These are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone on Wednesday, September 9, 2020.
This evening, we're going to study the Bible using a method called Seven Arrows of Bible Study. Each arrow is a question that will help us understand and apply the passage. I'll explain each arrow as we work through them. I think you'll find this really helpful. Not just this evening, but also in your personal Bible study and even in your small groups.
Our passage is Ephesians 2:13-18, so let's take a moment to pray and then read through the verses.
(Ephesians 2:13-18) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
ARROW 1: What does this passage say?
The goal here is to re-state the passage in our own words. Emphasis is on finding the main point.
There are ways to find the main point. For example, is there a clear statement of the main point? Are certain words or phrases repeated? Is there a flow of argument that leads to a conclusion? The conclusion will be the main point.
So ... in our passage, there are a couple of clues to the main point. First, the structure of the passage: there is an opening statement in verse 13 and a closing statement in verse 18 and in between there is a flow of supporting arguments.
Those who were far away have been brought near.
Those who were far away and those who were near both have access to God by the same Spirit.
Then there are multiple ways to describe the alienation that existed between Jews and Gentiles and between all of us and God:
The dividing wall of hostility
The Law - commands and regulations
Second, there is a repeated word: peace.
Jesus is our peace.
Jesus has made peace.
He came and preached peace
Then, there are synonyms for peace:
Made the two groups one
One new humanity
Reconcile both of them
Put to death their hostility
Then, the means of peace is described three times:
By his blood
In his flesh
In one body
Through the cross
So ... if I rewrite the passage in my own words, I'll write something like:
"Jesus Christ has united Jews and Gentiles and restored them to God by his death on the cross. Now, through our shared union with Christ, the Holy Spirit brings us all into the presence of God."
ARROW 2: What did this passage mean to the original audience?
This arrow points us to the original background and context of the passage. The 6 W's is a great way to remember how to discover this information: who, what, where, when, why, how?
This is where a good study Bible comes in very handy. The introductions to each book. Timelines. Maps. Articles.
Ephesus was a Greco-Roman city, "the first and greatest metropolis of Asia." The temple to Artemis, AKA the goddess Diana was there. Its theatre, which was the largest in the world, capable of containing 50,000 spectators. The city was home to many Jews and Paul shared the gospel with them and the Gentiles there.
So, it is likely that the church had both Jewish and Gentile members. That's why Paul thought it necessary to communicate to them their essential unity in Christ. There is a re-statement of this point in Galatians 3:
(Galatians 3:26-28) So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
What did this passage mean to the original audience? No matter how different their ethnic, cultural, or religious differences were before they turned to Jesus, they are now one in Christ, united in one new humanity.
ARROW 3: What does this passage tell us about God?
He is humble - incarnate in Jesus.
He is self-sacrificial - death on the cross.
He wants to restore and reconcile us.
He wants us to come near to him.
He cares about unity in the church - he died to bring us together.
ARROW 4: What does this passage tell us about humanity?
We are divided.
We are alienated from God
We are helpless to help ourselves.
Our best hope is Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.
God loves us enough to seek us and to save us by his own death.
God wants a connection with us.
ARROW 5: What does this passage demand of me?
Awe and worship of the crucified God.
Unity. At almost any cost.
ARROW 6: How does this passage change how I relate to people?
I want everyone to hear about Jesus Christ.
I should not create any barriers to people coming to faith in Jesus.
We tend to divide and the divisions are not easily bridged.
If Jesus was willing to die for these people, then I should be willing to work hard at being united with them.
ARROW 7: What does this passage prompt me to pray to God?
Pray for unity in the church.
Pray for Jesus to be proclaimed everywhere.