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Lesson 2

Lesson 1

Paul and the Ephesians

June 24 – 30

Sabbath Afternoon

Paul and the Ephesians

June 24

Read for This Week’s Study: Acts 18:18–21; Acts 19:13– 20:1; Acts 20:17–38; Eph. 1:1, 2; Eph. 6:21–24; Eph. 3:13; Eph. 1:9, 10.

Memory Text: “Making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:9, 10, ESV).

When we write something, we have a purpose for doing so, sometimes a weighty one. Abraham Lincoln, for instance, wrote his famous Gettysburg address in 1863 after the terrible devastation in the American Civil War battle there, which left about seven thousand soldiers dead. In that address, invoking the founding fathers, Lincoln expressed his belief that the Civil War was the ultimate test as to whether the nation created in 1776 would endure or would “perish from the earth.”

Paul has a profound purpose that motivates his letter. Partly because of his imprisonment (Eph. 3:13, Eph. 6:20), and partly because of ongoing persecution and temptations, the Ephesians are tempted to lose heart. Paul reminds them of what happened when they were converted, accepting Christ as their Savior and becoming part of the church. They have become Christ’s body (Eph. 1:19–23, Eph. 4:1–16), the building materials in a temple (Eph. 2:19–22), the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:21– 33), and a well-equipped army (Eph. 6:10–20). They play a strategic role in fulfilling God’s grand plan, to unite everything in Christ (Eph. 1:9, 10). Paul writes to awaken the believers in Ephesus to their full identity and privileges as followers of Christ.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, July 1.


Paul, Evangelist to Ephesus

June 25

Paul, Evangelist to Ephesus

What does Paul do on his first visit to Ephesus, at the end of his second missionary journey? (Acts 18:18–21).

Ephesus was one of the largest cities of the Roman Empire, with a population of about two hundred fifty thousand. It was the capital of one of the empire’s richest provinces, the province of Asia, which covered much of what we know today as Asia Minor. In Paul’s day, the province was enjoying a time of growth and prosperity. A port city, Ephesus was also at the crossroads of important land routes. While the people worshiped many deities in the city, Artemis, regarded as the protector goddess of the city, was supreme. Her worship was the focus of civic ceremonies, athletic games, and annual celebrations.

(Artemis was called Diana by the Romans; see Acts 19:24, 35, KJV; NKJV.) Paul later returns to Ephesus on his third missionary journey (Acts 19:1–12) and remains there “for three years” (Acts 20:31). The apostle makes a significant time commitment to Ephesus, with the intention of firmly founding Christianity there.

What strange event leads to widespread reverence for “the Lord Jesus” in Ephesus? Acts 19:13–20.

Luke shares the strange story of seven itinerant, Jewish exorcists in the city. Mingling the names of both Jesus and Paul in their incantations proves to be a misguided venture for these exorcists. When the news flashes through the streets of the city, “everyone was awestruck; and the name of the Lord Jesus was praised” (Acts 19:17, NRSV). The event also had a profound impact on some of those who had already become believers, who publicly burned their expensive handbooks of magic arts worth “fifty thousand silver coins” (Acts 19:19, NRSV). With the wider residents of the city, believers learn that the worship of Jesus must not be diluted with the worship of anything or anyone else.

What did the burning of their own books signify, even at such an expense to themselves? What does that say about a total commitment to the Lord?


A Riot in the Amphitheater

June 26

A Riot in the Amphitheater

Read Acts 19:21–20:1. What lessons can we draw from this story?

