Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5:1-5
Sermon Title: Be imitators of God
Sermon Text: Ephesians 5:1-5
Memory Verse: Ephesians 5:1-2
MAIN IDEA: Be imitators of God and walk in love, in purity, with dignity, and eternally minded.
Be imitators of God
Four ways we may imitate God
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." I provide this manuscript as a courtesy. I do not follow the document word for word during the message. Thanks for understanding.
Introduction: Walk Worthy
Who do we want to be? What are our aspirations in life? Do we want to be remembered for our accomplishments, things we do? Or, do we want to be remembered for our character, who we are? Do we want people to say at our graveside, he designed and built beautiful products, but he is not well liked by those working alongside him? Or, she made a lot of innovations in her line of work, and she changed the way things are done, but unfortunately, she was filled with pride. She was also very stingy and lacking in generosity.
Who does God want us to be? God cares much less about what we do compared to His desire for us to have good character. In the Scriptures, God gives encouragement for us to grow up in our character to reach maturity in the fullness of Christ. God desires for us to be godly.
The way we live our lives reveals our character. The word walk
in the Bible expresses the everyday life of a person. We are to walk like Jesus.
The book of Ephesians uses the word walk frequently. The letter reminds us of how we used to walk. We used to walk according to the course of this world. We walked under the devil’s influence doing the works of disobedience (Eph. 2:2). We are to recognize that we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so we would walk
in them. (Eph. 2:10). We are to walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:1) and no longer to walk as unbelievers walk (Eph. 4:17).
God desires for us to put off our old character of sin nature, and to put on our new character created in His likeness. Chapter four lists the traits of the new character. We are instructed to demonstrate humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, love, unity, righteousness, and holiness. We are to speak words of truth and edification. We are to be giving, kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving.
As the rest of the world seeks to make an impact through their achievements in gaining better houses or cars, achieving higher political office, selling movies or albums, exploring new areas of science and engineering, and other pursuits, our aspiration should be different. These pursuits are not evil. But, these pursuits are not our chief goal. We should have as our chief aim to glorify God by being imitators of Him. Chapter five which begins with these words:
Therefore be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1)
Be Imitators of God
Scripture commands for us to be imitators
. To imitate is to mimic. We are to copy God’s behavior and words.
Before we get into how this passage teaches ways to imitate God, let’s look first at an important reason why we need to obey this command. We are to seek to imitate God, because, as the verse implies, we are God’s beloved children.
Be imitators of God, as beloved children (Eph. 5:1)
The word for beloved in the Greek is agapētos.
It is from the root word, agapē
which is the preeminent word for love in the Greek language.
To be beloved is to be the object of the greatest love. Those who are beloved are esteemed and dear favorites of those who call them beloved. Those who are beloved are considered worthy of the love bestowed upon them. Jesus is our beloved because He is worthy of our love.
Twice in Jesus’ ministry, God speaks from heaven and declares Jesus to be His Beloved Son. The first is a pronouncement to Jesus.
In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Immediately coming up out of the water, He (Jesus) saw the heavens opening and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: “You are My Beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11)
Jesus is declared to be God the Father’s Beloved Son.
The second-time God declares Jesus to be His Beloved Son is on the Mount of Transfiguration. Only this time, He desires for the Apostles to know Jesus is His Beloved Son.
Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My Beloved Son, listen to Him!” (Mark 9:7)
Jesus is the object of God’s love. Because of this, He is worthy.
Here is the point we are to take away. God is calling us His beloved just as He calls Jesus His beloved! We are God’s beloved children. In God’s eyes, we are His favorites. We are esteemed.
Turn for a moment to Romans 8:12-16. This passage also tells us to put off the old self and to put on the new self, but in a slightly different way.
So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, (Romans 8:12-16)
“We are under obligation” is a phrase which means there is no choice. We must do this. This passage is written to help us understand that when God says, we are under obligation to live according to the Spirit and not the flesh, the reason is for our benefit.
We read the imagery of a slave who does things out of fear of the master. God wants us to know we are not His slaves. We are not obligated to obey under slave conditions but under adoption conditions.
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not a spirit making us slaves of obedience. Slaves must do the bidding of their master; regardless of the weather and working conditions. Slaves are beaten if they don’t obey. For the slave, there is little benefit to them personally for completing their obligations. The Holy Spirit does not order us around like slaves.
