Sunday School 12 02 2012

 

“Blessed in Christ”

Lesson Text: Ephesians 1:3-14

Background Scripture: Ephesians 1

Devotional Reading: Psalm 33:8-12

 

Ephesians 1:3-14 (KJV)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:

10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

 

OBJECTIVES

To understand that when you are born again into God’s family; you are born with many blessings.

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To know that through Christ we share the riches of God’s grace.

To encourage believers to praise God for every spiritual blessing.

  

INTRODUCTION

Adoption, Ancient and Modern

  The practice of adoption goes back thousands of years. Properly motivated, adoption is an act of grace toward orphans or children whose parents are unable to care for them.

  In the Roman world of Paul's day, there was another important consideration when it came to adoption: a father who had no sons might adopt one to be his heir. This allowed the father's assets to be distributed according to his will and for his family line and name to continue.

  A high-profile example of this was the practice begun by Caesar Augustus for a Roman emperor to select a person suitable to be his heir (and therefore the next emperor). Tiberius, the emperor at the time of Jesus' crucifixion (Luke 3:1), was the adopted stepson of Augustus. Tiberius became the heir- and emperor-apparent when he was adopted by Caesar Augustus.

  This was the background when Paul wrote of Christians being adopted by God. As adopted sons and daughters, we become heirs of promises and privileges we could not earn and do not deserve. Through God's grace, we become “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).

 

HOW TO SAY IT

Artemis   Ar-teh-miss.

LESSON BACKGROUND

Time: A.D. 60

Place: from Rome 

  Paul's letter to the Ephesian Christians has traditionally been seen as one of his four Prison Epistles (the other three being Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon). This is because of references to the author's being a prisoner (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1) or being in bonds (6:20). The likely scenario is the situation described at the end of the book of Acts. This gives a date for the writing of Ephesians of about A.D. 60. The church Paul was now writing to was not opposing him and his teaching. Rather, it was basically a sound congregation that was ready to receive advanced instruction in theology and ethics.

  The city of Ephesus and its church are important in the pages of the New Testament. Paul briefly visited that city at the end of his second missionary journey, promising to return later (Acts 18:18-21). This he did on the third missionary journey, spending three years in and around this city (19:10; 20:31; ad 54–57), resulting in the longest “located ministry” we know of for the apostle.

  Ephesus was a leading city of the Roman Empire. It was a large administrative center, perhaps 200,000 in population. Its Jewish population was substantial (some estimate more than 10,000) with many synagogues. Ephesus was a bustling seaport at the time, the point of contact for trade from the eastern and the western parts of the empire. Its harbor eventually filled with silt and became unusable, however, so the site was abandoned within a few hundred years. Ephesus was home to the Temple of Diana (Artemis), one of the so-called “seven wonders of the ancient world” (Acts 19:35).

 

The Father Adopts Us (Ephesians 1:3-6)

1. Why is it so important for us to understand our “spiritual blessings” in Christ? (Ephesians 1:3)

  Ordinarily in Paul’s letters, he followed up his greeting to his readers with thanksgiving for them. In this epistle, however, he delayed the thanksgiving so that he could offer extended praise to the Father (v. 3). "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." God the Father has made us rich in Jesus Christ!  

  Here, Paul lifts up an important characteristic of a good father: one who blesses his children. In this Paul sees God as more than the Father of Jesus alone, but the Father of many sons and daughters. The blessings are heavenly, spiritual in nature, provided to those who are in Christ (also Ephesians 2:6). 

  When you were born again into God's family, you were born with every kind of spiritual blessing. They are spiritual in nature as opposed to temporal and material. Through Christ, you share in the riches of God's grace (Eph. 1:7; 2:7), God's glory (Eph. 1:18; 3:16), God's mercy (Eph. 2:4), and "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8). Our Heavenly Father has made us rich in His Son.   

What Do You Think?   

  How should knowing that you have “all spiritual blessings” affect your daily life?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

  During difficult times “in the valley” | During good times “on the mountaintop” | Psalm 73:23-26

2. Why did God choose us? (Ephesians 1:4)

  We will see the word adoption specifically in verse 5 (next), but the verse before us leads into it. Adoption is not a random process since prospective parents have a choice in selecting a child for adoption. We are reminded of this in Paul's statement that God hath chosen us.

