Monday: Read Eph 1:1-23
Lest you think Romans stands alone as the pinnacle of Paul’s writings, we now turn to Ephesians. One of my favorite NT scholars of the last century, F. F. Bruce, said that Ephesians is, “the quintessence of Paulinism” because it “in large measure sums up the leading themes of the Pauline letters, and sets forth the cosmic implications of Paul’s ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.”2 Another notable scholar, Raymond Brown claimed that only Romans could match Ephesians “as a candidate for exercising the most influence on Christian thought and spirituality.”3
Ephesians 1:1-23 is the introduction. Paul begins, in 1:3-14, with an extensive shout of praise to God for his blessings in Christ (note: 1:3-14 is one sentence in Greek). It is widely believed that this functions as a eulogy. This eulogy will introduce most the key themes in the letter!
He begins by praising God for “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (3). This is likely a general statement of praise, which is then followed (4-14) with the specifics.
The specifics of Paul’s praise to God begin with praise for our adoption as His children (4-6). Then he praises God for our redemption and the forgiveness of our sins (7-8). Then he praises God for revealing to us “the mystery of His will” (9-10). He concludes by praising God for the gift of the Holy Spirit who is a pledge of our inheritance” (11-14).
The chapter concludes with Paul’s turning to words of thanksgiving and prayer (15-23). Paul thanks them for their faith and their love (15-16). He then prays for them that they will continue to grow in knowledge and hope (17-18).
Questions to ponder/discuss:
- Paul’s extensive words of praise should be a model for us. How often do we give thanks to God for what He has done? Note that Paul’s list is not about him and the “things” he has. It is about God and what He has done for us with regard to the kingdom. God is the source of “every spiritual blessing” (3).
- That the Holy Spirit is a “pledge” (NAS, NRS; “guarantee” ESV, NKJ, NLT; “payment” NET; “pledge guaranteeing” NIV) first indicates that the Spirit is the presence of God among us now. But His presence among us also is a way of God providing for us now in part what will be true for us in eternity: namely, that we will dwell in the fulness of His presence (note: Rev 22:4 says, “we will see His face.”). In other words, the Scriptures promise us that someday we will be in God’s presence for eternity and there will be no more sin, death, or pain (Rev 21:4). Until that day arrives, God’s presence is among us in the person of the Holy Spirit. And the presence of the Holy Spirit is God’s “down payment” and promise that He will eventually bring about our eternal dwelling in His presence.
- Our hope is in what God will do: namely, He will manifest his power by resurrecting us and bringing about His new creation. What does the promise of hope mean for you?
Tuesday: Read Ephesians 2:1-10
Ephesians 2:1-10 may be one of the more famous passages describing our salvation in Christ. Paul contrasts their past state with their present status.
We “were dead” in our “trespasses and sins” (1). By implication, Paul is saying that we no longer are dead. This is an important point for Paul. We used to be dead in sin. Now, he will conclude, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (10).
Of course, Paul is speaking to gentiles.
He then details in what way they were dead. Namely, we were indulging in our flesh (3). But God, who is rich in mercy, and because of His great love, made us alive in Christ! (4-5). As a result, we have already been raised with Christ and seated in heavenly places (6). And all of this will result in the “age to come” (which, to keep it simple, is another way of saying the new creation) when all God’s promises will be realized (7).
In 2:8-10, Paul elaborates on the nature of salvation and the theme of “by grace you have been saved” (6). He begins by reiterating, “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (8). This is the theme of Ephesians (see 1:6-8; 3:2, 7-8).
Then he adds that it is not of ourselves: it is a gift (8) and not a result of works (9). After all, we are “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (10). This is new creation language. The “good works” then have to do with the goal of new creation. The fruit of the new creation is made evident in our good works.
Paul begins and ends this section with a reference to “walk” (2, 10). We used to walk according to the course of this world, but now we are to walk in the good works of the new creation.
Questions to ponder/discuss:
- Paul reminds them of the change that has been given them: note the contrasts:
- They were dead but now by God’s kindness they have been made alive, raised, and exalted with Christ
- They were subject to the Prince of the power of the air but now they rule with Christ and are seated with Him in the heavenly places
- God’s wrath vs God’s mercy, love, and grace
- How much do we struggle with living in accord with the new creation that is true for us in Christ? No one said it would be easy. In fact, what is easy is living according to our old life before Christ.
Wednesday: Read Ephesians 2:11-22
Today’s reading may be the most important statement regarding the church in the NT. Paul’s point is that gentiles have been included in the one body of God’s people alongside Jewish believers.
As gentile believers, they were previously separated from Christ and God’s covenant people (11-12). Note: circumcision was the “sign” of the covenant with Abraham and marked those who were a part of God’s covenant community (see Gen 17). “But now,” Paul says they have been brought into the body of God’s people by means of the blood of Christ (13).
