Sunday School Bible Survey:      EPHESIANS

Theme: Christ is the head of the church.

Key verses: "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Ephesians 1:22, 23).

From the Scofield Study Bible:
WRITER: The Apostle Paul (1:1)

DATE: Ephesians was written from Rome in A.D. 64. It is the first in order of the Prison Epistles (Acts 20—27; see Acts 28:30, note), and was sent by Tychicus, concurrently with Colossians and Philemon. It is probable that the two greater letters had their occasion in the return of Onesimus to Philemon. Ephesians is the most impersonal of Paul's letters. Colossians 4:16 mentions an epistle to the Laodiceans.

THEME: The doctrine of the Epistle contains the highest church truth, but has nothing about church order. Essentially, three lines of truth make up this Epistle: the believer's exalted position through grace; the truth concerning the body of Christ; and a walk in accordance with that position.

There is a close spiritual affinity between Ephesians and Joshua, the "heavenlies" answering in Christian position to Canaan in Israel's experience. In both there is conflict, often failure, but also victory, rest, and possession (Joshua 21:43-45; Eph. 1:3; 3:14-19; 6:16, 23). As befits a complete revelation, the number seven is conspicuous in the structure of Ephesians.

The divisions are, broadly, four:

  1. The apostolic greeting (1:1, 2).
  2. Positional; the believer's standing "in Christ" and "in the heavenlies" through pure grace (1:3—3:21).
  3. Walk and service (4:1—5:17).
  4. The walk and warfare of the Spirit-filled believer (5:18—6:24).


  1. Ephesians is the first of the "Prison Epistles." The apostle Paul's epistles to the Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and to Philemon are known as his "Prison Epistles," because they were written during his first Roman imprisonment. Paul's arrival in Rome is recorded in Acts 28.
  2. "Paul's epistle to the Ephesians was probably a circular letter intended for the Ephesian church and also for the other churches of Asia mentioned in Revelation 2 & 3. The church at Ephesus was located in one of the great cities of the Roman Empire. At the close of Paul's second missionary journey he spent a weekend at Ephesus with Aquilla and Priscilla, promising to return as he left. On his third missionary journey he came back to Ephesus, remaining for about three years and establishing one of the greatest of all his churches. Tradition has it that the Apostle John spent the last years of his life at Ephesus and that he died there" — John Phillips, Exploring the Scriptures.
  3. The epistle was delivered to the church at Ephesus by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21).
  4. Merrill Unger says that Ephesians is "perhaps the sublimest of all the Pauline epistles."  Scofield says "it contains the highest church truth." A.T. Pierson called Ephesians "Paul's third-heaven epistle."
  5. Paul visited Ephesus on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19-21). On his third missionary journey, Paul returned and remained for three years (Acts 20:31).
  6. J. Vernon McGee said, "The people of Ephesus heard more Bible teaching from Paul than did any other people, which is the reason he could write to them the deep truths contained in this epistle."
  7. Ephesus was the principle city of Asia Minor, and probably the major city of the entire eastern section of the Roman Empire.
  8. The temple of Diana in Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  It was the largest Greek temple ever constructed.
  9. The city of Ephesus was destroyed by the Goths in AD 262, and never again rose to its former glory.  Today it is a small town in Turkey called Ayasaluk.
  10. The apostle Paul had an exciting and fruitful ministry in the city of Ephesus (cf. I Cor. 16:8, 9). Ephesus was a wicked city.  In Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, Antipholus says this about Ephesus:
             "They say this town is full of cozenage, (means "deception, trickery")
             As, nimble jugglers that deceive the eye,
             Dark-working sorcerers that change the mind,
             Soul-killing witches that deform the body,
             Disguised cheaters, prating mountebanks,
             And many such-like liberties of sin."
  11. Paul's "adversaries" (I Cor. 16:9) did not want to see people saved because it was bad for their wicked business (Acts 19; esp. vss. 23-41).
  12. When Paul departed from Ephesus, he warned them that "grievous wolves" would enter in to the congregation (Acts 20:29-31).
  13. Years later, our Lord commended the church at Ephesus for keeping these "wolves" (false teachers) out of the church (Rev. 2:2).
  14. However, our Lord reproved them by saying, "thou hast left thy first love" (Revelation 2:4). Interestingly, "love" is mentioned nine times in Paul's epistle to the Ephesians, more than anywhere else in his letters. The letter begins with love and ends with love (1:4; 6:23, 24).

