Sabbath School Lesson for July 1-7, 2023
Overview of Lesson 2, God’s Grand, Christ-Centered Plan
Memory Text: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” Ephesians 1:3 ESV
What to expect:
- Sunday: Chosen and Accepted in Christ–What does the phrase “in the heavenly places” mean? Can it be more than one thing?
- Monday: Costly Redemption; Lavish Forgiveness–What does it mean to be “redeemed”? Who or what are we redeemed from?
- Tuesday: God’s Grand, Christ-Centered Plan–What is God’s will, purpose, and plan for humanity? Does it involve just us here on earth?
- Wednesday: Living in Praise of His Glory–What does the term “inheritance” mean to us and to God? Are they different?
- Thursday: The Holy Spirit–Seal and Down Payment–What is the role of the Holy Spirit as both our seal and guarantee? Why are they both needed?
Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians as a gushing, majestic thank-you note to God. But he continues throughout the epistle to elaborate on all the blessings we have with Christ Jesus in our lives. This makes it especially noted as a model for how to worship and praise God “from Whom all blessings flow”. Paul literally teaches us how to count our blessings, both physical, earthly ones and spiritual ones.
In focusing on who God is, the Ephesians, who had largely lost their identity with Him, are given a revitalized picture of their own identity and purpose in God’s overall plan of salvation. As God’s church today, we can gain from Paul’s enthusiastic approach and once again recognize and appreciate our unique identity as Christians, making it easier for us to unite in ministry to further His will on earth.
Sunday: Chosen and Accepted in Christ
Ephesians 1:3-14 talks about our redemption in Christ. We find in these verses numerous reasons to praise God for His bountiful spiritual blessings. These blessings enable us to accept Christ, and for Him to accept us. This beautiful relationship is what it means to be “in Christ”. We choose and accept Him as our Lord and Savior, as He chooses and accepts us as His special children. We can truly stand “holy and blameless” in His presence (Ephesians 1:4) as sons and daughters of the Most High.
Several times Paul uses the expression “in the heavenly places” or “in heaven”. As a matter of fact, the book of Ephesians is the only place in the New Testament where we find this concept of heaven mentioned so often. It can indicate…
- the dwelling place of God (Ephesians 1:3, 6:9),
- the location of spiritual forces or powers (Ephesians 1:10, 20, 21, 3:10, 15, and 6:12),
- the location of Christ’s exaltation at the right hand of God (Ephesians 1:20).
- Where do our spiritual blessings come from?
- What are some of our spiritual blessings?
- What does it mean that we were chosen “before the foundation of the world”?
- What does this tell us about the nature of God and Christ and His will for us?
Monday: Costly Redemption; Lavish Forgiveness
After greeting his reading audience, Paul reminds them of the wonderful redemption we receive through Christ’s sacrifice. His abundant forgiveness meant so much to their thirsty souls when they first received it. The Ephesians must embrace it again, as they now live their lives for their new Master.
Their condition before redemption was truly similar to a slave’s. Imagine how a slave feels when it’s discovered that someone has paid to redeem them from slavery. The redemption price isn’t paid to Satan, however. He never truly “owns” us, even though it appears that he does. We are enslaved to our own misguided choices that lead to us being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).
Only God can forgive and redeem us from that enslavement. Only through Christ can we receive the blessings of freedom that our Father wants us to enjoy. Our temporary feelings of unworthiness before our deliverance is based on the fact that we ARE unworthy–unworthy of the extreme sacrifice it took to redeem us from our many sins and free us to follow and obey our Redeemer.
Ephesians 1:7, 8, Colossians 1:13, 14, Titus 2:13, 14, and Hebrews 9:15
- What are we redeemed from?
- What else do these verses teach us about redemption?