We are now “one new man” (15). The result is that “we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father (18). By “both”, Paul means Jewish believers and Gentile believers—who together constitute one “new man.”
Paul continues, they are “no longer strangers and aliens” (19)—this is the language describing those who were outside of Israel. In fact, they are now, “fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household” (19).
In 2:19-22, Paul expounds on the nature of the people of God (i.e., the church) in terms of the temple.
Questions to ponder/discuss:
- 2:19-22 is one of Paul’s most explicit descriptions of the Church as the temple (see also, 1 Cor 61:15-20 and 2 Cor 6:14-7:1). Note that when Paul describes the church as a temple there is an accompanying ethical demand. In Ephesians, Paul will elaborate on this in chs 4-6. At this point, what do you think are the implications of being the place where God dwells (temples) for Christian living?
- The question of Israel (i.e., the Jewish people) and the church (i.e., the NT people of God) is quite controversial. Although there are significant differences among Christians today (most notably among evangelicals) I would note that all followers of Christ are members within God’s covenant community.
- For Jewish people today, whether or not they continue to have a special status before God, Paul indicates that they may only be brought back into the covenant family of God by faith in Jesus. In saying this, we should acknowledge the church’s role in antisemitism as well as the continued suffering of the Jewish people today. In addition, we should also be careful of leaning so far towards philosemitism (the love of the Jewish people) that we are unable to criticize the state of Israel. Israel and the Jewish people are both the subjects of hatred and acts of terror. But Israel is a secular state that must also be held accountable for its own acts of injustice.
Thursday: Read Ephesians 3:1-13
Paul is about to pray for the gentiles (i.e., the nations) who have been brought into the Temple community of God’s people. Paul interrupts himself, however, and gives an account of his own calling.
He begins by disclosing the mystery of God (2-7: note, in the NT all mysteries are revealed). He notes that he received this insight from a revelation (3). In addition, this insight was not known to previous generations (5).
The mystery refers to the inclusion of the gentiles (6). They are “fellow heirs and fellow members” of the body of Christ (6). Paul then explains that it is this mission to reach the gentiles to which he was called (6-7).
Paul concludes by noting that revealing the mystery is God’s desire (8-13). And the revealing of God’s will to the nations is through “the church” (8: see 20: “God’s power works within us”). For Paul, this meant suffering. But this is what he was called to do!
He concludes by encouraging the Ephesians to not lose heart because of his sufferings. His sufferings are the result of his calling which is for their benefit.
Questions to ponder/discuss:
- What would you do if God called you to serve a people group and you knew that it would bring great suffering? What if that calling had no guarantees of “success”? Would you do it?
- Of course, most of us do not have such an explicit calling. Spend some time praying for those who do—missionaries, pastors, teachers, and others
Friday: Read Ephesians 3:14-21
Paul resumes the prayer (note the repetition of “for this reason” in 1 and 14). His prayers contain the themes of chapters 1-2. In particular, it focuses on praise for God for bringing about His mysterious will among the nations.
His prayer has two central requests (16-19). First, he asks for an inner strength through God’s Spirit (16). Second, he includes a request for knowledge.
The prayer is grounded in God’s purpose of creating a new humanity in Christ—which is part of his design of summing up all things in Christ (1:10)
He concludes his prayer with a doxology (20-21). God, he says, is able to do more than we ask or think (20).
Paul’s prayer concludes with a Trinitarian formula: (20-21: God, Spirit, Christ). He ascribes glory to God (20-21), who is able to do all things according to the power (Spirit). He closes with the affirmation “to Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus (21).
Questions to ponder/discuss:
- How often do you pray simply to give God thanks? Spend some time thanking God.
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 This guide is meant to be done either as a group study over the course of 2 or 4 meetings (Day 1-5; 6-10; 11-15; 16-20), or as a private devotion over the course of 4 weeks (or a calendar month—5 lessons per week).
2 F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Free Spirit (Exeter: Paternoster, 1977), 424. Bruce used the expression ‘the quintessence of Paulinism’, originally coined by A. S. Peake, in his lecture ‘St. Paul in Rome. 4. The Epistle to the Ephesians’, BJRL 49 (1967), 303.
3 R. E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (New York/London: Doubleday, 1997), 620.
 The language of “near” doesn’t mean “well, you are close but not quite inside.” Instead, it connotes closeness to the presence of God as when the High Priest entered the temple and was close to God. See 2:18!
 See the Determinetruth podcast Oct 3, 2022.
 See my chapter “Was John antisemitic” in John Among His Critics. (Jan 2023).
 This is one reason why I believe “rapture” theology is wrong. The people of God are the means through which God reveals Himself to the nations. Rapturing them out of the way would defeat this purpose.