Last night, our small group finished up the study of Ephesians. It was certainly an amazing study and I am grateful to have studied with such awesome women. Typically, when I finish a book of the Bible or even a simple passage of Scripture, I take a min to pause and reflect on what I’ve studied. I often ask myself, “What did you learn and how does this change you?” Reading the Bible is great, but if we are walking away not fully/comprehensively understanding what the text says or if we fail to see how the Scriptures should be changing us, then we are missing the whole point of Bible Study. Personally, I don’t want to just go through the motions. I want to be transformed by the renewing of my mind through faithful and careful study of God’s Word. I truly want to see myself be more submissive, less gossipy, less emotionally driven, more giving, more serving, etc. At any rate, I thought I’d share a few takeaways from our study of Ephesians because it helps me to re-walk through what I’ve studied and perhaps it will be helpful to all of you in how you approach Bible study :)
The major focus of Ephesians centers on two major points:
God’s work of reconciliation through Christ Jesus
How we are to live in response to God’s Work in Christ.
God’s plan of reconciling man to Himself is soooo awesome and soooo beautiful! In Christ, we finally have peace with God and it is all a work of GRACE. God’s Grace. We do not (nor could we ever) earn this restored relationship with God; instead, we receive it as a pure gift through Christ. Furthermore, the implications of grace are certainly far reaching. Because of grace we are: chosen, holy, and blameless (Ephesians 1: 4), adopted as sons through Christ (v. 5), redeemed and forgiven (v. 7), united with Christ and with others who are in Christ (v. 10), we believe and we are sealed (i.e. marked) with the Holy Spirit (v. 13), and we are guaranteed an inheritance through the Holy Spirit (v. 14). Most importantly, all of this happens not merely by chance. No, it’s intentional! God’s plan of reconciliation and redemption is done all “to the praise of His glory” (v. 14)!
Not only is God’s plan of reconciling man to Himself awesome, but God’s plan of unifying His people as ONE is just as great! Ephesians 2:14-16 says, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” The bottom line here is simple: all that has ever divided Jew and Gentile has been overcome through Christ. To make this even more practical, think about all of the things that seemingly divide us today: race, socioeconomic status, education, cultural background, etc. However, as Christians we must remember that in Christ we are one. In Christ, we should be unified in our understanding of who God is, God’s purpose for humanity, God’s purpose for the Church as well as the church’s mission, and lastly, we should be unified in our understanding of Christ’s authority over all who belong to Him. We should understand that Christ’s unifying work does not in any way undermine our differences, but His work redefines our relationships between one another (for the better) in spite of our differences. As followers of Christ, we are presented with a unique opportunity to transcend all that limits and divides us as humans. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live in unity as ONE! Do you truly believe that??? I most certainly do!
After detailing God’s plan of reconciliation, Paul then gives us a practical look at how we are to live out our new lives as reconciled/regenerated/renewed people. Once we were darkened in our understanding and ignorant due to the hardness of our hearts (v. 4:18); however, in Christ we are to do away with the former things of life and put on our “new self-created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (v.24). We should do away with lying, stealing, unforgiveness, anger and harsh words (v. 25-29). We should let go of all bitterness and slander and malice and live in a kind, tenderhearted, forgiving manner (v. 31-32). Moreover, we should walk in love and live as light! Paul makes things even more practical as he outlines our roles as Christian spouses, parents, servants (v. 5:22-6:9). And finally, Paul concludes by instructing us how to persevere in this new life. We are to suit-up in a special kind of armor; God’s Armor (6:10-20). And what is God’s Armor??? His truth, His righteousness, His Gospel, His Word! I think Gloria Furman (author of Alive in Him) states it beautifully when she calls it “Cruciform Armor.” In Christ, we are fitted with an armor that matches our new self. There’s no way we could have ever suited-up in God’s armor without being made new in Christ. Therefore, as we fight through this spiritual battle as renewed people, we should take heart in knowing that our strength essentially comes from the Lord. In Him, we are covered and can stand against all the schemes of the devil!
"Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible." (Ephesians 6:23-24 ESV)