Lesson Teaching Videos are included in each week listed below.
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When reading Scripture, understanding the genre or type of literature you are reading is important. The genre alerts you to how you are to read and interpret those words. The books we are studying are letters or epistles, so the literature type is primarily "didactic." Paul’s letters contain important information that he wanted the churches (and Philemon) to know. So, notice as you study how Paul teaches his hearers, explaining important spiritual truths. Most of his teaching is very straightforward.
Also, observe in Paul’s letters how he wrote in a traditional Greek letter-writing style. When reading Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians, notice the similar style and common structure:
The above formula organizes the material in the letter. Also keep in mind that in many cases, Paul responds in his letters to some question or problem.
Assignment: Take some time to identify these elements in Paul’s letters (maybe even all 13 of them). Notice what is missing or added. Familiarize yourself with Paul’s greeting. Don’t miss out on the important doctrine that Paul begins with in his opening. So much different than our texting and emailing world, we find rich theology even in Paul’s salutation!
Articles are not substitutes for the written Word; articles written by Bible scholars can be helpful, but make sure they are theologically sound. Stay clear of work that is not based on clear, disciplined, systematic, sound practices. You will find that even Bible scholars disagree on how to handle particular texts. Election and predestination are among the most heated topics. Studying your Bible systematically and regularly will help you discern where you land on these important debated topics.
Before studying Ephesians, it’s good practice to learn more about Paul. For instance: Who is he? How did he meet God? What did God call Paul to do? What is the purpose of the letter that he wrote? This kind of investigation is called an author study. Each word of the Bible is 100 percent from the mind of God and 100 percent written by inspired men. But that doesn’t mean that Paul was a mere puppet. God used Paul's personality, upbringing, skills, and knowledge to reveal Himself through Paul’s pen. Knowing more about the author helps the reader understand the context of these letters and what Paul intended for his original audience to know. Without understanding the author's intent of the Scripture, it is easy to fall prey to poor interpretation of the passage. Here is a rule of thumb: you cannot accurately interpret and apply Scripture unless you understand what the author meant at the time!
Do a bit of research on your own about Paul's life and ministry. Knowing more about Paul, his times, and the context of your passage will help you know and understand the intention of his writing. Here are a few ideas:
Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving in Ephesians 1:15-19 is breathtaking and loaded with requests. Though timely in nature, this prayer is timeless in its meaning for us today. How beautiful is it that God intended readers two millennia later to learn how to pray through these very prayers.
Do you ever wonder how to pray? Do you ever get bored or lose interest when you pray? In his book Praying the Bible, Donald Whitney addresses these questions affirming that difficulty in praying is typical for most of us; yet, the solution is simple. Whitney’s answer is this:
PRAY THROUGH A PASSAGE. It’s that simple. We can learn to pray better by using God’s inspired words to pray back to Him. By using the Scriptures that are right in front of us, we too can offer up more powerful prayers. “When we use Scripture to shape our prayers, our prayers will be far more biblical than if we just make up our own.” – Donald Whitney
Also, take a look at this prayer resource from Desiring God that explains Paul’s seven prayers that can also be your prayers.
In Ephesians 2 Paul teaches about unity. In verses 11-19, he uses three transition words to draw our attention to the what, why, and how of unity. Circle the following: "therefore" (v 11), "but now" (v 13), and "so then" (v 19).
Paul uses conjunctions frequently for the purpose of connecting his thoughts. So, when you see a word like therefore, stop and pay attention to Paul’s flow. A good Bible student will look to what is before and after the passage being studied. Ask this question when you stop: what did Paul say before the conjunction and how does it connect to what he is saying now?
THEREFORE: This links to something stated in the previous paragraph. It requires the reader to look back to the previous text and recall what Paul said before.
BUT NOW: This phrase suggests that something's changed. The reader should notice how things are different. Why are they different? What happened?
SO THEN: This is a cause/effect phrase. Look at verses 19-22 and notice the result of what happened.
