Be Imitators of God
Ephesians 5:1-21; [1-2]
As we have moved through these few chapters, we have been reminded clearly and repeatedly, that God expects His redeemed children to be different from the way they were before He saved them, and He expects them to be different from the world around them. As we begin to study Chapter 5, we are immediately confronted by a passage that demands that we do the impossible. We are called to be like God. We are called to love like He loves. It sounds like an impossible task. How can we, sinful, human, frail, failing people ever be like Him or love like Him? Well, we are going to find out! Are you ready for this!?
We will spend our time in just two verses today. I want to draw my title from verse 1, where Paul writes, “Be Imitators of God.” I want you to notice the challenges that are presented to us in these few verses.
I. V. 1 THERE IS A PERSON TO IMITATE
The word “therefore” again calls our attention backward to the last verses of chapter 4. We are reminded that the saints of God have been saved by the grace of God, and because they have been saved they are to be different in the way they walk, the way they talk, and the way they think and live. They are to be different in every area of life. The “old man” of sin, with all his evil desires and appetites is to be “put off,” Eph. 4:22. The “new man,” created in righteousness, with his appetite for righteousness and the glory of God, is to be “put on,” Eph. 4:24. Since we have been made a new creation in Jesus, we are to live as new creations in our daily lives, 1 John 2:6.
Having challenged us to bring our tongues, our anger, our work ethic, our bitterness, and revenge seeking under the control of God, and having challenged us to be forgiving, kind and compassionate toward one another, Eph. 5:1 poses the greatest challenge of all.
A. There Is A Command - “Therefore, be imitators of God.” – If you are reading from the KJV, the phrase is “Be Ye Followers of God.” The word “followers” means to “mimic” to be an “imitator.” The command here is for the people of God to imitate God. We are to learn all we can about God, and we are to imitate His characteristics.
I look at this command, and I see real problems. We can never imitate God in all ways. We can never truly imitate God in His essential essence.
• God is perfect; we are flawed.
• God is omnipotent; we are weak.
• God is omniscient; we are fools.
• God is omnipresent; we are limited to exactly where we are.
• God is wholly good; we are wholly evil.
• God is Spirit; we are flesh.
• God is eternal; we are temporal.
• God is heavenly; we are earthly.
• God is infinitely holy; we are completely wicked.
We are to learn all we can about the Lord from His Word, and we are to put into practice everything we know about Him. We are to do the things we see Him doing, and we are to avoid the things He avoids. We are to be like God in every respect. In essence, God is commanding us to do something that is impossible within ourselves. Left to ourselves, we could never be imitators of God.
B. There Is A Condition - We are told to imitate God, but we are told to do so as “dear children.” It is natural for children to imitate their parents. Children often have their parent’s nature, their behavior, and their actions. You can be around a child and you can see their parents in the way they walk, the way they talk, and in the things they do.
While that is true in our earthly families, it is even more true in our heavenly families. Like beloved children, who are ever near the parent, learning, observing, and growing, we are brought near to our Heavenly Father so that we might learn His ways and become more like Him.
When the Lord saved us, He did so with a purpose.
• God’s purpose in redemption is to make us more like Him. “For whom He foreknew, 11He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Rom. 8:29.
• To be conformed to the image of Christ is to become holy like God is holy. “Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matt. 5:48.
• That is God’s plan for each one of His redeemed children. “…as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Pet. 1:14–16.
• Ultimately, that is how we will become like Him. “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2.
C. There Is A Purpose - We are unable to imitate God through our own power. While we cannot be holy on our own, as redeemed children of God, we have been empowered to live like, act like, and talk like our Heavenly Father. He has empowered us and enabled us to live holy lives for His glory.
We are not mere slaves following in the footsteps of a demanding master. We are the sons and daughters of God. Redeemed by His grace. Adopted into His family. Partakers of His very nature, “…by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 Pet. 1:4. We are the temples of God, indwelled by His Spirit, and made able to walk in imitation of our Father.
• He is holy; we are to be holy.
• He is loving; we are to be loving.
• He forgives; we are to be forgiving.
• He is truthful; we are to be truthful.
• He is patient; we are to be patient.
• He is kind; we are to be kind.
• He is compassionate; we are to be compassionate.
• Everything God is…we are to be.
Where do we learn these things? We learn them from His Word. We learn them from observing Him. We learn them by watching Him work in the lives of others. We learn these things from simply walking with Him. Here is an example for you: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8.
So, walk with Him. Learn from Him. Be like Him.
I. There Is A Person to Imitate
II. V. 2a THERE IS A PRECEPT TO INITIATE
We have just been told to be an “imitator” of God. Now, we are told to imitate His “love.” After all, God is love, 1 John 4:8b. That is, His very nature is defined by His love. Everything He does, He does out of love. The overriding characteristic of God’s Person is His love. His people have experienced that love. Since He is love, and since He has placed His love within us, Rom. 5:5, we are to walk in love as well.
A. We Are To Walk In Love - The word “walk” means “to regulate one’s life.” Our very lives are to be controlled, to be driven, to be defined by love.
B. We Are Commanded To Love - The word “love” translates the word “agape.” We are all familiar with that word. It is the word that is used to speak of God’s love for mankind. In ancient Greece, it was a very common word. It was often interchanged with the words for affection and for sexual love. The New Testament takes this common word and it elevates it. The New Testament takes this word and redeems it, using it to speak of the love of Almighty God.
