Be Imitators of God
Sermon Type: Expository
Title: Be Imitators of God
Passage: Ephesians 5:1-2
Theme of Ephesians: Believers need to have unity by loving God and one another.
Proposition: We must walk in love and be true imitators of God.
Prepare Your Hearts to Worship the Lord in the Listening of this message.
Psalm 73:25–28 Acknowledge your dependence upon God. Praise God for his goodness to you.
25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish;
You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
28 But it is good for me to draw near to God;
I have put my trust in the Lord God,
That I may declare all Your works.
Psalm 139:23–24- Ask God to search your heart and mold you to be like him.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
24 And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
Open your Bibles to Ephesians 5. Ephesians is probably my favorite book in the New Testament. It is divided into two major sections: chapters 1-3 are doctrinal and 4-6 are practical. That is not to say that the doctrinal and practical do not intermix, because doctrine is really seen throughout the book. Practical teaching can never be separated from doctrinal truth. If one ignores doctrine, you will notice it in their practical walk; likewise, doctrine cannot be left alone by itself either. These two must always accompany each other.
A central theme of the book of Ephesians is unity. Throughout the book, Paul talks about unity: unity under Christ as the churches head, unity in the church, unity with each other, unity in the Godhead, and unity in Christ. Unity is mentioned more times in this book than anywhere else in the New Testament, but I would say that unity is not the main theme in Ephesians. The theme book of Ephesians is love. Paul mentions love in the verb and noun form twenty times. Almost one fifth of all of Paul’s mentions of Love are in Ephesians. It occurs twice as many times as it does in all the other Pauline letters. Apparent in this book are both God’s love for people and the believer’s love for one another. Hoehner says that “Unity without love is possible, but love with out unity is not. Love is the central ingredient for true unity.” The purpose of Ephesians is to promote a love for one another that has the love of God and Christ as the basis. This makes sense they are reprimanded in Revelation 2:2-6 for losing their first love. With this background, lets read our text for today.
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
I would like to submit that we read this more like a compound sentence without the period between verse 1 and 2. The NASB, NIV, and KJV do not put the period between the two verses. It is not a huge difference, but I tend to see these two verses as parallel. We will get into this more as we go on.
Therefore, be imitators of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
Illustration: Have you ever heard someone say, “You really are your father’s son!” What do they mean by that? I have heard that so many times throughout the years. Sometimes I am really amazed that people actually say that about me and my dad. My dad is a lot taller than me (6’2”), he is a lot bigger than me (I’m pretty puny, Hannah is helping me get bigger, but not in a good way- she is too good of a cook.), my dad has straight black hair, and he is very wise. Just by listing these things off, you would think that we are not alike at all and that no one would really say that we are truly alike. Despite all this, people constantly say that we are alike in so many ways!
I want you to realize that: We must walk in love as true imitators of God.
1. Be Becoming imitators of God. 5:1
Our text today contains one of the most interesting and most difficult verses in the New Testament, Eph. 5:1-2. These verses say that we are to be imitators of God. This command seems almost crazy when you first read it. I have read this verse many times and have honestly thought, “How exactly am I to imitate God?” I mean this really seems like something that is impossible! After some study, it does not seem so odd for Paul to write this, for he has used language like this before. There are other places that Paul told his readers that they should become imitators of him or his ministry (I Cor. 4:16; 11:1; I Thess. 1:6; II Thess. 3:7-9). He also has used this in reference to believers imitating other believers (I Thess. 2:14; Heb. 6:12). Now I think where this is hard to understand is that Paul says to imitate God and when we think of that, we know that we cannot imitate God in every way. I think what Paul was probably talking about imitating was God’s communicable attributes. God’s communicable attributes are those qualities of God for which at least a part can be found in human creations, such as: love, holiness, righteousness, justice, faithfulness, grace, mercy, ect. The incommunicable attributes would be immutability, omnipresence, omnipotence, ect.- these are probably not what Paul had in mind here.
The actual word comes from the Greek word “μιμηται” “mimetie.” It means an “imitator, copier, or an actor who impersonates.” It can also mean an imposter; the word counterfeit comes from that same Greek root. A good counterfeit is very close to the original.
Illustration: This is the idea behind the flies that some use for trout fishing. A good fly or lure will imitate, copy, or impersonate some sort of baitfish or bug. It really looks like the original.
