Ephesians 3:13-4:16

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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 3:14-4:16 Inductive Bible Study

Outline:

I. Benediction of section 1. (3:14-21)
II. Be diligent to preserve the unity of the body (4:1-6)
III. Spiritual gifts and their purpose (7-11)
IV. Purpose of spiritual gifts (12-16)

I. Benediction of section 1. (3:14-21)

Discussion Questions

Paul says “for this reason I bow my knees…”. For what reason?
What is the main point of 14-21?
What does verse 15 mean? How can we or anyone derive their name from God?
Is Paul praying starting in verse 16? If not, what is he doing (benediction, invoking God’s blessing on them)?
Comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of what?

Cross-References

Psalms 95:6 – Come, let us bow down in worship before our Maker.
Ephesians 1:10, Colossians 1:20 – He reconciles all things to Himself and brings all things together.
Ephesians 2:19 – You are no longer foreigners and aliens but fellow citizens with God’s household.
Psalms 107:43 – Whoever is wise, let him consider the great love of the Lord.
Romans 11:33-36 – God’s wisdom is unsearchable.

Key Points

1. In verse 14, Paul continues his thought process he began in verse 1. He went off on a side point about the mystery, which is the uniting of the Gentiles and Jews in the church. He had already discussed that point in chapter 2. So “this reason” is the points he discussed in chapter 2, namely that believers who were dead in sins are now alive in Christ and that the Gentiles who were formerly strangers and aliens were now fellow citizens with God’s household. Paul marveled at God’s eternal purposes and perfect plan for the Jews and Gentiles. His response is to bow in worship. God is sovereign. He has good plans for His people. This should also cause us to bow our knee before Him and praise Him with all our hearts.

2. It is very important to read this verse in context. The context is the union of the Gentiles and Jews. As with the rest of the chapter, the context is believers in the church. Therefore I don’t think it means that unbelievers derive their name from God. Actually they belong to Satan. Last week we discussed that there is peace between the Gentiles and Jews; this also refers to in the church. In Christ, every believing family is God’s, regardless of ethnicity. What does it mean that we derive our name from God? Well, we are Christians, believers. Our relationship to God forms a foundation of our identity. When people see us, they see God in us. If we do right, they may give glory to God. If we do wrong, they say that our God is not good. It’s like my son. He is called by my name “Dexter”. What he does reflects on me. Jesus Himself said that the world would hate us because they hated Him first. What does “in heaven and on earth” mean? So far I can see two possibilities, 1. everywhere. 2. Macarthur’s idea is that in heaven means those who have already died and on earth means those who are still alive.

3. The rest of this section is a benediction. It closes out the first half of the book of Ephesians before the second half begins. The first half is focused on doctrine and the second half is focused on life application of that doctrine. Most of Paul’s books end with a benediction giving glory to God and invoking God’s blessing on or exhorting the believers he is writing to. This is like a two part sermon with a benediction in the middle.

4. In verses 16-18 Paul is invoking God’s blessings on the Ephesians. We may not notice it, but we also invoke God’s blessings on others when we say things like “May God bless you.” “God’s peace be with you.” “May God comfort you during this time.” etc. When we do this we should also pray for the person as Paul always did for the believers he taught. Paul wants them to be strengthened, their faith to increase, and to fully understand the love of God. In verses 20-21, he concludes the benediction with praise for God. Notice also in verse 20; he is recognizing that God can do much more than he had even asked him for.

II. Be diligent to preserve the unity of the body (4:1-6)

Discussion Questions

What is the therefore therefore?
Do you remember what it means to be prisoner of the Lord?
What is Paul’s conclusion?
How is this section different than the previous section?
What does the word “walk” mean? What does it imply?
Why are the qualities in verse two integral to unity? Give some examples of how they can preserve unity. Give some examples of how their opposites can wreck unity.
What does showing tolerance look like in real life? What does it not look like?
How much energy should we expend towards keeping unity? What does this imply?
What is the reason for unity in the church?
What word is repeated again and again?
What do we have in common?

Cross-References

Philippians 1:27 – Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.
Colossians 1:10 – Live a life worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in every way, bearing fruit, growing in the knowledge of God.
1 Thessalonians 2:12 – Urging you to live lives worthy of God.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5 – Love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud.
Colossians 3:12-17 – A unity passage with the actions and attitudes we should have towards one another as believers.
Romans 15:1 – We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak.
Galatians 6:2 – Bear one another’s burdens.
John 17:21 – Jesus prays for unity for His followers.
1 Corinthians 1:10 – Paul hoped the Corinthians would be perfectly united in mind and thought.
1 Corinthians 12:20 – There is one body, many parts.

