Ephesians 1:1-6

Ephesians 1:1-6

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible. 

Read: Ephesians 1:1-6 

Imagine the Church of Ephesus holding this letter in their hands for the first time, imagine questions they must have had when they first received it. What would cause the apostle Paul to write them this letter, especially during a time when sending a letter was a challenging task, and “messaging” was far from instant? (Not to mention that Paul wrote this letter while being locked up in prison.)

I know what you are thinking, and no, Paul was not writing them because he was bored in prison. Paul wrote them with a desire to see the Church of Ephesus continue to grow in their understanding of the Gospel, and to help unite them as they live on mission in their city. Within these first few lines Paul points us to the goodness of Jesus. Paul first tells us that God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.” (vs. 3) No one was short changed through the work of Christ. Ultimately through the blood of Jesus on the cross, every Christian has had spiritual blessing poured out upon them. Take time to realize the spiritual blessings God has lavished on us, and the enormous impact they have on how we live our lives.

 Through the work of Jesus, we have received “every spiritual blessing” and have been specifically chosen by God for adoption. These first few lines are not the “fluff” we tend to write at the front of a long-winded email. No, they are the very heart of the message of the gospel; That because of Jesus we are no longer the enemies of God, we have been lovingly brought into His family through the redemptive work of Christ.

How amazing is it to think about the blessings that we have received through the work of Jesus? How powerful is it to think about God choosing sinners like you and I before the foundation of the world for adoption? Grace at its finest! Within these very first lines of his letter, Paul begins to fuel the Church of Ephesus’ admiration for Jesus, which flows into every part of the Christian life.  

Reflection Questions: 

1.    Why does Paul tell the Church of Ephesus, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?”

2.    How does understanding that God has adopted us change the way we see ourselves? Does it challenge or change your view of God?

3.    What does Paul say was the motive behind God’s adoption of sinners?  

Memorize: Ephesians 1:3-4

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. 4 For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love.”

Ephesians 1:7-14

Ephesians 1:7-14

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible.

Read: Ephesians 1:7-14

Have you ever wondered what God’s will is for your life? How about for the rest of the Universe? It’s a bit of a mystery isn’t it? One popular movie recently put it this way, “What is the meaning of life, the Universe and everything?” The answer is not 42 BTW! In this section of Ephesians, God pulls back the curtain and unveils part of His mysterious will for the Universe.

At the very center of all things seen and unseen is the gravity-like will of God; it ‘works everything in agreement with the decision of His will’ (vs. 11). Nothing happens by mistake. Everything has purpose. The sooner we get this, the quicker life begins to make sense. 

Within this revealed will of God is His gracious plan to ‘redeem’ sinners through the blood of Jesus. So what is redemption? Why does it matter?  

Redemption is closely linked with slavery. Really? Yep. When the Bible talks about “redemption” it is in the context of the rampant slave culture in ancient Greco-Roman times. Slaves in Roman culture could be set free (redeemed) by the payment of a hefty ransom price. A ‘Redemption’ price.

The great news for God’s chosen people (vs. 4-5) is that He already paid the ransom price for us through the blood of Jesus (vs. 7). No amount of money can save you or make you right with God, “For you know that you were redeemed... not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ…” (1 Peter 1:18-19), For we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Everyone God saves through Jesus is given the Holy Spirit to live inside them (vs. 13). God inside us! How cool is that?!  The Spirit of God is a down payment guaranteeing our heavenly inheritance in Christ (vs. 14). If Jesus has set us free then our salvation is imperishable, un-touchable, un-reversible, un-delete-able, un-debatable, sealed and kept for us in Heaven for God’s glory. 

The great mystery of the ages, the cosmic secret of the Universe is this: God would enter His own creation, redeeming sinners through His own bloody ransom and bringing everything in the Universe together under the authority of Jesus Christ; to the praise of His glory. …And that’s what its all about! 

Reflection Questions:

1.    So are you redeemed? Do you have faith in Jesus and His redemptive work on the Cross?

2.    How does your redemption bring God glory?

3.    How should our lives be different as people redeemed from slavery to sin?

Memorize: Ephesians 1:7 –“ We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace”

Ephesians 1:15-19

Ephesians 1:15-19

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible. 

Read: Ephesians 1:15-19

Is there anyone in your life that you are thankful for? How about someone to the point that you are constantly thanking God for them and praying for them? In these verses, the apostle Paul tells the Ephesians that he is constantly thanking God for them and praying for them. Why was Paul so thankful for the Ephesians?  

Wouldn’t you agree that most of the time we are thankful for others because of what they have done for us or for something they have given us? This was not the case for Paul. It was solely because of the Ephesians faith in Jesus and their love towards all those in the church. You see, much of his life boiled down to one thing—sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with people (Acts 20:24). Therefore, as he heard of others’ faith in Jesus Christ and how they were obeying Jesus’ commands to love one another (John 13:34-35), he was overwhelmed with thanksgiving. 

While Paul was overjoyed and thankful for the Ephesians faith and love, he also prayed for God to continue working in their lives. Though we may wish spiritual maturity would happen overnight, Paul knew that growing in faith is a journey that continues throughout a believer’s life. Therefore, he prayed that God would continue to give the Ephesians wisdom and a greater knowledge of who He was. Considering that, Paul recognized that Godly wisdom and a deeper knowledge of God were essential to the Ephesians spiritual growth, might these things be essential to your spiritual growth as well? 

Take a moment and ask God to give you wisdom and to reveal more of Himself to you as you go over the reflection questions below. 

Reflection Questions:

1.    Do you see spiritual growth as a continuous journey like Paul did? Where are you at on this journey?

2.    If someone looked at your faith in Jesus and your love for others, would they be overwhelmed with thanksgiving like Paul was? If not, what practical things could you do to help your faith grow? What are some ways you could show more love towards other believers?

3.    Look at verses 18-19. What are the ways that God gives wisdom and a greater knowledge of who He is?

Memorize: Ephesians 1:15-16

15 This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. “

Ephesians 1:20-23

Ephesians 1:20-23

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible. 

Read: Ephesians 1:20-23

When God moves us to accept the truth of the Gospel, we're given the mysterious gift of becoming a part of Christ's body; the church. Although nothing on earth can fully represent the things of God, I often think of one of my favorite 80s animated shows- Voltron, Defender of the Universe (and I definitely watch old clips of it on YouTube). Individual characters piloted various vehicular body parts and were often defeated on their own. However, when they all docked to one another, they became an all-powerful super robot, conquering villains everywhere.