Application: We can be assured that our God is completely worthy to be imitated. He is not like the unjust, unloving, immoral, and wicked “gods” that other religions seek to follow. The readers of this epistle would be very familiar with these types of gods since they were the gods that they formerly served. We can completely trust our God! He is always faithful to us! He is worthy to be imitated...but how.
a. In Holiness I Peter 1:13-16; (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7)
In just a few verses prior, Eph. 4:24, Paul talks about putting on the new man that is created after God and is true in holiness. Throughout the Bible, we not only see that God is holy and set apart from everything else, but we see that God wants us as believers to be holy. For instance, I Peter 1:13-16 is a quote from Lev. 11:44-45. Peter wants believers to realize that we are to be Holy!
13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
This is the only attribute of God that is repeated three times: this shows how greatly God wants this emphasized. Obviously, God is very concerned with protecting His holiness (Isaiah 6 demonstrates this). He also wants all his children to be holy. Holiness is being “set apart” from sin and really “set apart” to God. The great hope of believers is, “We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).
Application: It is amazing what we let into our lives that God considers sin, but we consider it something minor. We think that God will simply overlook our little sins or our sinful habits, but we should realize that God wants his children to be holy- free from even the little sins. What sins are in your life that are preventing you from living a holy life?
b. In Mercy and forgiveness: Luke 6:35-36; Eph. 4:32
35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
Mercy- compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender. This is something with which we all struggle. We always want someone to be merciful and forgiving to us for our mistakes, but we are unwilling to do the same to someone else when we have been offended. Christ himself commands us here to be merciful just as your Father is merciful.
Illustration/Application: In my marriage, I make many mistakes. I mean tons! I will usually do something really stupid like never help Hannah with any of the chores around the house. Then, once I realize she is disappointed that I didn’t help her, I want her to forgive me quickly or even immediately. This is not what happens though when she offends me- I don’t want to show mercy on her sometimes. I want to hold the grudge and never forgive. Does this sound at all familiar to situations that you run in to? Be imitators of God’s mercy and forgiveness. He forgave you, you know.
c. Text’s Illustration: As dear children. John 1:12 (Gal. 3:26; Eph. 1:5)
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
God has given us the ability to be his children. What a privilege!! We are commanded to imitate God as dear or beloved children- we are supposed to be giving back to God, but this verse is so packed with what God gives back to us. This particular adjective in classical times, with reference to children, meant “beloved” or “contended” but particularly referred to an only child to whom the parents had devoted all their love. Because the child had received so much love, the child had the security of being loved and then was contented. We must realize that God’s ability to extend his love to each of his children as if the were the only child. We must be content because of the knowledge and security of his love.
So how do we actually imitate God as dear children? How does a child imitate an adult? – that is the illustration. We must imitate God in his Holiness, Mercy, and Forgiveness, but even more, we must learn how to imitate God. How do we do that? As dear children. Just like a child learns from an adult by spending time with them, so we need to learn to imitate God by spending time with Him and in His Word.
Illustration: Remember how I said everyone always says that “Your really are your fathers son.” People always say that to me, even more still when I go back to visit my dad in Texas. I think, “How can I really be more like my dad since I have been away for so long?” Well it is because I spent the better part of 18 years around him, learning from him, watching him, and wanting more than anything to be like him. Those things that I watched and learned are still being revealed in my life now. That is what God wants of us!! He wants us to spend time with Him and in His Word! He wants us to watch his ways to see his faithfulness in all things, and he wants us to want to be like Him!
I want you to realize that: We must walk in love and be true imitators of God.
2. Be Walking in Love. 5:2
a. The Command: Love.
The command here to walk in love is a parallel statement to verse one joined by the word “and.” These two ideas are expanding on each other. Because we are God’s beloved children that have are to be imitating him, we are now supposed to walk in love.
This is the third time that we are commanded to “walk.” Eph. 4:1 and 4:17 commands us to walk worthy and then to walk in holiness. Now Paul expands it and states that we are to “walk” in love. Do you remember the account of Christ asking Peter if he loved him in John 21? Peter had “Phileo” or “affection” for Christ, but Christ wanted to know if he had “agape” or “intimate, ultimate” love for him. This “agape” love is love that is given without respect of any merit of the other person and it seeks the highest good in the one being loved.