Paul’s witness in the large, sophisticated city of Ephesus was so effective that it impacted an important economic engine for the city, tourism focused on the Temple of Artemis. And what a temple it was! This magnificent structure was composed partly of 127 pillars, each 60 feet high, of Parian marble, a pure-white, flawless marble highly prized for sculptures. Thirtysix of these pillars were sculpted and overlaid with gold, earning the temple its reputation as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Concerned that Paul’s anti-idolatry rhetoric was draining financial support from the temple (Acts 19:27), Demetrius the silversmith whipped his fellow craftsmen into a frenzy. A rapidly expanding and highly energized crowd swept from the marketplace into the large amphitheater, which seated some twenty-five thousand people. There the commotion continued, featuring two continuous hours of shouting “ ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ ” (Acts 19:34, ESV). After the crowd is dispersed by the town clerk, Paul meets with the believers and leaves the city.

At the end of his third missionary journey, Paul meets with elders of the Ephesian church. How would you summarize Paul’s concerns? See Acts 20:17–38.

A tentative chronology of Paul’s relationship to Ephesus: * ad 52: Paul’s initial, brief visit to Ephesus (Acts 18:18–21).

* ad 53–56: Paul’s three-year ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19:1–20:1). He composes 1 Corinthians near the end of his stay there (1 Cor. 16:5–9).

* ad 57: While at Miletus, Paul meets with the elders from Ephesus (Acts 20:17–38).

* ad 62: Paul composes his letter to the Ephesians, probably from confinement in Rome.

“Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears,” said Paul (Acts 20:31, NKJV). What do you think Paul would warn our church about today, and why?


Hearing the Letter to the Ephesians

June 27

Hearing the Letter to the Ephesians

Read Ezekiel 28:12–19. What can we learn from this passage about the mysterious origin of sin?

Much of the book of Ezekiel was written in end-time, symbolic language. In many instances, specific entities (such as persons, animals, and objects) and local events are used to represent and describe broader cosmic and/or historical realities. In Ezekiel 28:1–10, the Lord spoke of the king of Tyre (Tyre itself was a prosperous ancient Phoenician port city) as a rich and proud ruler who was only a “man” but who claimed to be a god and who even sat (he claimed) in the throne of the gods.

Then, in Ezekiel 28:12–19, this historical reality becomes an analogy to describe the original fall of Lucifer in the heavenly courts. So, the king of Tyre, who was a human being living “ ‘ “in the midst of the seas” ’ ” (Ezek. 28:2, 8, NKJV), now represents “ ‘ “the anointed cherub who covers,” ’ ” (Ezek. 28:14, NKJV)living “ ‘ “in Eden, the garden of God,” ’ ” (Ezek. 28:13, NKJV) and “ ‘ “upon the holy mountain of God” ’ ” (Ezek. 28:14).

A crucial statement in the whole account is found in Ezekiel 28:15, which says, “ ‘ “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you” ’ ”(NKJV). Hence, Lucifer’s perfection included the potential for evil, the potential to do wrong, and that was because, as a moral being, Lucifer possessed free will, part of what it means to be a perfect being.

In reality, Lucifer was created perfect—which included his ability to choose freely. However, abusing that perfection by the misuse of his free will, he became corrupted by considering himself more important than he actually was.

No longer satisfied with how God had created and honored him, Lucifer lost his thankfulness to God and wished to receive more recognition than he actually deserved. How this could happen with a perfect angelic being living in a perfect universe is, as already mentioned, a mystery.

“Sin is a mysterious, unexplainable thing. There was no reason for its existence; to seek to explain it is to seek to give a reason for it, and that would be to justify it. Sin appeared in a perfect universe, a thing that was shown to be inexcusable.”—Ellen G. White, The Truth About Angels, p. 30.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says that “in everything” (NKJV) we should give thanks. How can these words help us to overcome any feelings of ingratitude and self-pity, especially in trying times?


Ephesians in Its Time

June 28

Ephesians in Its Time

How does Paul begin and end his letter to the believers in Ephesus? What do we learn about his deepest desires for them? See Eph. 1:1, 2; Eph. 6:21–24.

