Lesson 120

Ephesians 1

“Lesson 120: Ephesians 1,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)


Introduction

Paul wrote a letter to the Saints at Ephesus regarding their foreordination to receive the gospel. He wrote about the final dispensation, or the dispensation in which we now live. Paul taught that we can come to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ through revelation.

Suggestions for Teaching

Ephesians 1:1–8

Paul teaches the Saints that they were foreordained to receive the gospel

Invite students to consider a time when they agreed to take on an important responsibility and were promised they would be rewarded for fulfilling this task.

  • When the task grew challenging, how were you sustained by the knowledge that you had agreed to this assignment and that someone trusted you to fulfill it?

  • How were you blessed or rewarded for fulfilling your responsibility?

Explain that in his epistle recorded in Ephesians 1–6, the Apostle Paul addressed the Saints who were in Ephesus and surrounding areas. His aim was to strengthen those who were already members of the Church and to help recent converts grow in their spiritual knowledge and remain faithful to their covenants.

Invite several students to take turns reading Ephesians 1:3–8 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for truths Paul taught the Saints to help them remain faithful to their covenants.

  • What truths did Paul teach the Saints to help them remain faithful? (As students respond, you may want to invite them to explain how understanding the truths they mention could have helped the Saints remain faithful.)

  • What do you think it means in verse 4 that God had chosen some “before the foundation of the world”?

Explain that this phrase, in conjunction with the word predestinated and the phrase “the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself” in verse 5, refers to those who were chosen or foreordained in the premortal existence to receive the gospel. Write the following truth on the board: God’s children were foreordained to receive the blessings of the gospel. The receipt of these blessings is conditioned upon our faithfulness in this life.

To help students understand this truth, invite a student to read aloud the following statement:

“In the premortal spirit world, God appointed certain spirits to fulfill specific missions during their mortal lives. This is called foreordination.

“Foreordination does not guarantee that individuals will receive certain callings or responsibilities. Such opportunities come in this life as a result of the righteous exercise of agency, just as foreordination came as a result of righteousness in the premortal existence. …

“The doctrine of foreordination applies to all members of the Church, not just to the Savior and His prophets. Before the creation of the earth, faithful women were given certain responsibilities and faithful men were foreordained to certain priesthood duties. Although you do not remember that time, you surely agreed to fulfill significant tasks in the service of your Father. As you prove yourself worthy, you will be given opportunities to fulfill the assignments you then received” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference [2004], 69–70).

  • How can understanding that we were foreordained to receive the gospel and its many blessings help us remain faithful to our covenants?

Ephesians 1:9–12

Paul speaks of the dispensation of the fulness of times

drawing, rivers going to lake

Draw a simple picture of several different rivers emptying into a large body of water. Ask students to imagine that each river represents a gospel dispensation.

  • What is a gospel dispensation?

You may want to review the definition of a gospel dispensation by inviting a student to read aloud the following statement from the Bible Dictionary:

“A dispensation of the gospel is a period of time in which the Lord has at least one authorized servant on the earth who bears the holy priesthood and the keys, and who has a divine commission to dispense the gospel to the inhabitants of the earth. When this occurs, the gospel is revealed anew, so that people of that dispensation do not have to depend basically on past dispensations for knowledge of the plan of salvation. There have been many gospel dispensations since the beginning. The Bible suggests at least one dispensation identified with Adam, another with Enoch, another with Noah, and so on with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus with His Apostles in the meridian of time” (Bible Dictionary, “Dispensations”).

Invite a student to read Ephesians 1:9–10 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what dispensation Paul referred to. Explain that the phrase “mystery of his will” in verse 9 refers to God’s plans and purposes.

Point out that the dispensation of the fulness of times is the dispensation in which we now live.

  • How might the dispensation of the fulness of times be likened to a body of water with rivers flowing into it?

  • What did Paul prophesy would happen during the dispensation of the fulness of times? (Explain that when Paul wrote that “all things in Christ,” both heavenly and earthly, might be gathered “together in one” [verse 10], he referred to the restoration and bringing together of all the keys, powers, and promises God has revealed to His children since the world began, as well as other knowledge that has never before been revealed [see D&C 128:18]. Write the following doctrine on the board: During the dispensation of the fulness of times, all things from former dispensations will be restored.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder B. H. Roberts of the Seventy:

Elder B. H. Roberts

“This is the dispensation of the fullness of times, and we see running into it, as mighty streams rush into the ocean, all the former dispensations, putting us in touch with them, putting them in touch with us; and we see that God has had but one great purpose in view from the beginning, and that has been the salvation of His children. And now has come the final day, the final dispensation, when truth and light and righteousness must flood the earth” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1904, 73).

Invite students to come to the board and label the drawings of rivers with truths, scriptures, covenants, and powers from previous dispensations that have been restored or brought forth in the dispensation of the fulness of times. (Labels might include the sealing power, saving ordinances, the Book of Mormon, and so forth; students can draw additional rivers as needed.)

  • How is living in the dispensation of the fulness of times a blessing for you?

  • According to the statement by Elder Roberts, what must happen during this dispensation? (Truth, light, and righteousness must flood the earth.)

