Lesson 121

Ephesians 2–3

“Lesson 121: Ephesians 2–3,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)


Introduction

Paul taught the Saints in Ephesus that all sinners could be saved by God’s grace and that Jews and Gentiles had become one in the household of God. Paul also explained that the Church of Jesus Christ is built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, and he shared his desire that the Saints experience the love of Jesus Christ.

Suggestions for Teaching

Ephesians 2

Paul teaches how the blood of Jesus Christ saves both Jew and Gentile

As class begins, invite one or more of your students (depending on the size of your class) to sit on the floor in a different area of the classroom. Place a boundary between these students and the rest of the class with tape or string, and then instruct the separated students that they may not verbally participate in the lesson (yet). Ask the rest of the class:

  • What might this situation communicate about the relationship between you and the separated students? (That one group is more favored than the other.)

  • How do you think the separated students might feel? Why?

Ask students to consider if they have ever felt this way in certain circumstances in life.

Write the words Gentiles and Jews on the board, creating two columns.

  • Based on what you have learned about social conditions in some branches of the Church during Paul’s ministry, which label would fit the separated students? (Gentiles.) Which label would fit the rest of the class? (Jews.)

  • What might have caused this separation? (Some Jews believed that because they were Israelites by birth and had been circumcised, they were more favored by God and superior to Gentile converts.)

Invite a student to read Ephesians 2:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Paul described the spiritual condition of the Gentile Saints (“you” and “ye” in verses 1–2) and the Jewish Saints (“we” in verse 3) prior to their conversion to the Savior and His Church. Explain that the phrase “prince of the power of the air” in verse 2 refers to the devil and his prevalent influence throughout the world.

  • According to verses 1–2, how did Paul describe the Gentiles prior to their conversion? (List students’ responses on the board under the column labeled “Gentiles.”)

  • According to verse 3, how did Paul describe himself and the Jews prior to their conversion? (List students’ responses on the board under the column labeled “Jews.”)

Point out that the Gentiles as well as the Jews were spiritually dead, or separated from God, because of their sins (see verse 1).

Invite a student to read Ephesians 2:4–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the spiritual condition of the Gentile and Jewish Saints after their conversion. Point out that the word quickened means made alive and that heavenly places refers to realms in heaven that people inherit.

  • How did Paul describe the Saints after their conversion? (The Lord had quickened them, or made them alive, from their spiritually dead and sinful state. Remind students that we refer to this as being spiritually reborn [see Mosiah 27:24–26].)

Invite a few students to read Ephesians 2:7–10 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what enabled the Gentiles and Jews to make this transformation.

  • What enabled both groups of Saints to make this transformation? (The grace of Jesus Christ.)

  • What truth can we learn from these verses about what the grace of Jesus Christ makes possible for all God’s children? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board: Because of the grace of Jesus Christ, all mankind can be saved through faith in Him.)

Point out that Paul emphasized that we cannot be saved by our works alone no matter how good those works are (see verses 8–9). To help the class better understand the truth identified above, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency:

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“Because we have all ‘sinned, and come short of the glory of God’ [Romans 3:23] and because ‘there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God’ [1 Nephi 15:34], every one of us is unworthy to return to God’s presence. …

“… We cannot earn our way into heaven; the demands of justice stand as a barrier, which we are powerless to overcome on our own.

“But all is not lost.

“The grace of God is our great and everlasting hope.

“Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the plan of mercy appeases the demands of justice [see Alma 42:15] ‘and [brings] about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance’ [Alma 34:15].

“Our sins, though they may be as scarlet, can become white as snow [see Isaiah 1:18]. Because our beloved Savior ‘gave himself a ransom for all’ [1 Timothy 2:6], an entrance into His everlasting kingdom is provided unto us [see 2 Peter 1:11].

“The gate is unlocked! …

“To inherit this glory, we need more than an unlocked gate; we must enter through this gate with a heart’s desire to be changed—a change so dramatic that the scriptures describe it as being ‘born again; yea, born of God, changed from [our worldly] and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters’ [Mosiah 27:25]. …

“Grace is a gift of God, and our desire to be obedient to each of God’s commandments is the reaching out of our mortal hand to receive this sacred gift from our Heavenly Father” (“The Gift of Grace,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 108, 110).

  • How does exercising faith in Jesus Christ and repenting of our sins help us receive the gift of grace?

detail, model of Jerusalem temple

To help students understand the historical context of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles before the gospel was preached to all God’s children, show the accompanying picture of the “wall of partition” (Ephesians 2:14) in the outer courts of the temple in Jerusalem (or invite students to turn to Bible Photographs, no. 9, “Temple of Herod”). Explain that Gentiles, who had not made covenants with the Lord, were forbidden to go beyond this wall to the more sacred areas of the temple; they were treated as “strangers and foreigners” (Ephesians 2:19). The physical wall of partition symbolized the spiritual separation that existed between Jews and Gentiles prior to Peter’s revelation that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles.