Where this representation falls particularly short is that God, Creator of the Universe, doesn't need us in order to be all-powerful (and he's not a robot!). Christ is not busy or anxious, devising strategies to defeat the enemy. He is seated at his Father's right hand, "far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come."  He allows us to be part of the body, and we get the honor of advancing his purposes and mission in the world. The head of this body is Christ, and the Father has put "everything under His feet". We can ultimately triumph over anything the natural or spiritual world can throw our way. 

I know I certainly feel like a lone Voltron part, disconnected and defeated. I struggle to believe I really matter or that I can battle against sin. Christ says to his disciples in John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Christ's victory, "over everything for the church" provides hope and the power to live life abundantly (John 10:10). 

Reflection Questions:

1.      Go back and look at verse 20-22 again. What do we learn about Jesus Christ from these verses?

2.      Do you believe you have a part to play in the body of Christ? What is it?

3.      Is there an area in your life that you struggle trusting Christ’s power and victory? What specifically is holding you back?

4.      What would it look like for you to surrender that struggle to the authority of Jesus and live in His power and victory this week?

Memorize: John 16:33

33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” NIV

Ephesians 2:1-7

Ephesians 2:1-7

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible.

Read: Ephesians 2:1-7

There are a lot of parallels between the city of Ephesus and present-day Tallahassee. They’re really not that different. Much of what Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians is also written to us here in our city. Tallahassee is an influential city, in one of the most influential states, in one of the most influential countries in the world. What happens in Tallahassee matters!

So how do we have a Gospel influence in Tallahassee? It may begin with realizing that how we live our lives, really does impact others, and collectively has an impact on the world. We need to be reminded of this often and so did the Ephesians. I love this chapter because it’s packed with powerful reminders that should be constantly reviewed if we want to lives to be changed in Tallahassee.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of being a Christian in Tallahassee, I have a tendency to separate myself from the problems of our city. The ones who don’t know Christ, the “lost,” are the ones who need our help. How easy is it to forget that we were all lost at one point in life? There is a distinction between someone who is lost and found, but it is a bit more severe than being ‘lost’. We were spiritually dead.

In verse 1, Paul is reminding us that: we all, Christians and non-believers alike, are dead without Christ. We all deserved nothing more than God’s wrath, and nothing we did on our own could fix that. Only God could. In His love and mercy, God sent His own Son Jesus to die for us and our sins, to make us spiritually alive – Do you believe this?

How easy that is to forget! This is why Paul is reminding us. It is so easy once we are saved to never look back at who we once were. The truth is, every day we need to own our need for a Savior, because there’s no moment in time where we can save ourselves. Lets remember that as we make much of Jesus together in our city.

Reflection Questions:

1.    Why do you think Paul takes the time to write about our past trespasses and sins if we already believe in Jesus?

2.    Compare your present-day self to who you were before you became a Christian. What are the differences? What would you like to see different?

3.    Your story of coming to know Christ needs to be told, and the story starts with being helpless on our own. What are some ways you can tell this story to others this week?

Memorize: Ephesians 2:4-5

Ephesians 2:8-10

Ephesians 2:8-10

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible.

Read: Ephesians 2:8-10

If any Bible verse should roll off our tongues and be seared in our minds, let it be Ephesians 2: 8-9. Why? Because in these verses we see a gathering of all the elements necessary for our eternal salvation: Grace. Faith. Gift. Jesus.

Many people today assume that all religions are really the same. Sure there are similarities but there is something distinctly and irreconcilably different about Christianity. What is it?

I’ve had many conversations with friends who see all religions as basically the same. These are important conversations to have with our friends, neighbors and co-workers. That is part of loving our neighbor well. However, even though my discussions with them are usually very cordial, they all seem to get cut short when I get to this distinct point about Christianity: Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

In other religions, people are taught to reach up to God in order to earn salvation by doing good things or not doing bad things. In Christianity, salvation is a free gift of God’s grace so that no one can boast. We can’t earn it but we can embrace it in faith. Other religions reject God’s free gift of grace by rejecting Jesus and continue on a treadmill of ‘good works’. Faith works, but spiritual treadmills leave you tired and in hell.

I was talking to a guy at Starbucks recently who described himself as, ‘not into religion but still spiritual”. More and more people today are abandoning all religions and defining for themselves how to get to heaven. My coffee drinking buddy told me “I’m a good person and I think I’ll go to heaven, if it exists.” His response saddened me. People like this want to define the criteria by which God should let them into heaven. That is a spiritual treadmill.

Both the followers of other religions, and those opposed to religion in general are equally offended by the exclusive claims of Jesus. They run right past God’s grace!

Christianity teaches that God reached down from heaven to save us because we are unable to save ourselves. We are NOT good people. We are sinners in need of a good Savior. Salvation is a gift of God, not a trophy we earn. Salvation comes by faith in Jesus alone. If you don’t grasp that you may not be saved.

Faith is the act of our soul that turns away from our own insufficiency to the free and all-sufficient resources of God. Faith focuses on the freedom of God to dispense grace to the unworthy. It banks on the bounty of God. –John Piper

So rather than trying to go around Jesus to earn your salvation, go to Jesus in faith. Rather than banking on being a better ‘good person’ than the guy sipping coffee (or hard liquor) next to you; acknowledge you aren’t that good and you need God’s grace and forgiveness in your life. He is gracious and ready to forgive you!

Sometimes, when I explain the freeing grace of God to people they ask, “So if I believe in Jesus, I can be saved and still do whatever I want?” Nope. Verse 10 addresses this question.

We were saved for good works, not to abuse God’s grace. In other words, the more we experience God’s undeserved grace in our lives, the more we are motivated to do good works out of love for Him. Anyone who has been rescued from a hopeless situation before knows this. Don’t you want to do something nice to show your appreciation for whoever saved you? Good works don’t save people, but they naturally overflow from saved people. Are you saved? Is your faith working? Faith works!

Reflection Questions:

1.    Are you saved? What do you base this on?

2.    How would you explain the relationship between God’s grace and good works to a skeptical friend?

3.    What are some good works this week, you feel motivated to do out of response for God’s grace in your life?

Memorize: Ephesians 2:8-9  For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:11-22

Ephesians 2:11-22

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible. 

