Welcome to week two of the first ever Bible study hosted here on StephanieAdele.com. Hosting Bible studies on this site has been a dream of mine from the very beginning. I am so excited to be studying Paul’s life and his letters Galatians – Colossians. You can view all posted study materials here.
Day 16 – Ephesians 4:1-16
Ephesians 4 marks a shift in theme from the first three chapters. So far, Paul focused on the saving work of Christ, emphasizing that we could not have earned salvation. For the remainder of Ephesians, Paul teaches how we should respond to God in light of what he has done for us. Christianity is unique in that what God has done for us is most important. Other religions would start by telling what a person must do first before their god would act. Here, Paul is not telling what we must do as a condition of salvation. Instead, he is describing what the natural overflow of our hearts should look like.
Vs. 1 – 6 speak of unity in the body of Christ. We are Christians first, Methodists second. Denominations should never cause division among believers, but it all too often does. Paul’s words in vs. 1-3 explain how we should treat one another:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord [don’t forget, Paul IS in prison at this time], urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Paul expresses unity in vs. 4 – 6 with his repetition of “one” – one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Lord and Father. In Matthew 12:25, Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” Abraham Lincoln echoed these words in one of his most famous speeches before becoming President. On the brink of civil war, he warned, A house divided against itself cannot stand. ” Divisions tears apart our witness to the nonbelievers of this world because it makes us appear no different than everyone else.
Paul contrasts this unity by highlighting the importance of our differences. A church where everyone is the same could not function. Our unique, God-given talents are important to creating unity, because, in the body of Christ, “when each part is working properly, [it] makes the body grow so that it builds itself in love” (vs. 16).
Question for thought:
What do you think are some of the greatest hindrances to unity among Christians?
Day 17 – Ephesians 4: 17-32
In today’s reading, Paul contrasts our new lives in Christ with the lives of those still dead to their sins. His references to first century Gentiles are similar to people today. Those who do not know or accept God often pride themselves in their knowledge. But, Paul says they are “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (vs. 18). As a result, rejection of the Truth turns their brilliance to ignorance.
We must shed our old selves of sinful natures and put on the new self – “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (vs. 24).
In vs 25 – 32, Paul gives practical examples of how to live in a manner that builds up the body of Christ:
- Speak the truth (vs. 15)
- Do not be consumed by anger (vs. 26-27)
- Do honest work (vs. 28)
- Help those in need (vs. 28)
- Use your words to build others up and not tear others down (vs. 29)
- Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit by your sins (vs. 30)
- Put away bitterness, wrath, anger, slander, and malice as they are incompatible with the Christian life (vs. 31)
- Be kind (vs. 32)
- Forgive (vs. 32)
Question for Thought:
Do you feel it can be more difficult to share Christ with someone who is highly educated (or who prides himself on his own knowledge)?
Day 18 – Ephesians 5: 1-21
Today, Paul emphasizes that we must walk in love. He then lists behaviors that are incompatible with walking in love in vs. 3 – 7.
Before a person comes to a saving knowledge of Christ, he lives in darkness. Christ’s light illuminates the darkness. As believers, we are “children of light” (vs. 9). Once we know Christ, our sins are exposed. Paul also uses the reference of fruit again, as he did in Galatians 5:22-23. Plants cannot grow without sunlight. Likewise, our works are fruitless while we are living in darkness. We produce fruit only after we have been exposed to the light.
Walking in love requires vigilance. We won’t do it by accident. This is why Paul writes, “Look carefully then how you walk” (vs. 15). In order to be careful, we must know what God expects of us, we must prayerfully ask for God’s guidance, and avoid divisive behaviors.
Question for Thought:
What behaviors or actions help you to walk in love?
Day 19 – Ephesians 5: 22-23
**Disclaimer** Today’s reading is often a hot topic in today’s society, even among Christians! If there was ever a lesson I didn’t want to write, this would be it. However, one thing I think is important about reading straight through a book of the Bible when studying is that you can’t skip over the hard stuff. I can only explain my understanding of it based on my own personal study and reflection.
Submission…Yikes! It is not a popular word in our world today. From 5:22 – 6:9, Paul highlights three different relationships and the submission required in each of those. To understand his reasoning, we must look back at the beginning of this section in chapter 4 where Paul emphasizes the importance of unity in the body of Christ. When two people are both trying to assume the role of head, conflict is most likely to occur, and conflict harms our witness.
Being submissive does NOT mean being less than. God models submission in the Trinity. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are both submissive to the Father. That does not make either of them any less God. Both men and women are created in the image of God and therefore have equal value. We do not, however, have equal functions. The relationship between man and woman is meant to be complementary.
Paul’s instructions to women take up three verse, however, his instructions to men take up eight. Being the head of the household comes with great responsibility. Husbands are called to love their wives just as Christ loves the church. Christ died for the church! That’s an extreme level of love. If a husband is making decisions in love, he would always choose what he believes is best, and would never intentionally harm his wife through his decisions.
The husband and wife are to become one flesh, again emphasizing the importance of unity. Ideally, spouses would always be on the same page, but realistically, that’s probably not going to happen. If there is a disagreement, it should be discussed, without bitterness, or malice, or anger, or slander (Eph 4:31).
Parents must be aware of how they handle marriage conflicts in front of their kids because it is an incredibly important part of their witness. The next passage we study will talk about children’s submission to their parents. How will they understand it if they do not see it modeled?
Lastly, I want to emphasize yet again the importance of unity and love that underlies this entire message. Also, we are looking at how we should behave in a perfect world. Our sinfulness will lead likely lead us to argue or to make decisions that aren’t necessarily the best, but we should not use that as an excuse.
Question for Thought:
What are your views on this passage? How do you view your role in light of it?
Day 20 – Ephesians 6 : 1 – 9
Yesterday, I mentioned there are three relationships Paul examines in his discussion of submission. Today, we will look at the second and third relationships.
Children and Parents
“Honor your father and mother” is one of the Ten Commandments. Paul is only reiterating what he has previously taught. In Exodus 21:15, 17, Mosaic law goes as far as to say a child who strikes or curses his mother or father should be put to death. Let’s all say a quick than-you prayer for grace! Yet again, Paul speaks to both sides of the relationship. Parents are not to provoke their children to anger. We should also teach our children how God expects us all to act and discipline them only in love.
Bondservants and Masters
Bondservants made up as much as one-third of the city of Ephesus. A bondservant is not equivalent to North American slavery. Instead, bondservants were paid workers who could buy their freedom. Paul naturally included bondservants and masters in his discussion of family relationships, because bondservants were treated like part of the family, which is why Paul calls bondservants to obey their masters out of the goodness of their hearts rather than just a desire to be seen as good. Again, Paul speaks to the opposite side of the relationship telling masters to treat their servants with respect because God is the ultimate Master of both.
Question for Thought
In Romans 1:1, Paul refers to himself as a bondservant of Christ. What does he mean by this?
I would love for you to share your thoughts or things you are learning as you read through Ephesians! Look for Week Four study materials next Monday, and again, you can find all materials already posted here.