Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for May 12

Here’s the Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for May 12, written by James R. Strange, professor of Biblical and Religious studies, Samford University in Birmingham.

Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for May 12

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By James R. Strange, Ph.D.
Professor of Biblical and Religious studies, Samford University


Ephesians 4:1–7; 11–16

In our fifth lesson on being an authentic church, we explore a passage from Ephesians. Paul visited Ephesus at least twice (Acts 18). Priscilla, Aquila and Apollos were probably the founders of the city’s congregations.

In this chapter, Paul addresses a critical aspect of an authentic church, which is the unity of the body of Christ. Read all of chapter 4 and also 1 Corinthians 12.

God makes us one but equips us with various gifts for His use. (1–7)

In verse 1, “therefore” refers to the doxology at the end of chapter 3. Paul can urge the Ephesians to live a life worthy of their calling, not because of their own abilities but because of God’s power that is at work among them (3:20). Through this power, God can do for the Ephesians far more than they can imagine.

Not only can they live as God has called them, but they can also do so with humility, gentleness and patience, putting up with one another in love. Notice that the unity that Paul urges isn’t based on human bonding alone, but is “the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

This is the basis for Paul’s metaphor of the Church as Christ’s body, an idea introduced in chapter 1. (Compare 1 Cor. 12:12–14; in Eph. 2:19–22, Paul uses the metaphor of the Church as God’s temple.) The Church’s concord reflects God’s own unity and omnipresence, an idea that draws on the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4.

But this unity isn’t assured, for the Church must consent to its calling into the shared realities of a common hope, the Lord Himself, a common faith in the Lord and a common baptism into Him (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27).

In addition to those realities, Christ has given a gift to every individual believer.

God uses others to equip us in ministry. (11–13)

These gifts overlap with, but aren’t the same as, the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12:8–10. Both kinds of gifts share a goal, however, which is the good of the Church.

The list of gifts isn’t exhaustive, but from it we know that practices in the early Church resembled our own. Paul mentions apostles (missionaries), prophets (those who speak God’s Word), evangelists (those who proclaim the gospel), pastors (shepherds) and teachers.

Like a tool or kitchen utensil, each gift is not for display but is to be used. The image is one of athletic or military drills. Paul expects all believers (“saints”) to do the Church’s ministry, and the purpose of each gift is to equip believers to do it so that Christ’s body is built up.

Notice that Paul wants both “unity in the faith” and unity “in the knowledge of God’s Son.” Paul’s language implies that faith and knowledge are two different things. Faith is the trust that one has in God’s Son, and knowledge is the relationship that is based on trust.

We are to use the gifts God has given us to minister alongside others. (14–16)

“Maturity” or “completeness” is what Paul calls the unity that comes from this relationship. It isn’t individual maturity alone, but also the maturity of the body of Christ. So Paul admonishes the Ephesians no longer to be susceptible to shifting doctrine, cunning, craftiness and schemes. Instead, they must themselves speak the truth.