Read: Ephesians 2:11-22

Are you old enough to remember when the Berlin Wall was torn down? As the people pulled the walls apart, it was a joyous day for many because it symbolized the fall of communism and the birth of democracy; of freedom, of a united people again. Ideological enemies found peace and the capital of Germany was united once more. Here in Ephesians 2, we learn about another famous dividing wall that Jesus would personally tear down.

There was an ancient wall in Jerusalem, at the Israelite Temple that was meant to keep the Gentiles out of the inner courts. It divided Jews from Gentiles. The wall basically said, ‘YOU DON”T BELONG HERE!’ to all non-Jews. Archaeologists (like Indiana Jones) have recently unearthed a warning sign from this “Dividing Wall” which states that Gentiles would be instantly killed if they ventured beyond the wall. Paul knew this first hand. He was falsely accused of bringing an Ephesian Gentile beyond the wall and into the Temple, and he was arrested for in Jerusalem. (See Acts 21)

Prejudice was alive and well in ancient Israel. Jews and Gentiles were divided by nationality and religion.  Jews viewed Gentiles as dirty, ignorant, idol-worshiping outsiders. But the prejudice went deeper, much like how Muslims view infidels today. Ancient records indicate that Gentiles were viewed so low that they were, ‘created by God to fuel the fires of hell’. Gentiles were even known to sacrifice their children to their idols which was tragic and repulsive to the Jews. Can you imagine how blown their minds must have been when the Jews realized that the disciples of Jesus were teaching that the God of Israel sacrificed His Son Jesus to save Gentile sinners? Boom! Mic drop. 

Jesus tore down the spiritual dividing wall through His death on the cross. His death brought enemies together and paid the ransom price for the sins of all peoples-Gentile and Jew alike. Jesus Christ stands upon the rubble of that old wall holding a giant blinking billboard that says to the world, “YOU BELONG HERE”.  

You may have walked into a church building and felt like you didn’t belong or fit in. You may feel out of place or unworthy, but you can find home in God. God welcomes you with open arms. The Church is not a building. It is a people- a very different and peculiar people with one thing in common…Jesus.

If you are a believer in Jesus it does not matter what nationality, race, gender, socio-economic status, background or how many wicked things you have done. YOU BELONG HERE. Come to Jesus and find peace, forgiveness, reconciliation, a new identity, a new purpose and a new family in Christ. If you are a member of God’s family through faith in Jesus then you will never be a stranger again.

But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. (vs.13)

Reflection Questions:

1.    Do you ever feel like a stranger or out of place in the church? What is it that unites very different people in the church?

2.    What are some things that keep the church divided today? What divisive issues would Paul write a letter to our church about? Are there any circumstances or issues that the church should divide itself over? Examples?

3.    Are there any relationships in your life where you need Jesus to come knock down walls and bring reconciliation? What is your part to play in this reconciliation?

Memorize: Ephesians 2:13

3 “But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.”

Ephesians 3:1-10

Ephesians 3:1-10

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible.

Read: Ephesians 3:1-10

Remember the cartoon “Scooby Doo” and how Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby would go around finding clues and solving mysteries? In this passage, we find the apostle Paul driving the “Mystery Machine” and leaving us clues from chapter 2 about the mystery he speaks of in this chapter. Actually, God has left us clues to His mystery throughout the Old Testament.

He chose to bless Abraham’s offspring (Genesis 12) and through him, to bless all nations. Although God’s law and covenant were revealed first to the Jewish people, the prophet Isaiah spoke of a servant of God who would be a “light to the Gentiles” (Isaiah 49).

In Ephesians 3, the mystery is solved: the Gentiles are included in God’s salvation plan every bit as much as Jews (Acts 9:15; 13:46–47; Rom 1:5–6). This is great news! Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the whole world…salvation is for everyone! As Paul says elsewhere, “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). No one has an upper hand or an inside route to God. The death and resurrection of Jesus leveled the playing field. 

There is no room for fear of rejection, racism, narcissism, or pride of any kind. Once God reaches out to us and changes our hearts to desire Him, we are all on the same team because we brought nothing to the bargaining table and He brought everything!

Paul describes himself as the “least of all the saints” in v. 8. For someone who had such a dramatic conversion experience (Acts 9) and went on to be the most prolific writer of the New Testament, this is quite a humble statement. Similar to the reason that God entrusted the gospel of grace to Paul for making known the mystery to the Gentiles,  he defines the role of the church: “so God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens” (v. 10).

According to this verse, we are to declare what Christ has done for us and demonstrate what unity in Christ looks like. The “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” are most likely the spiritual beings (good and evil but primarily evil) spoken about again in Eph 6:12. In other words, we are in a spiritual battle every day. God has chosen us to be his visible expression on earth through the power of the Holy Spirit to a world that needs to know the love God has for all people. Will you play the role God has given you?

Reflection Questions:

1.    Do you find that you constantly compare yourself with others? Why?

2.    Do you ever feel less than worthy of God’s love? What do you base that on?

3.    What are some specific and practical ways you can demonstrate the unity we as believers have in Christ?

Memorize:  Ephesians 3:6

6 “The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

Ephesians 3:11-13

Ephesians 3:11-13

Pray: That God may open his Word to us by the power of His Spirit. That he we may gain in knowledge, that we grow in the love of Jesus and share this joy with those around us. 

Read: Ephesians 3:11-13

All through the beginning of this letter the apostle Paul has been revealing a truth.  He has been explaining in detail what the Gospel is.  We were dead in our trespasses but are made alive in Jesus. We are saved, not by our works, but by grace through faith.  Following this, Paul shares his own story. He has been tasked with proclaiming this Gospel to the Gentiles, thereby unifying the body of Christ across all peoples. In verse 11 he ends his story and challenges his readers, essentially saying, “Now it’s your turn!”

Before he gives the details of their orders (see Chapter 4), he addresses a situation that appears to be troubling them. You see Paul is writing this letter from prison (see 3:1). The fact that their leader and friend is locked away is something that is discouraging to them.  Think of the last time you had a friend close to you that was suffering.  What was your initial reaction?

One reaction I sometimes have is to give the afflicted friend a side hug and say something like, “I’m so sorry”  perhaps adding “I’ll be praying for you” without even stopping to pray with them. This response is defensive, it's a way of not getting too close. The second type of reaction usually happens when the person afflicted isn’t present. We might say to the friend telling us about it something like, “Wow, that sure is hard” while secretly thinking “Glad it isn’t me” or even worse, “he sure had it coming.” Proverbs 24:17 says not to “gloat when your enemy falls.” What do you think Paul’s critics are thinking when they heard this letter? “Told you he needed to be more cautious.” Either response is discouraging to our hearts for they deny both the power of the gospel and create barriers between ourselves and the afflicted.