Slaves are obligated for the sake of the master. The master tells the slave to obey because the master has his interests in mind. Masters tell slaves what to do for their benefit and not for the benefit of the slave.
God’s Holy Spirit is telling us we are under obligation to put to death the deeds of the body because He has our
best interest in mind. We are not under obligation as slaves. We are under obligation as God’s adopted children. The Holy Spirit instructs us to put to death the deeds of our flesh because He wants us to live abundantly.
We are God’s children; redeemed as slaves and purchased for adoption by God. We are not purchased as slaves, but as God’s adopted children. Our obligations are for good. We are to approach the command of putting to death the deeds of the body with a positive attitude and a desire
to fulfill our obligation.
(turn back to Ephesians)
The letter to the Ephesians begins with a statement of our adoption.
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:4-6)
We are the beloved adopted children of God. We become adopted because of the kind intention of God. God bestows upon us grace in Christ because He is a kind, loving Father. He lavishes His grace upon us in
Christ. We are the beloved
of God because we are in
the Beloved of God.
It is very important for us to know in our hearts our adoption as a child of God. Being adopted children is intended to serve as our motive for seeking godliness. Because we are God’s children, we need to be imitators of God.
If we seek to be imitators of God with the wrong motives, our efforts will fail.
If our motive to imitate God is so that we will be well-liked by others, to better our reputation and gain respect, we will not become godly. We will become like those who Jesus criticized for seeking the best seats in the synagogue (Mt. 23:6). We will not be in unity with God because our motive is to gain for our personal interests and not seek the interests of others. We will lack patience and forgiveness. Our love is turned inward and not outward.
If our motive to imitate God is to avoid punishment, then we do not understand that we have the spirit of adoption which cries out “Abba Father.” We will serve out of fear, not knowing God desires to help us and He will never leave or forsake us. The standard to imitate God is a high-standard. We will continually fall short of His glory. If we seek to imitate God because we fear punishment, we will live with constant fear waiting for punishment to take place. God wants us to imitate Him because He wants the best for us as His children, not to punish us when we fall short.
If our motive to imitate God is, so we gain worldly goods, like many of those who preach a false gospel proclaim, we will always fail. The treasures of this world are not for those who are humble or give to others. God may bless us with material goods for our needs, but He desires for us to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.
Our motive for imitating God needs to be because we love being a child of God. We enjoy living in a home which He is the Lord. We find delight in His ways because we find our Father to be all-wise. We read His commands, and we find joy in obeying our Father.
All His ways are good and holy, and we are to see value in imitating His goodness and holiness. We are to trust that His ways lead us to life and peace. Our motive must be to look upon His words and see how He cares for the afflicted and desire to do the same. We may read of How God takes care of His people by giving them good things, and it should inspire us to be giving and generous. We are to study His wisdom and seek to be wise. Our Heavenly Father is worthy of imitating.
Because our Heavenly Father is worthy of imitating, let us heed His commands to be like Him. The passage, tells us four ways we may imitate God.
Four ways we may imitate God
The first way we may imitate God is to walk in love.
1-Walk in love
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. (Eph. 5:2)
Before we talk about loving as Jesus loves, let’s take a moment and take a breath and enjoy seeing the name of our Savior written in the midst of God’s exhortation for us to be like Him. There is no better joy in our walk before God than to be reminded of Jesus Christ our Savior.
Our calling is challenging in this present world. We will suffer as we seek to live in holiness. But, in the midst of the challenge, we read the name of Christ who is as an ointment to our pains and strength for our weakness. Jesus is our Bridegroom who is preparing a place for us to live eternally. He is our refuge for the storms of life. Jesus is the drink of living water for our thirst and the bread of life for our hunger.
As God challenges us to press on to our higher calling, our eyes fall upon Christ, and He is an oasis where we may rest and remember that He is our helper. Jesus makes our way possible. All we are asked to do is made possible because we are alive in Christ, risen with Him, and seated with Him in the Heavenly places. Allow His name to breathe life into our calling to holiness. Know that it is because of Him we stand before God’s throne as holy, blameless, and above reproach.
We are to love “just as” Christ also loved us. Jesus is always our greatest example to imitate. He set the example of what it means to live as God our Father by clothing Himself in human flesh.