  As we might expect from our eternal, ageless God, this is not a recent choice, but was accomplished before the foundation of the world (compare 2 Thessalonians 2:13).  God’s choice was eternal; His plan is timeless. The fall of man was no surprise to God, and redemption was no afterthought. God provided for our salvation before one star glittered in infinite expanse. We must be careful not to draw false conclusions from this sublime truth. Some scholars believe this means that everyone's status was decided by God before anyone was born. However, we should not fall into fatalism—the belief that free will does not exist, that we can make no choices that influence the outcome. God has chosen us by His grace; we must choose Him through our faith (John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8, 9).

  Our status changes as a result. We become holy (set apart in a godly way) and without blame (having our sins forgiven). We gain these attributes because of God's efforts through Christ. Our salvation is God's work, not ours.

3. Why did God predestine believers to be adopted? (Ephesians 1:5)

  The emphasis here is not on predestination, but on adoption. This act of loving mercy is described as coming from the good pleasure of his will. Our adoption into the family of God is not done grudgingly or under compulsion. God's desire is for us to be reconciled to Him, to be included among His people. This is based on the work of Jesus Christ. Inclusion into God's family is a marvelous demonstration of God's love (see 1 John 3:1).

  Through Jesus Christ, the Son, we become spiritual children of the Father. Under Roman law, adopted sons enjoyed the same standing and entitlements as natural sons. Similarly, the Father reckons believers as His true children and as recipients of all the benefits that go with that status.

4. How should we as heirs of the throne be mindful of the love that God has for us?  (Ephesians 1:6)

  We may not fully understand God's reasons for loving us in such a gracious way, but we can respond by praising Him and giving Him the glory that is due to Him. Our adoption as sons and daughters of the great Father God who created the universe gives no cause for smugness or pride. Instead, it should give us daily pause to remember how blessed we are and how this blessing is undeserved.

  This blessed acceptance cannot be separated from the grand act of love that characterizes God's work in Jesus Christ. He is referred to here as the beloved (compare Matthew 3:17). Christ is the Son of God in a unique way, but God's love is extended to all who believe and are adopted as sons and daughters in Christ (John 1:12; Galatians 3:26). Our adoption results in full acceptance as children of God, with all the rights of an heir (Galatians 4:7). 

 

The Son Redeems Us (Ephesians 1:7-11)

5. What other spiritual blessing did God bestow upon us? (Ephesians 1:7, 8)

   Paul now shifts from extolling our adoption to a fuller explanation of how this is accomplished. Despite the magnificence of our having been chosen by the Father, this spiritual blessing is not the only one we receive. Paul also mentioned the blessing of redemption (Ephesians 1:7, 8). Through redemption the Father makes His choosing effective in our lives. The Greek noun translated “redemption” (v. 7) refers to a ransom. It was used in ancient times to describe the buying back of someone who had been sold into slavery or had become a prisoner of war. The noun also described freeing a person from the penalty of death. Because we were born with a sinful nature, the Father was not attracted to us due to any goodness He saw in us. Despite our sinful condition, He rescued us from our state of separation from His holiness. The Father did this by sending His Son to become the sacrifice for our sins. By His blood, the Messiah ransomed us from slavery to sin and from the sentence of death under which we languished.  

  “The forgiveness of sins” (v. 7). Remission rests on ransoming. Forgiveness means the bearing away of all our shortcomings. God’s remission is unqualified and unchanging. His Word is very specific in telling us what He has done with au sins; He has blotted them out (lsa. 43:25; 44:22), He has removed them (Ps. 103:11-12), He has cast them behind His back (Isa. 38:17) He has cast them into the depths of the sea (Mic. 7:19), and He remembers them no more (Heb. 8:12). God forgiveness is free, full, and final. When He forgives, He forgets. Our redemption is measured by the boundless resources of His marvelous, infinite grace. This is a very rich epistle which reveals our riches in Christ.

What Do You Think?

  How does the realization that your sins are forgiven result in your sinning less and less?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

  In your thought life | In your actions | Romans 7:15-20

  God's investment in us doesn't stop once we have been redeemed. The result is (or should be) a daily friendship with Him, healing in our relationships with others, a harvest of spiritual fruit, etc. There are difficulties and pain in this growth process, but the basic question of who owns us is fully settled—a joyful thing indeed! —A. W.