  • What resources in our dispensation enable us to flood the earth with the truth and light of the gospel?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Elder David A. Bednar

“My beloved brothers and sisters, what has been accomplished thus far in this dispensation communicating gospel messages through social media channels is a good beginning—but only a small trickle. I now extend to you the invitation to help transform the trickle into a flood. … I exhort you to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth—messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy—and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood” (“To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood” [Brigham Young University Campus Education Week devotional, Aug. 19, 2014], LDS.org).

Invite students to share what they are doing to help flood the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth.

Summarize Ephesians 1:11–12 by explaining that Paul taught that through Jesus Christ the Saints had obtained an “inheritance” (verse 11) in God’s kingdom.

Ephesians 1:13–23

Paul teaches about the Holy Spirit of Promise

Invite a student to read Ephesians 1:13–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a blessing the Saints had received because of their faithfulness and their trust and belief in Jesus Christ.

  • According to verse 13, what blessing had the Saints received? (They were “sealed with [the] holy Spirit of promise.”)

Explain that being “sealed [by the] holy Spirit of promise” means that the Holy Ghost “witnesses to the Father that the saving ordinances have been performed properly and that the covenants associated with them have been kept” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Holy Spirit of Promise,” scriptures.lds.org). The Spirit is “the earnest of our inheritance” (verse 14). This means that the presence of the Holy Ghost in our lives is a token, reminder, and indication from God that if we continue faithful we will receive eternal life.

Summarize Ephesians 1:15–16 by explaining that Paul told the Saints that he continually gave thanks to God for their faithfulness.

Invite a student to read Ephesians 1:17–18 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul prayed God would give the Saints.

  • What did Paul pray that God would give the Saints?

  • What do these verses teach us about how we can come to know Heavenly Father? (Using their own words, students should identify the following truth: We can come to know Heavenly Father through the spirit of revelation.)

To help students understand the spirit of revelation, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar. Ask students to listen for what the spirit of revelation is.

Elder David A. Bednar

“Revelation is communication from God to His children on the earth and one of the great blessings associated with the gift and constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, ‘The Holy Ghost is a revelator,’ and ‘no man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations’ (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 132).

“The spirit of revelation is available to every person who receives by proper priesthood authority the saving ordinances of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost—and who is acting in faith to fulfill the priesthood injunction to ‘receive the Holy Ghost’” (“The Spirit of Revelation,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 87).

  • What is the spirit of revelation?

  • How can revelation through the Holy Ghost help us come to know Heavenly Father?

You may want to invite students to share how revelation through the Holy Ghost has helped them come to know Heavenly Father better. Consider sharing an experience of your own. Encourage students to strive to be worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost so they can continue to come to know Heavenly Father better.

Summarize Ephesians 1:19–23 by explaining that Paul continued to teach about the Saints’ promised inheritance and Jesus Christ’s position as the head of His Church.

Commentary and Background Information

Ephesians 1:13. The “holy Spirit of promise”

The Holy Spirit of Promise is another name for the Holy Ghost. It is used in reference to the sealing and ratifying power of the Holy Ghost (see D&C 76:53; 132:7).

“The Holy Spirit of Promise … confirms as acceptable to God the righteous acts, ordinances, and covenants of men. The Holy Spirit of Promise witnesses to the Father that the saving ordinances have been performed properly and that the covenants associated with them have been kept.

“They who are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise receive all that the Father has [see Eph. 1:13–14; D&C 76:51–60]. All covenants and performances must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise to have force after this life [see D&C 132:7, 18–19, 26]” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Holy Spirit of Promise,” scriptures.lds.org).

When Paul wrote that the Saints had been “sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13), he was referring to the promise of eternal life given to faithful Saints in mortality. When people are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, the Holy Ghost ratifies them as celestial inheritors even though they are mortal. This doctrine is sometimes referred to as having one’s calling and election made sure (see 2 Peter 1:4–19; D&C 131:5–6; D&C 132:6–7; Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 2:493–95; History of the Church, 3:379–80).

In reference to the Holy Spirit of Promise, President Joseph Fielding Smith stated:

The Holy Spirit of Promise is the Holy Ghost who places the stamp of approval upon every ordinance: baptism, confirmation, ordination, marriage. The promise is that the blessings will be received through faithfulness.

“If a person violates a covenant, whether it be of baptism, ordination, marriage or anything else, the Spirit withdraws the stamp of approval, and the blessings will not be received.

“Every ordinance is sealed with a promise of a reward based upon faithfulness. The Holy Spirit withdraws the stamp of approval where covenants are broken [see D&C 76:52–53; 132:7]” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 1:45).

Ephesians 1:13–14. “The earnest of our inheritance”

The phrase “the earnest of our inheritance” in Ephesians 1:14 indicates that when faithful Saints are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, they will receive a personal assurance that they will inherit the celestial kingdom. The word earnest here means “a token of what is to come” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. [2003], “earnest”). “The gift of the Holy Ghost is one of our Heavenly Father’s most precious gifts. … This gift is a foretaste of eternal joy and a promise of eternal life” (Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service [2004], 65).