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Like Father Like Son

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Ephesians 5:1

Secular:  Steve Irwin, the Crockodile Hunter.  He lived his life on the edge.  Everything he did was outrageous.  The most dangerous snakes, animals, amphibians, insects. A life lived at the extreme.  Some thought it was too extreme.  But as you watched and listened you became aware of why Steve did these things.  He wanted to be like his dad, who taught him everything he knew.  Who hasn’t seen the old footage of Steve and his dad out catching crockodiles together.  And Steve wanted his son to be just like him.  And so he did some extreme things with his son that garnered him some unwanted publicity.  “Like father like son” was especially true in Steve’s family. 

Personal:  And this reminds us of the more general principle that children are often like their parents, a fact that can be embarrassing or encouraging depending on the circumstances.  Just the other night I was over at Ed and Robin Miller’s home and Addie was walking around in her daddy’s snow boots.  Just as happy as pie trying to emulate or mimic her dad. I smiled and hope that she does grow up to be like her dad and love the Lord.  But the other extreme is also true.  An abusive father raises a son who abuses his children as well.  Whether we like it or not children most often turn out to be like their parents. 

Biblical:  The Apostle Paul was very aware of this truth in his day.  He reminded the Ephesian believer that they were once children of wrath even as the rest.  They and we inherited a sin nature from our father, Adam.  But Paul has explained that when we accepted Christ we received a new nature – we experienced regeneration.  We now have a nature like our heavenly Father.  The old man is gone behold the new man has come!  We are no longer in Adam but in Christ.  And Paul says something startling as he continues to admonish the believers to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the calling with which they have been called.  He commands all of his readers to “imitate God.”  Now that is extreme!

We find this command in the section of Paul’s letter where the Holy Spirit is urging us to live out our everyday lives in a manner consistent with our calling.  A worthy walk because of the wealth we have received.  What is our calling?  What is our wealth?  Let’s remind ourselves!

We are called “saints” “faithful” 1:1

We are called to be “holy and blameless” before Him 1:4

We are called the chosen ones 1:4

We are called sons because we have been adopted into God’s family

We have received grace 1:6,7,8

We have been redeemed through the blood of Christ 1:7

Forgiven our trespasses 1:7

God has revealed to us the mystery of His will 1:9

We have received an inheritance 1:11

All to the praise of God’s glory 1:6, 12, 14

We were once dead but now we are alive and seated with Him in the heavenly places 2:1-10

We who were once separated and alienated from God and each other have been reconciled by the blood of Christ and placed into the body of Christ the Church 2:11-22

We are they mystery of Christ – Jews and Gentiles in one body 3:1

So that God’s incredible wisdom might be made known through the Church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places 3:10

We are God’s eternal purpose 3:11

And we can boldly come into His presence as His children!

Is it any wonder there is a doxology that says “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here below.  Praise Praise Him above Ye heavenly host, praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”

4:1  therefore…

4:17  therefore…

4:25 therefore…

5:1  therefore… Become imitators of God, as beloved children

“therefore” draws a conclusion from previous statements, it introduces a logical result or inference from what has preceded.  Thus, so, consequently, these things being so.  Paul is drawing a conclusion and connecting the thoughts of chaps 1-3 with 4-6.

Structural:  Paul’s gives us an amazing exhortation and motivation that should encourage us to live holy lives! If we are children of God we ought to imitate our Father.

#1.  The Exhortation:  “become imitators of the God”

Paul’s exhortation is not really to “be” imitators of the God but to “become” imitators of the God. There is a difference in Greek verbs as well as English.  ‘Become’ has more the idea of perseverance and continuance rather than a state. It is more the idea of continually or increasingly: make it the activity of your life to imitate the God.  The verb is present tense which refers in this context to continual or habitual action and “become” is also a command.  So this is not an option.  We are under obligation to make God’s character and activity a pattern for our lives.    

Illus.  You might say to a child “be nice” and it is good for that one instance but if you say you want them to “become” nice you are looking for a pattern of behavior not just an instance. 

App.  To make something a pattern or habit of life takes thought and time and effort. 

Paul sets forth a specific pattern for us to follow: imitate the God  “imitate” – the Greek word is (mimntai)  We derive our English words “mimic” or “mime” or “imitate” from this word.  All these words have the idea of someone who copies specific characteristics of another person. 

In English the word “imitation” is usually understood in a negative sense, referring to something that is not genuine.  Vanilla extract or imitation vanilla extract.  But in the Greek language this word always had a positive sense: to become like someone else. 

Paul uses this word in several other similar contexts.  When he wrote to the Thessalonians he praised them that they became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea (1 Thess. 2:14).

He wrote them earlier in 1:6 that they had become imitators of Paul and Silvanus and Timothy and of the Lord. 

But here Paul makes an even more amazing statement “become imitators of ‘the God’.  Only place in the entire Bible where this is explicity stated.  It is implied in Lev. 19:2 “Be holy as I am holy” but here Paul gives us a seeming impossible command!  Think about that, it is impossible but it is a command.  How Paul?  Remember Paul’s prayers 1:19; 3:16.  It is not humanly possible but only possible by the Spirit of God!  And it is to be our goal in life!

Illus.  In the inferior world, this horizontal life, imitation is deemed as the sincerest form of flattery.  You should have seen all the Peyton Manning jerseys people were wearing in Indianapolis.  I even saw a group of Elvis look alikes downtown.  Why do young girls want to dress like Brittany Spears?  Why did so many young boys, like my son and Louis Fahrbach, want to “be like Mike” Michael Jordan?  Why all the Dale Earnhardt caps?  Why do children want to emulate movie stars, or rock stars or the rich and famous or rappers?  Because what we deeply admire we are prone to mimic!  But what is the bottom line of all this copying or imitating?  It is the enthronement of self!  The world wants to better itself for selfish reasons.  Soaring ambitions, to be the smartest, prettiest, richest.  But for us it is to be for the glory of God!

