Becoming Imitators of God
Ephesians 5:1-21 Becoming Imitators of God
Last time we saw that the Christians forgiveness of others was to be like Gods. That forgiveness is complete and free. As far as the the east is from the west and holds it against us, no more!
5:1 In this matter of forgiving, the calling of Christians is to be “Imitators of God” The verb here become, refers to those Paul has spoke of who have been made children of God. By constant perseverance, and imitation of the Divine Original the divine copy becomes more like the Father. Having been given the unbelievable privilege and grace of being His beloved. Our response is then to be a showing of “self-forgetting kindness.
V. 2 Here the Apostle broadens the sphere of our imitation of God, from simple the forgiving spirit to Love in every way. The consistency of that love is demonstrated as an indication of our Walk. So the love we demonstrate to each other and to the lost word is an indication of the progress of our Walk. Paul sums up this whole section of his letter here. In fact Paul’s message can be summed up here. All the negatives that he has stated or implied are set aside with this one great positive command. “walk in love, as Christ loved us” Paul says there is a perfect example, even in human flesh, which has been given and can be coped. Love answering Love, Love motivated by love, love made possible by love, the initial love of Jesus. After all Paul told us in 1 Cor. it was He, Jesus that gave us love.
This standard of comparison between God and a Christian and in particular the application of the outworking of love seen in the life of Jesus are to be followed in the life of a Christian. His love, the love of Jesus, was expressed in His giving, giving to the point of sacrifice. Paul is implying here that a Christians love is similarly to be expressed in giving and sacrifice.
Let Light Replace Darkness
V.3 Paul has spoke to us in general terms of putting off the old nature and putting on the new in chapter 4. He then spoke to us more spacificaly about putting aside deceitfulness and personal animosities, and that we were to replace them with truth and love in our words, actions, and thoughts. Now in chapter 5 we are turned from the contemplation of self sacrifice or self giving, as Jesus did, to loves perversions. That which is not Christ like, adultery and sexual abuse. Paul knew the dangers of the life in the society they and we today live in. For this reason Paul felt the need to speak very frankly with the Ephesians and to us the readers today. Without diving into the meaning of Paul’s words it will serve our study to simply acknowledge the words used by Paul involves any sexual indulgence outside the permanent relationship of marriage and where the sexual appetites are used merely as a means of pleasure without any sense of responsibility or care for our mate.
Immorality is uncleanness or impurity because purity means the control and direction of sexual powers and impulses in accordance with the law and purpose of God. Covetness or ruthless greed is selfish indulgence at the expense of others. Such abuse of God-given powers and such contradiction of the loveliness of Gods pattern of living should “not even be named among them.” The expression recalls here the O T prohibition against mentioning even the names of the gods of the heathen and of speaking of the manner of their worship.
In V.4 Before making some positive statements Paul uses three more words to describe the conduct and conversation that is to have no place in the life of a Christian. Filthiness, Foul talk, or silly talk, or levity (joking). All of these are shameless in that they make a normally sensitive person ashamed. In regard to the silly talk he refers to the kind of talk that comes from the mouth of a drunk. The talk that includes levity or joking is not spoke of in a negative sense and Paul is not indicating that the Christian should be always solemn but that much of this kind of talk is not fitting for a Christian because it often borders on impropriety.
With a play on words not obvious to the reader of English Paul urges us to replace the foolish talk with the talk of thanksgiving. So if our talk is about our possessions or other people, or even sex, it should be directed by the spirit of thanksgiving and praise towards seeing and acknowledging the beauty of Gods gifts. In this case our speech will be kept pure and uplifting.
In V. 5 & 6 Paul has some solemn words for the consequences of such sins. These sins together with unrepented sins exclude us from Gods Kingdom. “Be sure of this” Paul’s says You know this, you have been taught this from your first hearing of the Gospel. And you must “Let no one deceive you” See in Paul’s time, as is there now, there were those who made light of sin. They made a joke of the consequences for our sin. These Paul says are empty words. Paul taught that the word of God is solemn and true. No one given to fornication or indecency, or the greed which makes an idol of gain, has any share in the Kingdom. It is only by forsaking sin in true repentance by faith, given by grace, are we to have the inheratence of Gods Kingdom. Otherwise, Paul says, because of these things, people remain children, or sons of disobedience. Separated from the gift of forgiveness, they stand “under the wrath of God”, because of sin. Subject to judgment, as Paul explained to the Romans, is a present fact in their that they are excluded from the life of God. But the words have a stronger sense of warning of the day when all stand before God who is their Lord, and their judge.
