May 7, 2017 – Ephesians 3:1-7

Lesson Date: May 7, 2017

Focal Scripture Passage: Ephesians 3:1-7

AIM: To lead students to discover the mystery that Paul revealed to his readers, and to respond to that mystery by either (a) thanking God for the ministry of the Apostle Paul and others who carried the gospel to the Gentiles or (b) accepting God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

 

Before class: Read the notes on Ephesians 3:1-7 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Get a copy of the “Ephesians 3:1-7 Illusion” sheet or something similar to show at the beginning of the class. Using a marker, write the text of Ephesians 3:6 on a sheet of poster board. Cut the poster board into pieces, similar to the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Tape one piece under each chair in your classroom (the ones in which members usually sit). Write or print the following scripture references on index cards or small pieces of paper: Romans 11:13, Galatians 3:14, and 2 Timothy 1:11. Enlist some class members who are comfortable reading aloud to look up the verses and be prepared to read them to the class when called upon.

 

INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Hold up and direct the class’ attention to the “Ephesians 3:1-7 Illusion” sheet. Ask what picture they see on the sheet. Tell the class this sheet is somewhat of a mystery, because there are actually three faces in the one picture. Allow time for the students to study the picture, and then ask if they see: (1) a side view of the face of a young woman wearing a hat, (2) an old woman with a wart on her nose, and (3) a man with a mustache.

Write the word “Mystery” on the marker board or chalkboard. Comment that most people enjoy a good mystery. Ask: “Do you enjoy mystery stories or puzzles?” Tell the students in today’s lesson they will discover the biblical meaning of the word “mystery.” Today’s verses will also reveal an important mystery to us.

 

HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):

  1. Review.
    • Remind the class that we are involved in a six-month study of the New Testament book of Ephesians.
    • Tell them the Apostle Paul wrote the letter to the church at Ephesus while he was a prisoner in Rome (locate Ephesus and Rome on the map).
    • Ask: “What was chapter 1 about?” (the role of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in our salvation).
    • Ask: “What was chapter 2 about?” (God’s plan of salvation and the uniting of saved Jews and saved Gentiles into one new body, the New Testament church.).
    • Read Ephesians 2:18-22.
    • Tell the class today we begin chapter 3.
  2. Paul – the Prisoner of Jesus Christ for the Gentiles.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ephesians 3:1.
    • Note that the first three words of this verse are “For this cause.”
    • Ask: “Why did Paul begin this sentence with those words? What cause do you think he was referring to?” (because, as he just said in the previous verses, God saves both Jews and Gentiles and places us all in His body, the church).
    • Ask the volunteer to read Ephesians 3:1 again.
    • Ask: “How did Paul describe himself?” (the prisoner of Jesus Christ).
    • Ask: “Why did Paul describe himself this way?” (because He was in prison for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ).
    • Ask: “Who did he say he was a prisoner for?” (the Gentiles).
    • Ask the previously enlisted volunteers to read Romans 11:13 and 2 Timothy 1:11.
    • Explain that the Lord had revealed to Paul that his ministry was to be directed toward the Gentiles.
    • Remind the class that Gentiles are people who are Jewish by birth. In ancient times they were known to worship false gods and were often very wicked and immoral.
    • Summarize: the Apostle Paul was called by God to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
  3. The Mystery was Revealed to Paul.
    • Read Ephesians 3:2.
    • Explain that the word dispensation literally means stewardship.
    • Note the last words of this verse (“given me to you-ward”).
    • Ask: “Based on the context of these verses, why do you think God gave Paul a special dispensation of grace?” (so he could carry the gospel to the Gentiles).
    • Tell the class the Lord gave Paul a special stewardship or responsibility to take the message of salvation to the Gentiles, who were alienated from Judaism and from God’s Word ( 2:12). This was a dispensation of grace because God showed grace to the Gentiles in sending Paul to preach the gospel to them.
    • Tell the class in verse 3 we start learning about the mystery.
    • Read Ephesians 3:3.
    • Ask: “How did the Lord make the mystery known to Paul?” (by revelation).
    • Explain that the word revelation literally means revealing. In other words, God revealed or explained the mystery directly to Paul.
    • Stress the fact that God gave direct revelation to Paul and other New Testament writers so they could write His Word (the Bible) for us.
      • God no longer gives such direct revelation, because the Bible is His complete
      • Despite the false claims of false teachers and false churches (cults), there is NO NEW REVELATION in our time.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ephesians 3:4.
    • Ask: “Why did Paul write the things the Lord revealed to him?” (so his readers could understand the mystery God had revealed to him).
    • Summarize: God supernaturally revealed the mystery to the Apostle Paul so he could write it down so that we, twenty centuries later, could learn about it.
  4. The Mystery Defined.
    • Tell the class that verse 5 gives us the biblical definition of the word mystery.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ephesians 3:5.
    • Ask: “Based on this verse, how would you define a mystery?”
      • After some responses, explain that in previous times (prior to the coming of Jesus Christ) the mystery was hidden from men.
      • Now (since the coming of Jesus Christ) the mystery has been revealed.
      • A mystery, then, is a spiritual truth that was previously hidden, but which the Lord has later revealed.
    • Ask: “To whom did God reveal the mystery?” (the apostles and prophets).
    • Tell the class that the apostles and prophets were ancient church leaders through whom God delivered His Word. We will learn more about them next month in chapter 4.
    • Explain that this is another way we know there is no longer any new revelation – there are no living biblical apostles or biblical-era prophets in our day.
    • Ask: “Since there are no longer any living apostles or prophets, how do we know what God revealed to them?” (He inspired them to write it down for us in the Bible).
    • Summarize: A mystery is something previously hidden, which has now been revealed to believers in Jesus Christ.
  5. The Mystery Revealed to Us.
    • Tell the class that Paul revealed the mystery in verse 6.
    • Ask the students to listen for the description of the mystery as you read Ephesians 3:6.
    • Tell the class the mystery was about saved Gentiles: those Gentiles (like many of us) who have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
    • Ask the students to look back at verse 6 and identify three things the Lord Jesus Christ has done for Gentiles who trust him. They should name the following:
      • Saved Gentiles are “fellow heirs” with saved Jews (see Eph. 1:11) – possessing all the same blessings and benefits as Jews who trust Jesus.
      • Saved Gentiles are “of the same body” as saved Jews (see Eph. 2:15) – members of the church of Jesus Christ, just like Jews who trust Jesus.
      • Saved Gentiles are “partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel” (see Eph. 1:13)
    • Ask the previously enlisted volunteer to read Galatians 3:14.
    • Tell the class the mystery Paul wrote about is that through Jesus Christ Gentiles can be saved by grace, just like Jews. There are not two ways to be saved and there are not different levels of salvation for Jews and Gentiles. We are all equal in Jesus Christ.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Ephesians 3:7.
    • Ask: “Why did Paul spread the gospel?” (because he was a recipient of God’s gifts of grace and power).
    • Tell the students we who are saved have also received that same grace and power, so we should spread the gospel, too!
    • Summarize: Saved Jews and saved Gentiles are completely equal in Jesus Christ.

