Ephesians chapters 4 through 6 are a study in the application of a Christians calling into everyday life. The theme of this study could easily be generalized by the first verse in chapter 4, "...to live a life worthy of the calling you have received."(NIV) and the three chapters that are being discussed are key in living the Christian life. Topics covered in these verses start with the need of unity in the church, living as a new creation, being imitators of Christ Jesus, Christian marriage and parenting, and finally putting on the armor of God to fight the battles against evil spiritual forces. As the study unfolds the goal is to build guidelines and supports for all Christians to be encouraged and directed in the daily walk.
Many of our Christian brothers and sisters are lost in applying Christian values to decision-making processes. The unity discussed in the opening of this study infers that there is a minimum of two things that need to occur in order for the commonality to be present. These two things are that there is daily commitment to learning from the Bible, and that others are giving wisdom to their fellow brothers and sisters. This requires the presence of older, wiser Christians in every life. Discussions, studies, and teachings that grow each other towards "...one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all...." (Ephesians 4:5-6, NIV)
The depth of knowledge in these chapters is worthy of serious study and application into the life of a believer. A set of directives can and should be established during this study, so that accountability is desired and maintained by the small group members. There is comfort in verse 4:22-23, "to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds." This is the exact reason that this study is important; to establish a change in the attitude of our minds to the things of Christ Jesus. Chapter 5 opens with the words, "Be imitators of God..."(NIV) these words cement the need for study into the topic of who God is, and how should we be living our life in order to be like Him in all ways.
Marriage and parenting, which are important factors in the life of many of our people, are topics that are discussed late in chapter 5 and the being of chapter 6. The keys to understanding both of these topics may well lie in verse 5:21, "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." (NIV) When submission occurs in a loving, honoring way in marriage and parenting the Godly order of life occurs and therefore peace and unity are present. In culture today, it is worthy of discussion for your group to realize that it is Christ imitation that brings joy into relationship and not our selfish, earthly wants and desires.
The final part of this study will involve discussion on the armor of God and the equipping that God has provided in order for our calling to be realized in daily life. The purpose of these armor is stated in verse 6:11," ...so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." Discussion around the armor should bring realization of the purpose of God's gift into a Christian's life. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and feet covered with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace (verse 6:15-15, NIV). God also provides the shield of faith for protection, a helmet of salvation to protect our mind, and the sword of the Spirit to give us offensive power in this combat.
The summation for this study lies in verse 6:19, "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel." (NIV) The unity discussed in chapter 4, the daily applications of chapter 5, and the inventory of God's provisions should all be for the furtherance of the gospel. Enjoy this study and may God use it to bring you completely into unity with Him and each other.
Groups of People
The people in Ephesus were primarily of Greek origin. There was a large amount of pagan religion and therefore many avenues for immorality and debauchery. According to Acts 19:23, the city contained pagans that worship Artemis (or Goddess Diana). Ephesus was a Greek city of commercial value due to the production and sale of pagan idols. The wealth of the city was evident in archeological finds. The city was known for its artisans and craftsman; this created a market for goods. There was a large population of Jews in Ephesus, which helped the spread of the gospel. Being a port city, people from around the Mediterranean were frequent visitors to the city. These dynamic would have created a transportation of the gospel to the uttermost parts of the known world.
Spiritual Battle versus Flesh and Blood
Ephesians 6:12 tells us that “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (NIV) “The word used to describe this struggle is a term found nowhere else in the Greek Bible, but which was commonly used for the sport of wrestling.” When looked at in the light of a wrestling match the tossing and turning, the struggle that occurs give insight to the battles that advent in the mind of a follower. Though the verse is clear that it is not against the people of Ephesus at the time or even the people of today, but rather it is Satan that uses these people and opportunities to divide and turn the focus away from the things of God. It appears that Paul is saying that it is not to be viewed as rulers of the nation, or even the evil doers of the city that truly cause the issue, but rather it is the same deceiver of the fall in the Garden of Eden. This was never a call to riot but rather a call to unity of Christians to see the earth for what it is; a battleground of good versus evil.
Response and Application of a Believer
Remembering that the use of Paul’s letter today is application of the words leads us to view the final section of this book. The Lord gives us a detailed account of the armor that is provided to stand against any and all attacks. Followers are to put the items on, to be used to protect and defend the faith. Just like a member of a army the equipment and training is provided, and Ephesians chapter 6 dispenses the very same. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the feet covered with the necessary garb, so that protection can be obtained during the fight. Yet God equips the believer even further providing a sword and shield to extinguish the arrows of Satan, and the truth from the Spirit to combat the attacks. It is through training and study that the new soldier becomes a warrior for the army of the Lord. Verse 6:18 gives us the communication channel of prayer to access the wisdom and protection of the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. The truth of life is that the works of Satan will confront all, may it be in circumstance or by individual. The conflict is from the evil one. It would be wise to pray for the situation to be resolved according to the plan of God and not individual interpretation. When friction arises in a Christian’s life there is a process displayed in Ephesians 4 and 6. There is to be an equipping of the armor of God, but also the sensitivity to the things of the Spirit. This is not to be an all out attack to defend or to attack the violation but rather to remember that the “old self “ is dead to the things of this world and the new creation in Christ is now present. Remembrance that Christians are a member of a larger body, the church, and therefore must follow the words of scripture. Speaking in love and truth and living a live above reproach are important to unify the commands in these chapters. The love of Christ will allow the battle to be won with compassion and the power of forgiveness, just as Christ forgave each believer.
As you complete this study, remember to pray through these verses. Lean on the Holy Spirit to guide your group, and seek hearts and mind for wisdom. May the unity of the church and the many different gifts present grant you deeper understanding of the things of our Lord Jesus Christ.