6. Does God reveal the mystery of His will to believers?  (Ephesians 1:9, 10) 

  In the Bible, there are various ways that God makes His will known to humans. One is the pattern of prophecy and fulfillment, with the intention of God's being disclosed before the event. Another pattern is that of a mystery being revealed, something initially hidden from human understanding, but now being shown (Ephesians 3:9). We understand God as a self-revealing God, for we cannot unravel the deep things of God by our own deep thinking. We know only those things that God chooses to reveal to us. In this case, Paul sees the previously concealed mystery as the purpose God had in the redeeming mission of His Son, Jesus (Romans 16:25).

  Paul declared that the Father’s eternal plan was to head up all things in the Son at the divinely appointed time (Eph. 1:10). This includes everything “in heaven, and which are on earth.” From eternity, the Father has intended to give the Son possession of all things. But from our viewpoint within history, we can see that the Father set His plan in motion at just the right time, namely, when the Son came into the world at His second advent. On that day, our sorrows will be over, our conflicts will be at an end, and our weakness will be replaced by strength.

 

Brought Together in Christ (Ephesians 1:11-14)

Jewish Believers in Christ (vs. 11, 12)

7. Who also obtained an inheritance through faith in Christ?  (Ephesians 1:11, 12)  

    Previously, in Ephesians 1:4, 5, Paul mentioned the Father’s plan for believers. Now the apostle returned to that theme. He noted that the Father causes all things to happen in accordance with “the counsel of his own will” (v. 11). This included the Jews such as Paul coming to faith in the Son.

  The divine purpose was that the conversion of Jews to the Son would bring the Father eternal praise (v. 12). Similarly, according to Romans 8:28,all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” The historical record is that the apostles and other Jews were the first to trust in the Son. Admittedly, the majority of Jews who were contemporaries of Paul rejected the Messiah. Nevertheless, a remnant of that generation of Jews formed the nucleus of the church. Through them, the Gospel went out to the entire world. Those early Jewish believers were walking testimonies of the Father’s glory. (Cook)  

 

The Spirit Seals Us (vs. 13, 14)           

8. What does Paul say the seal represents in the life of a believer? (Ephesians 1:13, 14)    

  Paul noted that when his readers trusted in the Son, they were “sealed” (Eph. 1:13), which is the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Father identified believers as His own by giving them the Spirit, whom He promised long ago. By calling the Spirit a seal, Paul may have raised a number of images in the minds of his readers. At that time, seals were put on documents to vouch for their authenticity. They were also attached to goods being shipped to indicate right of possession and safeguard protection. Sometimes they represented an office in the government. Any of these uses of seals might symbolize a part of the Holy Spirit’s work in the lives of those who follow the Messiah.  

  But for Paul, the Spirit is not only a seal He is also “the earnest” or deposit (v. 14). In the apostle’s day, a deposit was an initial payment or first installment assuring a retailer that the full purchase price would be forthcoming. At the end of time, believers will receive the final installment of eternal life from the riches of the Father’s grace. During the interim, the Spirit’s presence in our lives assures us of coming glory. This giving of the Spirit is also to “the praise of [God’s] glory” (compare v. 12).   

What Do You Think? 

   How has your response to being sealed by the Holy Spirit changed as you have grown in faith? How should it change?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

  Responses of worship | Responses of service | Responses of witness | Romans 8:9

  It is not simply our lip profession, our religious activity, or our good works, but the witness of the Spirit that makes our profession authentic.

 

POINTS TO PONDER

1. Our Heavenly Father loved us before we were born. (Ephesians 1:3)

2. God chose to given us His grace through Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:4-12)   

3. You are joint heirs with Christ, thank God for all He has done for you. (Ephesians 1:13, 14)

 

CONCLUSION

Living in Christ 

  The concept of being “in Christ” is found in various forms 11 times in Ephesians 1 (verses 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, and twice in 13). Being “in Christ” means our existence is tied up with our risen Savior. We believe that Jesus is alive, that we have a relationship with Him, and that the church is His body. Paul has given us the great promises that we have been adopted into the family of God, that Christ is truly the one who saves us, and that the Holy Spirit has been given to keep us in His grace. 

  To be “in” Jesus means that our living Lord is with us. He shares our trials and heartaches (Hebrews 2:18). We grow in Christ as we appreciate this presence. As C. Austin Miles (1868–1946) wrote, “He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own.” We are never alone (Hebrews 13:5). We grow in Christ as we practice His presence, resting in the promises of His love and care.  

PRAYER 

  Our Father, we praise You for our undeserved status as Your adopted sons and daughters. May we ever rest securely in Your promises for our eternity. In Jesus' name, amen.  

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER 

  Remain in Christ. 

 

 


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