Sabbath School Lesson for September 23-29, 2023
Overview of Lesson 14, Ephesians in the Heart
Memory Text: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV
What to expect:
- Sunday: We Are Blessed in Christ (Eph. 1)–highlights of the major blessings of the plan of salvation
- Monday: We Are Redeemed for Community (Eph. 2)–the “vertical and horizontal” benefits of our relationships when God redeems us
- Tuesday: We Are the Church of the Living God (Eph. 3)–exploring the mystery of God’s love toward His church
- Wednesday: The Unity of Faith (Eph. 4)–how to achieve and maintain unity of believers
- Thursday: We are Recipients and Givers of Grace (Eph. 5)–we must be imitators of God by walking in love through the grace He gives us
- Friday: Eph. 6–the church as God’s army
Paul writes this letter to the Ephesians as if it would be read by believers in God’s churches everywhere. The timeless, spiritual truths it contains have turned out to be a blessing to Christians all over the world. This one epistle encapsulates everything Paul wanted his flock to know about God and their task of upholding Him before the universe.
It’s important to review each chapter in the book of Ephesians, garnering all the details of how we are saved and how we are to walk by faith, trusting God to make us His ambassadors.
Ephesians serves as a manual for Christians who desire to follow God’s plan of receiving forgiveness and redemption. Paul masterfully guides us to become better servants of God, members of our family, and friends in the church. When these relationships are kept vibrant, the world will see our hope and unity of spirit and be drawn to the love of our Creator God, who makes it all possible.
Sunday: We Are Blessed in Christ (Ephesians 1)
In Ephesians, chapter one, we feel as if Paul is standing before us preaching. He graciously greets the congregation, calling them faithful saints. But then, immediately launches into a comprehensive outline of his topic, which is the redemption of Christ. Beginning with God’s pre-Creation plan to save us, right on down to receiving our heavenly, eternal inheritance.
It’s as if we are standing on a mountain top or tall building, and a guide points to all the peaks and landmarks around us, describing the features of each one. This panoramic view of our spiritual blessings helps us enjoy where we are on God’s vast timeline of salvation.
We are chosen, we are redeemed, and finally we will be welcomed into a perfect world without sin. The blessings just never stop flowing to those who follow God by sharing His love with the world.
Ephesians 1:3, 4
- What are some of the spiritual blessings God has for His people?
- Why has God chosen us? What are we to do with His blessings?
Monday: We Are Redeemed for Community (Ephesians 2)
The second chapter of Ephesians brings us more details about our redemption from sin. He used two hope-filled words in this chapter: “But God…” Despite our sinful, rebellious past, God, who is rich in mercy…
- makes us alive with Christ
- raises us up with Christ
- seats us with Christ
We are not just bystanders, observing God’s redemptive work, but full participants in it. His resurrection, ascension to heaven, and final coronation can be experienced by believers when they are justified and baptized, then sanctified and prepared for heaven, and crowned with Him in heaven at the final judgment.
The entire process of our redemption involves relationships. We must work with God (developing a vertical relationship with Him), and for others (our horizontal relationships with those inside and outside the church)–principles we find in God’s Ten Commandments.
- How do we participate in Christ’s lifesaving work for mankind?
- Why were Martin Luther and John Wesley so moved by the sentiments found in these verses that they began the Protestant Reformation to break away from the church?
Tuesday: We Are the Church of the Living God (Ephesians 3)
Paul continued to describe the church community in chapter 3, but he does it using the concept of the “mystery”, or plan, of God. He reminded them how this plan was introduced to him through a special revelation from Christ. God then revealed His bountiful love and grace to the church through Paul’s preaching. And finally, as the plan unfolded and was implemented, they could fully appreciate the mystery of God’s love by how it worked to unite them fully as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Here’s how chapter 3 unfolds this mystery…
- This mysterious plan about the church was conceived by God “from the beginning of the ages” (Ephesians 3:9),
- It was made possible by the life and death of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:11).
- Paul learned of this mystery of the church by special revelation (Ephesians 3:3-6).
- Paul enthusiastically preached about this unheard-of church unity to the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:8, 9).
- The church, as it became a spiritual haven for both Jews and Gentiles, was a powerful witness to the “principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10).
The end of the chapter finds Paul concluding his prayer of intercession to God for the church. He prayed with fervent appreciation for God’s plan that united them in love. The “mystery” was solved.
- What does this passage tell us about God’s creation of the church?
- What did Paul pray for regarding the church and the mystery of God’s love?
Wednesday: The Unity of Faith (Ephesians 4)
Chapter 4 begins with a stark reminder of why unity is important. Paul calls to our attention that there are several “ones” involving the Christian faith: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord (Jesus), one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father. These seven “ones” are a perfect rationalization for having unity, or oneness, among believers. See Ephesians 4:4-6.
Paul doesn’t hesitate to point out that to keep unity requires hard work. He constantly shifts from things we are not to do and things we are to do in order to have unity in the church.
We are to be active members of our church community, not just pew warmers. With concerted effort, using the gifts of God, we are able to grow up together in Christ, who is the Head of the body. We thus are no longer behaving as children, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). Instead, we are “kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (Ephesians 4:32). Words that impart grace will replace harsh, angry language that only tears each other down and divides us, destroying unity in the church.
- Why did Paul mention these seven “ones”?
Ephesians 4:14, 15, 31, 32
- How do we avoid being like children?
Thursday: We Are Recipients and Givers of Grace (Ephesians 5)
At the end of Ephesians 4, we are told to be tenderhearted, kind, and forgiving of others. The next chapter begins to tell us how to accomplish that goal of imitating Christ. Paul tells us to walk in love, in light, and in wisdom.
Then, chapter 5 describes important strategies that work in Christian marriages. Wives are told to be loyal and submissive to their own husbands–just as we are to the Lord. After all, Jesus was also submissive and loyal to His Father, giving Himself wholeheartedly to God’s plan. Husbands are then told to be self-sacrificing and loving to their wives–just as Christ was to the church. In other words, both spouses were to mirror Jesus in thought and action.
The wholesome relationships established in Christian marriage, therefore, teach us about the kind of relationship we should have with Jesus, relationships that draw us together in unity, “as one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31-33). We not only receive His saving grace, we are told to extend that grace to others in our life, especially those closest to us, including the marriage relationship. The happiness of whole family hinges on how husbands and wives model God’s loving grace toward us.
Ephesians 5:2, 8, and 15
- Why does Paul stress our walking in love, light, and wisdom?
- How does our behavior, both inward and outward, show our closeness to and need of our heavenly Father?
Ephesians 5:32, 33
- What can the marriage relationship teach us about Christ and His relationship with us, the church?
Friday: Final Thoughts (Ephesians 6)
The last chapter of Ephesians contains an emotion-packed plea that must have left his readers with all the zeal needed to continue their efforts to achieve church unity. Supplied with the spiritual armor of God, and the knowledge that all three members of the Godhead were involved in the victory over evil forces, they must have had renewed strength to fight any battle Satan chose to wage against them.
Paul had shown them that the church was the body of Christ, His temple, and the bride of Christ. They now see themselves as an army, waging peace right up to the victorious time of Christ’s return. God would supply them with every spiritual weapon in His vast arsenal. Armed with righteousness and truth, the gospel of salvation found in His word, they could prayerfully fight the battle of faith, and know in their hearts that the final victory would be with those on God’s side.
Equipped with the armor of God, they could not fail in the end. Victory against Satan was assured!
Next Week: God’s Mission to Us (Part 1)
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