When you read questions #10 and #11 in your workbook, stop and think about what precedes the conjunctions: what is the concluding thought? Is that thought now connected to a new point or argument? Take time to understand the author’s flow of thought.
Articles are not substitutes for the written Word of God; articles written by Bible scholars can be helpful, but make sure they are theologically sound. Stay clear of work that is not based on clear, disciplined, systematic, sound practices. You will find that even Bible scholars disagree on how to handle particular texts. Regeneration is a debated doctrine: some people believe regeneration precedes faith, and others believe faith precedes regeneration. Studying your Bible systematically and regularly will help you discern where you land on these important debated topics.
The Blue Letter Bible is a website (or a cell phone app) that provides an array of study tools linked to the Bible. This free resource offers numerous short tutorials that provide enough help to get the astute Bible student started!
By using these tools, you will begin to “own the text,” meaning, you will become more confident in your interpretation and understanding because you have done the dig work. Browse the Blue Letter Bible by clicking on the link below and then choose the "Quickstart Guide."
You can download the BLB App from your phone’s App Store. Search for the Blue Letter Bible. Below is the icon you’re looking for:
Note: The tutorials are easier to find on the website. Use the link above to find and view the tutorials. The app is more useful after you understand how to use the tools from the website.
You can find the She Is Becoming podcast on our Grace Church app under Media.
Set aside 10 minutes to take this inventory. Share what you’ve learned about yourself in your small groups.
After performing your own dig work, use a chart like this to study the teaching on spiritual gifts.
The best way to interpret Scripture is to use other Scripture. Learning how to cross-reference is an important Bible study skill. Let’s use Lesson #7 (specifically question #13) to help us. On page 39 you were asked, “According to verse 29-32, how do we grieve the Holy Spirit?”
After you think through your own initial thoughts and try to answer the question, check out Scripture to see if the Bible gives you an answer to this question. When you cross-reference or check out other passages related to the one you are studying, you find out what the Bible says consistently (throughout Scripture) about the same topic. For example, cross-referencing the word “grieve” may help you connect other verses to get a fuller understanding of the topic. When you read corresponding verses from other verses, you are better able to answer the question, “How do I grieve the Holy Spirit?”
Watch this Blue Letter Bible tutorial to show you how to do a cross-reference:
Once you look up the word grieve on BLB, click the purple cross reference tab and you will find other Scriptures that talk about what grieves God’s heart.
Notice question #7 of this lesson in your workbook: "Paul says that there is evidence of light in the believer's life: goodness, righteousness, and truth. How would you define each of these attributes?"
It’s important to think through common words. We may think we know what familiar words mean, but do we really? When using an online dictionary to define goodness, one will find this definition: the state or quality of being good; moral excellence.
However, when using BLB, you will find the definition for the word goodness in the original Greek defined like this: goodness signifies that moral quality which is described by the adjective agathos. It is used, in the New Testament, of regenerate persons: see Romans 15:14, Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 5:9, and 2 Thessalonians 1:11. Understanding that goodness has everything to do with regeneration is a big deal!
Watch this BLB tutorial to see how to do a word search:
After watching the tutorial, perform your own BLB word search for the other two words: righteousness and truth.
In this week’s Think Theologically section, we are encouraged to think about what it means that the Church is the bride of Christ.
After taking the time to think, cross reference, and write out your answers, use this online tool for any further questions.
Use commentaries only after you have done your own dig work. A commentary is a reference work that has detailed information and scholarship that provides help for interpreting Scripture. Using a resource like Precept Austin is helpful because of the myriad of contributors. Check out this resource and discover more information about the topic of evil.
EPAPHRAS (Ĕpʹ ȧ phrăs) Personal name meaning “lovely.” A Christian preacher from whom Paul learned of the situation of the church in Colossae (Col. 1:7). He was a native of Colossae whose ministry especially involved Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. Later he was a companion of Paul during the latter’s imprisonment. Though Epaphras is mentioned in the NT only in the letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, Paul evidently held this man in high regard.
Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., & Butler, T. C. (Eds.). (2003). Epaphras. In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 491). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.