Key Points

1. This begins the application second half of Ephesians, that is mostly focused on living out the principles discussed in our lives. Notice it begins with the word therefore”. This means “based on everything you have just read.” Because of all the doctrine in the first three chapters, there are some solid applications they need to make in their lives. In fact doctrine is useful. Some people don’t like to look at doctrine. They think it is boring and unimportant. Their exhortation is just to love one another more. But why should we love one another? Why should we have this unity in the church? Well, we saw the reasons why to love those who are different than us in chapters 1-3. Doctrine is the why and application is the how. If we don’t know why we do something, eventually we may stop doing it. Just share the gospel! Why? Because we all have sin and are doomed to judgment and hell unless we believe in Christ. This is the motivation. The facts in the Bible form the foundation so we should dedicate ourselves to understanding them. On the other hand, some believers mostly focus on the doctrine and skip the application. Just understand the Bible. But knowledge is not our end goal. If it doesn’t change our life it is not helpful, but will only puff us up. So Paul gives us a good example here, three chapters of doctrine and three chapters of application. If you read the rest of his epistles he writes extensively about both doctrine and application.

2. The key application is that we are to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called. We see all that God has done for us. We see the great position we have in Christ. We see His love for us and His plans for us and His blessings for us. So we must live our lives in a worthy manner. Does this mean that we can someone earn what we have received from God? Then what does it mean? Because of our gratitude and because of our new lives in Him we should live our lives according to the new position and new grace that we have. Imagine a king goes out and adopts a poor beggar into his family. This beggar is now a prince. But he goes out again to begging. It is improper and not suitable. Suppose someone robs your house. You find them in prison and discover how bad their life situation is. You decide not to press charges, but instead to give a financial gift to this thief. He then comes back to your house and steals again. He is not living worthy of the gift you have given him. As believers we are the same as the beggar and thief. God has adopted us and forgiven us. Now we have a responsibility to live worthily, not perfectly, but worthily. Maybe at the beginning the beggar has a hard time adjusting to life as a prince. He can’t seem to learn how to be a noble and makes a lot of clumsy mistakes. The king will have patience with him, but the beggar needs to try his best. The king will definitely provide plenty of help for him, resources to speed this change. God provides the resources for us. We need to make use of them and live new lives, not going back to our former way of life. Read cross-references.

3. We learned in the last couple of chapters about the unity believers have regardless of their race. Even previous enemies are one in the church. So how do we live this out? Maybe there are some old grudges there. Sure, I can have unity with Stone and David, but Moses here is just too difficult. Yeah, Helen can have unity with Christy and Penny, but wow that Riba is just so hard to get along with. I mean did you see… No, it is not a pick and choose type deal. We are to have unity with all believers in the church, not just those like us or with the same views as us.

A. The qualities we need – The first part of verse 2 discusses the qualities that are absolutely essential to unity. A prideful person looks down on others. He thinks that his habits and his way is the best and is condescending toward those who don’t agree with him. He will bicker and argue. He wants respect and honor. He will cause divisions over minor issues. He will speak out his opinion too much and want others to listen to him. This will all create disunity. A humble person is quiet and calm, considers others more important than himself, is always willing to listen to others’ opinions and their viewpoints. He doesn’t consider himself to be superior because of his education or Bible knowledge or number of people he has shared with. He is a team player looking for the common good. How about a harsh person?
Maybe I see a friend making a mistake in his gospel bridge sharing at church. So I invite him to lunch and then just lay into him. How can you make this simple mistake? Don’t you know the Bible? What’s the matter with you!! Is this method right? Why not? The Bible says to correct with gentleness. Harshness stirs up anger, resentment, ill feelings. It also discourages. Maybe David just started sharing. This shatters his confidence and he is scared to share again. A gentle person would kindly and calmly help him to see the error while encouraging him for his effort in gospel sharing and his heart for others. Patience. Why do we need patience? Discuss in depth.

B. The energy we need – This doesn’t happen automatically. Christians are also sinners. Put hundreds of sinners of all ages and backgrounds together. Do you think they will by nature have peace and be unified? No, by nature they will have a hundred different opinions and argue on and on. Keeping unity requires diligence. We have to work at it. We have to make an effort to go out of our way to show kindness the to the “weird” believers. If there is a disagreement, we have to hunt down the other party and confess and solve the problem instead of letting it fester. It is much like a marriage. David, can you share what you have learned about keeping unity in marriage? Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. A basketball team needs to train, train, train to perform well as a team. Without training, it is just 5 individuals out there doing there. After training, they can become a well oiled machine that is unstoppable. We need to be diligent in this area always on the lookout to squelch division and show Christian love.

Verses 4-6 are reviewing the foundation for this unity.