At the outset of the letter, Paul identifies himself as the author (Eph. 1:1). Near the middle of the letter, Paul again identifies himself by name, labeling himself “the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles” (Eph. 3:1, NKJV), which introduces a personal reflection on his work as an apostle (Eph. 3:1–13). Near the end of the letter, he again refers to his imprisonment (Eph. 6:20) and concludes with personal words (Eph. 6:21, 22).

While some scholars deny that the letter was written by Paul, it is important to note that the epistle clearly lays claim to Paul as its author. Most Christians accept, and rightly so, Paul as the author.

How does Paul worry about the effect his imprisonment will have on believers in Ephesus? See Eph. 3:13.

Ephesians seems to share the same general timing and circumstances with other letters Paul writes from prison, Colossians (see esp. Col. 4:7, 8) and Philemon. Also considerable time seems to have passed since Paul’s ministry in Ephesus (Eph. 1:15; Eph. 3:1, 2). Paul probably composed Ephesians in a prison in Rome about ad 62.

In Ephesians, Paul offers few specifics about the situation of his audience in Ephesus. The scope of his attention is wide. He deals with a grand span of time, beginning with God’s decisions made “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4), and reflects broadly on grand themes of God’s salvation offered in Christ. In doing so, the letter exhibits an exalted, literary style, with long sentences, repetitive expressions, and developed metaphors.

Paul can use such a style elsewhere (e.g., Rom. 8:31–39), but it is concentrated in Ephesians, which features a great deal of praise, prayer, and worship language (Eph. 1:3–14, Eph. 1:15–23, Eph. 3:14–21) and offers carefully crafted, highly rhetorical passages (e.g., Eph. 4:1–16, Eph. 5:21–33, Eph. 6:10–20).


The Spread of Unbelief


The Spread of Unbelief

Read Revelation 12. What does this chapter teach about the spread of the rebellion in heaven to the earth?

The fall of Lucifer was not a simple clash of conflicting ideas. Revelation 12 tells us that a major war broke out in heaven between Lucifer and his angels on one side and Christ and His angels on the other. In this passage, Lucifer is called “the great dragon,” the “serpent of old,” “the Devil and Satan,” and “the accuser of our brethren” (Rev. 12:9, 10, NKJV). Christ is referred to as “Michael” (Rev. 12:7), which means “who is like God.”

Based on the allusion to “Michael the archangel” (Jude 9), some interpreters believe that He is only an angelic being. But in the book of Daniel, each major vision culminates with Christ and His everlasting kingdom—as the stone cut out without hands(Dan. 2:34, 45), as the Son of man (Dan. 7:13), as the Prince of the host and the Prince of princes (Dan. 8:11, 25), and as Michael the great prince (Dan. 12:1). So, as the Angel of the Lord is the Lord Himself(Exod. 3:1–6, Acts 7:30–33, etc.), Michael must be the same Divine Person (i.e., Christ Himself).

Revelation 12 provided a general overview of this ongoing controversy, which (1) began in heaven with the rebellion of Lucifer and one-third of the heavenly angels, (2) culminated with Christ’s decisive victory at the cross, and (3) still continues against God’s end-time remnant people.

Reflecting on the beginning of this controversy, Ellen G. White explains that “God in His great mercy bore long with Lucifer. He was not immediately degraded from his exalted station when he first indulged the spirit of discontent, nor even when he began to present his false claims before the loyal angels. Long was he retained in heaven. Again and again he was offered pardon on condition of repentance and submission.”—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 495, 496.

We do not know how long that war lasted in the heavenly realms. Regardless of its intensity and time span, the most important aspect of the whole struggle was that Satan and his angels “were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven” (Rev. 12:8, NRSV; see also Luke 10:18). The problem, of course, was that they came here, to the earth.

What are ways in which we can see the reality of this battle being played out on the earth? What is our only hope to overcome our enemy in this battle?


Further Thought


Further Thought

Read Ellen G. White, “Why Was Sin Permitted?” pp. 33–43, in Patriarchs and Prophets; “The Origin of Evil,” pp. 492– 504, in The Great Controversy.

“There was no possible hope for the redemption of those [Satan and his angels] who had witnessed and enjoyed the inexpressible glory of heaven, and had seen the terrible majesty of God, and, in presence of all this glory, had rebelled against Him. There were no new and wonderful exhibitions of God’s exalted power that could impress them so deeply as those they had already experienced. If they could rebel in the very presence of glory inexpressible, they could not be placed in a more favorable condition to be proved. There was no reserve force of power, nor were there any greater heights and depths of infinite glory to overpower their jealous doubts and rebellious murmuring. Their guilt and their punishment must be in proportion to their exalted privileges in the heavenly courts.”—Ellen G. White, Confrontation, p. 21.

“From the beginning, God and Christ knew of the apostasy of Satan, and of the fall of man through the deceptive power of the apostate. God did not ordain that sin should exist, but He foresaw its existence, and made provision to meet the terrible emergency. So great was His love for the world, that He covenanted to give His only-begotten Son, ‘that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ John 3:16.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 22.

Discussion Questions:
  • In class, wrestle with the question of whether God is ultimately responsible for the origin and existence of evil in our world. How might we seek to answer that charge?
  • How does the cross fit in with our understanding of the whole question of evil? Why must the cross and what happened there be central to any understanding of the origin of evil?
  • After so many millennia of sin and suffering in our world, Satan should now be fully aware of the tragic consequences of his rebellion. Why then does he still carry on his rebellion against God?
  • In Matthew 5:43–48, Christ speaks of God’s unconditional love for all human beings as the pattern for all our own interactions. How can you reflect this pattern more closely within your family and church?
  • The apostle Peter warns us that “the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8, NKJV). Read also Ephesians 6:10–20. How can we prevail against the “wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11)?


Set Free From Chains
By Andrew Mcchesney

Screams pierced the air in the rural village in Laos. A Seventh-day Adventist pastor, who was visiting the village with a small team of church workers, headed toward the loud cries to find out what was happening. He was surprised to see a 16-year-old boy chained to the wooden floor of his family home. “What happened to your boy?” he asked the parents.

“Why is he chained up?” The parents looked sad. “Our son Aer has been sick for many years,” his father said. “He becomes normal for several hours, but then he loses his mind again, several times a day,” his mother said.

The parents had spent all their money trying to find a cure. But the situation steadily had gotten worse until they reluctantly decided to leave Aer in chains all the time to prevent him from harming himself and others. He had been bound to the wooden floor for the past six months.

The pastor spoke with Aer and told him and his parents about the saving love of Jesus. “If Jesus is willing, He can heal Aer,” he said. He asked for permission to pray for the boy. Aer’s parents happily agreed. Hope shone in their faces that their son would be healed.

A few days later, the pastor and his team again visited Aer and prayed for him. The pastor invited the family to worship in the nearest Adventist church in a neighboring village.

The next Sabbath, the parents arrived at church with Aer, his hands bound in chains. Each church member prayed for Aer, and then the pastor also asked the boy’s father to pray for him. All heads bowed as the father prayed to Jesus on behalf of his son. From that day, the boy was healed. He returned to normal and no longer needed to be chained up.

Neighbors were amazed, and they deluged Aer’s parents with questions. “Is this the boy who was ill for many years and was chained up?” one asked. “Why is he OK now?” asked another. “Who healed him?” The parents explained that the Christian God had healed their boy. Not only did Aer’s parents accept Jesus as their personal Savior after the healing, but many other families did so as well. Those families are among 122 people who were baptized at the church in April 2021, filling the church building to overflowing.

“We praise God for performing so many miracles in this area, resulting in many people coming to Him to be saved,” said the Lao pastor who shared this story with Adventist Mission.

Thank you for your Sabbath School mission offerings that support the spread of the gospel in Laos and around the world.

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