Invite a few of the students who are separated from the class to take turns reading aloud from Ephesians 2:12–15. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior did with the barrier between the Jews and Gentiles. Point out that the word enmity means “antagonism, hostility, and hate” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Enmity,” scriptures.lds.org).

  • What brought the Gentiles and Jews together? (Through the blood of Christ, the figurative wall spiritually separating the Jews and Gentiles was removed, and they became “one new man” [Ephesians 2:15], or one unified body in Christ. Write the following truth on the board: As we come unto Jesus Christ and partake of His grace, we become unified with the Saints of God.)

Remove the tape or string that separated the students, and invite the separated students to unite with the rest of the class. Encourage the students representing the Jews to invite the separated students to sit next to them.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Ephesians 2:16–19. Ask the class to follow along, looking for phrases that further emphasize the truth that as we come unto Jesus Christ and partake of His grace, we can be unified with the Saints of God.

  • What phrases did you find that further emphasize the truth that as we come unto Jesus Christ and partake of His grace, we can be unified with the Saints of God?

  • Why do you think this truth is important for us to understand and apply in the Church today?

  • How can we help others become or feel again like “fellowcitizens” (verse 19) in the Church rather than strangers?

  • When has someone helped you feel like a fellow citizen with the Saints rather than a stranger? When have you tried to help someone else feel this way?

Invite a student to read Ephesians 2:20–22 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul taught was the foundation of the Church.

  • What truth did Paul teach in these verses about the structure of the Lord’s Church? (Students may use different words, but help them identify that the Lord’s Church is founded on apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone.)

  • What is a cornerstone? (A large stone laid at the corner of a foundation to give strength and stability to the entire structure.)

cornerstone

Draw a simple picture of a cornerstone connecting two walls.

  • In what ways is Jesus Christ the chief cornerstone of the Church? According to verse 21, what happens to the rest of the Church because of this cornerstone?

  • In what ways do apostles and prophets form the remainder of the foundation of the Church?

  • How does this foundation provide stability to the Church and protect it against the devil’s attacks?

Ephesians 3

Paul expresses his desires for the Ephesian Saints

Summarize Ephesians 3:1–16 by explaining that Paul preached about Jesus Christ and taught that through Him, Gentiles can be “fellowheirs” (verse 6) with Israel and partakers of God’s promises.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Ephesians 3:14–19. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what else Paul desired to help the Saints know and feel.

  • According to these verses, what did Paul want the Saints to know and feel?

Write the following truth on the board: Apostles and prophets seek to help God’s children know and feel the love of Jesus Christ.

Display the page showing the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from the most recent general conference issue of the Ensign or Liahona.

  • How do apostles and prophets seek to help God’s children know and feel the love of Jesus Christ in our day?

  • When have the teachings of apostles and prophets helped you to better know and feel the love of Jesus Christ?

Conclude by sharing your testimony of the truths discussed in the lesson, and invite students to act on these truths.

Commentary and Background Information

Ephesians 2:8–10. “For by grace are ye saved through faith … unto good works”

“In Ephesians 2:8–10, Paul discussed the relationship between grace, faith, and good works. Ultimately, salvation comes through the merits of Jesus Christ’s work, not on our own. Paul called followers of Jesus Christ ‘[God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works’ (Ephesians 2:10). This places emphasis on the Lord’s work rather than on our own and teaches that our ability to perform good works stems from the change that the grace of Jesus Christ causes to take place within us when we turn to Him in faith (see also 1 Corinthians 15:10 and Philippians 2:13)” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 425).

Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:

“Salvation in all its forms, kinds, and degrees comes by the grace of God. That is, because of his love, mercy, and condescension, God our Father ordained the plan and system of salvation which would ‘bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.’ (Moses 1:39.) Pursuant to this plan he sent his Only Begotten Son into the world to work out the infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice. …

“Men are thus saved by grace alone, in the sense of being resurrected; they are saved by grace coupled with obedience, in the sense of gaining eternal life. The gospel plan is to save men in the celestial kingdom, and hence Paul teaches salvation by grace through faith, through obedience, through accepting Christ, through keeping the commandments. Thus Nephi writes, ‘Be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do’ (2 Ne. 25:23), and Moroni records, ‘Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ.’ (Moro. 10:32.)” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 2:498–99).

Ephesians 2:20–22. The foundation and cornerstone of the Church

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said of the structure of the Church:

“In New Testament times, in Book of Mormon times, and in modern times these officers form the foundation stones of the true Church, positioned around and gaining their strength from the chief cornerstone, ‘the rock of our Redeemer, who is [Jesus] Christ, the Son of God’ [Helaman 5:12]. … Such a foundation in Christ was and is always to be a protection in days ‘when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you’” (“Prophets, Seers, and Revelators,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 7).

The phrase “fitly framed together” in Ephesians 2:21 suggests an important lesson about unity in the Church. No two stone blocks that make up a structure are exactly the same, and many are of different sizes and shapes. Yet the blocks are “fitly framed together” to make the structure. Likewise, no two members of the Church are exactly the same, but all are “fitly framed” together to form the Lord’s Church.