Sabbath School Lesson for July 15-21, 2023
Overview of Lesson 4, God Rescues Us
Memory Text: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” Ephesians 2:4, 5 ESV
What to expect:
- Sunday: Once Dead and Deceived by Satan–What two external forces make us “dead in our sins”?
- Monday: Once Deluded by Our Own Desires–What internal force causes us to be called “the children of wrath”?
- Tuesday: Now Resurrected, Ascended, and Exalted With Christ–How are we “made alive in Christ”?
- Wednesday: Now Blessed Forever by Grace–Why do we never graduate from the school of God’s grace?
- Thursday: Now Saved by God–How do we become the masterpieces of God’s creation?
Everyone loves a good rescue story, especially if you are the one rescued! God’s plan of salvation is the greatest rescue story ever told. We are just like animal rescues we hear about–where the animals are not only saved from destruction, but made healthy, and then released back into their God-made, natural surroundings.
This is what God intends to do with the human family. We all need rescued from this world of sin. God offers us all a place of safety in His love, a place of renewal through our sanctification, and finally we will be “released” on a new earth, a place where we will continue to glorify God with all the angelic hosts of the universe.
In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul painted a picture of our rescue in broad strokes, showing us the overall plan for God’s people to be saved. But beginning in chapter two, he shows us how the process of salvation is achieved for us individually. It is a very personal operation that causes us to work so closely with God that we become a reflection of His love and grace to the world.
Sunday: Once Dead and Deceived by Satan
Ephesians 2:1-3 focuses on our sad, self-deluded state before God’s rescue. In the first two verses, the Ephesians are described as once being “dead in trespasses and sins”. Just like Adam and Eve, who hid from God after their disobedience, we, too, tend to shut ourselves off from God when we do foolish, sinful things. The unrenewed heart finds no happiness in God’s presence. Our communion with Him is marred and we are ultimately separated from Him through our own selfish choices.
What contributes to that pitiful state of death are two outward forces: the predominant ways of the world (which offer temporary pleasures), and the supernatural powers of darkness, (namely Satan and his legions of disobedient angels). Both these forces had put them and us on the path to eternal death and destruction.
By listening to these external forces, we become separated from God and are in need of a rescue of great magnitude.
Ephesians 2:1, 2 and Colossians 2:13
- What does it mean to be “dead in our trespasses”?
- How would you describe “the course of this world”? What is that referring to? And how does it entice us to sin?
Monday: Once Deluded by Our Own Desires
Continuing on in Ephesians 2:3, Paul mentioned another force they had to contend with: the lusts and desires of their own flesh and of the mind. James described this force perfectly in James 1:14, 15…”But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” NKJV
Some may ponder who the “children of wrath” are. This phrase has been translated several ways–even called “the sons of disobedience”. It certainly must refer to anyone who is not on God’s side in the great controversy–all those who have disobeyed and separated themselves from God to one degree or another.
Although Ephesians 2:1 says we were dead in trespasses and “sins”, we also struggle with the power of sin itself. We are bent toward sin and rebellion, even those who have not entered heavily in transgression themselves. It’s a powerful pull on each of us, from the time we are born till the day we die. We have inherited a tendency to sin, one that is impossible to break away from on our own.
- Why are we by nature “children of disobedience” or wrath?
Ephesians 4:31 and Romans 12:19
- Speaking of “wrath”, or vengeful anger, why is only God allowed to have it? And how can we trust Him to use it wisely?
Tuesday: Now Resurrected, Ascended, and Exalted With Christ
Paul pivots his discussion of our desperate need for a rescue to the rescue itself in Ephesians 2:4. He paints a glowing picture of the final result of our miraculous transformation and release. By experiencing a death to sin, we eventually are resurrected by Jesus, raised up with Him in the clouds, and finally, seated with Him in heaven to assist in the judgment (1 Corinthians 6:2). See Ephesians 2:4-6.
After just reading about Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and exaltation in the first chapter of Ephesians, it’s thrilling to know that we will actually participate in these salvation events ourselves someday. Our sin-dominated past and often painful present will lead to a spiritually-abundant future. Christ, our rescuing Savior, has led the way, and through His Holy Spirit, continues to guide us to a much better world.
- What are the ways we will be more than spectators in our own salvation rescue?
2 Timothy 1:7
- What benefits are there in being aware of God’s magnificent rescue plan for us, both corporately as a church and personally?
Wednesday: Now Blessed Forever by Grace
Although Paul reveals how blessed we are after God rescues us, he also reminds us that God is also blessed by our holy transformation. Ephesians 2:7 refers to the fact that the universe observes the way we become evidence of His grace and mercy in Christ Jesus. His plan of salvation, based on the principle of grace, has become the lesson book for all the universe. It’s a source of endless, joyful praise to God who made it all possible.
The beautiful results of our redemption will be the continuous study of all God’s creatures. They will want to understand more about that redeeming love that has been our privilege to experience. It’s such a deep love that even those who are rescued will want to know more about how it happened.
This will become a course of study that has no end, because God’s love has no end. The blessings of our salvation flow back and forth continuously throughout all eternity. It’s a school from which we never graduate, nor will we want to.
Ephesians 1:3, 4 and 2:7
- How can we show the riches of God’s grace?
- What can the world learn about salvation by our influence?
- How can our “preaching” be without words? What kind of actions show God’s love?
Thursday: Now Saved by God
As Paul frequently does, the last few verses of this passage, Ephesians 2:8-10, are used to bring our attention away from ourselves and back to God. He is given all the credit for our rescue. Nothing man does can make it happen.
It’s so easy to pat ourselves on the back for just about anything good that happens to us, especially if we have had a role in it. When things turn sour, however, we often point the finger at God, wondering why He did it.
In the case of our redemptive rescue, only God’s grace should be recognized. It is through the faith that He provides that we achieve anything good in this world. All the good works we are part of come as a gift from God. Our thanks and praise alone are all He expects in return.
- Why do we constantly need reminded of God’s grace, and that our good works are worthless without it?
- How does God prepare us for good works?
Friday: Final Thoughts
Here are the main events in Paul’s rescue narrative, found in the first two chapters and throughout the book of Ephesians:
- The plan being made “before the foundation of the world”.
- Their past, lost condition, being “dead in trespasses and sins”
- God’s intervention by sending Christ to save them.
- Their acceptance of the gospel plan and the hope it brings us.
- We are made His disciples, assisting others in being rescued.
- We are rewarded and receive our “inheritance”.
This is not just the rescue story of first-century believers, but the gospel story today, as God’s last-day believers. If ever there was a time to experience the hope of rescue, it is now.
Next Week: Horizontal Atonement, the Cross and the Church
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