Paul, however, is seeing beyond his circumstances and theirs.  He states it isn’t just for God’s glory that he suffers, but for the glory of God’s people.  Extolling them, he warns his friends not to be timid and unsure but confident in what they are as “members of the same body”, and “partners of the promise in Christ Jesus”. He has reminded them that both he and they are carrying the mystery that is being made known to the “rulers and authorities in the heavens.” God is in control, but he also hasn’t left us to passively watch and be discouraged, he has equipped us to act and speak. We have the best news in the universe. We have the Gospel. 

Reflection Questions:

1)    What is the source of boldness and confidence that Paul speaks of?  What is that boldness meant for?

2)    In what ways has the suffering of others affected your life? How does the gospel offer healing for you and others?

3)    When we are the ones suffering, in what ways can we encourage others for their own glory in Christ?

Memorize: Ephesians 3:12-13

12 “In Him we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. 13 So then I ask you not to be discouraged over my afflictions on your behalf, for they are your glory.”

Ephesians 3:14-21

Ephesians 3:14-21

Pray: That God may open his Word to us by the power of His Spirit. That he we may gain in knowledge, that we grow in the love of Jesus and share this joy with those around us. 

Read: Ephesians 3:14-21

The verses prior to these mark a turning point in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.  Having laid out the truth of the Gospel clearly, Paul challenged the Ephesians and us to boldness. Boldness for the Gospel- a boldness found in the work of Jesus rather than our own.  Paul then uses what he knows to be his most effectual tool- prayer.

And this is not a generic prayer, but a personal, powerful prayer.   

Kneeling “before the Father” Paul prays clearly into the lives and situations of these people.  His words are marked by spiritual power, yet they also demonstrate a care and understanding of the people for whom he is praying.  You see, the Ephesians are a very interesting group of people.  Perhaps more than any city, they valued knowledge and more importantly, secret knowledge.  They traded in it. They collected it. And they loved it as their mark on life and their means of power and stability.  You can see this clearly in Acts 19:18-20 where having heard the Gospel, the Ephesians first burned all their books of magic (worth 50,000 pieces of silver) and confessed and disclosed their practices. For they believed there was power in secret words (disclosing it meant ridding it of power).

There was also money in it. This is the same city that when Paul first preached had a riot because the truth of what he was telling cut into the profit margins of the merchants. One of their own said, “Men, you know that our prosperity is derived from this business.”  This business was the selling of shrines.

To me, the most fascinating thing about the story of the Ephesians is how much it parallels the struggles of our own society.  We live in an age where knowledge in and of itself has once again become a god that much of our society (either knowingly or blindly) has come to trust in.  Self-revealing and self-defined, we are sold the idea that our own individual voice is the most truthful, and that our own individual truth is most true.  But is it?  Paul knew better, and he wants us like the Ephesians to know this too.  His prayer is that we may “comprehend … the length, and width, height and depth of God’s love.”

Paul begins his prayer before the Father by giving this people (us as well) a family name. He then asks that God might grant them the family riches (remember all that concern about wealth).  He then addresses their sense of the “inner man”, but ties it directly to the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.  Paul has already made it clear, that our “inner man” is dead apart from God.  Spiritually dead!

Next, Paul prays that they may increase in comprehension. Sometimes we read this passage and think Paul has something against knowledge.  Knowledge isn’t to be avoided, nor is it meant to be idolized.  Paul loved learning. This is the man was still studying the Scriptures while waiting for his execution (see 2 Timothy 4).  He is praying that knowledge may lead to an understanding of God’s love. It is understanding Jesus’ love that leads us to the “fullness of God.”

“But I’m not a good reader”, you say, “I’m not a bible scholar.” So what?  Half of Jesus’ disciples were uneducated fisherman.  These Ephesians, just like us wanted answers.  

And here they are.  Jesus loved us… that we may know… the depth of love… in Him we show… to a world that’s dying… to a friend that’s hurt… according to the power… that works in us.  “To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generation, forever and ever. Amen.”

Reflection Questions:

1)    How have prayers of a friend strengthened you when you were struggling or down?

2)    Are you quick to pray for or with friends, or is this something that you tend to keep private? Why?

3)    How has your study and knowledge of God’s word led you to comprehend the depths of God’s love? How has this love then surpassed that very knowledge for you?

Memorize: Ephesians 3:17b-19

“…I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, 19 and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Ephesians 4:1-6

Ephesians 4:1-6

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible. 

Read: Ephesians 4:1-6

We all made stupid decisions when we were young right?

When I was kid I was double-dog-dared to hurl a big rock at a stop sign. Well what usually stops at stop signs? Cars! I missed the stop sign and broke the windshield of an unsuspecting, angry soccer mom. She came running out of her car towards me and my brave friends tucked tail and left me there high and dry. She demanded my name but I wouldn’t tell her. You know why? Not because I was scared (ok, maybe a bit), but because I knew I had not lived up to my name; the name my parents gave me. I am a junior. My dad and I have the same name. I knew I had done something that reflected poorly on His name and how he raised me.

A Christian bears the name of Christ and is called to ‘walk’ or live each day in a way that honors Jesus. How do we walk worthy of our ‘calling’? What does it look like? It looks like walking down the road God has called us to together in Christian unity.

Verses two gives us four essential attitudes for Christian unity:

1.    Humility –  recognizing our true position before God and seeing other people as valuable

2.    Gentleness - strength under control

3.    Patience - slowness to avenge a wrong or to retaliate when hurt by another

4.    Love – unconditionally pouring ourselves out for others with the sacrificial concern that sent Jesus willingly to the cross.

These four essential attitudes help us in ‘diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit” that binds us all together. Living with humility, gentleness, patience and love requires the end of ‘self’.

As long as we act like the world revolves around us this unity will not exist.  As ‘self’ dies, we begin to live and grow in unity. God’s Spirit is at work sanctifying us, stripping away our old addiction to self and bringing new life in Christ to our souls. The more this happens in our hearts the more we are able to reflect a better picture of the peace, unity and oneness of God.

