Have you sat down to study a book of the Bible and found yourself confused about why an author wrote certain things?
In our common “pick and choose” reading method where we flip open the Bible, read a passage, and then jump somewhere else, we often miss the importance of the flow, tone, and message of what an author is saying.
One of the benefits of an expositional book study is that it causes you to systematically walk through a book and figure out why certain passages are included. This has been an incredibly rewarding and insightful time in my personal study.
I have discovered that two of the best ways to wrestle with the text from a global perspective (even before I start my paragraph, verse, or word studies) is:
1. Discover the Purpose of the Book
Each author is not randomly putting words together because they wanted to publish a book. They had a specific purpose to which they are writing and a specific group of people they are writing to.
For example, the book of Matthew was written by the disciple and former tax collector Matthew. He was writing to the Jews that Jesus was and is the Kingly Messiah. When I understand this purpose, the book of Matthew begins to make sense.
Why did Matthew include so many Old Testament references and prophecies? Because he is trying to convince the Jews (who knew the Old Testament Scriptures well) that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament and was in fact their long-awaited Messiah.
I’ve been studying the book of Ephesians for a long time now. Paul wrote to the early church in Asia (Ephesus was a major city in Turkey, what was considered Asia at the time) declaring our position in Christ and what that looks like lived out in everyday living.
The book of Colossians is very similar to that of Ephesians, in fact both books have passages with similar themes and phrases. But whereas Colossians focuses on Christ of the Church, Ephesians focuses on the Church of Christ. Colossians aims at presenting the head of the church (Christ), Ephesians focuses on the body of Christ (the Church).
2. Outline the Book
Once you know the main purpose of the book, it is extremely helpful to outline the book. It often takes several readings (which is also a good thing to do) to craft an outline of the book, titling the main sections with something that makes sense to you.
Here is my outline for Ephesians. I’ve found that as I study through the book, the outline might be tweaked and changed a bit, but this gives me an overview of the book which helps when I’m studying through the book itself.
Ephesians is split into two major sections:
- Chapters 1-3 focus on our position in Christ
- Chapters 4-6 focus on how that position is lived out in everyday life
Our Calling: The Seated Position (1-3)
- Prologue [Greeting] (1:1-2)
- Position of Blessings (1:3-14)
- The Blessing’s Provision (1:3)
- The Blessings of the Father (1:4-6)
- The Blessings of the Son (1:7-12)
- The Blessings of the Spirit (1:13-14)
- Prayer for Enlightenment (1:15-19)
- Power of God & the Resulting Position (1:20-2:22)
- Of Christ (1:20-23)
- Of Individuals (2:1-10)
- Of the Church (2:11-22)
- Parenthetical Explanation of the Mystery (3:1-13)
- Prayer for Enablement (3:14-21)
Our Conduct: The Walking Response (4-6)
- Walk Worthy of the Calling (4:1-3)
- Walk in Unity (4:4-16)
- Walk in Holiness (4:17-32)
- Walk in Love (5:1-2)
- Walk in Light (5:3-14)
- Walk in Wisdom (5:15-17)
- Walk in the Spirit (5:18-21)
- Walk in Relationship [Harmony/Submission] (5:22-6:9)
- Wives & Husbands (5:22-33)
- Children & Parents (6:1-4)
- Slaves & Masters (6:5-9)
- Walk in Victory (6:10-20)
- Schemes of the Enemy (The Reason for the Armor) (6:11-13)
- Stand Strong in the Armor (6:14-18)
- Supplication for Paul (6:19-20)
- Well Wishes [farewell] (6:21-24)
If you want to understand Ephesians, its important to know why Paul wrote it and how he structured it.
I’ve found that when I get confused about a passage, the easiest way to give me a global perspective is to look at my outline and figure out where my passage fits within the larger scope of the book.