It speaks of a love that is “unconditional, undeserved, unending, and self-sacrificing.” It is not just mere fondness. It is not just the kind of love that one would find in a family setting. It is certainly not the love the world knows, the love that is tied to its passions.
This kind of love arises out of God grace.
• It is a love that sets itself toward the undeserving.
• It is a love that cannot be bought or turned away.
• It is a love that is powerful, eternal, redemptive, and undeserved.
• It is a love that has no counterpart in the universe.
• Yet, it is a love that we are commanded to imitate.
The “Law of Love”, or God’s expectation of His people, is laid out in Matt. 22:37-40. That passage says: “Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Let’s take a look at that important text.
C. The Law Of Love - We are to love God supremely - We are told to love Him with all our “heart…soul…and mind.” The “heart” refers to “the core of our beings.” The “soul” to “the emotions.” The “mind” to “our intelligence, our will, our determination.” We are to love Him with our whole person. Our love for Him should be all-consuming and complete. It should be emotional. It should be a love based on the knowledge of Who God is. It should be a willful love, in which we are determined to love Him no matter what. Genuine love is intelligent, feeling, willing, and serving. It involves thought, sensitivity, intent, and appropriate action. Every act, every thought, every attitude, everything, is to be a response of our love for Him. If we love God, that love will demonstrate itself in every area of our lives.
• We are to love others as much as we love ourselves - We love ourselves, don’t we? We do everything we can to meet our own needs. When we are hungry, we eat. When we are thirsty, we drink. When we are sick, we go to the doctor. When we want something, we find a way to get it. We take care of self. In the same manner, we are commanded to actively seek the good of others. We are called upon to be the embodiment of the love of God in our interactions with others. We are to seek the best for others, in all things, and always. Our love for others is to be the same sort of love we are to have for God.
This is not a new notion. Deut. 6:4-5 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” The Jews recited this text twice every day. This is the same command Jesus gave to His people in the New Testament. God has always wanted His people to love Him.
How do we know that we are walking in love? The Bible is clear about this too.
• “If you love me, keep my commandments,” John 14:15.
• “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” John 14:21.
When I love Him, I will be like Him. When I am like Him, I will love like He loves.
I. There Is A Person To Imitate
II. There Is A Precept To Initiate
III. V. 2b THERE IS A PROVISION THAT ILLUSTRATES
A. Genuine Love - To illustrate what genuine love looks like, Paul points to the sacrifice of Jesus for His people on the cross. The greatest expression of love the world has ever witnessed was the love that sent Jesus to the cross to die for us. The Lord’s love for us was not just a deep affection. It was not an emotional attachment. He did not give Himself for us because we deserved anything from Him. He did what He did simply because He set His sovereign, unconditional, gracious love on us.
• His love for us caused Jesus to leave Heaven above to come to this world to live and die for us, Phil. 2:5-8. He is called an “offering.” His life was poured out on the cross that we might have life in Him.
• His love for us caused Jesus to bear our sins on the cross, Isa. 53:4-6; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24. He is called a “sacrifice.” Because, like a sacrifice, He was slaughtered for our sins. His love caused Him to suffer unspeakable cruelty for us, Isa. 52:14.
B. Genuine Love of the Father - His love for the Father caused Jesus to “give Himself” as “a sacrifice to God.” Yes, Jesus loves us, but He loves His Father far more. When Jesus died, He died for us, but He died primarily for the glory of the Father. We benefit from the Son’s love for the Father. God’s love for Christ, and for us, caused the Father to accept the offering and sacrifice of the Son on the cross, as a “sweet smelling aroma.” God was pleased when the love of Christ sacrificed itself to redeem lost sinners for the glory of God. If you want to know what love looks like, go the Calvary and behold the Lamb of God dying for sinners, Rom. 5:8.
Verse 2 says Christ, “…has given Himself for us…” He did that because He loved us. We are to manifest that same kind of selfless, self-sacrificing love toward others. Literally, we are to “give ourselves” out of love for God and others.
C. Genuine Call - The call here is for the people of God to imitate their Father and their Savior by practicing unconditional, sacrificial love. When we practice His kind of love; it is a statement of our faith. When we practice that kind of love; it is a sacrifice that pleases Him! We are never more like the Father than when we love like He loves; forgive like He forgives; blesses like He blesses; walk like He walked; think like He thinks; and when we do the things He does.
We need to remember this: Genuine love is always measured by what it gives, not by what it gains.
In all honesty, can others see the Father in you? We are challenged to be so surrendered the Father that we become like Him.
When we imitate the Father, we will love like He loves, and that kind of love has the power to change your life, your home, your church, your city, your notion and your world.
• That kind of love advertises the Father like nothing else can.
• That kind of love is unstoppable as it assails the hearts of lost sinners.
• That kind of love is essential in maintaining human relationships.
• That kind of love is necessary if we are to live holy lives.
• That kind of love is priceless in our world.
• That kind of love is available to all who will “imitate” the Father.
Are you His child?
• If you are, strive to be like Him. Learn to live like Him. Learn to love like Him.
• If you are not, come to Jesus so that He can change your life and so that you can experience His wonderful love.