 

PERSONAL APPLICATION: Direct the class’ attention to the word “Mystery” written on the board. Tell them you have a little “mystery” for them to solve. Ask everyone to reach under his or her chair and get the puzzle piece you have hidden there (be sure all the pieces are retrieved – especially if you have any pieces taped under empty chairs).

Point out the fact that each of the individual pieces doesn’t tell us very much, but when we put all the pieces together we can clearly understand the mystery. That’s the way it was for the people of the First Century. Many of them, looking at religion from their limited perspective, couldn’t understand how Jews and Gentiles could be united together in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ask the class members to work together to assemble the puzzle pieces into the completed verse. Have them read the completed verse aloud. This is the mystery – revealed!

Ask: “Can you trace your ancestry back to the Jewish people living in Israel at the time of Jesus Christ?” (probably not). Say: “If not, and if you are saved, then you owe your salvation to the Apostle Paul and others who took the gospel to the Gentiles.”

Paul took the gospel to the Gentiles and it spread from Gentile to Gentile until eventually the gospel came to us (probably through some other Gentile). Ask: “How should we respond to this wonderful mystery?” (we should thank God for the ministry of the Apostle Paul and others who carried the gospel to the Gentiles).

Tell the students if they are not saved they are not part of this wonderful mystery – but they can be if they want to. Explain that if anyone will sincerely turn to Jesus Christ for salvation they can be fellow heirs, part of the same body, and share in the same promises as every other Christian. Urge any who are not saved to accept Christ right now. Lead a closing prayer.

 

CONCLUSION: Ask everyone to memorize Ephesians 3:6. Encourage them to tell someone this week the Good News that salvation is available to everybody through faith in Christ.

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