Lesson One
Overview and Ephesians 1:1-2

To the Saints

      Before you get immersed in the details of Paul's words, take an overview of the whole letter.  Potentially confusing verses will be clearer later if you can see how they fit into Paul's overall message.

First Impressions

  1. The best preparation for grasping Ephesians is to read it through several times, comparing various versions.  Try reading it aloud.  Get a general impression.
  2. Describe the mood (tone, feeling) of the letter.  (Is Paul formal, intimate, angry, jubilant...?  Is he writing a story, a personal message, a sermon...?  Is he describing, giving direction, trying to persuade?)  If the mood changes anywhere, note where it changes.

  3. Repetition is a clue to the ideas a writer considers most important to his message.  What words or ideas occur over and over in Paul's letter?

Broad outline

  4. Reread the letter, preferably in a fresh translation.  This time, think of a short phrase or sentence to describe what each main section of the book is about.  (These major sections are probably groups of paragraphs.)
   1:1-2  Paul greets the saints.

   5.Paul's message seems to divide into two main sections, chapters 1-3 and 4-6.  What do you think each section is about?  What does the purpose of each seem to be?


   6.What do you think was Paul's reason for writing this letter? What does its content suggest he was trying to accomplish?

   7.  Try to state the main message of Paul's letter in one sentence.  Think about the themes of each half of the letter.  If you need more than one sentence at this point, use more.

   8. If you have not already done so, read the historical background on pages 9-12.  Is there any information that seems particularly helpful to you in understanding the book of Ephesians?  Please explain briefly.

                     Study Skill - Bible Study Aids
      If you would like to study the background of Ephesians
      in greater depth, consult one of the sources on pages
      123-127.  These and similar commentaries will also be
      quite helpful to you if you decide to study another book
      of the Bible on your own.

      Jewish letters of Paul's day commonly opened with a sentence giving the titles of sender and addressee.  Then came a sentence wishing peace and blessings to the addressee.
      An apostle (verse 1) is "one who is sent."  In its narrow sense, the word meant one of a small group of men whom the church recognized as having special authority from God to clarify the policy and teaching of the whole body.  Paul may have been the only one of this group who was not one of Jesus' disciples, and he was conscious of his status.
      Saints (verse 1) were literally, "holy ones."  The Greek Old Testament used the word for the people of Israel - God's chosen.  Paul included all whom God had made holy, even gentile believers in Christ.
      Grace (verse 2) is "favor shown by a superior to an inferior."  It is especially God's free decision to include the Gentiles into His people.  But Paul mentioned other gracious gifts in his letter (3:7, 4:7, 4:11).  he used this term of God's kindness to humanity instead of the usual Greek greeting rejoice and in addition to the Jewish peace.
      Peace (verse 2) is "wholeness," that is, "a gift of God affecting the totality of psychic, physical, personal, familial, economic, and political dimensions of man's life."  Like grace, peace referred to social relationships, man-man and man-God.  According to the Old Testament prophets, peace would be fulfilled when the Messiah ruled.

      For Thought and Discussion: What do you think Paul wanted to communicate by describing himself and his readers as in verse 1?