Ephesians Study, Part 34: Be Imitators of God
Two weeks ago, we wrapped up Ephesians Chapter 4, although we will find this
week that the subject was not finished; it continues into Chapter 5. Last
lesson, Paul told us that we should be angry about sin but not to sin from
anger. Righteous indignation is demanded, but I argued that we are rarely
truly in righteous indignation, we are usually in ego-centric indignation,
which is a sin which Paul is cautioning us against.
Then Paul said that Christians should not steal, that they should work so
that they can help those in need. And then he said that if you do not have
something to say that build someone up, then keep your mouth shut.
He tells us not to grieve the Holy Spirit -- not to do these things that grieve God.
He told us to put away bitterness and malice and to treat each other like
God treated us, tender hearted and forgiving.
This Week: Be Imitators of God
This morning we open at Ephesians Chapter 5.
As we discussed in previous weeks, the first three chapters of
Ephesians deal with the doctrine and the concepts of Christianity,
what many scholars have called the highest ground perhaps in the
entire New Testament. The last three chapters are, "OK, now what do
you do about that?" We have our riches in heaven. Great. What should
the result of that be here on earth? How should that affect our daily
walk? Chapter 4 dealt with that walk, walking worthy of our calling as
Today we start Chapter 5. Chapter 5 develops out of the last few
verses of Chapter 4. Paul climaxes Chapter 4 by indicating that the
Christian should be walking by this spirit.
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were
sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath
and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all
malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each
other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. --Ephesians 4:30-32
That leads us to verse 1 of Chapter 5.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children... --Ephesians 5:1
Here is another one of those "therefores". So we know that what is
now being said ties to what was just said and we should be looking
for what the statement is "there for". To really tie this together
you need to reread from even further back in Chapter 4 where Paul
described what Christians should not be doing as a part of this walk.
If you read from the King James or the New King James, this verse says:
Therefore be followers of God as dear children. --Ephesians 5:1 (NKJ)
Paul says that we are to be followers in the KJ. The Greek word
translated as followers in the KJ and imitators in the NAS is mimetes =
an imitator. You can guess that our words mime and mimic come from this
root. So the NAS translation of "imitator" is much better than
"follower". Paul says we should be
imitators of God. He continues that we should be imitators of God as
beloved children. He wants us to uphold the family name. What family
are you in? You're in the family of God. You're in the family of Jesus.
The basic thought here, according to Paul, is that God has forgiven
you, and therefore you are to be an imitator of him, which includes
forgiving others. He is particularly focusing on forgiving one
another, fellow Christians. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago,
that is not a trivial thing. It is also not easy to do. It is not
easy to be able to be forgiving. Remember we discussed briefly that
the most dangerous hurts are those for which we feel justifiably
hurt and therefore it is more difficult to forgive others of whatever
hurt us. Therefore you do not forgive the person who hurt you,
but it is you that is damaged, not the offending person. When we
are hurt but we really know that there's no reason we should feel
hurt, it is easy to forgive that person to go on. But if we feel we
have every right to feel hurt and to be angry, it is much harder
to forgive the person who caused the pain.
God speaks of us the same way that he speaks of Jesus. We are in
his family. He says in Matthew 3:17:
...and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My
beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."
John 17:23 makes the same point:
I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in
unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them,
even as You have loved Me.
That is a staggering idea. As you study the Scripture, you'll see
how much God loves the Son. It is staggering to realize that that
is also how much he loves us.
In response to that family love, Paul says:
...and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave
Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant
aroma. --Ephesians 5:2
Sweet Savor Offerings:
At this point we could depart and do a whole study on the offering
sacrifices in Leviticus. You are "in luck", we won't. If we did, we
would discover that there are three sweet savor offerings in
Leviticus. They are in chapters 1, 2 and 3.
These three categories of
offerings or sacrifices are called as a group the sweet savor
offerings. They testified to that which is beautiful in the sight
of God. That which is truly awesome.
- There are the Burnt
Offerings, which picture Christ's complete devotion to God.
- There are the Grain Offerings. These deal with the perfection of the
character of Jesus.
- Then there are the Peace Offerings where God
makes peace between sinners and God.
Sin offerings and trespass offerings:
There are two other categories
The sin offerings and trespass offerings are listed in Chapters 4 and 5 of
Leviticus, where they are pictures or figures of Jesus standing in the place of sinners. These offerings are
not sweet savor offerings. There is nothing beautiful about sin and
trespass. They are an important and critical aspect of man's
relationship with God, or the lack of it, but they are not sweet savor
offerings like those referenced by Paul.
- There are sin offerings.
- And then there are trespass
The real thought that Paul has here in verse 2 is that another way
for you and me to resemble or imitate God is to walk in love. And how
do you do that? By giving yourself to others just like Jesus gave
himself for you. Glibly said, but difficult to put in practice. Then
But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be
named among you, as is proper among saints... --Ephesians 5:3
In the New King James, it reads:
But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let
it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints... --Ephesians 5:3(NKJ)
This of course includes a broad reference to sexual immorality. There
is a lot of loose talk about one of these words.