Christian unity does not mean brainless submission or assembly line conformity. That is where cults come from. It does not mean tolerance towards every teaching or acceptance of every crazy thought. It is not brushing every hard conversation under the rug to avoid ruffling someone’s feathers. A healthy dialogue over differing but important aspects of our faith can be one of the most unifying actions we can do. However, there is no Christian unity unless it is grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is our peace and great Unifier of the Church. 

Bottom Line: Christian unity matters to God and originates in the Trinitarian unity of God.  We believe in one God in three persons; The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Christian unity reflects our united God.

In John 17, Jesus prays for unity in His Church so many times and with such power that it is impossible to miss. It might even make you a bit uncomfortable. Give it a read! Jesus prayed, “May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You.” (John 17:21) What does Jesus say would be the result of such compelling unity? That the world would believe that Jesus was sent by God. There are gospel implications to living in unity on Team Jesus.

Can you imagine if Christians everywhere operated as one unified force? Can you imagine if Christians truly died to self and lived worthy of our calling? What if we really did unite around our Triune God , with one hope, one faith, one baptism, one Gospel, one team and one mission? Can you imagine the impact that we would have on the world around us? Jesus could.

Reflection Questions:

1.    Which essential attitude do you struggle the most with in verse 2? (Humility, Gentleness, Patience or Love?)

2.    Are there any areas of life you have caused disunity in the church? What are some ways you can minimize unresolved conflict or disunity in your sphere of influence?

3.    What could it look like for you to ‘walk worthy of your calling’ this week where you live, work and play?

Memorize: Ephesians 4:1-3

4 “Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting[a] one another in love, 3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.”

Ephesians 4:7-16

Ephesians 4:7-16

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible. 

Read: Ephesians 4:7-16

At City Church we believe growing people change... but change into what? An apple? A better looking Facebook profile? A smarter, slimmer, more spiritual version of oneself? Not exactly. As we follow Jesus, we grow to be more like Him! Our minds, desires, relationships and lives begin to change and are constantly being transformed. (vs. 13-15)

As disciples or followers of Christ, we are called to more than “southern comfort living” or consuming the next trendy Bible study or worship service. We have an obligation to use and exercise our gifts to help train and build up one another in the church (see verse 12). But what does all this teaching and spiritual body building lead to? What are we shooting for?  

·      Unity in the faith & knowledge of Jesus (vs. 13)

·      Growing toward maturity in Christ. (vs. 13)

·      No longer easily deceived by false or twisted teaching (vs. 14)

·      Able to recognize and speak truth to one another (vs. 15)

So what is your plan to grow as a disciple of Jesus and become a disciple-maker here in Tallahassee? Who do you need in your life to help you? Who can you be investing in? Have you ever asked yourself those questions before? Most major endeavors fail to succeed simply because they lack a real plan or at least a next step in the series of baby steps towards Christ-likeness. So do you have an intentional plan to, “grow in every way into Him Who is the Head – Christ”(vs. 15)?

I ask you that question to spur you on to consider how Jesus in you could be multiplied through you in the world. Every disciple of Jesus has a two-part mission: to grow more like Jesus and to reproduce the life of Christ in others. Or put another way: To reach the lost and grow the reached.

So again, do you have a plan to grow more like Jesus? Need help? Need resources? Then I’d recommend that you start by checking out the City Church “GROW” page: full of resources and help for your spiritual growth. 

Reflection Questions:

1.    What is your plan to grow more like Jesus?

2.    What sorts of things have been most powerful in helping you grow and mature as a Christian?

3.    What are some ways you can exercise and/or utilize your gifts or experiences to help ‘reach the lost and mature the reached’ this week?

Memorize: Ephesians 4:15

15 “But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.”

Ephesians 4:17-24

Ephesians 4:17-24

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible. 

Read: Ephesians 4:17-24

Do you have an old shirt that you like to wear and everyone around you tries to tell you that it is too worn out and needs to be replaced? But it’s so comfortable! Even when you attempt to throw it out, you may be tempted to stick it in the bottom of a drawer “just in case” you want to wear it again.

The same holds true for the believer’s old way of life. The apostle Paul describes the “old self” (who you were before Christ) as one who walks in the futility of his thoughts. This is described as “darkened in understanding,” the opposite of being enlightened (Eph 1:18). This is the result of sin which spreads like cancer in our lives and makes us foolish to the things of God (cf. Rom 1:21). This futility is also described as being “excluded from the life of God” (cf. Col 1:21). Life is found in nothing else but the living God. This life is in the now and in the future (eternal life). Paul also describes the “old self” as one who has become callous and is given over to all kinds of sin. To sum it up, the “old self” is:

·      spiritual death

·      mental darkness

·      moral degeneracy and

·      physical depravity.

Believers in Jesus are often tempted to act this way even though we have no excuse to do so.

Paul says that we are to take off our old way of life (Rom 6:6; Col 3:9) and put on the new way of life (Rom 13:14) that has been provided by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. Some Bible versions translate this as something that has already been done while others treat this as a command from Paul to do so. Either way, the idea here is that this is what has happened in the life of a believer and the believer needs to be reminded of it. This “new self” is actually a restoration of what God planned for us all along by creating us in His image (Gen 1:26). In order to live in this new way of life, we have to be continually renewed by the “spirit of the mind” (Rom 12:2; Col 3:10), which, for the believer, is the Holy Spirit.

There is such a temptation to live like we used to live…to open that drawer and put on that old raggedy shirt that should have been done away with. Paul goes into detail about this struggle in Romans 7, but he tells the believer here in Ephesians 4 that we are to move on. Let the past be the past and don’t go back there. Keep running toward Christ and don’t look back!

So sport that new shirt in order that others might want one as well. Enjoy the freedom that wearing it gives you, and get rid of the old one once and for all. 

Reflection Questions:

1.    Does your life reflect the “old self” or “new self” described in Eph. 4:17–24?

2.    What is the “old shirt” that you want to keep holding on to and what will it take to get rid of it?

3.    What are some practical ways you can allow the “spirit of your mind” to be renewed?

Memorize: Ephesians 4:22–24

22 “You took off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires; 23 you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; 24 you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.”

Ephesians 4:25-32

Ephesians 4:25-32

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as your read this section of the Bible.

Read: Ephesians 4:25-32 

Like peas and carrots…Christian faith and Christian practice go hand in hand. Belief shapes behavior. In this section of Ephesians the apostle Paul points out some specifics dealing with purity and holiness in our Christian life.   However, when reading these particular instances we can’t forget the doctrine laid out in the chapter before.  We must keep in mind that the grace of Jesus Christ is the reason we put off our “old self” and pursue a life that reflects the one in whom we believe.

