Ephesians - Lesson 8
By Curt Niccum
Light and Dark. Ephesians 4:17-32
- The student can list at least three of the contrasts between the life of darkness and the life of light made by Paul in this passage.
- The student can identify comparable contrasts between lives of darkness and light appropriate to his or her contemporary situation.
- Bibles and pens as needed.
- Hopefully, class discussion will generate a number of lists. The teacher may wish to provide handouts (the template may be found at the end of this lesson) or keep track of items mentioned using a blackboard or overhead projector.
- Before the class is taught, the teacher may want to collect written accounts of conversion to be read near the end of class. (See the Application section below.)Theme: In the practical section of the letter, Paul calls for the Ephesians to live (lit. "walk") in a manner worthy of their calling. In 4:1-16 he addresses the particulars of the more mature life, contrasting the present light-filled life with the former experiences of walking in darkness.
Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class
- Call the roll or have someone check it. (It is very important to know who is present so someone can check on those who are absent.) Introduce and welcome visitors, take prayer requests, and make any necessary announcements.
- Prayer and songs as desired.
- Assess the previous lesson's assignments.
- Have the class recite the seven "ones" from 4:4-6.
- Ask if any of the students found new ways to put their giftedness to work.
- Review Ephesians 4:1-16.
- The section studied in the previous class period addressed two types of unity. Q:What are they? A: The unity of the Spirit and the unity of faith.
- Paul indicated that one was provided by God and the other was yet a goal to be obtained. Q: Which is which? A: God provides the unity of the Spirit. We must work towards a unity of faith.
- According to Paul's discussion in Ephesians 4, working towards the unity of faith has two purposes. Q: What are they? A: 1) Equipping the saints for works of service, and 2) the building up of the body of Christ to its full stature.
- Although one can construe these as two separate items, they belong together. Note that, according to 4:15, the maturation of the church (#2) requires speaking the truth in love (#1).
- Paul connects both the unity of the Spirit and the unity of faith with "walking worthily" (4:1). The appropriate "walk" contributes to maintaining the former and attaining the latter. Q: How?
- First, when "walking" like Christ, we find it easier to commit ourselves to and submit ourselves for the good of the community.
- Second, when "walking like Christ" we provide a living example for others to follow. Christianity cannot be learned by lecture alone. There must be mentoring, opportunities to see the "new" life in action. We can grow towards the full stature of Christ by noting those who have navigated life successfully (see Philippians 2:29).
- So, how does "walking" like Christ look different from "walking" like the world?
- Have the class look through 4:17-24 and answer the following questions. Q: Whatadjectives does Paul use to describe the "Gentile" walk? A: Foolish or vain (v.17), darkened (v. 18), estranged or alienated (v. 18), hardened (v. 18), self deceived(v. 19), licentious, impure, and greedy (v. 19), corrupted (v. 22), and lustful (v. 22). Q: What adjectives does Paul use to describe the "Christian" walk?A: True (vv. 21 & 24), righteous and holy (v. 24). This list is much shorter, but that makes a more powerful impression.
- Have the class look through 4:25-32 and answer the following questions.
- Q: When the world tells lies, what do Christians do? A: Speak the truth.
- Q: When the world follows after the devil, what do Christians do? A:Refuse to allow anger to produce sin and to last longer than a day.
- Q: When the world uses hands for stealing from others for one's own benefit, what do Christians do? A: Use one's own hands to work in order to contribute to the needs of others.
- Q: When the world uses foul language, what do Christians do? A: Onlyspeak that which benefits another.
- Q: When the world displays bitterness, wrath, anger, shouting, slander,and malice, what do Christians display? A: Kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.
- To make absolutely clear the difference between just "walking" and "walking worthily," Paul provides these concrete contrasts to demarcate the two worlds. It is,therefore, not just a concern about which spiritual being(s) one claims to follow,whether the ruler of the power of the air (2:2) or Christ (5:2), one's actions attest one's lord.
- Without specifically mentioning baptism in this passage, Paul employs language associated with baptism to further strengthen his point.
- The most common metaphor associated with baptism in the New Testament is new birth or new creation.
- Note that in 4:22-24 Paul employs this language, indicating that through baptism we truly are re-created in the image of God.
- Read the parallel passage, Colossians 3:5-10, to help make the connection with baptism clearer.
- It would be appropriate, then, for class members to reflect on their conversions. AllChristians have experienced a dramatic change because of God's grace throughChrist. Some changes are certainly more dramatic than others, but no more important,for all have fallen short of the glory of God and incurred the judgment of death.Indeed, it would be beneficial for some or all of the class members (depending upon time) to relate their conversions, including frank discussions about the types of changes brought about by the gospel message. (The teacher could set an example by being the first to provide testimony. If doing this might be uncomfortable or embarrassing to some, the teacher can ask individuals in advance to write out their stories which could then be shared anonymously.)
- Closing remarks or discussion: We all know how to identify a foreigner. Foreigners stand out. They look different, talk different, act different, and sometimes even smell different. They also tend to congregate together informally and formally. One can go through any urban area and find neighborhoods inhabited by particular ethnic groups. They gather together because in each other's company they feel much more comfortable and they can live in and preserve their culture. Paul employed this phenomenon to remind the Gentile Ephesians that they were foreigners apart from Christ (2:12). Because of his arguments that, having converted, they now are completely incorporated into the people of God, it stands to reason that they now stand just as far apart from their pagan friends and acquaintances. Thetables have been turned. Christians are foreigners in this world. We dress differently, talk differently, and act differently. Peter calls us resident aliens (1 Pet. 1:1 and 2:11), an idea compatible with Paul's portrayal in Ephesians. Paul contrasts two different cultures, delimited later with terms like "light" and "darkness," "beloved children of God" and "disobedient children as objects of God's wrath." Let us make sure the world recognizes that difference in us!
- Challenge the students to pay attention to how their light shines in the darkness. Specifically, they need to be prepared to share with the class at the next meeting how at least one specific action stood in contrast to the action of others.
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