results of this growth?
7. Read Eph 4:17-20. What is to be different about the lives of Christians? Do you think this shows today? In what ways?
8. List the behaviours commended in these verses. Compare them with the 10 commandments. In what way are they different? In what ways do they go further?
Spend a few moments in silent prayer, reflecting on your response to verses 1 and 17. End saying together Ephesians 3:16-21 for one another and our church.
Session 5 Ephesians 5
1. Read Eph 5:1-2. What is the basis for Christian living? How does this differ from other faiths and moral codes?
2. Read Eph 5:3-7. Baker says in commentary “Paul did not water down God’s standards to accommodate the culture”. How do you feel about this?
3. Would you have thought greed as serious as sexual immorality? How do you think this passage views them?
4. Read Eph 5:8-14. “For you were once darkness . .” What does this mean, and is it true of everyone?
5. Read Eph 5:15-20. How should we “make the most of every opportunity”, and what opportunities do we have?
6. Eph 5:21 is the key to all that follows. What form should our submission take? Obedience?
7. Eph 5:22-24. What does “headship” mean? Does the example of Jesus not argue against a pattern of demanding obedience?
8. Read Eph 5:28-33. How radical was this teaching in the first century?
9. Now read Eph 5:21-33 in the Message translation. Does this help apply the words for our culture and time?
Spend a moment in silence, reflecting on how you feel about submission, and what it achieves. Then read Philippians 2:1-11 together slowly. And bless one another with the Grace.
Session 6 Ephesians 6
1. Read Eph 6:1-4. The instructions to children and parents follow the section Eph 5:21-33 on husbands and wives, also from the principle in 5:21. What do you understand by “honour”. Is this something adults should also practice? (How?)
2. Read Eph 6:5-9. How is this relationship affected by all having a “Master in heaven”? How different from the norm do you think this was? And how difficult to apply?
3. Do vv5-9 have any instructions which might apply to workers and managers in our time?
4. Read Eph 6:10-20. Perhaps Paul looked at the equipment of those guarding him in prison?
- V11. Do we need to “stand against the Devil’s schemes”? What does it mean? How might we do it?
- Vv12,13 Aren’t our problems with other people? Shouldn’t we fight them? Why, or why not?
- Why is truth a belt? And what protection does “righteousness” offer?
- What has the gospel of peace to do with feet?
- What are the instructions to use the “shield of faith”?
- What does a helmet do, and why does salvation make a good one?
- Is the Word of God the only offensive weapon? Why?
5. Read Eph 6:21-24. How important were the links between churches and the friendships of Christians in different places? Why? Does this still apply – and how do we make and keep such links?
Spend a moment in silence, reflecting on the Christian struggle. Are you a fighter? Do you identify the right fights?
Then read Philippians 2:1-11 together slowly. And bless one another with the Grace.