Unit 25, Day 1: Ephesians 2–3

New Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students, 2015


Introduction

The Apostle 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.

Ephesians 2

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

Think about a time when you may have felt excluded or separated from others.

At the time the Apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Ephesians, some Church members who were Jews felt that they were superior to gentile converts because the Jews were Israelites by birth and the males had been circumcised.

Read Ephesians 2:1–3, looking for how Paul described the spiritual condition of both the gentile Saints (you and ye in verses 1–2) and the Jewish Saints (we in verse 3) before their conversion to the Savior and His Church. The phrase “prince of the power of the air” in verse 2 refers to the devil and his influence throughout the world.

  • According to verses 1–2, what was the spiritual condition of the Gentiles before their conversion? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

  • According to verse 3, what was the spiritual condition of Paul and the Jews before their conversion? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Paul described both the Gentiles and the Jews as being spiritually dead, or separated from God, because of their sins (see verse 1). They were following after the ways or desires of the flesh and thus subjecting themselves to the wrath of God.

Read Ephesians 2:4–6, looking for the spiritual condition of the gentile and Jewish Saints after their conversion. The word quickened in verse 5 means made alive, and the phrase “heavenly places” in verse 6 refers to the celestial kingdom (see Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 2:500).

Notice that after their conversion, the Lord had quickened both the Jews and Gentiles, or made them alive from their spiritually dead and sinful state. We refer to this as being spiritually reborn or saved from our sins.

Read Ephesians 2:7–10, looking for what enabled the Gentiles and Jews to make this transformation.

These verses teach the following truth: Because of the grace of God, all mankind can be saved through faith in Jesus Christ.

True faith in Jesus Christ always leads to following Him and doing good works. Notice that Paul emphasized that we cannot save ourselves, no matter how good our works are (see Ephesians 2:8–9). President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency explained our need for the grace of God:

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.

“Even if we were to serve God with our whole souls, it is not enough, for we would still be ‘unprofitable servants’ [Mosiah 2:21]. 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).

  1. journal icon1.

    Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: How does exercising faith in Jesus Christ and repenting of our sins help us receive God’s gift of grace?

detail, model of Herod’s temple

The accompanying picture shows part of a model of Herod’s temple in Jerusalem. The arrow points to the “wall of partition” (Ephesians 2:14) in the outer courts of the temple. Because the Gentiles were not Israelites by birth, living under the Mosaic law, they were forbidden to go beyond this wall to the more sacred areas of the temple. They were considered “aliens [foreigners] from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise” (Ephesians 2:12). The physical wall of partition symbolized the spiritual separation that existed between Jews and Gentiles before Peter’s revelation that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles.

Read Ephesians 2:12–15, looking for what broke down the barrier between the Jews and Gentiles. The word enmity in verse 15 means “antagonism, hostility, and hate” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Enmity,” scriptures.lds.org).

According to these verses, what brought the Gentiles and the Jews together?

Through the blood of Christ (the Atonement), the figurative wall spiritually separating the Jews and Gentiles was removed, and they became “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15), or one unified body, or group, in Christ. You may want to write or note the following truth near Ephesians 2:12–15: As we come unto Jesus Christ and partake of His grace, we become unified with the Saints of God.

Read Ephesians 2:16–19, looking for phrases that emphasize the truth that as we come unto Jesus Christ and partake of His grace, we can be unified with the Saints of God.

Consider why you think this truth is important for us to understand and apply in the Church today.

  1. journal icon2.

    Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. a.

      How can we help others become or feel again like “fellowcitizens” (Ephesians 2:19) in the Church rather than strangers?

    2. b.

      When has someone helped you feel like a fellow citizen with the Saints rather than a stranger?

    3. c.

      When have you tried to help someone feel the same way?

Consider someone you know who might benefit by attending a Church activity. Invite this person to an upcoming activity or Church meeting, and make a consistent effort to help this individual feel welcome in your ward or branch.

Read Ephesians 2:20–22, looking for what Paul taught was the foundation of the Church.

Complete the following truth based on Paul’s teachings in those verses: The Lord’s Church is founded on _____________________________________________, with Jesus Christ as the _____________________________________________.

The cornerstone is a large stone laid at the corner of a foundation to give strength and stability to the entire building.

cornerstone

In what way is Jesus Christ the “chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20) of the Church? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

As you consider Ephesians 2:21–22, think about what happens to the rest of the Church because of this Cornerstone.

  1. journal icon3.

    Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. a.

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

    2. b.

      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 Ephesians Saints

As recorded in Ephesians 3:1–16, the Apostle Paul preached about Jesus Christ and taught that through Him, Gentiles can be “fellowheirs” (verse 6) with Israel and partakers of God’s promises. Paul’s ministry was to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.

Read Ephesians 3:17–19, looking for what Paul desired the Saints to know and feel.

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

From Ephesians 3:1–19 we learn that apostles and prophets seek to help God’s children know and feel the love of Jesus Christ.

  1. journal icon4.

    Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. a.

      How do apostles and prophets help God’s children understand the blessings of exaltation and feel the love of Jesus Christ in our day?

    2. b.

      When have the teachings of apostles and prophets helped you understand the blessings of exaltation or feel the love of Jesus Christ in your life?

  2. journal icon5.

    Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:

    I have studied Ephesians 2–3 and completed this lesson on (date).

    Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: