If you look up the word citizenship in a dictionary, you may find concepts like group, rights, and responsibilities. It makes sense, then, that in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul used this word to explain our status in God’s kingdom. But he used another word as well: household, which allows for the intimacy of our blood-bond with God and fellow believers. It’s a family—and in families, love is both natural and essential.
Illustration by Adam Cruft
Scholars believe the apostle Paul was imprisoned when he wrote his letter to Christians in Ephesus. In today’s study passage, he speaks eloquently about the eternal truths of our salvation.
Think back to the joy you felt when you first understood the miracle of redemption.
The word previously appears twice in verses 2-3. What contrast do you think Paul is emphasizing?
The apostle writes that before salvation, believers were not just sinful but actually dead, another word that appears twice (vv. 1, 5). His use of the Greek nekrous, meaning “corpse,” strengthens the sense that this isn’t just a metaphor. It’s difficult to comprehend the great depths of our need for Jesus, but reflecting happily on our experience is beneficial—even invigorating and exciting. Why do you think Paul explained this mystery in such detail to believers in a mature church? How might your answer also apply to your own life?
Jesus said that loving one’s friends is very different from loving one’s enemies, and to do the latter is to be like God (Luke 6:32-35). Take an honest look at related situations from your experience. Realistically, what kinds of things get in the way of responding to people as Jesus might? Paul reminds us that we were once the enemies whom God loved (Eph. 2:2). What feelings does this kindle in you?
In His love, God gave the grace needed to move us from death to life, even when we couldn’t desire it ourselves (vv. 3-5). Examine your compassion for people who don’t yet know God. Has it increased? Are you grounded in Christlike humility? Or do you see yourself as better than them?
Though we were dead, God made us alive and also “seated us with Him in the heavenly places” (vv. 5-6). Do you see a connection between this and Paul’s phrase “boundless riches of His grace” (v. 7, emphasis added)?
CONTINUING THE STORY
Paul continues to remind the Ephesians of the many ways they were once outsiders with regard to God—but now are as close as possible.
Paul refers to two kinds of separation—one between Gentiles and Jews, and another between God and all people before they come to faith. How is Christ the resolution of both (vv. 11-16)?
While Jews had some benefits as God’s chosen people (v. 12), the rest of the passage makes clear that in His blood-bought family, there are no preferred groups. As believers, we are all made into “one new person” and are “being built together,” with equal access “in one Spirit to the Father” (vv. 15, 22, 18). What effect does this awareness have on your feeling of comfort in the body of Christ?
Some people enjoy solitude; others thrive on community. What makes a life whole?
A sense of belonging—which can be found both in privacy with the Lord and in busy church life—is vital to our well-being as humans. In Christ, we have unity with God as well as connection with our brothers and sisters in Him. Jesus’ gift is not just the stunning prize of eternal life, but also peace, fellowship, and family.
Consider how this study applies to your life.
Do you recall your earliest days as a Christian? Is there a “wow” factor in your recollection of rebirth? Maybe you were so young then that it’s hard to remember your starting point. But now is always a good time to ponder the biblical truths of salvation and experience grateful astonishment. Doing so keeps our faith vibrant and our love strong. The Ephesians, however, may have missed this point in Paul’s letter to them. Later, Jesus spoke a complaint against them: “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first” (Rev. 2:4-5 NLT). We all want to know we have brought the Lord pleasure. So, what things should we be considering?
Before giving that painful rebuke, Jesus had some praise for the Ephesians’ deeds, labor, perseverance, and endurance of persecution (vv. 2-3). Could focusing too much on those admirable efforts have diminished their appreciation of Jesus, costing them their “first love”? Exalting Him costs nothing and keeps love alive. Enjoy doing so for a moment.
A habit of comparison can erode our confidence before God and even fuel heartbreaking envy. In the church, we’re all God’s children. What can you do to lift up and support all kinds of believers?
Reflecting on the wonder of your salvation will fill you with the Holy Spirit and deepen your relationship with God. What’s more, you’ll become an encouragement to other Christians—and that strengthens the whole church.