  1. The word "church" is found nine times in this epistle. The church is "a great mystery" (5:26), i.e., something not taught in the Old Testament.
  2. There are several similarities between Ephesians and Colossians. Both epistles emphasize that the Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the church.
  3. In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul stresses the unity of Jewish believers and Gentile believers in the local church (cf. 2:11-22).
  4. In Ephesians, the church is described as a body (1:23; 2:16; 3:6; 4:4, 12, 16; 5:23, 30).
  5. The church is also referred to as a "building" (2:20, 21) and "an habitation of God through the Spirit" (2:22).
  6. The church is also called the bride of Christ (5:22-33), and a "family" (3:15).
  7. The apostles and prophets were part of the foundation of the church, but they are not with us today (2:20; 4:11).
  8. Evangelists, pastors, and teachers are given by God to build up His church (4:11-13).
  9. The epistle contains two wonderful prayers (1:15-23; 3:14-21).
  10. The three key words in the epistle are sitting, walking, and standing. Because of our position in Christ, we are seated with Him in heavenly places (2:6).
  11. Our duty and responsibility as Christians is to "walk worthy" of our vocation. This walk includes warfare with the devil and the demonic realm (6:11-17).
  12. "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Eph. 6:11).
  13. To live for God in this wicked world it is essential that we be filled with the Spirit (5:18-20).

  1. OUR BLESSINGS (1:3).
  1. We are blessed, chosen, predestinated, accepted in the beloved, and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
  2. We have "redemption through His blood" (1:7).
  3. We have "forgiveness of sins" (1:7).
  4. "We have obtained an inheritance" (1:11).
  5. The Holy Spirit is "the earnest of our inheritance" (1:14).
  6. God wants us to understand "the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints" (1:18).

  1. Paul was "an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God" (1:1).
  2. God has predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, "according to the good pleasure of his will" (1:5).
  3. God has "made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself" (1:9).
  4. God works "all things after the counsel of his own will" (1:11).
  5. It is unwise not to know the will of God, for God wants us understand what the will of the Lord is (5:17).
  6. We are to doing the will of God "from the heart" (6:6).

OUTLINE (from John Phillips):

  1. INTRODUCTION (1:1, 2)
  1. The Mercies of God the Father (1:3-6)
  2. The Mediation of God the Son (1:7-12)
  3. The Ministry of God the Holy Spirit (1:13, 14)
  1. Redemption (2:1-10)
  2. Relationship (2:11-14)
  3. Reconciliation (2:15-18)
  4. Reconstruction (2:19-22)
  5. Revelation (3:1-6)
  6. Responsibility (3:7-13)
  7. Resources (3:14-21)
  1. CLAIMING THE HEIGHTS (4:1—6:9).
  1. The Vitality of the Body of Christ (4:1-16)
  1. Its greatness (4:1-6)
  2. Its gifts (4:7-16)
  1. The Victory of the Believer in Christ (4:17—6:9)
  1. The Christian and self (4:17-24)
  2. The Christian and Satan (4:25-27)
  3. The Christian and sin (4:28—5:4)
  4. The Christian and salvation (5:5-14)
  5. The Christian and service (5:15-21)
  6. The Christian and society (5:22—6:9)
  1. The Adversaries (6:10-12)
  2. The Armor (6:13-17)
  3. The Attack (6:18-20)
  1. CONCLUSION (6:21-24).

These are simple Sunday School survey notes. They are not for sale. The author used many outlines from popular Bible teachers such as C.I. Scofield and J. Vernon McGee, and he has tried to give credit when using their material.

—  Pastor James J. Barker  —