Paul’s commands were pretty hefty as he starts getting into the nitty gritty of Christian life.  Let’s get right to them.

1.  Speak the truth in love.  We belong to one body- the body of Christ (His church).  If we love one another and the body of Christ then we should not deceive, or lie to one another.  This breaks up the unity of the body of believers.   Even in the midst of selfish gain or profit, we must choose to speak the truth in love.

2.  Do not sin in your anger. Taken from Psalm 4:4 which states, “Be angry and do not sin; on your bed, reflect in your heart and be still.”  It is not a sin to feel angry, but when anger turns to wrath or breeds bitterness it can lead to sinful and damaging actions towards others.

3.  Do not steal, but do honest work.   Here we see a repeat of the eighth commandment. Idleness can create thieves; therefore stealing can be the effect of idleness. Work with integrity and honesty.  We are reminded in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters

4.  Speak only what is useful and edifying and let, “no foul language is to come from your mouth.”  This verse is often quoted in defense of why Christians should not cuss, however it goes much deeper than that. What comes out of the mouth is a reflection of what is in your heart (Matthew 15:18, Proverbs 4:23).  Again, this ties in with the previous instances Paul has challenged us with- to not lie, but speak truth in love, do not harbor anger, but doing honest work.

All of these things in which Paul writes grieve the Holy Spirit.  They are not pleasing to the Lord. We are called to be holy because God is holy (1 Peter 1:16, Leviticus 11:44).  We are made in His image and likeness and our lives are a meant to be a testimony about Christ to others. What does your life say to others about Jesus?

People will know Christ by our love for one another (John 13:34-35). All of the examples Paul mentions here in Ephesians are rooted in love because we were shown the ultimate love from Jesus Christ, dying on the cross for our sins, so that we may spend eternity with Him.

Paul concludes this call for a Christian heart and life by reminding us of the hope that we have. We are sealed and set apart by God (for those who believe in Him).  He reminds us to , “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” (vs. 32)

Reflection Questions

1.         How do you normally deal with anger? What could help you in verses 26-27?

2.         How much has God’s forgiveness towards you effected the way you treat others?

3.         What is one new way your daily life could point others to the grace of God this week? Is there someone you need to apologize to or forgive even if they didn’t apologize to you?

Memorize: Ephesians 4:25 (if you are feeling rather ambitious!) 

25 “Since you put away lying, Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another.”

Ephesians 5:1-5

Ephesians 5:1-5

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible. 

Read: Ephesians 5:1-5

I’ve always thought it was funny how self-conscious parents can get when their kids mince words that they are unable to really pronounce yet. Most of the time it is really cute, but sometimes the words sound like some other, not so socially acceptable words. Why are parents so self-conscious about this? Children are big imitators! They are copycats. Children are quite literally a reflection of their parents. People will think that the kids learned how to say curse words by hearing their parents! They do what mom and dad do. They say what mom and dad say. They tend to imitate mom and dad because that is how they learn to grow and live as little humans in the world.

How much greater an example do we have to imitate than the God of the universe? We are God’s children and He has given us himself to imitate. Paul tells us in this passage to “be imitators of God.” How do we do this? We look to the perfect example – Jesus Christ, the Messiah, God in the flesh. Jesus came to earth and loved us so much that he gave himself up for us by dying on the cross, and we are told to imitate this love with the people around us. How do we do it?

It starts inside of us. If we are going to imitate God, then it should be evident in our thoughts, our desires, and our actions. In this passage, Paul links words, deeds, and desires. He uses the examples of sexual immorality, impurity, greed, coarse talking, foolish talking, and crude joking. These are words, deeds, and desires done because of idolatry. When we do these things, we imitate the world and not God. We replace correct worship of God with idol worship of the stuff in the world. We have to be aware of our tendencies to run to these empty idols. Instead, we ought to run to our heavenly Father who saved us from sin and death. We must imitate Him.

Oftentimes, when striving toward a goal, it is helpful to keep the end in mind. Knowing where the end is helps you actually get there. Like in a race, you want to know how long the race is so you can do the work required to make it to the finish line. Paul reminds us that our end is the inheritance we have in the kingdom of the Messiah and of God. When we live as idolaters of the sinful things listed above, we aren’t keeping the end goal in mind; we are living in the moment with our own sinful desires at the forefront of our minds.

We must hold onto that future inheritance from verse 5 and keep focused as we strive to live as imitators of God in this world until we are with Him forever in heaven.

Reflection Questions:

1)    What are the idols in your life that you seem to imitate more than you imitate God? Do any of the ones in this section of Scripture hit home for you?

2)    What does this passage say the consequence is for keeping idolatrous habits rather than imitating God?

3)    What do you need to change in your life so that you can better imitate God’s love to the people around you? By whose power are you able to do this?

Memorize: Ephesians 5:1-2 – 1Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. 2And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.

Ephesians 5:6-14

Ephesians 5:6-14

PrayHumbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible.

ReadEphesians 5:6-14

Children are pretty good at making bad decisions.  

These bad decisions are often understandable because children are young, inexperienced, and often just don’t know any better. The other day, I knelt down by my friend’s 2-year-old and said, ”Hey buddy!” to which he didn’t respond, at all. His dad encouraged him, “Hey son, why don’t you go ahead and say hello?” to which he turned his head away from everyone in the group and shook his head while he mumbled, “I don’t want to say hello; I don’t want to be nice.” Of course everyone laughed! It was funny and completely forgivable – he’s a child and actually doesn’t know any better.

But, imagine if he was an adult shaking his head and saying he doesn’t want to be nice to me. I’d be a little freaked out and would probably run in the opposite direction in fear for my life. In any manner, it would be hurtful and awkward. Its not right to learn what is good, righteous, and true, just to ignore it even though you know better.

This is what Paul is warning the Ephesians about in this passage. He tells them to remember their identity as children of light. If they remember their identity, they will not get distracted into following the ways of darkness. 

He tells us that there will be deceivers who will try to distract us from being obedient to God. If you partner with them, being deceived, you become like “darkness.” This is not you! This is not your identity! You are children of light, so walk, act, say things, and do things like you actually are children of light. 

God reminds us what the light is. Our foundation, and source of all light that shines into the darkness exposing sin and illuminating righteousness, is Jesus Christ. Jesus, as the source of all light and righteousness, makes us able to be raised from death as he rose from the dead. Paul revisits the theme of “Death-to-Life” from chapter 2 with this other image of “Darkness-to-Light” here in chapter 5. Paul combines those themes as he says in verse 14, “rise from the dead and the Messiah will shine on you.” 

