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Seeing the End from the Beginning | April 3

Introduction to the Series 
God has a plan for your life, and it’s part of God’s plan for the cosmos. God’s plan is to renew his creation, to flood it with love, justice, and beauty. His plan is to do it through Jesus Christ. But not without you. The mystery of the universe is that God has loved the unloved, the unlovely, and the unlovable. He has made us one with his Son, one with each other in his church, and one with his purposes. In Jesus a new age is rising. The first rays have broken the horizon. His light is shining on our path. You are to walk with the dawn. Take the next step.  

Background
The book of Ephesians opens with a greeting similar to those stated in Paul’s other letters. However, the phrase “in Ephesus” (v. 1) is not found in some of the earliest and most reliable Greek manuscripts. Therefore many scholars conclude that this epistle may have been a sort of circular letter that was passed around among multiple congregations in the vicinity of Ephesus, and that the phrase “in Ephesus” became attached to it later. 

Pray 
Thank you, Lord God, for making yourself known to us in the words of Scripture, and for the privilege of studying these words together. Please guide us to understand your message to us today, and help us to live according to what you have said.  

Read
Ephesians 1:1-14

Discuss 
1. Verses 3 through 14 constitute one long sentence in the Greek text—a runaway train of thought that just keeps gaining momentum!* What is Paul so excited about? (v. 3)Although it is obscured in most English translations, verse 3 actually uses three different forms of the same word, so that it would read something like “Blessed be God who has blessed us with every blessing.” Let’s explore the blessings that Paul enumerates:

2. Election (v. 4): What evidences in your life support the conclusion that God chose you?What is God’s purpose for those whom He has chosen?

3. Adoption (vv. 5-6): What does the analogy of adoption contribute to your understanding of your relationship with God and Jesus Christ? (Compare Romans 8:15 in which the same Greek term meaning “adoption to sonship” occurs.) 

4. Redemption (vv. 7-8): The key idea behind the word redemption is release or emancipation—of either a slave or a prisoner. How does this image relate to Christian experience?

5. Revelation (vv. 9-10): In New Testament usage, mystery refers to something that was formerly hidden or secret but has now been disclosed or revealed. What is the content of the mystery that God has revealed to the followers of Christ?

Compare v. 10 in different English versions to discover various ways the term “to bring together” is translated.  

This term has to do with gathering things together and presenting them as one whole. It may be an accounting term that refers to the process of adding up a column of figures and writing the sum at the top. How does this image help you to understand God’s ultimate purpose as explained in v. 10? 

6. Inheritance (vv. 11-13a): The word translated “were chosen” (NIV) is a different word from the one used in v. 4, and can mean either “received an inheritance” or “became God’s inheritance.” Either way, it has to do with inclusion or belonging within the people of God. And this heritage extends equally to Jews (v. 12) and Gentiles (v. 13a).

7. Guarantee (vv. 13b-14): How is the Holy Spirit described in v. 14? The word deposit can mean “down payment,” “first installment,” or “guarantee,” and it can also refer to an engagement ring. How does this analogy help you to understand the role of the Holy Spirit in your life?

Apply
8. In this text God reveals his purpose and plan for the entire universe (review v. 10). How do you envision life on planet earth after this purpose has been accomplished?

9. How does knowledge of this certain future make you feel?

10. How does (or should) it affect the way you live today?

Pray  We praise you, Lord God, for your glorious plan for the world that you have created. Please help us to live day by day in hopeful expectation and participation in your cosmic purpose. * To get a sense of how this would read in English, see Young’s Literal Translation.