Paul and the Ephesians

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(Ephesians 1, Acts 19)
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 1

Paul and the Ephesians

(Ephesians 1, Acts 19)

Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: We begin a new series of studies, this time on the book of Ephesians. While topical studies are popular, I strongly prefer to write studies on specific books of the Bible. Why? Over my years of studying the Bible I have come to believe that not only are the statements in the Bible directed by the Holy Spirit, but the order of the thoughts is also inspired by the Spirit. Why trade a human order of study for a Holy Spirit ordered study? This week’s study is an introduction. From then on we will follow the order of the book of Ephesians.

  1. Greetings!
    1. Read Ephesians 1:1. Who does Ephesians say is the author of this book? (Paul.)
      1. It has become fashionable to dispute that Paul wrote Ephesians. If he did not, what does that say about what we are about to study? (If the writer falsely claims to be Paul, we can hardly trust anything else in the book.)
      2. What does it mean that Paul is an “apostle?”(An apostle is a messenger or a delegate. He later calls himself an “ambassador.” Ephesians 6:20.)
      3. What does it mean that he is a messenger “by the will of God?” (Read Galatians 1:1. Paul says he was commissioned directly by God.)
    2. Note that Ephesians 1:1 says that this message is directed to “the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.” Do you think Paul is writing only to the faithful in that specific church? (I think Paul is writing to those in Ephesus and to the faithful to Jesus everywhere. Vernon McGee’s commentary says in some of the better manuscripts “in Ephesus” does not appear. There is evidence for that. If true, that promotes the idea that this book is for all of us who are followers of Jesus.)
    3. Read Ephesians 6:20. What was Paul’s situation when he wrote Ephesians? (He was imprisoned.)
      1. Where and under what conditions was Paul in chains? (Read Acts 28:16. The timing of Paul’s writing is uncertain, but he is likely in Rome with a Roman soldier. He is not housed in a prison.)
    4. Read Ephesians 3:13. If you were imprisoned, would you be more concerned about yourself or those who are free? (This shows Paul’s heart for the believers in Ephesus.)
      1. Why would they lose heart over Paul’s situation?(The optics are not good. They are proclaiming a message about a man who was crucified through a fellow who is in chains.)
      2. Why is Paul’s situation “glory” for them? (Read Romans 8:18. Because Paul was sharing the gospel with them, they have access to glory. Romans tells us that suffering leads to ultimate glory.)
    5. Read Ephesians 1:2. What does Paul wish for us who are studying this book? (Grace and peace. Imagine Paul wishing grace and peace when he is imprisoned.)
  2. Paul’s History With Ephesus
    1. In Acts 18:19-21 we read of Paul making a brief visit to Ephesus. Paul says that he would like to return and he returns in the next chapter. Read Acts 19:1-3. What is unique about the baptism of the believers in Ephesus? (They are not baptized in the Holy Spirit. They don’t even know about the Holy Spirit.)
      1. What do you think is “John’s baptism?” (They must be referring to John the Baptist who was baptizing in preparation for the coming of Jesus.)
    2. Read Acts 19:5. What other defect in their baptism is suggested here? (They were not baptized in the name of Jesus.)
    3. Read Acts 19:6. What proof do we have that they have now received the Holy Spirit? (They speak in tongues and they prophesy.)
      1. Is it necessary to speak in tongues to prove that you are baptized in the Holy Spirit? (Read 1 Corinthians 12:30-31 and compare 1 Corinthians 12:10. Speaking in tongues is proof of the gift of the Holy Spirit. But 1 Corinthians tells us two things about this gift. First, not all speak in tongues. Second, it is a low level gift. We should desire higher gifts.)
      2. Have you seen someone who is baptized in the name of Jesus who did not immediately speak in tongues? (When I write these studies I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit guides my thoughts. A few years ago I was in a meeting where the speaker invited people to the front to receive the gift of tongues. I trotted right up and a person placed hands on my head and prayed for me. My prayer to God was “Let’s do this if you have this in mind for me.” Nothing happened. The Bible is clear about the gift of tongues, but apparently it is not for me.)
    4. Read Acts 19:7-8. Paul starts with twelve male believers in Ephesus and from there begins evangelizing in the local synagogue. Why start at the synagogue? (He would find Jews who were looking for the Messiah. No doubt Paul’s message was that the Messiah had come.)
    5. Read Acts 18:19-20. What other reason do we find for Paul speaking at this synagogue? (In his prior brief trip the leaders of the synagogue wanted him to stay and speak longer. He has an invitation.)
    6. Read Acts 19:9. What is the problem that Paul eventually encounters? (Some speak evil of “the Way.” These people are able to speak before the congregation at the synagogue.)
      1. What does Paul do when he has shared the gospel, but meets opposition? (He withdraws. Notice that sharing in the synagogue covers only a period of three months.)
      2. Is there a lesson in this for us? (We should not pester hostile people with the gospel. Share it, and if they resist, withdraw.)
    7. Look again at Acts 19:9 and add Acts 19:10. What is the “Hall of Tyrannus?” And, what is his new audience? (One commentary says the general view is that Tyrannus was Greek, and he taught classes in philosophy or rhetoric. Paul stayed there for two years.)
      1. What is the result of Paul’s two years of teaching in the Hall of Tyrannus? (Both Jews and Greeks in Asia heard the gospel.)
    8. Think about how Paul has approached evangelism in Ephesus and Asia. What lessons can we learn from this? (Start with a core of believers. Speak first to those who share a common Biblical view with you. Then hold meetings for everyone.)
      1. Some of my most unpleasant and inefficient evangelism over the years involved me going door to door to share the gospel. What does Paul’s approach suggest about going door to door? (In the areas of the United States where I have lived people resist others coming into their homes to change their opinion. When Paul met opposition, he withdrew. The ideal is to have a meeting where the Holy Spirit will inspire people to attend and hear what you have to say about the gospel.)
  3. Aids and Challenges to Evangelism
    1. Read Acts 19:11-12. If miracles of this magnitude were happening in your church how many people would attend your evangelistic meetings?
      1. Why is that not happening in your church? (For the same reason why I have not so far been given the gift of tongues. The Holy Spirit is in charge. Note, this is a time that follows the extraordinary showing of the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2).)
    2. Read Acts 19:13-16. What is the warning for those who invoke Jesus’ name for miracles without the power of the Holy Spirit behind the invocation? (Demons do not respond positively.)
      1. Why did the demon not simply ignore the sons of the High Priest? Why wound them? (This shows the mind set of the fallen angels who oppose the gospel.)
    3. Read Acts 19:26-29. What other reaction do we see to the gospel message? (Riots.)
    4. Read Acts 19:34-36. What other way do we see truth opposed? (They shout down the speaker. They try to prevent him from being heard.)
      1. Notice the tactics of the forces of darkness: crucifixion, jailing, wounding, and stopping free speech. Why such extreme tactics? (High power evangelism is met by vicious opposition.)
    5. Friend, would you like to hear more about Paul’s adventures with the Ephesians? Stay with us as we study through this book.
  4. Next week: God’s Grand, Christ-Centered Plan.