Life and light are dramatically connected to our Messiah, Jesus. We must trust in the Messiah for righteousness, remember our new identity as children of light, and forsake our old selves that used to follow darkness.

Reflection Questions:

1)    In what ways do you tend to drift back toward darkness and sin?

2)    What must you do to remain grounded in your new identity as a child of light?

3)    Think about the significance of moving from death to life (Ch. 2) and from darkness to light (Ch. 5). How does that impact the way you live your life?


Ephesians 5:8 – 8”For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”


Ephesians 5:15-21

Ephesians 5:15-21

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible.

Read: Ephesians 5:15-21

Make the most of your time.

Use your time wisely.

Never waste a moment.

Work while there is light.

Seize the day.

We hear these sorts of phrases all the time. As Christians, we must always be aware that this life is not all that there is. And this life is short! We have an eternal hope in heaven with Christ that this life is moving towards, but we aren’t there yet. So, we must live well while we are here. We must live intentionally.

Be aware of foolish pitfalls and continue to grow in wisdom. We do this by reading through and thinking about the Bible. Scripture is God’s word to us with everything we need to know about making the most of the time we have here. Paul tells us that wise living that understands God’s will means to be “filled by the Spirit.” He gives us a brief description of what that looks like in verses 19-21.

Paul explains in verse 19 that our speech to one another should be filled with kindness and the praises of God. Our conversations should be filled with awe toward Him. Everyday speech should contain praises to the Father that just roll off our tongues because it is already in our hearts.

He describes in verse 20 that we ought to “always” be thankful. As we walk through life, we look for ways to be grateful. We can be grateful for salvation, for friends, family, and our church. We can be grateful for meaning and purpose in Christ. We can be grateful for material blessings. We can be grateful for vacations. We can be grateful for a soft bed, a cool breeze, a sunset. We can be grateful for anything, and everything can lead us to worship God.

Paul encourages us in verse 21 to submit to one another in Christ. This is how we can distinguish ourselves as Christians. We learn humility and submission from Jesus himself. We are empowered to live humbly and in submission to the rest of the church because of Jesus.

For you, this could mean letting yourself be open to accountability from other believers. Don’t be defensive when you are called out for sin; humbly submit to others, repent, and grow as a Christian. Learn from those who are stronger in faith. Seek out a mentor to teach you how to respond to the gospel in everyday life. Commit to living openly in community within a City Group. There’s so many ways you can submit to other believers in your life.

Wise living is living by the Holy Spirit. Wise living is being sensitive to God’s word to us in the scripture and doing what it says.

Reflection Questions:

1)    Do you often feel like you are stretched for time? Or do you seem to use your time very well? Why is that? How can you improve?

2)    What are a few ways you can honor God by living more intentionally with the time you’ve been given?

3)    What are some things you can be thankful for? Take a moment in prayer to thank God for those things and worship Him.

Memorize: Ephesians 5:15-17

15Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— 16making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is

Ephesians 5:22-32

Ephesians 5:22-32

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible.

 Read: Ephesians 5:22-32

This passage isn’t about husbands and wives. This passage is about the relationship between Christ and the Church.  

Now, as we look at the relationship between Christ and the Church, we see incredible and direct application to how that affects the marriage relationship between a man and woman. Men are initiators of the relationship as Christ initiated salvation and came to earth to save people. Therefore, men ought to be leaders. Yes, women are called to submit to their husbands, but men are not called to lead their wives and families in a domineering, authoritarian manner! Men should be caring for their wives, praying for their wives, loving their wives unconditionally, and putting every need of their wives above their own. This passage is only controversial because a lot of men have drastically failed at leading their wives and their families in this way. They have failed to love their wives as Jesus has loved the Church.

In marriage relationships, men and women can honor God by reflecting Jesus’ love for the Church and the Church’s response to the love of Jesus. Jesus sets the standard. Men must model Jesus’ life. And women ought to model the loving response that every person in the Church has toward Jesus. For both men and women, this takes humility, submission, and reverence for God.

Men show humility by placing themselves second, sacrificially. Men submit to Christ by loving their wives unconditionally in the good and bad moments. Men also model what true repentance looks like. Men shouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge their sin and say, “I’m sorry, please forgive me” Men ought to model what it looks like to daily turn away from sin and ask forgiveness (Loving as Jesus did doesn’t mean that men are at all perfect like Jesus was!). Men show reverence for God by leading well and striving for unity (oneness; one flesh) with their wife.

Women show humility by submitting to the flawed leadership of their husband. Women choose to be persons who are wonderful to live with. Women show reverence for God in that they are gracious toward their husbands who are still sinners. They repent of sin together with their husbands who are also living in repentance. As the husband and wife grow more like Jesus they will grow in unity and intimacy. 

What an incredible thing for two sinners to be united in this way that reflects the glory of God’s grace to the world. 

Reflection Questions:

1)    Do you struggle with this passage? Why is that? Is it possible that you have a presumption about marriage, or the roles of men and women that you need to submit over to the authority of God’s word?

2)    The word “submit” is not a popular word but we are called to do it. Is there an area of your life, or marriage, that you need to submit to Christ?

3)    What can you do differently today in your marriage (or other relationships if single) that will display and reflect the love that Jesus has for the Church?

 Memorize: Ephesians 5:24-25

 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her

Ephesians 6:1-4

Ephesians 6:1-4

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible.

Read: Ephesians 6:1-4

As a parent of a 4 and 6 year-old, Ephesians 6:1-3 is one of my favorite passages. I quote it to them often when the glint of disobedience flashes in their eyes, or more often, the language of rebellion spews from their lips. But I can also tell you as a parent of two little ones that it has zero impact on their precious little reprobate hearts. The Greek word here is commonly used as a colloquialism to address adults (Matthew 9:2, Mark 2:5, 10:25, and throughout 1 John). So we should probably understand these commands in reference to believing adults and teenagers, individuals who are old enough to understand their relationship with the Lord and the duties that flow out of that.

To back track a bit…this Chapter 6 continues what commentators call the “house codes” that were started with instruction to husbands and wives at the end of chapter 5. Paul gives instruction for husband and wives (5:22-33), children and parents (6:1-4), and finally for slaves and masters (6:5-9). These “house codes” give instruction for how these different household relationships should interact in this new Christian dynamic where we, as believers, are all equal before God and there is “no favoritism” (6:9).