Walking in love does not keep a record of wrong doing. When Jesus was on the cross, He wasn’t keeping track of who hit Him or who spat upon His face. Jesus’ love is void of bitterness. Jesus’s love cried out from the cross, “Forgive them, Father.”
Love is patient. Jesus showed patience to His disciples. When Thomas didn’t believe He had risen from the grave, He patiently told Thomas to place his hands in His wounds so he might know for sure of His resurrection.
Love is kind. Jesus showed kindness to Peter by restoring him after he denied Christ. Jesus is never arrogant. He never acts rudely. Jesus does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth.
We are to love just as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us. Jesus, God’s beloved Son, left His throne in Heaven so He may give Himself for us. Christ loves us with the greatest love. Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). There is no greater love we may show than to give our life for others.
In giving of Himself as an offering and as a sacrifice, Jesus met our greatest need. The Lord God, Judge over good and evil, rendered a verdict of guilty. All of heaven’s hosts were poised, ready to unleash a righteous anger upon us more furious than ever witnessed in all of Creation. God’s wrath stood at the ready to tread upon the grapes of His wrath in His winepress. Nothing stood between us and our condemnation.
Jesus stepped between us and the rage of heaven. He took our evil sins upon Himself and bore them in our place. Jesus absorbed all the ferocity of God’s punishment until there was nothing left. The wrath of God became exhausted upon the cross as Jesus blood spilled forth.
Jesus looked upon our poor estate and placed upon us His righteousness and goodness. He clothed us with purity and holiness. He washed us clean of every molecule of sin.
God’s wrath is appeased by the offering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Savior. The sacrifice of Jesus became a fragrant aroma before the altar of God. It is more pleasing than any sacrifice offered. Because the sacrifice is a fragrant aroma to God, God raised Jesus from the dead and set Him above all things; things in heaven and things upon the earth.
Let us walk in love, loving others as Jesus loves us, presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice, pouring out our life as a drink offering to God’s beloved.
2-Walk in Purity
But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints (Eph. 5:3)
Immorality & Impurity
We are warned against immorality and impurity. The statistics for pornography in the church are very depressing. Not only is there a problem with pornography, but our standards of morality decline continually. We watch shameful entertainment. Our old self doesn’t want to hear this, because our old self wants to feed on filth. Let’s ask a question: If we are unwilling to watch something together on the big screen here at the church, should we be watching it in our home? What is the difference?
We are children of the Living God. Our Father is holy and righteous. As His children, we are to live in a way which demonstrates we value His adoption. Our Father is the King, and there is no reason for us to feed with the pigs like the prodigal son. The Holy Spirit of God makes our heart His temple. We take joy in His presence, and we should not allow corruption and wickedness anywhere near.
We are warned against greed. Do you ever look at something, have a desire to own it, but you don’t need it? It happens all the time. We are a covetous people by nature. What are some ways we may be greedy? Maybe we are greedy at the supper table as we eye the bigger piece of steak or that piece of cake that has more frosting than other pieces. We fantasize about what we might do if we win the lottery. We might be greedy with our friendships and become jealous when others spend more time with our friends. We think we are entitled to be the person in charge of the television remote control.
We have no need for greed and covetousness because we have the inheritance of Christ. Everything we have or don’t have is because it comes from the hand of our loving Father. We need not desire the treasures of this world because we are storing up treasures in heaven. Our treasure is incorruptible and everlasting. Our greatest gain is godliness with contentment.
We do not expect a child of a mobster to be a police officer. We do not expect a child of a famous athlete to lack coordination. We do not expect a child of a rich person to eat rice every meal and to live in a shack. We should never expect a child of God to live immorally or greedily.
What is proper for the saints of God? Godliness and contentment. As believers, it is expected of us to be godly. It is always a scandal in the media, as it should be, when those who profess Christ are exposed for immorality or greed. It should not be named among us. When we are greedy, it takes away from the gospel. It is expected of us to live differently.
3-Walk with Dignity
and there must be no
filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. (Eph. 5:4)
This verse talks about many types of inappropriate speech. It is referring to talk which is obscene, revolting, frivolous, impolite, rude, or disgusting. It is talk which is in bad taste. We all make remarks which are inappropriate and in bad taste. Our tongue is difficult to tame.
On Sunday, we use our tongue to sing the glories of our
Lord and on Monday, we curse men. From the same mouth come both
blessing and cursing. These things ought not to be this way (James 3:9-10).
