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Sabbath School Lessons on Ephesians
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 37 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 7: God's Mystery: The Universal Fellowship *
Introduction: How do you like solving a mystery? How do you feel when
you can solve a mystery and others cannot? This week we learn about a
mystery of God. A mystery that the universe is looking to you to
reveal to it. Let's plunge right into our mystery!
- Prisoner Paul
- Read Ephesians 3:1. What is Paul's status as he writes
this counsel to the Ephesians? (He is in prison.)
- Why is he in prison? (He says it is because of the
Gentiles. Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New
Testament directs our attention to Acts 22 for the
answer. So, let's explore what happened in Acts.)
- Read Acts 21:27-29. What is the charge against Paul?
- What is the basis for the charge?
- Read Acts 21:30-32. How would you characterize the views
of the Jews towards Paul?
- Why did they have such hostility towards him? (His
association with Gentiles.)
- In Acts 21:33-40 Paul is saved by the soldiers, arrested,
and interviewed by the commander of the soldiers. He
decides to let Paul speak to the mob in the hope that will
clear up any confusion and get them settled down. Read
quickly Acts 22:1-22, focusing on Acts 22:21-22. What
specific mission did God give Paul? (To minister to the
- What do you find odd about that? (Paul started out
with the same attitude ( Acts 22:3-4) as the people in
- Has this happened to you? Has your attitude
towards another race or class or people changed
because of the gospel?
- Read again Acts 22:21-22. Considering this entire
sequence of events, why are the Jews so angry about
Paul's announcement that God has sent Paul to
minister to the Gentiles? (It seems this is a
repudiation of what we discussed last week - the Jews
were the "clean" insiders. The Gentiles were the
unclean outsiders. The idea that Gentiles could have
access to God upset their entire world-view. It also
took away their exclusive status. None of this was
- If you were Paul, the ultimate "insider," how would
you like to be given the mission to bring the gospel
to the Gentiles?
- If you were God, why would you give this mission
to Paul? (Because it took away much of the
argument against Paul. Paul was the "ultimate
Jew." Jews could not suggest that his current
views came from some defect in his background.
No one could argue, "He has never been a proper
Jew. We should not be surprised by him now.")
- The Mystery
- Read Ephesians 3:2-3. What is this mystery revealed to
Paul? (Read Ephesians 3:6 - that the Gentiles are heirs
together with the Jews. They share the promise of eternal
life through Jesus.)
- What does it mean for Paul to "administer" God's
grace? (What a glorious thought. When you share God's
gift of grace with others, you help to direct God's
work on earth.)
- Read Ephesians 3:4-5 and Ephesians 3:9. Why would God keep
- What is Paul's point in Ephesians 3:9 when he notes
that God "created all things?" (Paul's point is that
the Creator can decide to reveal things whenever He
wants. His creation is in no position to say, "Why
didn't you tell me that before?")
- Look again at Ephesians 3:5. Has this mystery never
before been revealed? (Paul says it has not before
been so clearly revealed. The idea that I get is that
this was known in the past to a limited degree, but
now God wants it to be widely revealed.)
- Read Isaiah 56:6-7 and Isaiah 49:6. We have
already discussed the "God is all powerful and
He can do anything He wants" answer to this
mystery of sharing the gospel with the Gentiles.
What logical reason can you see for God more
fully revealing the mystery during Paul's day?
(The Isaiah 49:6 text is a Messianic prophecy.
Since Israel largely rejected Jesus as the
Messiah, it made sense to go beyond the Jews
with the message of Jesus. God had always
allowed Gentiles to come to Him ( Isaiah 56:6-7),
but now there was a very practical reason to
abandon Israel as God's primary point of contact
- Read Ephesians 3:6. How does the gospel bring the Jews and
Gentiles together? (Since Jesus died for the sins of all,
and since salvation is by grace and not works, all are now
eligible to enter into the Kingdom of God.)
- Paul the Lesser
- Read Ephesians 3:7-8. How does Paul describe himself? (As
less than the least of all God's people.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 15:9. How does Paul describe
himself here? (As the least of the apostles.)
- Read 1 Timothy 1:15. How does Paul describe himself
here? (As the worst of all sinners.)
- Consider this series of statements: Paul is the least
of the apostles, the least of the believers and
(going further down)the worst of all sinners. What is
Paul's point? That we should junk all of our "self-worth" seminars?
- Read 2 Corinthians 11:30. (Paul "boasts" in his
weakness because it shows the power of God. Paul
has this huge task - to administer the "mystery"
that the gospel of grace now should be widely
shared with Gentiles. Paul is not claiming that
he was given this task because he is so wise,
important and powerful. Rather, it is God who is
wise, important and powerful.)
- How does your attitude compare to that of
- Tutors of the Universe
- Read Ephesians 3:10-11. Who are these "rulers and
authorities in the heavenly realms?" (Angels?)
- Read 1 Peter 1:10-12 and Luke 15:10. What kind of
picture do we get of God's angels? (That they are
cheerleaders and helpers who are not completely aware
of how the details of salvation on earth will work
out. They study the issue of salvation.)
- What does Ephesians 3:10 suggest that the church
(that is you) is teaching angels? (Friend, God is
using you to unravel for the angels the details of
how the plan of salvation works out here on earth.
Paul suggests to us that the angels did not
understand the mystery that Gentiles and Jews would
now come together to promote God's kingdom on earth.
Angels are studying us.)
- Would "ruler" be a proper term to describe an angel?
(I think we have more than angels described here. It
is reasonable to read this to mean that other worlds
are studying how the conflict between good and evil
and the plan of salvation are working out here on
- Read Ephesians 3:12-13. Why can we have confidence in
approaching God? (What Jesus has done boosts our status
before God. If angels and other worlds are looking to us
to help understand God's work on earth, consider what that
does for your confidence. You are the center of the
- Strength for the Task
- Read Ephesians 3:14-16. Given the enormous importance of
what we are doing, given the universal stage on which we
work, what do we need to allow us to do our work? (Power
from the Holy Spirit.)
- Read Ephesians 3:17-19. What does love have to do with
this? (Not only does the knowledge that Jesus loves us
give us strength for the task ahead, but understanding and
sharing a sense of that love is a large part of our
- Read Ephesians 3:20-21. Friend, what kind of dream do you
have for accomplishing God's work on earth? Paul tells us
that God can use you to do much more than you can even
imagine! Will you imagine great things for God today?
- Next week: Unity Amid Diversity.
* Copr. 2005, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.