The Crux Chapter 4 Grace (Ephesians 2:1-9)

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1 BIBLE STUDY (Ephesians 2:1-9) What s This Passage All About? Writing to the Christians in the city of Ephesus (modern-day Turkey), St. Paul calls on them to take a step back and examine their salvation from God s perspective (Ephesians 2:1-9). In doing so, St. Paul provides an overview of the state of humankind without God and the mercy of God to rescue humankind through grace. This overview allows you to present the gospel to your group through this passage. Afterward, your job is to follow up with each member in the study group during the next two weeks and present the gospel one-on-one. To do this, use The Ultimate Relationship booklet or another gospel presentation. The goal of the one-on-one meeting is to take the time to answer any questions they may have and to personally see how they respond to the gospel. Context St. Paul spent several years in the city of Ephesus ministering to the Church in this city and to others around it (Acts 19:1-10; 20:31). After his departure, other religious teachers caused confusion among the Ephesians on how salvation works. In this passage, St. Paul seeks to set the record straight and remind the Ephesians how they received their salvation. The Big Picture The Big Picture St. Paul shows us what humankind looks like from God s perspective. Without Him, we are enslaved to sin and destined for death. What s the problem? (Ephesians 2:1-3) We cannot know how great the solution is until we realize how bad the problem truly is. St. Paul spends the first three verses in this passage outlining the state of man without God. Some key phrases The course of this world (Ephesians 2: 2): When Scripture speaks of the world, it uses it in several different ways. In this passage, the world means a non-spiritual way of thinking, in other words, how we would act without God. Today, sex, money, and power all dominate the mind and drive of our western, mainstream culture. While these are goods in their own right, the world can distort and emphasize these goods well beyond what they should be. Prince of power of the air (Ephesians 2:2): Who is behind all of this? The tempter who was present in the garden with Adam and Eve continues to deceive humankind. Passions of our flesh... desires of our mind (Ephesians 2:3):This description by St. Paul makes sense if we look back at the consequence of Adam and Eve s sin (Original Sin) on humanity. After Original Sin, humans now have a natural tendency to commit sin; our passions and desires tend to rule even over what we know is right. We need grace to overcome this (for more, see CCC 403, 405). Continued on page 2

2 2 Children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3): Justice refers to owing what is due to someone. For example, if I work for an agreed-upon hourly wage, I should be paid the correct amount for the number of hours I work. This is just. God is perfect and all holy. The natural consequence is that something unholy could not be in His presence. If God were merely just, we would be owed the wrath we deserve because of our sinful nature. Romans 6:23 tells us that the consequence of sin is death. Without God s saving grace, humankind would be hopeless in our fallen state. What is the solution? (Ephesians 2:4-7) St. Paul tells us what God s mercy looks like, in light of what would be just. Verse four begins with but : we are justly owed wrath, but God is merciful. God is not only merciful, He is rich in mercy ; He goes beyond just saving us from wrath by giving us eternal life. These facts alone would have been amazing. But God offers us so much more than this. St. Paul explains earlier in the letter that God destined the Ephesians (and us) to be sons and daughters (Ephesians1:5). We could be destined just to be servants and slaves of a god who saved us from his wrath through an eternal life of servitude. Instead, God brings us into a family. Here, in Ephesians, chapter 2, St. Paul tells us that we are made to sit with Jesus in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). We are to rule alongside Christ Jesus in heaven. Imagine if you were a subject in a kingdom and the king one day appointed you to rule alongside him. This would be an amazing privilege. Through Jesus Christ, God appoints us to rule with the King of Kings, the Lord of the universe. He does not just save us. He makes us like Him. It is worth taking some time to soak all of this in. These are truly immeasurable riches (Ephesians 2:7) that we can easily overlook. to Jesus The bridge between our problem and the solution is Jesus Christ. He allows us to avoid death and have eternal life. He allows us even to reign by His side. Our culture often paints Christianity as a good way to be a nice person. At its root, Christianity is the realization of the fallen and broken state of our world and the acceptance of a solution that raises us up beyond anything we could imagine. With the vision that St. Paul paints here in Ephesians, a decision in favor of Jesus Christ makes much more sense than a decision just to be a nice person. How do we get from the problem to the solution? (Ephesians 2:8-9) Faced with such immeasurable riches, it is natural to think, What do I have to do to obtain such a gift? The surprising answer is nothing. There is nothing we can do to initially obtain God s grace (Ephesians 2:8). God gives it freely while we are dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:1). There is nothing dead persons can do to restore themselves back to life! A story to illustrate how God s grace works Imagine if you were a parent of a nine-year-old boy. During the summer, your son spends almost every day playing with the next door neighbor s eight-year-old boy. Your son s friend eats dinner with your family, he spends the night at your house the boys are inseparable. Continued on page 3

