13th April 2021 Canvey Methodist Church Bible Studies

Canvey Methodist Church Bible Study- Tuesday 13th April 2021

 

Letter to the Church in Ephesus.

 

Following the death and resurrection of Jesus, his friends began an intense and amazing journey together and in the process discovered much more about both Jesus and themselves. In our Sunday Services between now and Pentecost Sunday on the 23rd May, we will be following their journey of discovery, of being transformed from being mere friends who loved Jesus, into the church, a worldwide movement, filled, inspired, motivated and led by the Holy Spirit. 

On Tuesdays, for our church Bible Study, I thought that we might compliment this by looking more closely at what the first Christians living in Ephesus discovered and considered to be the most important things about “being church” together. To this end, we will be following a study guide called “Reflections on the church and living a Christ-inspired lifestyle”, written by Jenny Baker.

 

Introduction to the letter to the Ephesians,

 

Reading St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is like sitting down to a rich banquet - there’s just so much in it, it can be hard to take it all in at once. Paul starts with an explosion of praise for all that Jesus has done for us, describing with complete confidence our identity in Christ that needs to be the foundation for who we are and what we do. He celebrates the unity that Jesus brings to Jews and Gentiles, breaking down the dividing walls between us and bringing us together to be a dwelling for God. He talks about the great transformation that Jesus has brought about in our lives and how that needs to be expressed in the way we live. He gets on his knees to pray fervently that the Ephesians would know more of the love of Christ.

And he talks with great excitement about the role of the church as a ‘people movement’ that is called to impact the world. He declares that the Church is not an accident of history, but the fulfilment of God’s long held plans and the new expression of what God has always purposed. St Paul refers to the mystery in the heart of God, but now made plain that, “through the Church the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 3:10). The Church, says Paul, is God’s idea and we are an essential part of it.

In these studies we’ll be exploring some of the metaphors that St Paul uses in Ephesians to describe the Church, which help us understand the heart of God’s intention in entrusting us with the spread of his kingdom. And so to our first Study:

 

Session 1- The People of God.

 

Read Ephesians1- 2 and verse 10 . 

 

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus,[a] the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Praise for Spiritual Blessings in Christ

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen,[e] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

 

Made Alive in Christ

 

2 v1.As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[g] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

Footnotes

a.Ephesians 1:1 Some early manuscripts do not have in Ephesus.

b.Ephesians 1:5 Or sight in love. 5 He

c.Ephesians 1:5 The Greek word for adoption to sonship is a legal term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture.

d.Ephesians 1:9 Or us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he

e.Ephesians 1:11 Or were made heirs

f.Ephesians 1:17 Or a spirit

g.Ephesians 2:3 In contexts like this, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit.

 

Comment:

Paul addresses this letter to God’s holy people in Ephesus. But these words are also for us too- we are the people of God, belonging to God and loved by him Paul then launches into a rich description of who we are in Christ and all that God has done for us- a description so rich that it can be hard to take it in when you first read it. It’s like sitting down to an opulent banquet and being overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of the food being offered. If you tried to eat it all at once, it would be just too much; but taking it in a bit at a time nourishes and strengthens you. Paul wants us to be secure in our identity in Christ so that we can then get on with the work that God has prepared for us to do.

 

Questions and Ponderings:

 

Here are some points to ponder and think about. Please use them in your own reflections. Were we physically together we could chat through our observations and hear one another’s thoughts. Maybe soon!! In the meantime, please do let me know your thoughts via email or WhatsApp and we can feed these back before next week's session. 


 

1) Read verse 1 again 

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus,[a] the faithful in Christ Jesus:

 

What does the phrase “people of God” mean to you? 

What does it say about us?

What does it say about God?

 

2) In verses 3-14, Paul writes about who you and I are ‘in Christ’ and what God has done for us. 

 

“3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen,[e] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory”.

 

Make a list of what these verses say about you starting with the words “I am”....

e.g. So verse 3 says, “I am blessed”; verse 4 says “I am chosen; I am holy, I am blameless” and so on.

 

According to Paul, this is our identity in Christ. Makes you think, doesn't it.

Sometimes we do ourselves down, but because God sees us through the cross and redemptive sacrifice of Christ he most definitely does not. He sees you and me as redeemed people, as “New Creatures” in Christ, who are made whole and who have potential for achieving incredible things in His Strength, Grace and through the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

 

But what’s all this about being “a son of God”?

 

In verse 5, Paul says we are chosen by God for “adoption to sonship” through Jesus. The Greek word for “adoption to sonship” is a legal term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture. So that phrase does not mean that we all become male in Christ, but that all of us, both men and women, have the same rights, status and responsibilities as joint heirs of God!  

 

3). Paul prays that the people of God would know him better. Qu? What three things does he specifically pray for in verses 18 and 19 and why do you think he chooses these three?

“18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength”.

 

4) Read verses 20-23, Jesus is far above all rule and authority, head over everything. Name some of the powers and authority in our world that Jesus rules over. What does this mean for us?

 

“20 That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way”.

 

5) In Ephesians 2:1-7, Paul contrasts what we were before we knew Christ, and what we are now. If we have been Christians for a long time, it can be easy to be a little forgetful or even blasé about what God has done for us. So it’s good to have this reminder that Paul offers. It’s even worth making a before and after list.

“v1.As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[g] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus”.

 

How real does this new identity feel for us? How can we grow more into the reality of the ‘after” section of our list?

 

I hope that you have been encouraged as we have turned the pages of Ephesians Chapter 1. 

I for one am encouraged at the way St Paul ends this section. In verse 2:8 he speaks of how we have each been saved by Grace and not by anything that we have done to earn salvation and then in v10 he gives a declaration of our purpose as Christians and as church. 

 

“8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”.

“10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

 

We are saved by Grace, yes certainly, but for a purpose; to put our faith into positive action. 


 

Suggestion :

 

Spend some time meditating this week on your identity in Christ using phrases from this passage that you have highlighted. Compare these phrases to what you normally say or feel about yourself. Ask God to transform your thinking so that you are able to fully own your identity in Christ. Use this as a springboard for Praise and Worship for all that God has done and is doing in your life.

 

In Christian Love

 

Colin