Ephesians 1-3: Essential Doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 134–136

If others really understood the first three chapters of Ephesians as do the Latter-day Saints, there would not be as much confusion among Christians as there is today. There would also not be as many different Christian churches. As you study Ephesians 1–3, notice what Paul taught about the Godhead, foreordination, grace, the Atonement, and the characteristics of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Understanding the Scriptures

Ephesians 1

Predestinated (vv. 5, 11)Foreordained, chosen in the premortal existence for specific blessings and responsibilities 
Adoption of children (v. 5)Being spiritually reborn as sons and daughters of God (see Mosiah 27:25–26) 
Prudence (v. 8)Understanding 
The mystery of his will (v. 9)Truths about God’s plan for His children that cannot be understood except by revelation and then kept sacred 
The earnest of our inheritance (v. 14)The guarantee of gaining the celestial kingdom 
All principality (v. 21)Any king or ruler 

Ephesians 1:4–5—“He Hath Chosen Us in Him before the Foundation of the World”

Not all people have the same desire to learn the truth and live righteously. Paul wrote, “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). Some of Heavenly Father’s children were “chosen” and “predestinated” (foreordained) to certain callings, which helps explain the difference in people’s attitudes toward the truth.

“Foreordination comes as a blessing or reward for premortal righteousness and valiant commitment to Jesus Christ. Birth into the house of Israel and heirship to all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are often seen as the birthright of dedicated souls (see Eph. 1:4–5; Rom. 9:4). These rights and blessings may still be obtained by any and all who elect to receive them, whether in this life or the next” (in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. [1992], 2:522).

Ephesians 1:10—“The Dispensation of the Fulness of Times”

Heavenly Father has “dispensed” (revealed) the gospel to man at various times in the earth’s history. God’s revelations to Adam, Noah, and Moses are examples. This last dispensation (our time), which was revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, was prophesied by Paul and called the “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10). Our dispensation was given this name because all things that have been a part of any previous dispensation will now be gathered together in Jesus Christ (see also D&C 128:18).

Ephesians 1:13—“Sealed with That Holy Spirit of Promise”

President Joseph Fielding Smith explained:

“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” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:45; see also D&C 132:7).

Ephesians 2

Quickened (vv. 1, 5)Made alive 
Course (v. 2)Ways 
The prince of the power of the air (v. 2)Satan 
Uncircumcision (v. 11)Gentiles 
Circumcision (v. 11)Jews 
Nigh (vv. 13, 17)Near 

Ephesians 2:4–10—“For by Grace Are Ye Saved … Not of Works”

Some people believe that when Paul said we are saved by grace through faith he meant that nothing we do has any effect on whether or not we are saved—that it is completely a gift from God. This view is in opposition to James’ teaching that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:10–26).

The revelations of the Lord to Book of Mormon prophets help clarify this important doctrine. While it is true that no one can live the law well enough to be saved by his or her own obedience (see Romans 3:20–23; 2 Nephi 2:5), that does not mean that obedience is not important. If we do not strive to keep the commandments, believing alone will not be enough (see Matthew 7:21; James 2:17–19).

man rescuing another

As the accompanying illustration shows, we are all like a man who cannot swim and is drowning in a river. The Savior stands on the bank and extends a branch to save us. That branch is the grace of God offered to us through the Atonement, without which we cannot be saved. If we do not put forth an effort to grasp the branch and hold on, we will still drown. We are not expected to do this on our own, however. If we try, the grace of God will increase our strength and give us the power to hold on and be saved (see Bible Dictionary, “grace,” p. 697). As the prophet Nephi said, “We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23; italics added).

Ephesians 2:14–17—“Broken Down the … Wall of Partition between Us”

The Atonement of Jesus Christ ended the law of Moses. Christ then commanded that the gospel be preached to all the world (see Mark 16:15–16). Through the Atonement, the enmity (hostility) that separated Jews and Gentiles, like a partition or wall, was abolished (removed).

Ephesians 2:19—“Fellowcitizens with the Saints”

Everyone can be fellow citizens with the Saints through the ordinance of baptism if they will have faith in Christ, repent, and prepare themselves. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints need never feel alone; they have brothers and sisters to help care for them.

Ephesians 2:20—Is Revelation through Apostles and Prophets Essential to the True Church?

Mark E. Petersen

Elder Mark E. Petersen, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, testified: “Another important sign [of the true Church] is that the Church would be guided by constant revelation through living prophets. Amos had said that the Lord will do nothing except through His authorized prophets (see Amos 3:7). The divine Church as restored, then, will be led by living seers and revelators receiving current direction from heaven” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1979, 31; or Ensign, May 1979, 22–23).

Ephesians 3

Dispensation of the grace of God … to you-ward (v. 2)The power and grace God gave Paul to minister to the Gentiles 
Mystery (vv. 3, 9)Divine truth that can only be known by revelation and then kept sacred 
Principalities (v. 10)Area governed by rulers 
In whom we have boldness … by the faith of him (v. 12)With faith in Jesus Christ we can approach God with confidence. 

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity C and at least one other activity (A, B, or D) as you study Ephesians 1–3.

Activity A iconFind the Doctrine

Review Ephesians 1 and find at least three verses that describe the nature of the Godhead. Explain how those verses show that God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate beings.

Activity B iconFind the Spiritual Blessings

In Ephesians 1:3–14 Paul lists some of the spiritual blessings that come to the faithful because of Jesus Christ. List those blessings and tell why they are important to you.

Activity C iconExplain the Doctrine

  1. 1.

    Review Ephesians 2:4–10 and then read James 2:17–20. Explain how these two scriptures seem to disagree but are actually both correct (see the “Understanding the Scriptures” section for Ephesians 2:4–10 for help).

  2. 2.

    Draw an illustration like the one shown in the “Understanding the Scriptures” section above and label it to show the Savior, us, our earthly condition, and the Atonement.

Activity D iconPicture This

In Ephesians 2:18–22, Paul taught that the Church of Jesus Christ is like a building “fitly framed together.” Draw a picture of a building that shows how Paul said the Church should be organized.