These small group studies of Ephesians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Ephesians 1:11-23 Inductive Bible Study In Depth Teaching and Discussion Questions
I. Our inheritance in Christ (11-14)
II. Gratitude for the Ephesians (15-16)
III. Prayer for their enlightenment (17-19)
IV. The supremacy of Christ (20-23)
I. Our inheritance in Christ (11-14)
- What is our inheritance?
- How can we be to the praise of His glory?
- What is the Holy Spirit’s role? How can He seal us?
- Paul says, “for this reason.” For what reason?
Colossians 3:24 – Since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Acts 20:32 – Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
On the Holy Spirit giving to us as a deposit:
Romans 8:23 – We are the first fruits of the Spirit and wait eagerly for our adoption as sons and redemption of our bodies.
2 Corinthians 1:22 – Set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Corinthians 5:5 – Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
1. In Him we have obtained an inheritance – Here is yet another of the amazing spiritual blessings we have in Christ. Many people go through their entire lives trying to build up their bank accounts. Years of overtime and stress are endured for the sake of increasing the size of one’s nest egg. And yet no one can take this with them. What they have earned is left to their children, who may or may not use it wisely.
But when a person comes to Christ, he is the rightful heir of a heavenly inheritance. It is as if this inheritance is in a trust account. Not all is received immediately. When a minor receives an inheritance it is often kept in trust and he receives a yearly stipend until he is of age and mature enough to manage it well. For believers this is the case as well. We have already received the inheritance and at the same time not yet. We have received the Holy Spirit and eternal life and the power to have victory over sin and adoption as sons and daughters to the king. At the same time, our inheritance is not yet fully realized. One day in the future we will receive the “keys” to our heavenly home and our bodies will be upgraded to version 2.0, perfect and sinless.
Application: Every person who receives an inheritance should be good stewards of the assets he needs to manage. We too, must be good stewards of the gifts and resources the Lord has entrusted to us. What is one resource God has blessed you with? How can you use this for Him as a good steward?
2. Having been predestined –
As seen in the first verses of this chapter, God predestined believers to adoption. In this chapter in Ephesians we see this whole process. Predestination to adoption through redemption because of His grace. Then receiving an inheritance sealed by the Holy Spirit. We see this process above in Romans 8. From the very begin of the process to the end it is God taking the initiative.
Jesus told the disciples in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”
God chose us first. People often ask, “what practical value does the doctrine of predestination hold?” The answer is “a lot.”
Firstly, it is a comforting doctrine. Since God did not choose us because of our own good deeds, we know He will also not abandon us when we do wrong.
I have often heard parents in the overseas country where I serve tell their children things like, “You are naughty. I don’t want you anymore. If you keep doing this [wrong thing], I will leave you here.” It is an oft used parenting method to threaten abandonment. How must kids feel who hear that all the time. Even if they don’t believe it on the surface, there has to be a part of them that wonders if their parents really do want them and if maybe one day they might be abandoned.
For believers, we need never fear God forsaking us. He made the decision to adopt us before He even created the world. He isn’t going to change His mind.
Secondly, it is a God exalting doctrine. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Our reason for existence is to bring glory to God. The doctrine of election brings God glory because it highlights His sovereignty, His power, and His grace.
3. That we might be to the praise of His glory – Why did God do this for us? Yes, He loves us. Yes, He wants to bless us. But here we see the ultimate motivation. It is for His glory.
Our mission in life is to declare God’s holiness and glory.
Someone once asked me, “Is God prideful? If we ask people to praise us or if we tell people how great we are, then that is pride. But God does this all the time? How can a perfect God seek His own glory.”
This is a good question. Sooner or later, most Christians will ask it. I answered with an illustration.
Let’s say that I am an author. I spend thousands of hours to write a book. It’s a very good book. But just before I get it published someone steals my manuscripts. They then publish the book in their own name as if it is theirs. After that they get the credit and the profit from the book that I wrote. As the rightful author, what should I do? Am I justified in taking up the case, going to the bookstores or to the court and showing proof that I wrote the book? I believe I am. It is my work, my creation. It is right and just that I receive the credit. Is that pride? No, that is justice. On the other hand, the person who is trying to steal the credit is sinning. He is trying to take what is rightfully mine and that is not just.
The same is true for a painting. If you painted a beautiful picture, you would not like it if someone erased your signature and added their own.
This can help us to understand why God seeks praise and glory for all the things He has done. He is the Creator. He is the redeemer. He is the King. He deserves the glory for what He has done. If someone else tries to take glory for themselves, it is unjust and robbing God.
When we try to get glory for ourselves for our successes or achievements we are taking it away from its rightful owner, God.
Application: Have you had any recent successes or achievements? How you can give God glory for these?
4. Sealed with the promised Holy Spirit – A seal was used by ancient kings to show their authority. It was also used to issue decrees. We remember also that when Jesus was buried in the tomb, Rome put their seal on it to show that it was off limits, under their safekeeping. Any person who tampered with this tomb would be dealt with by the Roman Empire.
Here we see that God seals us in much the same way. Firstly, He is the authority. Sitting on His throne in heaven (Isaiah 6), He has divine authority over our salvation. And He has chosen to use this authority to decree our salvation, even from before the beginning of the world. As proof of His intentions to safeguard our salvation, He gives us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit seals our salvation, announcing that we are off limits to Satan and his demons. No tampering allowed! Those who have been predestined and adopted as God’s children are not then left to their own devices. We are under His protection. It is a great place to be!