Who leads the home if we are all equal? Do my parents still have say over me if we are both believers on equal footing with God? How do I relate to my believing slave/master if we are equal before God? Questions like these naturally cropped up from the tension our new relationship with God brings to both the ancient and present cultures today.

Why obey parents? The apostle Paul tells us to obey our parents because it is right. His basis for making this statement goes back to the 10 Commandments where we are told to “honor our father and mother”. Our equal footing with our parents before God does not nullify the Law God has already given us. Paul writes this to a culture where the father’s patriarchal authority often existed even until death. As children grew up and got married, rooms would be added to the home to accommodate the growth of the family. In such a culture this probably wasn’t a real shocker and seemed pretty natural. The problem for us today is that Paul doesn’t frame the commandment in the context of a cultural command, but he says we should do it because it is right and because it is Scriptural. That leaves a huge cultural tension for the modern church that I will leave you to think through.

The command is not without purpose, however. Paul says it’s the first command “with a promise.” We are to obey so that “it will go well with you and that you may have a long life.” Going back to my tiny heathens I see the wisdom written here far more clearly than I did as a child or a self-absorbed adolescent. The rules we set in our house really are for our kids good. I don’t let my children run around with knives because I love them and don’t want them to hurt themselves. I don’t let Jack drill Emma in the face without consequence because I love them both, and want my boy to respect and care for women and my little girl to have a healthy relationship with men… and not be punched in the face.

By virtue of obeying the rules we set out, my kids should live longer more prosperous lives by not getting run over by cars when crossing the street, having stronger marriages, and good work ethics. Should we somehow not expect the same good will and wisdom from our parents even reaching into our adulthood? What if my parents try to run my life well into adulthood? What if they lay unreasonable demands on my shoulders?

That leads us to the final verse in this paragraph, “Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” This verse serves as a counter the weight, much like the previous section on marriage relationships where wives are called to submit to their husbands, and husbands are called to self-sacrificing leadership toward their wives. As parents of children, adolescents, and adults, we need to make sure our instruction is designed to point them toward God and what is right. Unreasonable or pointless controlling commands bring wrath. I see it even in my 6 year-old when the rules we set are sometimes based on what is convenient for me and not on what is just or right.

Reflection Questions: 

1.    What does it mean for us as adults to obey and honor our parents? (Remember, these are not contradictory commands or statements. Think through how these passages work together to bring clarity to the discussion.)

Consider Mark 7:10-13 in conjunction with our Ephesians passage where Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees for breaking God’s command to honor their father and mother with a tradition that had developed where if they made a vow to serve God they were free from obligation to obey or support their parents in their old age. (See also Genesis 2:24)

2.    Do we obey our parents when they ask us to do things that are sinful or wrong? Why or why not? 

3.    What are some instances where you have given and/or received instruction that provoked wrath? What do you think the heart motivation was behind that in both yourself and your parent/child in each situation?

Memorize: Ephesians 6:1-3

6 “Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, 3 so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land.

Ephesians 6:5-9

Ephesians 6:5-9

Pray: Humbly ask God for wisdom. Ask Him to teach you as you read the following section of the Bible.

Read: Ephesians 6:5-9

Slavery. To steal a phrase from Dean, I want to LMNOP the snot out of this passage. It’s easy to gloss over passages like this and move on. Lets just go back to talking about my kids obeying. That’s a lot more fun, right? No?

There were similarities and differences with the American slavery we are more familiar with. It carried a vastly different social stigma and rules than we think of in American slavery. In Italy it is estimated that somewhere between 35-45% of the population were slaves. I’ve seen estimates well over 50% in the city of Rome itself. People would become slaves for a variety of reasons; they might be foreigners conquered in war, some would be put into slavery to pay off a great debt, they might even sell themselves into slavery, they might be born as slaves, or they might be put into slavery as a punishment for a crime. Slaves were not all unskilled laborers, it was common to have household managers, accountants, teachers, philosophers, physicians, soldiers and other educated or skilled labor as slaves. Slaves could own property, they could even own other slaves, earn wages, and buy their freedom. There was also a very dark side to slavery, where slaves would be beaten and mistreated, used as prostitutes and worse. Basically slavery in the ancient world could range from the equivalent of a cushy job to horribly brutal and oppressive slavery.

The apostle Paul speaks into this culture and practice with difficult words for both the slave and the master. He addresses the slave first, telling them to obey their masters as to Christ, do their work as to Christ, please their masters as to Christ, and do it all with a good attitude as they would to Christ. To masters, Paul says they are to treat their slaves with the same attitude, not to threaten them, and to realize that ultimately they are not their master, but Jesus Christ is, and both are slave and subject to His rule and authority. God will show no favoritism or preference based on our social standing and position. The slave is just as valuable and loved as the free man.

Paul’s words are both affirming and subversive. First, he directly addresses the slave in his letter, not a message to the masters to bring back home to their slaves. The New Testament letters were read aloud to the congregation for all to hear and slaves would have been an equal part of that. Paul basically tells the masters that they are no longer the owner, Christ is. The slave does not serve the master, he serves Christ. The slave does not seek to please the master, he seeks to please Christ. The slave does not merely obey the master, he obeys Christ. The master is not even to threaten his slave, but treat him as a fellow slave and brother in Christ. Brutal, harsh treatment, selling into prostitution, or use for any immoral or illegal act are obviously prohibited.

Don’t miss the enormity of what Paul is saying here! We live in a culture where everyone and every thing tells us who we are, what our place is in society, and what our value and worth is. Paul puts that entire paradigm on its head by saying the very least of these is of equal value and standing before God. Those whom you work for, serve, and exercise authority over – whether you manage million dollar hedge funds, serve tables, beg for bread, or write mildly coherent commentaries – all of them are of great and equal value to God.

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”
– C.S. Lewis

Reflection Questions:

1.    Who do you have authority over and who has authority over you? Who is your boss? What are some practical ways this passage should change your heart, attitudes, and actions?

2.    Read 1 Peter 2:18-25. What do you do when the authorities over your life are brutal and unfair? Why?

3.    Read back over Chapter 5:15-6:9. What is the pattern Paul has laid out in all our relationships? (Hint: Ephesians 5:21; 22; 24; 6:1; 5 – what is the reoccurring theme?)

Memorize: Ephesians 6:9

 “And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him.”