Application: Can you honestly say that the kind of love that you have for your family? What about your for your church family? What about your unsaved neighbor and friends? I would submit that if we truly had this type of love for other people, then we would never have problems being bold about sharing the Gospel. Unfortunately, we are content to be hold on to the “affection” love and not give the deep, intimate love that we should have.
b. The Comparison: Christ’s Love
The words “as Christ also” or “as also Christ” connect this to the previous statement. This is the illustration of what the love should look like. Romans 8:35-39 specifically tells us of Christ’s love and the power it has over believer. Christ loved us! That is amazing enough, but now Paul tells us how he did that.
The illustration how Christ loved us. -- “he gave himself for us”
This specific statement points back to the action of Christ on the cross. It indicates that he took his own initiative in handing himself over. Rom. 5:6-8 and Galatians 2:20 state this as well. It is a fulfillment of the statements that Christ made saying that the good shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. Christ was not forced to lay down his life, but he willingly, lovingly obeyed His Father’s will and gave his life.
He did this as an “offering and sacrifice to God.” This refers to the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. It was a bloody sacrificial offering to the Lord. Christ’s supreme sacrifice of himself is the ultimate demonstration of his love.
26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.
This sacrifice was by Christ, a blameless high priest that did not need a sacrifice like other high priests, so he offered himself once for all. Taken together, the two words convey that Christ handed himself over as the offering and sacrifice that would fulfill all the offerings and sacrifices in the Old Testament.
Illustration: The sacrifices and system that Christ took the place of is amazing! We do not have to go outside, grab a perfect spotless goat, take it to the temple, have the priest slaughter it, and then sacrifice it on the altar. This would have to be done daily and annually for the peoples sins. Praise the Lord that He took the place of this sacrifice through his own life.
“a sweet-smelling aroma” This is again going back to the Old Testament sacrificial system. Paul is capturing the Old Testament sense of a sacrifice that is acceptable to God. The offering and sacrifice to God is for the purpose of a fragrant aroma. In the Old Testament system, there were some sacrifices that were not fragrant aromas to God because the offerer had a wrong attitude and a heart far from God. In contrast, Christ willingly gave himself to be offered and he did it to be a pleasant aroma to God. His offering and sacrifice was accepted, and for that we are eternally grateful.
Application: Is your sacrifice and offering accepted by God? Is it a sweet smelling aroma to God? Our lives must be pleasing and glorifying to him!!
**This is the kind of love that we are supposed to exemplify in our life. It is a sacrificial, genuine love that does not respect people.
We see that we must be imitators of God because of his great love for us. Then we must walk in love, just as Christ did and does for us. It is amazing that in these 2 short verses we have two simple commands, but yet the blessings that are explained in these commands are overwhelming.
Closing Illustration: We all want to be like someone else. As humans, we naturally are creatures that want to be accepted and liked by others; therefore, we are always trying to be like someone else. Sometimes this is peer pressure, but I’m really talking about who you want to be like on a magnificent level. Do you want to be a sweet golfer like Tiger Woods; a great outdoorsman like ...; do you want to have lots of money like Bill Gates or even someone else you know; do you want to be the best preacher ever like John MacArthur. Some these may be all right in a sense, but we must truly be imitators of God. This is the great command that Paul gives in Ephesians: Be Like God and Walk Like Christ! There is no great person that we can follow! Strive to be like Christ in everything you do!
I want you to realize that: We must walk in love and be true imitators of God.
Because of what great things He has done for us!!
I WOULD BE LIKE JESUS
Earthly pleasures vainly call me—I would be like Jesus; nothing worldly shall enthrall me—I would be like Jesus:
He has broken every fetter—I would be like Jesus; that my soul may serve Him better—I would be like Jesus:
All the way from earth to glory—I would be like Jesus; telling o’er and o’er the story—I would be like Jesus:
That in heaven He may meet me, I would be like Jesus; that His words “Well done” may greet me, I would be like Jesus:
Refrain: Be like Jesus—this my song—in the home and in the throng, be like Jesus all day long! I would be like Jesus.
O TO BE LIKE THEE!
O to be like Thee! blessed Redeemer. This is my constant longing and prayer; gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures, Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
O to be like Thee! full of compassion, loving, forgiving, tender and kind; helping the helpless, cheering the fainting, seeking the wand’ring sinner to find.
O to be like Thee lowly in spirit, holy and harmless, patient and brave; meekly enduring cruel reproaches, willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading, pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love; make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling; fit me for life and heaven above.
Chorus: O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee, Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art! Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness; stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.