A child in the playground may live in fear of bullies. But when his older brother is walking beside him, he will have confidence and know he is safe.
The Holy Spirit is our strongman, protecting our house from spiritual attacks.
5. Paul heard of the Ephesians’ testimony – The testimony of the Ephesians’ faith spread out. One area where they were strong was in love, love toward all the saints. We see in these verses that since Paul left the Ephesians were growing. Their testimony also encouraged others.
Application: Not all the churches had a good testimony. The Corinthian church, for example, had many problems. Sometimes one of the top reasons given for not coming to Christ is that Christians are hypocrites. Sometimes it is a general claim and sometimes people pull out specific examples. But this should not be.
What is your testimony? What would the people say about you? What would your family say? What would your classmates say? What would your-co-workers say? Let us strive to live in such a way that our good deeds glorify God and attract people to Him rather than repel them.
II. Gratitude for the Ephesians (15-16)
What attitude does Paul show in verses 15-16? (Gratitude) Who is he grateful to? Why was Paul thankful to God for their good deeds?
Colossians 1:3-4 – We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people.
1. Paul continually thanked God and prayed for the Ephesians – Paul had a heart for discipleship. The people he ministered to were not numbers on a stat sheet. They had names and faces. He cared for them deeply and wanted to see them grow and be fruitful. When Paul left a place, he didn’t forget about the people he had shared with. Neither did he leave them to their own devices. Though he knew that they were in God’s hands, he did not just move on and “let God do his work.” Instead he followed up, which is why we have his epistles in the New Testament, a record of Paul’s discipleship efforts in connecting to and supporting those he shared with.
While the Ephesians were not perfect, Paul was very thankful for the good things he had heard about them. Throughout his epistles, Paul is very positive toward those he is discipling. Each of them had their fair share of sins, but he did not focus on these. Instead he focused on their strengths. And he was thankful to God for the work He had done in their hearts.
Whenever he thought of them (which was often), he immediately turned to God to first thank Him and then pray for them. A leader who constantly complains about those he serves needs to re-examine his own heart. From Paul we also can learn how to have a lifestyle of prayer. Part of making prayer natural is to do it often. Sure, we can have set times and places. But we should also pray spontaneously for people.
Application: When you think of a friend from way back, say a prayer for them. When you think of a person you haven’t seen at church for a while, pray for them. When you think of your Bible study or Sunday School students, don’t complain. Instead thank God for the positive things you see in their lives and say a prayer for them.
III. Prayer for their enlightenment (17-19)
- Paul says that he made mention of them in his prayers.
- What was he asking?
- Was this a request for something physical or spiritual? ?
- Why do most of his prayers for believers focus on the spiritual?
- In what three ways did Paul pray they would be enlightened?
- How would you put that in simple words?
1. He prays deep and meaningful prayers for them – Note the type of prayers Paul prays for the Ephesians. They are rich and powerful. He prays predominantly for their spiritual knowledge and growth. What exactly does he pray for?
- Wisdom (17)
- Enlightened eyes (18)
- To know the hope of their calling (18)
- To know the riches of the inheritance (18)
- To better understand God’s power (19)
We don’t see prayers for career, exams, health, business, or long lives. It doesn’t mean that he never prayed for these things. But these things were secondary to spiritual growth and we see that reflected in the main content of his prayers.
Application: What is the main content of your prayers? What do you pray for yourself and others? Don’t stop praying for daily needs and problems which you face. But do focus more on the most important things, which are spiritual growth and character. Pray for your kid’s sickness and school. But also pray for them to become patient, to grow in discernment, to be sensitive to sin, and to love God’s Word. Pray for your job. But also pray against temptation and ask God to turn your weaknesses into strengths.
2. Every believer should strive to know God and His truth more – Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was centered on their growth in “wisdom,” “knowledge,” and “enlightenment.” Home to many false teachings, the world seeks to distract, deceive, and mislead. Trivialities vie for our time and attention. Media and pop culture seek to control how we think.
But truth is not relative. It doesn’t change with the times. Unlike science books, which constantly update to offer corrections on failed evolutionary theories, the Bible does not change. It is God’s absolute truth, containing everything we need to live a godly life in this world. Being able to read God’s divine revelation to us is a profound blessing. And we should not let it go to waste. Believers should diligently strive to study and obey the Bible, putting its life transforming principles into action.
IV. The supremacy of Christ (20-23)
- Paul seems to shift topics in the middle of verse 19?
- Why does he shift and what does he shift to?
- What attribute does he describe of Christ’s?
- What does being seated at God’s right hand signify?
- What does verse 23 mean?
1 Chronicles 29:11 – Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
Psalms 24:10 – Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – he is the King of glory.
James 3:17-18 – But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
Ephesians 5:8 – For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.
Romans 8:24-25 – For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Colossians 1:23 – If you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
Titus 2:13 – While we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 6:12 – Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1. Jesus’ sovereign dominion –
Ephesians 1:20-24 – “he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
Group Activity or Individual Meditation – Spend some to consider the questions,
A. “What does this passage teach us about Christ?”
B. Have you put your life under Christ’s authority?
C. What is one area of your life you struggle to surrender to His complete authority? What do you need to do to submit to Him in that area?
E-book: If these notes are helpful you can download the entire Ephesians E-book study guide to use on any device or print the entire series.
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