I made an off-color remark a month or so ago, and a person I respect heard my comment. They said, “That is not something I would expect to hear from a pastor.” I am embarrassed, and I should be. They were completely right. It is not fitting.
At the same time, I know people speak differently around once they know I am a pastor. The apologize for cursing. They don’t tell crude jokes because it is not fitting to tell a pastor a crude joke.
Do you all have expectations of what is fitting for a pastor to say? Is there an expectation for me to not talk frivolously, impolitely, rudely, or in a disgusting manner while standing in the pulpit? I hope so! It is expected for elders to speak only fitting words.
If you have expectations for me, may I have expectations for you?
Let’s look at an illustration to help us understand. Imagine we read in the news that Benjamin Beckman was caught speaking a string of obscenities and a tasteless joke. We would most likely say, “so what?”
What if we read in the news that His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, spoke a string of obscenities and a tasteless joke? We would say that it is inappropriate for him to speak that way. He is royalty. He is first in line for succession to the throne of England.
Did you know Benjamin Beckman is 100th
in line to succession to the throne? Our expectations of his behavior are not the same as Prince Charles. We do not expect Prince Charles to rattle off a few profanities, but if we hear that Benjamin Beckman speaks inappropriately, we say, “so?”.
However, beloved, with our inheritance as sons and daughters of God, there is not an order of succession. We are all coheirs with Christ and children of God. We share the same inheritance. There is neither worship team nor choir, Sunday school teacher or usher, pastor, or church member. Together we are in Christ. Together we are indwelled with God’s Holy Spirit. We are members of one another.
Verse three says we are to act properly and this verse says we are to speak fitting words. What is not fitting for me is not fitting for you and vice versa. We are to be dignified in every way.
For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Eph. 5:5)
The Apostle places a stern warning to remind us why we need to obey the commands of these verses. He is warning us about eternity. These commands have eternal consequences.
We may know with certainty, it is an absolute truth, that people who do not walk as children of God do not walk on the streets of heaven. The warning is straightforward. Most of the words used in verse three, immoral, impure, covetous (greed), are used here. The connection is clear.
If Jesus is not your Savior, take this warning seriously. Your heart of greediness and your lust for that which is unholy, and your worship of everything but God, leads straight to hell. God is offering a better pathway. Humble yourself in the sight of God and turn from your selfish ways. Your days are numbered. Today is the day of salvation.
If Jesus is your Savior, heed this warning. Don’t play with fire. Hear the voice of God speaking in the Scripture. We may stumble or fall along the way, but we get up. We press on, confess our sins, repent, and take another step toward the Kingdom.
We are to run from the evil of ungodliness and idolatry. Tame our tongue. Make it so that greed is never mentioned in the same sentence as our name. Our walk is to be a demonstration to the world that we value being a child of God; it is more valuable than life itself.
Pray and ask God for help in being pure and holy. Ask God to work in your heart, so you are generous. Beg God to give you control over your loose tongue. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit, instead, seek to be sensitive to His leading by reading His word and praying to the Father.
As children of God, we are not who we want to be, but at the same time, we are not who we used to be. The time to be satisfied with our pursuit of holiness and godliness is when we take our first step into the kingdom of heaven.
Be imitators of God and walk in love, in purity, with dignity, and eternally minded.
The Apostle Paul intends verse five to be a warning. However, we may also look at verse five with hope. Our future is an eternity of perfect bliss because in heaven there is no immorality, impurity, greed, no lying, no blasphemers, no adultery, no drunkenness, no anger, and no theft.
We are citizens of the Kingdom of Christ and God. We will step foot in every building, and we will partake of every food and drink available. As we walk around in the streets of heaven, we will not have to avert our eyes because of an inappropriate advertisement like we do at the shopping mall or during a commercial during a football game. We will not have to cover the ears of our children to prevent them from hearing those who curse and swear. Everything we look upon or listen to will be joyful and pure. We will think about our former life her on earth and wonder with one another, “why did we ever speak that way or do those things?”
This morning, we began by asking ourselves, “Who do we want to be? What are our aspirations in life?” We want to be people who will one day love our Lord perfectly. We desire to stand in the kingdom of heaven and hear the name of Jesus spoken, and watch as people stop in their tracks and listen to what is said. We want to stand and watch as He passes by and our hearts become filled with love and adoration at the One who gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.