New Book Published! “Ephesians: God’s Plan and Our Response” by Rev. Cody Sandahl

Ephesians - God's Plan and Our ResponseHow do you respond to life’s challenges? How does God want you respond? Join Rev. Cody Sandahl on a journey through the book of Ephesians. Get a bird’s-eye view of the whole story of Scripture through a book that has something for everyone – the big picture, the day-to-day, exaltation in Christ, and opposition by the devil! Whether you have five minutes a day or five hours a week, this study is designed to help you grow closer to Christ and recognize God’s Plan.

Each chapter has a short devotional followed by in-depth analysis of the words, phrases, and ideas found in each section. “Going Deeper” questions help apply the Bible study to your life. These questions can be used personally or within a small group or class format.

Those who love to know the historical setting will enjoy the background section that unpacks Ephesus the city, Ephesus the church, and the original context when the letter was written.

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When I was in high school and college, it would have been mighty pleasant to be able to peek at the questions before the exam. I used to wish that my teacher or professor would line out the future exam questions along with the syllabus I received on the first day of class. I actually had a class in college that had take-home exams, and my initial glee was quickly subsumed under a self-imposed pressure. I would have gladly taken a 92 on the test, but since I had the time and ability and even invitation from the professor to check my answers before turning it in I felt I had to get a 100 on it. I might be a perfectionist at heart. When that professor gave us an option on the final – take-home or normal in-class exam – I actually chose the in-class exam so I wouldn’t stress out as much about every single question.

Ephesians, with its birds-eye-view of God’s story unfolding in Jesus’ birth, life, teachings, crucifixion, resurrection, and promised return, is like having a take-home exam. Almost all of the essentials of the faith are found in this short book. Almost all of the ways we are to respond to our faith with our daily lives are found in this short book. If the hefty size of the Bible causes your mouth to suddenly dry up like the sands of the Mojave Desert, Ephesians is for you! It’s like the Cliff’s Notes version of the Bible.

But it is also a challenging book. As you read it, you may feel the same pressure I did in my college course – the pressure to be perfect. The pressure to get everything right in your life. The pressure to figure everything out. Ephesians has you covered, there, too. We are reminded that we are not saved by being perfect (thankfully):

it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

In addition to its marvelously succinct approach to the sweeping arc of God’s story, Ephesians also walks us through very earthly conversations as well. How should men and women interact with each other? How should children and parents interact with each other?

For those who like a good fight, there are controversies galore. If you want to take your life into your own hands, try quoting Ephesians 5:22 to my feminist mom: “wives be subject to your husbands…” (NIV). I have $20 on my mom if it comes to fisticuffs.

For those who are interested in social justice, Ephesians dives into slavery and power imbalances. We will explore the ups and downs of how Christians throughout the ages have attacked, defended, or accepted the practice of slavery.

For those who enter into spiritual battle through prayer, Ephesians contains some of the most strident depictions of evil and the devil. We are assumed to be under attack at all times, but the author also shows us the way out.

The book of Ephesians has something for everyone. From the big picture to the day-to-day. From exaltation in Christ to opposition by the devil. From encouragement to challenge. My prayers go with you as you grow closer to Christ through the letter to the church in Ephesus.

Mind, Heart, and Body

In addition to the chapter-by-chapter analysis of Ephesians, I have also included a Personal Devotional at the start of each chapter. We are encouraged to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2 NIV), but we are also reminded that God “will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you” (Ezekiel 36:26a NIV). Our spiritual growth involves our minds and our hearts. The personal devotionals are designed to reach the heart since the Bible study reaches the mind.

If you are walking through Ephesians with a small group or Bible study, the devotionals are also there for you if you are running out of time this week and just have five minutes before the group gathers. Don’t worry – I won’t tell anyone. This study is flexible enough to be anywhere from six to fourteen weeks long. You can find a week-by-week guide listing the suggested reading plans near the end of this book.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you are a history buff or a church history wonk or a Bible trivia collector, first let me greet you as a brother or sister. We have so much in common! If you also like Star Wars we should meet – we’ll be fast friends. At the end of this book (in the Background section) you will find information about the city of Ephesus, the church in Ephesus, and how Ephesus plays a major role in the unfolding of God’s story after Jesus’ ascension to heaven. If you want to know how archeology, prostitution, and the Word of God interact with each other in Ephesus, check out the Background section.

Hopefully this book will help you grow closer to Christ whether you have five minutes or five hours this week to contemplate the book of Ephesians.

Devotional: Ephesians 1

As I read Paul’s opening to his letter to the church in Ephesus, I am struck by how often he mentions blessings and reasons to give thanks to God. He starts off with the blessings and thanksgivings that apply to every Christian. God “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (v3). He highlights the “good pleasure of his will” (v5) and gives “praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us” (v6). Paul celebrates “the riches of his grace that he lavished on us” (v7-8). We have an “inheritance” in Christ (v11, 14) and so we have “hope” (v12).

Then he moves on to the special ways God has blessed and worked through the church in Ephesus. They are famous for their “faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints” (v15). Paul is praying for them constantly (v16). God has the power to work in them and through them (v19-20). And lest anyone think their problem is too big for God, Paul reminds them that God “has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church” (v22).

I don’t know about you, but I often find it all too easy to focus on my reasons to complain rather than my litany of blessings. As I write this, I am staring out a window as a light rain transforms into a heavy rain/snow mix. Gotta love mountain weather. I’m going to leave and get into my car in a few minutes. Oh, and I also forgot my coat. My first thought was somewhat less than thankful toward the provision of this precipitation. But as a neighbor recently reminded me, “at least we won’t have to worry about water this year.” One person’s annoying rain or snow is another person’s gift of life-giving water. The difference is our perspective.


  • What are the blessings and thanksgivings you can think of that every human or every Christian or even every American should remember?
  • What are the special blessings and thanksgivings God has placed in your life?
  • Is there some part of your life that could use a switch to a thankful perspective?
  • Paul was continually praying for others – even people he had never personally met. Where might God be calling you to expand your prayer this week to include new people or situations?

Chapter One Video Intro (click here for transcript)

Chapter Two Video Intro (click here for transcript)

Chapter Three Video Intro (click here for transcript)

Chapter Four Video Intro (click here for transcript)

Chapter Five Video Intro (click here for transcript)

Chapter Six Video Intro (click here for transcript)

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