Monday, November 5, 2012

Imitators of God

Part 25 of a series through the New Testament book of Ephesians

You can listen to this sermon here.

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (5:1-2).

Loving Like God 

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us” (vv. 1-2a). Paul gives the Ephesians two exhortations: (1) “be imitators of God” and (2) “walk in love.” Of course, it’s impossible to imitate God in everything. “Walk in love” explains how we are to imitate God.

To be an imitator of God is to live a life of love.

Once again, Paul uses the word “walk.” Our walk is our lifestyle. We are to walk in unity (4:1-16), in holiness (4:17-32), and in love (5:1-2). The word “therefore” points back to the first three chapters of Ephesians and also to 4:32 where Paul says that we are to be gracious to others as God has been gracious to us.

Both God the Father and God the Son have modeled love for us. First, we have received love “as beloved children.” We have been adopted into God’s family (1:5). He has made us his “beloved” children. The Greek word for “beloved” (agapetos) was often used to describe an only child. For example, Jesus is called the “beloved” Son of God (Matt. 3:17; 12:18; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35). God has millions of sons and daughters, but he is able to extend his love to each of his children as if he or she was his only child.

Second, we are to give love “as Christ loved us.” To understand how we are to love others, we must comprehend the love of Christ, which he demonstrated by dying for us on the cross.

Sacrificial Love 

Christ “gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (v. 2b). His death was voluntary. He declared, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11; cf. vv. 15, 17).

Christ’s sacrifice of himself is the ultimate demonstration of love. 

Paul presents three truths about the sacrifice of Christ. First, Christ's sacrifice was costly to him. He “gave himself up.” The prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane reveals how much he agonized about dying on the cross.

Second, Christ’s sacrifice was beneficial to us. He died “for us.” He once said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45; cf. 1 Tim. 2:6; Titus 2:14). “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). Christ “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20; cf. 1:4). “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Think of how undeserving we were of his death for us!

Third, Christ’s sacrifice was pleasing to God. His death was “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” A “fragrant offering” is one that is pleasing to God (“pleasing aroma,” Gen. 8:21; Ex. 29:18; Lev. 4:31). The death of Christ was pleasing to God because it brought us salvation. Our sacrificial love is pleasing to God and beneficial to others. When Paul received a gift from the Philippians (possibly money), he described it as “a fragrant offering, as sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:18).

Sacrificial love is to characterize our relationships with one another. 

Jesus said to the disciples, “Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). The apostle John wrote, “By this we shall know, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him. Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).

Christ’s love cost him his life. Should our love be without cost?

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