Tuesday: God’s Grand, Christ-centered Plan
We find in Ephesians 1:9, 10 what our salvation is based upon. It includes:
- “the mystery of His will”–it’s hard to comprehend the amount of love involved
- “which He purposed in Himself”–in Christ (see Romans 16:25)
- “a dispensation (a system of governance or organization) of the fullness of the times”–this plan covers all times (past, present, and future)
It’s obvious in the rest of the chapter and in chapter 2 that God’s plan for us is to be united in service to Him. Remembering Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation will be helpful in drawing us closer together as one body, and all the other metaphors for the church Paul uses in this epistle to the Ephesians. The call to unity begins robustly in chapter 4 and the last half of Paul’s letter. We are, therefore, an integral part of God’s plan to save all who come to Him.
Ephesians 1:9, 10
- Why is God’s will such a mystery?
- What has been Christ’s purpose in our salvation?
- What does the “fullness of times” mean to you?
Wednesday: Living in Praise of His Glory
Paul helps the Ephesians conceptualize their identity with God by pointing out that He has given us a marvelous inheritance. They not only receive mercy and freedom from sin by being redeemed, but are part of God’s grand plan to redeem others. God’s plan is for us individually, and as a church of believers.
We generally don’t earn an inheritance. It usually comes to us unexpectedly and unasked-for when someone dies. There is also a death involved with God’s inheritance, Christ’s death, and we could never match the enormous price He has paid for our inheritance. It is totally unearned, because it is so enormous.
But God doesn’t want us to feel powerless and unworthy for long. He affirms us by proclaiming us His inheritance. He values our relationship so much that He has made us His sons and daughters. God has repeatedly called His people His inheritance. And we respond to this by sharing His love with others and testifying of His good character.
Ephesians 1:14, 18
- Explain how we can HAVE an inheritance and BE an inheritance at the same time.
Deuteronomy 9:29 and Ephesians 3:6
- Why would God include Gentiles as part of His inheritance, when they weren’t brought out of Egyptian slavery, like the Jews had been?
- How should we be treating those of different faiths?
Thursday: The Holy Spirit, Seal and Down Payment
Most commercial products we see in the store come with a label that identifies who made the product, and many also have some kind of seal of protection that assures us that the contents are pure and have not been tampered with.
Ephesians 1:13 talks about the Holy Spirit of promise being the avenue for our getting the seal of God (Ephesians 4:30). This seal guarantees two things: ownership (that we belong to God) and protection (we are made pure and holy through the Holy Spirit). Having His seal means we can trust what God has done for us in the past, and we can trust what He will do for us in the future.
The Holy Spirit thus becomes our seal to identify our Owner, but also a guarantee that He is working in us to make us fit citizens in His heavenly Kingdom.
Ephesians 1:13, 14
- When are we sealed with the Holy Spirit?
- What does the presence of the Holy Spirit guarantee us?
- Is the Holy Spirit the seal or is it the agent that gives us His seal?
2 Corinthians 5:5
- In what way is the Holy Spirit our guarantee?
Friday: Final Thoughts
Many have used the verses in this first chapter of Ephesians to verify that we are predestined before we are born to be chosen or rejected by God. Paul makes it clear, however, that it is only in Christ that we are chosen as His inheritance. So, only after we have accepted Him can our destiny with and for Him be realized.
The plan for our redemption was made possible though before the foundation of the world, as Paul tells us. Adam and Eve always had the ability to choose the path that leads to life or death, from the time they were created till the day they died. God did not make those choices for them.
God had told Adam and Eve that they would die the day of their disobedience, and this would have been true, had it not been for the safety feature of God, set in place before they were created. They would have certainly died that day had it not been for the willingness of God’s Son to die for them.
This is no doubt why Paul doesn’t speak the name of Jesus alone, but always frames His name with words like, “Lord Jesus”, “the Lord Jesus Christ”, “Christ Jesus our Lord”, “Jesus Christ”, “Christ Jesus”, or simply “Christ”. He totally recognized the divine nature of our Savior. No wonder Paul’s writing to the Ephesians, so full of praise, has been called doxological theology.
Next Week: The Power of the Exalted Jesus
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