V.7 “Therefore” Paul tells us ,in light of Gods judgment and of the incompatibility of such sins with membership in the kingdom of God, do not associate with them; referring to our p[participation, not just association. To be partners with them would be a denial of our Christian profession.
In V.8 Paul illustrates one of the most common and most striking New Testament illustrations of the absoluteness of the difference of our life before, and our life, now in Christ. Light expresses His majesty and glory and His perfect holiness, it also allows the truth the He wishes to reveal to humanity to be seen. So the opposite of the glory, and holiness, and wisdom of God is then darkness. To Paul, especially in respect to his own conversion experience, those who have found new life “in Christ’ are people who have been transferred from the realm of darkness to the realm of light. Take note that Paul does not simply say, you were in darkness before, see there exists some light in the world around even the lost, God has made Himself obvious even to the lost, The creation bears witness to its creator! What Paul says is that “darkness was…in you” You were darkness, your lives were dark! Paul’s command is “be what you are, you have become light, and you are children of light, those whose very nature is now light. You are to pursue your daily lives in accordance with this new nature given to you in Christ, and to express this Paul’s uses the word walk. Walk in light that illuminates the pathway of Gods will, and with light in your hearts, radiating forth from your lives, as you go along on life’s journey.
In V. 9 Paul describes the same thing as the fruit of Light. All that is corrupt and unjust in human relationships must have no place. Then instead of wickedness, or evil there is to be goodness which is our active seeking of good in every part of life. In Romans Paul instructed them as to the difference in “goodness and righteousness” is that goodness adds to our moral uprightness and integrity, the attractiveness of a beautiful character. Then, when the darkness of ignorance and blindness, error and deceit goes, what is left, …truth, as the fruit of light. The fruit of light is Gods truth!
So in V.10 we see that as children of light we are to seek the knowledge of that which is pleasing to God. In our everyday life and decision making we have to find and act on the will of God, to learn, by doing. The idea her indicates a demand for careful thought and discrimination. The light of God is given, but does not free us from our responsibility of thought and choice. It’s the proving ”what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Acceptable of course meaning what is “pleasing” to God. So the desires and choices of us who walk in the light are governed by our prior determination, to please not ourselves, but our Lord.
In VS. 11-13 Paul says that the old life that was “darkness was eventually “unfruitful” Paul does not set one kind of fruit over the other. Its more a matter of fruit or no fruit in the sight of God. Wheat or Tares, a harvest of Good, or merely works- the endless, strenuous but futile human striving instead of the natural development of the life of God within that leads to its outward manifestation in ways which are a blessing to all. Since the darkness has been banished by the coming of the light, Christians must take no part in the old.
The responsibility of the Christian with regard to the works of the ungodly is instead to expose them.” For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret. Paul here meaning that Christians, demonstrating a life so different than those around them, rather than by speaking against the actions of nonbelievers, are to expose their sin by their own actions. Just as light shows that which is dirty, so our life, as those of light, shows the “unfruitful works of Darkness”… for what they are.
Paul thinks of the work of Grace in the lives of nonbelievers, in three stages.
1st- they are exposed. 2nd they are manifested. 3rd they become light.
In the beginning their shameful deeds are done in darkness. They neither see their own evil, nor think that it is seen by God. Then the light, provided by Jesus, seen shining in the lives of those who have come to know Him, breaks in. With the light comes judgement. If people hate the light, they will try to avoid it, to shun the exposher of their evil works. But, if they allow their lives to be exposed for what they are, they are exposed by the light. They can then become Jesus’, brought to salvation! When they are prepared to submit to His judgement, the scrtinising of all of our past actions, then in His mercy, they become light. The Darkness is swept away and everything is illuminated, All is Light! This then is our Goal. As verse 8 said, we are to not only receive the light, but become luminous. This is the work of Christian Evangelism, the light of one soul making another light.
Then Paul states what is the jest of IS. 9:2,26:19,52:1, and 60:1, though the words are not quoted. The thinking is that this had very early become a Christian Hymn. The symbolism of light and darkness is the dominant theme of these verses. It is best then to take it as the NIV, and ESV states, “Christ will shine on You”