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 Christians. 

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.

That leads us to verse 1 of Chapter 5. 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:

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:

John 17:23 makes the same point: 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:

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.

  1. There are the Burnt Offerings, which picture Christ's complete devotion to God.
  2. There are the Grain Offerings.  These deal with the perfection of the character of Jesus.
  3. Then there are the Peace Offerings where God makes peace between sinners and God.
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.

Sin offerings and trespass offerings:

There are two other categories of offerings.

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.

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 Paul continues:

In the New King James, it reads:

This of course includes a broad reference to sexual immorality.  There is a lot of loose talk about one of these words.

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 our calling.

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.

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 overtone.

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.

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: They were not supposed to mention the name of other Gods or ask about them. In the Psalms, David said: 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.


Next week:

...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.