How to Read Ephesians

The Book of Ephesians


Planting a garden requires the right tools. And so does interpreting the Bible. But instead of shovels, rakes, and weeders, we use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application. 

Ephesians details the entire message of the gospel and challenges Christians to walk in obedience to Christ. This video from The Bible Project provides an overview of the book. The goal of this post is not to replace your personal study of the Bible. Rather, it is to help you navigate the structure of Ephesians, discover what it teaches, dive into how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and look at how it applies to your life. Use these questions as a guide as you watch this video.   



Now that you have an overview of Ephesians in mind, you can apply what you know to interpret specific passages in Ephesians. Read Ephesians 2:1–10. Utilize observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application to dissect the meaning of this passage. Use the ideas from the videos to inform your answers to the following questions about Ephesians 2:1–10.  

Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)

By Grace Through Faith

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



 Observation asks the basic question: who, what, where, and when. It examines the passage at a surface level—the characters, events, themes, culture, and genre. Observations may seem obvious at first, but they open the door to the meaning of any part of the Bible. Be careful to not jump ahead to interpreting the observations, or assigning them meaning. Just list them. 

Example: We were once dead in sin.

Observe: As you read the passage, what observations did you make about Ephesians 2:1–10? (Consider the major characters, locations, time period, background information, cultural aspects, genre, themes, and actions of the characters. Also, take note of any information offered in the video.)
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Where an observation determines what the passage says, interpretation takes the next step to find out what the passage means. We’ve asked what the passage says about God and humanity, and now we ask what that means. Look at the themes and ask what they mean as well.

Example: (Observation) We were once dead in sin. (Interpretation) Before Jesus, we had no hope. We were destined for hell—eternal separation from God. The best way to describe how we once were without Christ is death.

Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What is the main message of Ephesians 2:1–10? How does its message connect with the main message of all of Ephesians? (Think about what this book teaches about God and humanity and what that teaching means, as well as the meaning of the themes. Consider insights from the video as well.)
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 Contextualization looks at how the passage fits into the rest of the book and into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fits into the biblical narrative. 

Example: In Genesis, the first humans rebelled against God and ate the forbidden fruit. Their act infected all of humanity with sin, separation from God, and destined us to hell. The rest of the narrative of Scripture follows how God will fix the separation and pay for the sins of humanity. The story culminates with the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—God in flesh who paid for sin, bringing believers from death to life.

Contextualize: What themes does Ephesians 2:1–10 seem to establish? How do those themes connect with the rest of the book of Ephesians? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible? What themes connect back to the Old Testament?
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 Application asks, “So what?” It considers how the meaning of this passage applies to our day-to-day lives. The point of reading Scripture isn’t to become puffed up with knowledge, but to be transformed. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day.

Example: It's true that I was once dead in sin. But now, I am alive in Christ. As a Child of God, I have a mission to tell the world about what God has done for me. I can share how I moved from death to life with my unbelieving coworker, with the high school students I mentor, or with the checkout lady at the grocery store. 

Apply: How does the truth from Ephesians 2:1–10 affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some specific actions you could take to live out the truths found in this book this week? If you're having trouble coming up with an application of this particular passage, how could you apply the main message of Ephesians to your life this week?
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The last step in reading the Bible helps wrap everything up. We take the time to summarize the main message and implications of the book. As you summarize what you learned, it solidifies what God taught you through this video.   

Share: Now that you’ve spent time learning about Ephesians, how would you explain the main points of this book to a friend? If you were going to explain what you learned to a friend, what would you say? What would you be sure to include? Why?
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Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be like weeding a garden. You can find great joy in learning about God through His Word. Read through Ephesians this week. As you study, use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application as a guide. Take the next step and put what you learn into practice. 


To learn more about The Bible Project, click here.