November 11, 2007 This lesson was skipped in class due to a building re-model problem that prevented us from having Sunday School today.
Five of Paul’s epistles were written while he was in prison: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and 2 Timothy. It is generally thought that Ephesians was written between 60-62 AD. The oldest manuscripts do not include the salutation in verse 1 to Ephesus, but rather a blank line. The line was to be filled in by the recipients, i.e. some address belongs there; ἐν ᾿Εφέσῳ (en Efesw) is the predominant address, but several other churches also received this circular letter as their own therefore making Ephesians an encyclical letter, intended for more than one audience. As you read Ephesians, knowing that it is a letter in general to faithful members of the church everywhere, what can you conclude about their qualities? Might you apply this letter to present-day faithful members of the church? If so, what lessons are there to be learned from it today?
Ephesus was a city with as many as 250,000 people, a famous shrine to Artemis (goddess Diana) and the most important city in western Asia Minor (now Turkey). It was considered the fourth largest, if not the third largest, city in the Roman empire. It had a harbor that at that time opened into the Cayster River, which in turn emptied into the Aegean Sea. Because it was at an intersection of major trade routes, Ephesus became a commercial center.
“Paul’s first visit to Ephesus occurred on his return trip from Corinth to Caesarea in Judea at the end of his second major missionary hourney (Acts 18:19-21). Ephesus then became an important base for Paul during his third missionary journey. He stayed there for more than 2 years, and his success at winning residents of the city to Christianity led to a famous riot (Acts 19). Other details of Paul’s time in Ephesus are not directly reported, although he alluded to “fighting with beasts in Ephesus” (1 Cor. 15:32); and the long period of time he spent there could have provided the setting for one or more of the hardships and imprisonments that he alluded to elsewhere (2 Cor. 1:8; 11:23-27; Philippians. 1:13; 2 Tim. 4:6; Philemon 1:1). Paul is not known to have visited Ephesus again, although he did meet with the elders of the church there while traveling through Miletus on his way back to Caesarea at the conclusion of the third missionary journey (Acts 20:17-38).
Later tradition associated John and even Mary, the mother of Jesus, with the city. However, another tradition asserts that Mary died and was buried in Jerusalem. Ephesus, nevertheless, remained an important Christian center in the postapostolic period. A major city through most of the Byzantine period, the harbor eventually filled with silt, which led to the demise of this venerable city. Nevertheless, the city’s abandonment helped preserve it; today, a tourist can walk on the same roads and see some of the same buidings that stood during the first century when Paul and others preached the ‘good news’ to those in Ephesus who would listen.”–Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament, pg. 242.
From the overall tone of this letter, what can you deduce about the Ephesians?
Ephesians Chapter 1:
v. 3-14: Note that this comprises one long sentence in Greek, with three major sections. Each section ends with a note of praise for God (God the Father) (vv. 6, 12, 14), focusing on a different member of the Godhead. What does this structure teach you?
v. 1-4; 17-23: What do these verses teach you about Godhead and our relationship to it? The words “without blame” can also be translated as “unblemished.” The Greek word translated unblemished (ἀμώμους, amwmous) is often used of an acceptable paschal lamb. Christ, as our paschal lamb, is also said to be unblemished (Heb 9:14; 1 Pet 1:19). Since believers are in Christ, God views them positionally and will make them ultimately without blemish as well (Jude 24; Eph 5:27; Col 1:22).
v. 4-5: Because God loves us have we (also those to whom Ephesians was read) been given the Gospel? Does God love less those who do not have the Gospel? Does Eph. 2:12-19 bear any light on this question? Why were certain people predestined to be members of the church and not others? Why must one be adopted if we are all inherently children of God?
v. 4-6: What do you learn here about your membership in God’s church? What is predestination? What is foreordination? Is there a difference? Note that the Greek here is “foreordination,” not predestination. What does an inheritance have to do with foreordination? See v. 11 here.
v. 9: What is the “mystery of his will?” Do the following verses answer this question?
v. 10: What is the “dispensation of the fulness of times?”
v. 12: What does it mean to have “first trusted in Christ?” How does this bear on the ideas aforetomentioned?
v. 14: What is the “earnest of our inheritance” given “until the redemption of the purchased possession?” What is the earnest & what is the possession? How is the earnest given? How was the possession purchased? And how does this all culminate with the “praise of his glory?” Who’s glory?
v. 16-23: How do you think Paul’s inclusion of the Ephesians in his prayers affected him/them? What can you learn from Paul’s prayer? How is this prayer similar/different to The Lord’s Prayer?
Ephesians Chapter 2:
As you read this chapter, consider the Roman custom of pater familias , Roman citizenship and how it was obtained all of which Paul’s readers would be well acquainted with and how this would influence their understanding of becoming citizens with Israel, being adopted into God’s family or being a member of the household of God.
v. 1-7: When & in what ways are we “quickened”? How do you feel about this word, “quickened?” What does the word teach about how people walk prior to & after being “quickened?” (v. 2) What does calling Satan “prince of the power of the air” mean to you? How does “conversation” alter before & after quickening? Who is the “he” mentioned in v. 7? What does this teach?
v. 8-9: What does it mean that “by grace are ye saved through faith?” Is faith a “work?” Are we saved by grace OR by works? What works was Paul specifically referring to? How does this historical context aid in our LDS understanding? Why might the rest of Christianity miss this distinction?
v. 10: Who does “his” refer to in the first line? What does this teach us about our relationships?
Ephesians Chapter 4:
v. 11-16: What is being given here? By whom? In what way does this gift facilitate perfection of the saints? What is the “edifying of the body of Christ?” Why use the word “body?” In what ways are we children and then grow into adulthood in the gospel?
v. 26: Note the JST here. What does this teach us? Compare Matt.5:22. Keep in mind that scholars believe the “without a clause” to be a scribal insert, not original to the author.
Ephesians Chapter 5:
v. 21-33: What is being described here? Does 1 Peter 3:4-6 help? Reading this passage, and keeping Paul’s other writings in mind, what do you think Paul thought of marriage, women, men?
Ephesians Chapter 6:
Ah…one of my favorite passages, v. 11-18: Why does Paul use this “armor” metaphore? Compare Alma 43:19-21 and D&C 27:15. See Elder Packer’s comments “The scriptures speak of “the shield of faith wherewith,” the Lord said, “ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (D&C 27:17). This shield of faith is best fabricated in a cottage industry. While the shield can be polished in classes in the Church and in activities, it is meant to be handcrafted in the home and fitted to each individual.” and here: “Lest parents and children be “tossed to and fro,” and misled by “cunning craftiness” of men who “lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14), our Father’s plan requires that, like the generation of life itself, the shield of faith is to be made and fitted in the family. No two can be exactly alike. Each must be handcrafted to individual specifications.
The plan designed by the Father contemplates that man and woman, husband and wife, working together, fit each child individually with a shield of faith made to buckle on so firmly that it can neither be pulled off nor penetrated by those fiery darts.
It takes the steady strength of a father to hammer out the metal of it and the tender hands of a mother to polish and fit it on. Sometimes one parent is left to do it alone. It is difficult, but it can be done.
In the Church we can teach about the materials from which a shield of faith is made: reverence, courage, chastity, repentance, forgiveness, compassion. In church we can learn how to assemble and fit them together. But the actual making of and fitting on of the shield of faith belongs in the family circle. Otherwise it may loosen and come off in a crisis.”