Ephesians for Teenagers: How the Gospel Changes Everything
As a college student, one of the most formative times in my faith was the semester I was given what seemed at first like a simple challenge — to memorize Ephesians 2.
I was preparing for a summer of sharing the gospel overseas when my team leader gave me this challenge. I thought it was his attempt to bolster my gospel presentation. My confidence was high. I honestly had no concern over my ability to articulate the gospel in an evangelistic setting.
But my leader was not trying to give me more data. He knew I needed to be reminded that the gospel is more than information — it is the power for salvation and transformation. I needed the same reminder Paul gave the Ephesians in 2:10. After giving them one of the clearest articulations of the saving power of the gospel – “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” Then Paul immediately followed up with these words: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” It is by grace in Christ that our salvation is found and kept. Not only that, but God has plans to grow us through sanctification.
As I spent the semester immersed in Ephesians 2, I was reminded of the weight of who I was before Christ, the redemption of who I am now in Christ, and the beauty of my place within the body of Christ. No longer did I see the gospel as merely something to give, but as the very life I lived.
This is why, as a youth leader, I love studying the book of Ephesians with students. It is more than a short, encouraging letter with a few gospel nuggets tossed in. The book of Ephesians is a theologically-rich exhortation with the gospel as its foundation. Paul reminds the Ephesians that, as God’s children, the gospel does not simply inform their lives—it transforms their identity.
Our students are ultimately facing the same question the Ephesian church was: Who am I? During the time Paul wrote this letter, the Ephesian church was experiencing a great deal of strife among its members. The Ephesians lived in a culture in which one’s identity was largely defined by social status or religion. Those who were born Jewish — or you could say, the ones who grew up following the true God – were treating the Gentiles as if they need to prove their faith. The Ephesian church, just like many of our students today, were still finding their identity in what they did, or who their family was. On the contrary, Paul reminded them that as the Church, their identity was now in Jesus Christ alone.
Another reason Ephesians is such a powerful book to study with our students is that it gives a clear declaration of the unity and peace found in Christ. Ephesians teaches us that the gospel is not bound by borders or nationalities. In Christ, God has created a new people; a people who are not identified by their bloodlines, but by the blood of Christ alone. In the midst of the current cultural moment of our nation and world, our students are desperate for this truth.
The message of Ephesians is simple: The gospel changes everything. My prayer as I wrote the Rooted Reservoir study on Ephesians was that teenagers would not only by reminded of the gospel of Jesus, but that they would be transformed by it. This is also my prayer for you as you study Ephesians alongside your students.