Who are we to imitate?  “the God” I hope by now you have noticed that I have added the definite article to God.  Why?  Because the Holy Spirit has put it in the original text.  Why did Grace Seminary drum Greek and Hebrew into John and my head for three and four years?  Because our professors did not want us to be at the mercy of the English translations.  If we believe in verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture in the original language we should be able to look at the original text and glean the meanings that Paul and the Holy Spirit intended. Now, please don’t think that I am saying that you cannot know the Word of God or God Himself unless you know Greek and Hebrew!  Dr. Whitcomb explained to us years ago that the difference was like watching TV in black and white or color.  The English was black and white the original language was color.  Everything is the same just stands out more clearly. 

What is the purpose of the article here?  Normally the definite article tends to individualize and provide focus on the person, place or thing!  That is what Paul is doing here.  He is making sure that those reading his letter know specifically who he is talking about.  Why?  1 Cor. 8:5-6  The Greco Roman world was a polytheistic world. It was filled with many gods!  We live in a postmodern world and there are many gods as well.  The thinking today in our world is that all religions are saying the same spiritual truths just using different words.

Illus.  Allah – is he the same god as Jehovah?  After 911 Oprah Winfrey stood on a platform in the center of the infield in a baseball stadium and she instructed America that Islam was a peaceful and loving religion – a little later on a Christian minister stood to pray “we pray in the name of our God, the God of Christianity, Judaism, Islam…  Were all the people gathered in that stadium (Christian, Jew, Muslim) and others, in fact, speaking to the same God who just happens to have different ‘divine nicknames’ that are invoked by adherents to different religions?   Is “Allah the same god as Jehovah?”

Ergun Caner, a Muslim converted to Christianity and Professor of Theology and church history at the Criswell College in Dallas Texas, who has been interviewed on CNN and the BBC has written a book, along with his brother Emir who also has been born again and is currently assistant professor of Church History and Anabaptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina have written a book.  And in the book “Unveiling Islam” they have a chapter on Allah.  I would like to read an excerpt from the book.

Allah is not triune and personal but remote and judgmental.

Allah does not have a Son.  Is Allah the vicarious Redeemer and Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  OF course not!  The simple confession of faith from the Quran Surah 112 makes it clear that Allah is not Jehovah God. 

‘la illaha illa Allah, Muhammad rasul Allah’ ‘there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger or prophet of Allah’ that is the first pillar of Islam. 

Beloved we are to imitate our father Abba not Allah.

We are to imitate a personal, intimate, loving Father who has given His Son for us, who has adopted us into His family, a Father who is not only just and holy and righteous, but merciful and kind and gracious!  What is our Father like?  Look at His Son!  What is Allah like look at His followers!  It is very clear!

When Paul says “become imitators of the God”  He is speaking of the triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit there is no other God like our God, who is one in nature but three persons.  That is why Jesus commanded and demanded triune immersion of all believers. Jesus insisted upon it, He began with this statement ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” He is Jehovah.  We must obey His command, we insist that all believers be triune immersed because it declares the deity of our Savior and singles out the triune God as the only true and living God.  We begin our Christian lives of obedience by this act and declaration!  We believe in a triune God! 

We are to be like Him!  Here is our great obligation and responsibility.  Here is the pattern for our lives.  Paul will go on in this chapter and show us we can become imitators of the God.  Walk in love (5:1-2) for God is love (1 John 4:8).  We are to walk in light (5:3-14) for God is light (1 John 5:1).  We are to walk in wisdom (5:15-17) for God is wise.  Each of these walks helps us to become imitators of the God.

Paul goes on to explain for us the motivation for his exhortation.

#2.  The Motivation:  ‘as beloved children’

“as” – this little word in Greek and English is called a comparative conjunction!  It is used to draw attention to two similar things.  Here the word introduces the manner in which we are to be imitators of the God.  We are to act like we are His children.  Born from His womb. 

The basis or motivation for becoming imitators of the God is the unbelievable privilege and grace of being God’s beloved children.  We have been born again by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and becoming partakers of our Father’s nature (regeneration) and we have been adopted and given our legal standing as sons and are the special objects of His love we therefore should exhibit the family resemblance.  ‘Like father, like son.’  We are His children!  By both birth and adoption!  Amazing!  And our relationship to Him not only requires us to become imitators of Him but also enables us to become imitators of Him as well.  His nature His Spirit, His power is in us.

Look at that word ‘beloved’!  It is from the word ‘agape’ We are the objects of God’s love.  He seeks to do what is best for us regardless of the cost to Himself.  John 3:16; Rom. 8:31-39

Do you realize that God talks about us like He does His own Son?  Matt. 3:17  He loves us in the same way as He loves His only-begotten (unique) Son!  John 17:23


Paul calls us to an amazing obligation and responsibility.  To act like our heavenly Father.  This is the doctrine of sanctification, this is what Paul was writing about to the Galatians when he wrote about walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5) Paul is talking about our daily living.  Daily dying to the flesh and cultivating the spiritual side of life.  To know how to become like Him we must study His Word, His written Word and the incarnate Word – His revelation of Himself. 

How is it possible to become imitators of the triune God?  Eph. 3:16, 19 and the Scriptures being applied daily to our lives John 17:17.

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