Derwin Gray

The message of the gospel that Paul brought to the culturally diverse city of Ephesus forever transformed its citizen’s lives. But the church in Ephesus had the same problems we face today: it was a multiethnic group of believers who found it difficult to come together as one and put aside their differences…

In this Q&A, Derwin Gray (@DerwinLGray) talks about his 6-session streaming video Bible study in the 40 Days Through the Book series, Ephesians: Life in God’s Diverse Family (HarperChristian Resources, 2022).

What would you say is the core message of the letter to the Ephesians?

Derwin Gray With every stroke of his pen, under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul passionately writes to the multiethnic churches in Ephesus. He declares to the Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, women and men, how the gospel of king Jesus not only forgives their sins but creates a beautiful family with different colored skins. The gospel grace empowers this new family of differents to love each other and glorify Jesus (Eph 3:14-21).

How do individuals build unity in divided churches?

Derwin Gray Individuals do not build unity. Jesus has already created unity and reconciliation virtually and horizontally through his death on the cross (Eph 2:15-16). By faith, people must learn how to walk in this gospel promise which is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (Eph 2:11-13). But that’s the hard part. We’ve allowed centuries of demonic influence to create hate, division, and bias. This sin blinds us to the reconciling work of Jesus. It’s time to wake up and live in the unity and oneness of the gospel (Eph 3:5-11).

If my church is homogeneous, should I look for a more diverse community?

Derwin Gray If God is calling you to join a multiethnic church, you should. However, I recommend helping your pastors and ministry leaders in creating a gospel-culture that can become a multiethnic church. This will be difficult. Dark, demonic powers hate to see God’s people unified across ethnic boundaries.

In what ways was the racism in Paul’s day similar to and different from racism in 21st century America?

Derwin Gray The first-century Greco-Roman world was fraught with ethnic tension, prejudice (favoritism), and injustice. Jewish history is littered with persecution at the hands of the Gentiles. They spent 400 years as slaves in Egypt, they battled the Canaanites and Hittites. The Jews were in captivity in Babylon, and in the first century the Roman occupation and domination oppressed them in the Promised Land. And the Gentiles did not think too highly of the Jews either. Some of the Greek philosophers said Jews and other non-Greeks were barbarians. Ethnocentrism and prejudice were a big problem then, just as it is now.

You say, “If you and I don’t understand God’s story, we’re going to try to get God to fit into our story.” How do we know when we’re trying to fit God into our own story?

Derwin Gray We live in a hyper-individualistic culture with ourselves at the center of the story. Even when we say, “I have a personal relationship with Jesus,” this can move us to think Jesus responds to our will instead of his will. By faith, we enter a new covenant with Jesus and with our brother and sisters. We move from, “What’s best for me?” to “What’s best for we?” We’re saved as individuals so we can enter a family of self-giving love and sacrifice. Paul instructed the multiethnic churches in Philippi to, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.” This is the kind of love we were created to live.

How does “the gospel break down the demonic powers that separate us and build up the community of God”?

Derwin Gray The gospel is the royal announcement that king Jesus—through his sinless life, atoning death on the cross, and resurrection—has defeated the sin, death, and the dark powers. And all those who trust in him now live in his victory. The blood of Jesus brings every person—regardless of ethnicity—near; he brings peace where there is strife. All this is a finished work of his death on the cross that reconciles us unto him and to each other. All of God’s ethnically diverse children becomes a new humanity in him. One of the aims of discipleship is to get us to see ourselves and each other as we are in Christ.

What’s the benefit of spending 40 days in a book or theme?

Derwin Gray You see Jesus like never before. You’ll love him more and you’ll love your brothers and sisters more. Your capacity to love people will expand because your understanding of the gospel will expand.

What is the one takeaway you want participants to understand after completing this study?

Derwin Gray Jesus is more beautiful than you know. And his beauty will make you beautiful.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Derwin Gray I have different favorite Bible verses in different seasons. But somehow, I always come back to Ephesians 3:14-21. I love this passage because it’s God’s love rooting itself in me and transforming me to love all people, even my enemies. Plus, this text is how Paul explains to the ethnically diverse churches in Ephesus how they’re going to live as one. It’s all about knowing and living in God’s love that surpasses all understanding.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?

Derwin Gray Bible Gateway has blessed me for two decades. I’m honored to partner with Bible Gateway in the gospel. I want to see Jesus glorified in my generation. I believe this study can spark a revival.

BIO: Dr. Derwin L. Gray is the cofounder, along with his wife Vicki, and leader pastor of Transformation Church, a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped church in the Charlotte, NC, area. Dr. Gray has been married since 1992 and has two adult children. He played six seasons in the NFL. In 2015, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Southern Evangelical Seminary. In 2018, he received his Doctor of Ministry in the New Testament in Context at Northern Seminary under Dr. Scot McKnight. He is the author of several books, including the national bestseller, The Good Life.

In this 6-session study (streaming video included), pastor Derwin Gray, of Transformation Church, takes you and your group through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians to reveal how the apostle presented the revolutionary idea that Jesus came not only to forgive sins but also to create a unified family out of a diverse people.

This study guide has everything you need for a full Bible study experience, including:

  • The study guide itself—a 40 Day reading plan through Ephesians with discussion and personal reflection questions, video notes, and a leader’s guide.
  • An individual access code to stream all 6 video sessions online (you don’t need to buy a DVD!).

The letter to the church in Ephesus contains a message that’s revolutionary to us even today—it’s a message that’s especially urgent now: that God desires to bring unity to all things and all peoples under Christ. This is the vision that bears the seeds of a heavenly revolution!

Expand your Bible reading experience using our valuable library of more than 50 top resources by becoming a member of Bible Gateway Plus. Try it right now!

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