III. Spiritual gifts and their purpose (7-11)

Discussion Questions

Who has been given a gift? Was this earned or deserved? Who is it from?
Explain verse 8.
What does it mean that Jesus descended to the lower parts of the earth? When did He ascend?
What does it mean to fill all things?
What does it mean “He gave some as apostles…”? Gave to who?

Cross-References

Psalms 68:18 – Original OT verse from which verse 8 is quoted.
John 3:13 – No one has gone into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
John 6:33 – The bread of life comes down from heaven to give life to the world.
Romans 10:14-15 – How can they hear without a preacher… how can they go unless they are sent. Relate to “gave some”.
Romans 12:4-16 – Unity and gifts.
1 Corinthians 12:27-31 – Gift passage.
2 Timothy 4:5 – Timothy was an evangelist.
Colossians 1:28-29 – Paul proclaimed him, teaching and admonishing so that the believers might be presented perfect to Christ. They labored for this.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-14 – Respect those who work hard among you. Hold them in high regard. Everyone should warn the idle and encourage the weak.
Philippians 2:1-2 – Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.
James 1:6 – A person without strong faith is blown by the wind and thrown about by the sea.

Key Points

1. Each one of us. Every believer has received God’s grace in the form of spiritual gifts. This is important. Every believer has at least one, not just some of us. What’s more it is from Christ and He measures out the type and kind to give. Since He is the one giving, He can give different levels to different people. Two people might be gifted in preaching, but he might gift one more. Notice also the word “gift”. This means is it is freely given and completely undeserved. The giver is Christ.

2. Verse 8 comes from Psalms 68:18. Originally it was a victory hymn by David commemorating the victory over the Jebusites in Jerusalem. According to Macarthur, Paul is applying this to Christ as an analogy of what Christ did when Christ ascended. It has three parts. The ascension is Jesus’ return to heaven, His victory over death and Satan. His captives would be the victory over Satan and death. These are both defeated and awaiting their final destruction. The gifts to men would be these spiritual gifts referred to by Paul. So just as the conquering David gave spoils of victory to the soldiers, Christ gives us spiritual gifts.

3. Descended refers to His incarnation. He came to the lower parts of the earth from the upper parts of heaven. Basically he came down.

4. The specific gifts – Discuss each one and what it means. Do all of these still exist today? Why/why not? When did they stop?

5. Gave some. These people were given by God to the church to meet their spiritual needs. He gave them the gifts to accomplish their work and they in turn were a gift to others. Read cross-references.

IV. Purpose of spiritual gifts (12-16)

Discussion Questions

What was His purpose in giving these gifts and calling them to work in the church?
How are the saints equipped?
Who is supposed to be doing the work of service? Should there be an audience/preacher division? Who has a job in the church?
What is our job? How can we do it?
What is the end goal for the believers in the church?
If we achieve this goal, what is the result?
Why would an immature believer be tossed here and there by every wind of doctrine?
How can we avoid this dangerous situation?
What kind of trickery do men use to mislead others? What do the words craftiness and scheming imply?
How to explain the unity and individuality of the members of God’s church?
Who makes the church grow?

Key Points

1. The who of the gifts. But who is doing the work? The saints are the ones doing the work of service. They are not sitting and watching the pastors/teachers do it. They are to be involved themselves. They each have a task. The pastors job is to help the saints learn how to do the work and encourage them along the way. Unfortunately in most churches around the word 10% of the people do 90% of the work (don’t know the exact stat; estimate). You have the congregation/audience who go to church each week. They get there just on time or late and leave right afterwards. They may make a few comments about the lovely sermon or drop a few bucks in the offering plate, but basically they are uninvolved and don’t participate. They are listeners. Meanwhile the pastors and teachers labor all week putting together different classes, studies, sermons, lessons, often times directing the choir, clearning the church, preparing materials, visitining the sick, conducting weddings, dedicating babies, conducting funerals, etc. The balance of work is disproportianate. Every believer must be involved in serving the Lord. How about you? Are you? I really want all of you to think about this and consider if you are really involved serving God in your local fellowship. If not, you need to fix the situation. This Sunday go up and ask why you can do to help or volunteer for a specific ministry. If they say no, tell them what you learned in Ephesians and ask them to really think about what you can do. They may say no the first time out of politeness. Whatever they give you to do, do with all your heart. Do not consider it is below you or unworthwile. Eventually as you serve your special gifting will become apparent.

2. The result of the gifts (specifically the speaking gifts here) – Maturity. They help the entire body grow to maturity soak in the knowledge from God. They are a protection against wrong doctrine and false teachers. Discuss in detail and verse by verse.

Study Ephesians 4:17-32

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