So here I am, you know, putting up all these post on Ephesians for Sunday school class, and it occurred to me at about 11:00 last night — my wife had this coughing fit and woke me up (don’t tell her), and so, of course, I wake up thinking about Sunday’s Bible class — that I hadn’t put up any questions.
I don’t routinely put up questions with my lesson material because it’s not really blog-like and because I just kind of let the questions flow organically from the material as I teach. Which isn’t that good of a practice, but I much more prefer figuring out what Paul is teaching than figuring out how to teach what Paul is teaching. I mean, once you get Paul right, it pretty much teaches itself. Paul was a great teacher.
But it really is better to post questions. So here are a few that might help the class go —
Notice the structure of Eph 1. There’s a greeting. Paul talks about being chosen and predestined. He introduces some elements of the Holy Spirit’s work. And he relates a prayer he prays for his readers at many different churches.
a. Why tell the readers that they are chosen and predestined? The class isn’t allowed to explain their position on free will, because Paul didn’t write those verses to elicit a position on free will from his readers. WHY tell them that they are chosen and predestined?
[There are a number of possibilities, and they are perhaps all true —
i. To comfort them. They are chosen and therefore should feel secure (not secure against rebellion or faithlessness).
ii. To assure Jews and Gentiles that the Jews with faith and Gentiles with faith are all the “chosen people” — and heirs to the promises given Israel and the covenant with Abraham.
iii. To confirm Jews and Gentiles that they are predestined by God to be part of the same people or nation (this becomes clearer in c. 2). The point is that BOTH are chosen.
iv. To confirm that things are going exactly as God had planned. He always meant for the Gentiles to be grafted into the Jewish stock. This wasn’t a mistake or plan B. The Gentiles are just as chosen as the Jews.]
b. How does Paul’s teaching on the Spirit differ from the word-only view that’s so common in these parts?
[i. Paul says the Spirit is a down payment, engagement ring, or deposit. It’s an immediate, tangible reality, not merely a promise. Although God’s promises are utterly certain, God gives us the Spirit so we’ll feel and appreciate the certainty of his promise by seeing the work of the Spirit in our own lives and in the lives of fellow Christians.
ii. Paul says the Spirit is a “seal,” meaning it’s presence is confirmation of God’s ownership and authority. A seal is necessarily visible and not easily forged. Anyone can buy and read a Bible. Only a Christian gives evidence of the Spirit’s work in his life.]
c. Ultimately, what was Paul praying for?
[“(Eph 1:18 ESV) that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”]
d. Why would his readers have a problem knowing this? How hard can this be?
[i. I’m not sure that Paul meant that’s it’s hard — only that his readers failed to understand its implications. But then again, maybe the Greeks had trouble with the concept of a new heavens and new earth where all nations would be one and they’d live forever with Jesus.]
e. What are the implications of this that Paul thought they were missing?
[i. Unity today because we’re going to be united forever later.
ii. No racial or ethnic separation today for the same reason.
iii. God’s power is great enough to carry us through whatever we suffer in life.
iv. God’s promises are so great and so real that we can withstand persecution.]
f. Why did Paul pray the prayer?
[i. That’s stupid. He prayed the prayer because he wanted God to answer it!]
g. And what did he expect God to do in response to his prayer?
[i. (Eph 1:17-18 ESV) “give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened.”]
h. Would we be willing to pray such a prayer today — confident that God could and would grant the petition if it suited his purposes?
i. Why don’t we?
j. Why not ask God to help us understand the inheritance he has promised us? Do we understand it well enough now? Does it motivate us as it should now?
k. Paul refers to the church as Christ’s “body.” What is the significance of this image?
[i. We are in some sense a part of Christ. Therefore, we participate in his resurrection and reign.
ii. We share in his mission.
iii. We are Jesus incarnate on earth, doing for Jesus what Jesus did while personally here.
iv. Jesus suffers as we suffer. We should feel the same about each other.
v. We share in Jesus’ humiliation and servanthood.
vi. We are sons of God, as he is the Son of God.]
l. If Jesus “fills everything in every way” and we, as his body, fill him, what does “everything” include? Does it include the creation?
m. “Fill” can be translated “complete” or even “fulfill.” What would be our role in “fulfilling” or “completing” creation?
[i. As discussed in the preceding posts, we rule with Christ. Therefore, we rule as he rules — as servant kings. We therefore serve creation by helping “(Gen 2:15 ESV) to work it and keep it.”
ii. The dominion was given in Gen 1 was to protect the creation will also working the creation so that it would support life.]
That should be enough questions for a class or two.