STUDY | Spend the week studying Ephesians 4:1-16. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Many questions have been included in this guide. Read through this lesson to determine which questions will work best to encourage, push, and grow your group.
PRAY | As you prepare, pray for the preaching of God’s Word this coming weekend. Pray also for your time in this week’s study and your group’s openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | God is calling you to be part of a story bigger than your own.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
John looked at the clock. 7:15 p.m. Another late night in the office meant that he would miss dinner with his family again. He tried to rationalize it. “This is good for my career. I’m doing this because I want to give my family a better life.” But deep down, he felt like something wasn’t right and that there was more to life than climbing the corporate ladder. Last week, John’s wife said she wished he were around more, both for her and the kids. John wanted to change, and he wanted more out of life. He wanted his seventy to eighty years on earth to really matter. But he didn’t know where to start.
Do you ever feel like John? Do you feel like you were meant for more in life or that there’s something bigger to live for? If your answer is “yes” then this study is for you. God invites us all to be part of a bigger story – His story. For the next few weeks, your group will explore Ephesians 4:1-16 and God’s role for you in His story that only you can play. When you discover what that role is, you will begin to see that you were made for more.
Q: What is one thing you want more of in life right now?
Q: In what ways can you relate to John’s story?
Select 1-2 questions to discuss as a group.
WALKING IN A WORTHY WAY
Paul was a practical teacher and his letters are full of theology about the nature of God, Christ, salvation, etc. But, he didn’t want to fill up his readers with knowledge alone. His greater desire was for them to be a part of God’s story. He wanted them to be in the thick of what was God was doing in and around them. For Paul, a right understanding of the Gospel shows us how to live lives that truly matter. He walks us through this truth in Ephesians 4:1-6.
Paul begins Ephesians 4 with an exhortation to walk in a way worthy of God’s calling. A believer’s life should express something true about God and His Gospel. Paul wasn’t just teaching morality (i.e., be a good boy or girl, because that’s what God likes). He was saying something more. The Gospel means real life change, because, through the Gospel, we encounter Jesus. Jesus makes us a people who are gentle, patient, loving and seek unity and peace. Why? Because that’s how Jesus lived.
READ: Read Ephesians 4:1-6. What stands out to you in this passage?
Q: How does a right understanding of the Gospel show you how to live a life that truly matters?
Q: How would you describe walking “in a way worthy of God’s calling” in your own words?
UNITED BY THE SPIRIT
The Holy Spirit is the tie that binds all believers. This Spirit is the one unifying force that brings believers together from different cultures and backgrounds, with different personalities and gifting. God has made us one in Christ, and we are to live as one body working together to serve God’s purposes. Our “one hope” is the Gospel, and that hope unites us all. We may disagree on the finer points of how to live out our faith, but the Gospel makes us one, whether we live in Beirut, Prague, London or Detroit.
Q: In your opinion, what tends to cause the most division between believers?
Q: Where do you see the unifying power of the Holy Spirit in your church? How about in your group?
Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.
CALLED TO HOPE
What does Ephesians 4:1-6 teach us about participating in God’s story in our day-to-day lives? In this passage, we see three callings: the call to hope, the call to unity and the call to serve. Think of these callings as hooks on a coat rack that help you hook onto truth in your own life.
First, believers are called to hope. Jesus calls us to a relationship with Him, which allows us to experience life in God’s kingdom. This is life as it was meant to be lived. The hope we have is more than getting our ticket to heaven stamped. It’s a certain hope that we have the Father’s love and that He works all things for our good and growth. Hope can embolden us to do great and impossible things for Jesus.
Q: Respond to the following statement: “Hope can embolden us to do great and impossible things for Jesus.”
CALLED TO UNITY
Jesus told His disciples that “all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). God’s love is like glue. It binds people together like nothing else can. When God’s people love one another in a selfless way, we become sticky to others. Like Jesus, we invite others to “come and see” (John 1:43) what life with God is like. So, we invite them to “come and see” (John 1:39) something more – God’s love lived out in community. Never underestimate the witness that your community has on others.
Q: What could you practically do—both individually and as a group—to invite others to “come and see” God’s love lived out in community?
Men with G.R.I.T. see how desperately they need God. He gives them the wisdom and direction to lead a life of purpose. Without God, they are hopeless and listless. In our culture today, countless men define their manhood by three things: the bedroom (sexual conquest), the boardroom (career advancement and power) or the billfold (financial success). What these men come to discover is that their pursuits leave them empty. Men with G.R.I.T. rely on God’s wisdom and direction in life. This puts them on a path to do something with their life that will outlive them.
Q: Consider the three things that define manhood in our culture: the bedroom, the boardroom, and the billfold. Have you ever felt compelled to define yourself by any of these things?
CALLED TO SERVE
Paul’s call to be gentle, patient and loving is a call to serve. Jesus left what was comfortable to dwell among us. Jesus, the King of Kings, laid down His rights and became a servant. He understood that there was a greater purpose to live for and He was called to be obedient to that purpose. God calls us to be like His Son. To serve is the main task of a child of God.
Q: What keeps us from serving others like Jesus?
Q: Where might God be calling you to serve in your life?
A LIFE WORTH LIVING
What if God is challenging you to think bigger? What if there is more to your life than being top in your class, living in a comfortable home, working towards retirement or chasing the American Dream. What if God is calling you to be part of a story bigger than your own? And what if it were possible to experience real life and purpose right now and not just later in the sweet by-and-by? The Gospel gives us hope that we have a role to play in God’s story, and that we can live for something more because we were made for something more.
Q: In your mind, what makes a life worth living?
Q: What difference would it make in your life to know that God has a significant role for you to play in His story? How might that change your perspective?
Spend time praising God for the true hope you have in the Gospel. Ask God for wisdom to understand that the Gospel calls us to a better way of living. Spend time in private reflection talking to God about what He may be calling you to do or change in your life.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
Read Colossians 3:12-17 and consider how this passage relates to Ephesians 4:1-16.
Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their life.
The literary style of Ephesians 4:1-6 is exhortation. To exhort means to “strongly encourage or urge (someone) to do something.”1 Paul frequently does this with his readers, which reveals his heart for them to experience the life change brought about by the Gospel. For more passages where Paul exhorts his readers, see Rom. 12:1; 15:30; 1 Cor. 1:10; 4:16; 16:15; 2 Cor. 2:8; 10:1.
Responsible for Unity
While the Holy Spirit unites all believers, Paul makes it an imperative call for believers to “keep the unity of the Spirit.” We have responsibility in our relationships with others to maintain unity and peace. There is a clear and present danger within each of us to cause division, and not create unity. James 4:1 makes this clear: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”
Throughout his letter to the Ephesians, Paul’s call for believers is to be one. In 4:5, “one Lord” refers to Jesus because his resurrection and glorification confirmed this status. “One faith” denotes the core beliefs of the Christian faith. “One baptism” refers to the rite of baptism and what it represents – spiritual union with Christ in His death and resurrection. 2
“one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”
“Paul affirms in comprehensive terms God’s all-inclusive transcendence and His penetrating immanence. His sovereignty is universal and unsurpassable. Of course, He is the master of all people and all believers. Paul implies that divisions among Christians call into question their belief in the majestic sovereignty of the one God.”3
1. Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
2. Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2268; Douglas J. Moo, “The Letters and Revelation,” in NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 2405.
3. William W. Klein, “Ephesians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 109.