Placing a Deposit – In-Person or Virtual
The leader tells the group that they will all receive a grand prize at the end of the meeting, but they must first put down a deposit to receive the award. Assure the group that they will want this prize. Ask group members to look through the belongings they have with them and to produce something that will work as an adequate deposit. The leader can collect these items for the time being (in-person groups), or the participants can just set the things aside for a few minutes (virtual groups).
Have group members share what they used as a deposit to secure their prize. Why did they choose that item? Do they wish they had something better to put down? Now discuss the fact that God has promised each of us an inheritance, and rather than us having to put down a deposit to get that inheritance, God himself gave us a guarantee of that inheritance through the Holy Spirit. Discuss how God’s deposit of the Holy Spirit compares with the item each person deposited during this activity.
After the discussion, the leader should return all items to their rightful owners. (As a fun option for in-person groups, the leader could provide a pre-packaged chocolate or another treat for each group member at the end of the meeting as their “prize.” This is, of course, at the discretion of the leader.)
Idols vs. God – In-Person or Virtual
As a group, spend a couple of minutes listing various modern-day idols that people worship. Have each person choose one different idol from the list and compare and contrast that idol with God as He is described in Ephesians 1:3-14. Have a few volunteers share their comparisons. Discuss how these idols measure up against God. Whom would you rather put your trust in and worship? (Note: If you are doing this activity in person, you may want to have people work in teams of two to do the compare/contrast.)
1. Read Ephesians 1:3-14 together as a group. Was there anything specific that caught your attention in this passage or in the sermon?
(Intent: Have one person read the passage in a common version, e.g., ESV, NASB, or NIV.)
2. You may have noticed that this passage contains several extremely positive terms and ideas, providing a window into the Lord’s extreme love; verse 8 has a word that expresses the extent of these terms and ideas. What is it? A. Based on life experience, what mental picture comes to mind when you hear that extreme word? B. referring back to verse 7, why was this word used? What were we given?
(Intent: A. “Lavished” is the focus word. Ask the group to think of circumstances or images that fit this over-the-top word usage. B. V. 7 explains that the blood of Jesus shed on the cross gave us redemption and forgiveness of our sins. Not “just enough” to get us by, but abundantly, extravagantly, from the treasury of God’s grace.)
3. Review Ephesians 1:3-6. A. What does it mean when Paul says, “God…blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”? B. How has the Lord blessed you spiritually?
(Intent: A. These blessings are spiritual, which are far better than material. These are ours in the heavenly places in Christ; they are higher, better, and more secure than earthly blessings.” [from commentator David Guzik] B. Some answers may include: chosen, set apart, blameless in Christ, loved, adopted as sons; all of which were given freely.)
4. A. In verse 4, what does it mean to me that I was chosen by my creator? B. What is unique about being adopted as God’s sons and daughters (v. 5), as opposed to merely being under his kingship?
(Intent: B. Some possible answers are: God’s adopted sons and daughters enjoy a unique position in his Kingdom—they were chosen. A king has subjects who are under his authority, but there is no implied relationship beyond that. On the other hand, adopted children have a familial relationship that far exceeds being mere subjects.)
5. What was the purpose of our adoption? How can we live in accordance with the Lord’s purpose?
(Intent: “that we should be holy and blameless before him” (v. 4) and “to the praise of his glorious grace” (v. 6). We are saved to bring glory to God as we are transformed and praise him for it. We live in agreement with his purposes when we walk uprightly in obedience and declare his goodness through praise and sharing the gospel.)
6. Take a look at Ephesians 1:7-8a and 2:1-3. A. What would be the effect on our salvation if Jesus had lived and ascended without dying? B. What key elements should be included in our explanation of the gospel?
(Intent: A. Of course, this is hypothetical, but everyone would still be lost, without hope, and bound to hell. It was essential that Jesus died for our sins so we could be forgiven, I Cor. 15:3. B. God’s love for all people, recognition of your sin, the death and resurrection of Christ as payment for your sin, repentance, and belief/trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, your only hope.)
7. Verses 8b-10 refer to “the mystery of his will.” What is this?
(Intent: This “mystery” is none other than Christ himself, hidden in ages past and who came to this earth according to the prophets, fulfilling his mission perfectly. He not only saved us but he also identically represented the image of the Father, Heb. 1:3. The Father’s will is “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” Your group may want to discuss what this means.)
8. In v. 11-12, Paul writes of “the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” A. How does this impact your view of what happens in the world? In your life? B. What is our part?
(Intent: A. When we recognize that the Lord is causing or allowing things to happen in a way that is accomplishing his ultimate will and plan, we can live without anxiety. However, this is not a fatalistic worldview where we do nothing. We must obey the Lord’s commands, which he enables us to do through the Holy Spirit. God’s perfect plan for each one of us was worked out before the creation of the world. B. We are to follow Jesus.)
9. Read verses 13-14. What does it mean that the Holy Spirit is our seal of salvation?
(Intent: The Spirit is the down-payment of our salvation. The power, comfort, and illumination that flow from the Spirit in our sanctification are the early payments to guarantee what we will receive in full when we are face-to-face with Christ in the future.)
God has saved you with a pre-planned purpose. Assess your gifting this week, paying particular attention to spiritual gifts over natural abilities or training. What changes will you make in your life considering the lavish grace given to you by God in light of your eternal future?
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps, Proverbs 16:9. Pray together, asking our heavenly Father to help you realign your life in conformity to Him; seek the Lord’s guidance in directing the path forward.