- Fornication: - Just
what is fornication? I believe that you can make a Biblical case that
fornication is elicit intercourse between unmarried persons. Any form
of immorality can be properly referred to as fornication. The Greek
root word behind fornication is pornia which is the root word
leading to the English word pornography. Pornography literally is
whore-writing. So again, the NAS translation of immorality is a better translation,
because it includes more than a limited understanding of fornication.
- Impurity: - What does Paul mean by impurity?
I think it would
include immoral acts and probably even unsavory interests in books,
pictures or other materials that feed the fire all of passion outside of biblically
- Greed: - As if Paul wasn't meddling enough, he throws in a
third term, right along
with fornication and impurity. That term is greed, or as the NJK
translates it, covetousness. When we think of the word "greed", we usually
think of it as a lust for money. In fact, that is often the case, but the
term is a much broader term and includes sensual desire. Greed this is an
insatiable desire to satisfy one's appetite, whether it's for money or sexual
gratification outside marriage. Immorality, impurity and greed, as Paul is
using these terms here are just different manifestations of weaknesses of our
flesh from our fallen nature. In all cases, they are the result of an uncontrolled appetite. That appetite could be for sexual
gratification outside marriage, or for BMWs or for big houses. You can
simply fill in the blank for what the unfilled appetite is seeking.
If you stop and think about it, you'll see that this insatiable appetite is
in reality a form of idolatry. We are being driven by, we are worshipping,
something that is not God. That is idolatry.
Paul goes on to say, "let it not even be named among you". I think what
Paul is saying is that we shouldn't even discuss these things in such a
way that would make light of them or caused them to be considered less
serious than God does. We are called to be separate and different from
the rest of the world. That's a part of walking in a manner worthy of
If you are not feeling uncomfortable from this discussion about Paul's
admonition in verse 3, you are not paying attention. That discussion,
if you listen, pinches every one of us. To one degree or another, I
believe that every one of us is subject to guilt in this area.
On to verse 4.
...and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting,
which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. --Ephesians 5:4
Paul tells us that as Christians our speech should be free from any
trace of filthiness, dirty stories, suggestive jokes, double entendre,
all forms all of obscenity and indecency. But it even goes beyond
that. And I think most of us are probably way too casual in this
area. But Paul goes further than keeping our talk clean. He includes
silly talk. This would include empty are useless conversation. Paul
says that silliness or silly talk should be put aside. Then he mentions
coarse jesting which of course would in include dirty jokes. The word
translated here means to be easily turned. It probably is an allusion
to what we would call double entendre, something that can be
interpreted two different ways, usually one of them having a crude
I believe that humor is a blessing. But when it is used with a base
our crude motive or style, then it is a curse. The Greek words that
he uses here are translated as "which are not fitting" really mean
out of place, inappropriate, unbecoming. I would argue that Paul's
thrust here is that we should never let our conversation make light
of, or in some way lessen our understanding of the nature of sin. The safe
learning from this verse is that we should never joke about sin.
So how does your walk compare to what Paul says our walk should be? One
way to test yourself is to ask the question, "how much do you hate
sin?" Throughout the Bible God says over and over again that he hates
sin. Sin required the death of God's son. He really, really hates sin,
with good cause. Paul says that we are to be an imitator of God. Obviously
all of us are much less serious about sin than God is.
In doing some research about this I ran across something interesting.
Go to Exodus 23:13, where there is a prohibition that you may have missed,
if you've ever studied this section at all.
Now concerning everything which I have said to you, be on your
guard; and do not mention the name of other gods, nor let them be heard
from your mouth. --Exodus 23:13
Israel was prohibited from even mentioning the name of a false God or Gods
that surrounded them. That's a little bit surprising. Obviously God would
not want them to worship the other gods, but their instructions were not
even to mention their name. They were not to speak of them at all. In
Deuteronomy 12:30 this same thought occurs:
Beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they
are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods,
saying, "How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?"
They were not supposed to mention the name of other Gods or ask about them.
In the Psalms, David said:
The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be
multiplied; I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood, nor will
I take their names upon my lips. --Psalm 16:4
There is a clear idea in the Old Testament that Israel is not even to
mention the name of a false god. Not that that prohibition applies to us
in a direct sense, because we are not under the law, but just like the Old
Testament law can teach us what God comes out and disapproves of, we
can learn a lot from this instruction to the Israelites. I think the
spirit of that Jewish law is clearly here in Paul's instructions.
In a similar flavor, Paul says that sin should not be on our lips. We
should not even talk about it in a way that lessens its evil nature.
We are to imitate God. I don't think he laughs about sin or jokes about it.
...we will pick up with verse 5 of Chapter 5, where Paul continues to tell us
what is not in the walk worthy of our calling, those actions
that destroy the unity and effectiveness of the Church.