3 3 One day, your son s friend comes to you and says, Can I talk to you for a minute? It has been really fun to play with your son all summer. Thank you for letting me spend the night, eat dinner with your family, play games with you, and everything. No problem, you reply, I m glad that you both have had a good summer. The young man looks at you and says, I just have one question... do you think that if I mowed your lawn for the rest of the summer, I could be your son? Of course, you are honored by his request, but you reply, Well, thank you, young man, but mowing my lawn wouldn t make you my son. Well, your son s friend replies, what if I mow your lawn, paint the house, and do your dishes every night...then can I be your son? As we all know, there is nothing your son s friend could do to earn his way into your family. In fact, what is the only way that he could be received into your family? Through adoption. But the adoption would be a free gift on your part a gift that your son s friend could never expect, or even earn, by himself. Getting a response While God s gift or grace is not something we can earn, we still have to accept it in our lives. If someone offered you one million dollars, you would still have to cash the check. We accept God s gift in our lives through an act of faith. Faith is a personal trust we give to a truth (CCC 177). In this case, we trust that Jesus is who He says He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the way to heaven. He has the truth about who we are and why we are here. He gives us true life and meaning here on earth and eternal life in heaven. There is one simple thing you can do for the members of your Bible study to help get their minds turning. Present them the diagram from The Ultimate Relationship booklet with two sets of three rectangles (the older version has two sets of three circles). Here is how to explain the diagram. Tell them you want to try to give them a way to gauge their relationship with Jesus Christ. You might also want to pass the booklet around so that they can see it. The top three rectangles represent romantic relationships. The first rectangle represents someone who is single; there is no romantic relationship with anyone. The second rectangle represents someone who is dating; there is a partial sharing of their lives by both persons but no one is fully committed. The third rectangle represents someone who is married; there is an intimate relationship and a mutual commitment. to Our Lives In order to receive this amazing opportunity, we must personally invite Jesus Christ to be at the center of our lives. to Jesus The bottom three rectangles represent three kinds of relationships with Jesus. The first rectangle shows a self-focused relationship that Jesus is not a part of. The second rectangle also represents a self-focused relationship, but now Jesus is an interest. The third rectangle represents a Jesus-focused relationship. He is at the center; there is an intimate relationship and a mutual commitment. Continued on page 4

4 4 Here are three follow-up questions to ask. Be sure to tell the members of your Bible study that they will not be sharing their answers; the questions are there to help them reflect on where they are. to Our Lives Where are we at with God? Knowing the answer to this question helps us see what is possible and if we truly want to get there. 1. Which rectangle best represents your relationship with God? 2. Which rectangle would you like to represent your relationship with Jesus? 3. How do you think you can get there? (Trick question it is not something we do, but it is first and foremost learning to accept and trust God s grace!) to Jesus Feel free to close in prayer. We hope that these questions will help prepare the members of your group for your one-on-one meetings with them. See the FOCUSequip article on The Ultimate Relationship booklet under Leader Resources at for how to present the Ultimate Relationship. Again, your goal is to meet with each member of the study and walk the member through the booklet or a gospel presentation. This method applies equally to members who seem to have no interest in Jesus Christ or who seem deeply passionate about Him. You will not know who is who until you walk someone through the booklet. This method also teaches them how to walk someone else through the booklet. The Ultimate Relationship is produced by Catholic Christian Outreach Canada Inc. (www.ccocanada.ca). Continued on page 5

5 5 DISCUSSION GUIDE FOR YOUR BIBLE STUDY Opener Have you ever lost something? How did you feel after you lost it? How did it make you appreciate in a whole new way what you had possessed before? Did you ever find the object? If so, what was your reaction? Backdrop The author of this passage is a man named St. Paul who wrote just after the time of Jesus. Early in his life, Paul, known as Saul, was a Jewish official who persecuted Christians. His conversion to Christianity came through a miraculous vision from Jesus (Acts 9:1-19). After his conversion, St. Paul went to several towns in the Roman Empire preaching the good news of Jesus Christ to others. Later, St. Paul would write letters to these communities who had accepted the good news. The letter we will read today is written to Christians in the city of Ephesus (in the modern-day country of Turkey). In this section of the letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul is showing what people s lives looks like before and after their conversion. While St. Paul was writing to a specific audience two thousand years ago, his message still has meaning for us today. Passage Read Ephesians 2:1-9 together. Exploration 1. How does St. Paul describe our lives before Jesus Christ? 2. What does the course of this world mean? 3. How do we see this manifested in our world or on our campus? 4. Who is the prince of power of the air according to the passage? 5. What are the effects of his work? 6. How does this relate to what we learned in Genesis 3 in the first chapter of this Bible study? 7. Why do you think St. Paul paints such a vivid picture of life without Christ? 8. What is the difference between justice and mercy? 9. If God was simply just, what would we deserve? 10. How does God go above and beyond what is just to show us His mercy? 11. From the way grace is used in Ephesians verses 5, 7, and 8, what would you say it means? 12. Looking back at the story of the Prodigal Son, what does the father do before the son comes home? What does this say about God s grace? 13. What does the son do to be restored back into the family? 14. What do you think would prevent the son from coming home? 15. Why does he come home anyway? 16. Use the rectangle diagram from The Ultimate Relationship. Explain it to your group and ask your group to answer the three questions in silence. Continued on page 6

6 6 Answers 1. St. Paul says that we were dead in our trespasses, meaning that we were dead spiritually. 2. See the second paragraph under What s the Problem in What s this passage all about? 3. Allow the group to discuss this. 4. The prince of power of the air is the devil. 5. The devil is at work in the sons of disobedience. 6. Genesis tells us that the devil will continue to wage war against the human race. 7. Discuss this. St. Paul wants us to see who we would be without Christ so that we can feel what it means to have Christ. 8. Justice is what we are owed. Mercy is a generosity that goes beyond what is just. 9. If God were just, we would deserve death and separation from God. 10. First, God gives us mercy to save us from death and to give us eternal life. Then, He raises us up to rule with Him. We now are saved; we become like Him. 11. Grace is a gift that is not earned. 12. The son begins to return, but the father runs to him before he repents. This says that God s grace is there even before we repent. 13. The son does not have to do anything but apologize for what he has done. He does not have to pay back the money he took or to work as a servant. 14. A fear of his father and community would prevent his homecoming. 15. He believes in the mercy of his father. 16. No answer is needed. End FOCUSequip is based on Ephesians 4:12 for the equipment of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ. These materials seek to equip you for lifelong Catholic mission. We would love to hear your feedback at: Copyright 2011 FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). You are free to make copies for non-commercial use as along as you attribute the material to FOCUS. For commercial use please contact us.

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