Be imitators of God, as beloved children
These exhortations were given by me between 1999 and 2005. That was a long time ago, and I have grown a lot since then. They may not reflect my current beliefs.
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.
That is the beginning of Ephesians chapter 5. Be imitators of God and walk in love as Christ loved us.
I left out an important word from the beginning of verse one. It is really “Therefore be imitators of God.” We should walk in love not just because we are told to, not just because it will benefit ourselves or society, but because of the reasons that Paul wrote in the earlier chapters. Paul is saying “These things are true, and because they are true you should be imitators of God and walk in love as Christ did.”
The division of the books of the Bible into chapters and verses is really just a modern convenience. The break between chapters four and five breaks the flow of Paul’s argument which builds up from the start of the book. After a greeting in verses one and two of chapter one, Paul writes at verse 3:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.
From before we were even born, from before the world was created, God has lavished love and grace upon us. Through the work of Christ we have redemption and forgiveness.
Paul expands on the grace of God in Chapter Two:
And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Even though each one of us has, at some time, not walked with God, has lived a life where we are dead through our sins, God has granted us forgiveness and we may see immeasurable riches of his Grace in the coming ages.
That is an important point. Each of us has been a child of wrath like the rest of mankind. Whether we came from outside a Christadelphian family or whether we grew up in a Christadelphian Sunday School there is nobody who was not like the rest of mankind at some point. It is all too easy, particularly for those of us who come from a Christadelphian background, to look down on those in the world. That person over there lives a terrible lifestyle, and we should shun him. Before we could even begin to teach him about God he would have to smarten up his act. Each of us, at some point, could have had the same said about us.
Chapter 2 verses 11 to 13:
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ.
We were all once like the rest of mankind, but we have now been brought near to God because of the work of Christ.
We can’t just ignore that; we have to respond to it in a particular way.
I therefore, [writes Paul in Chapter 4 verse 1] a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Lead a life worthy of the calling. That’s what it is about. We have a high calling and we need to live to certain high standards.
Almost paradoxically that means remembering that we were once like the rest of mankind. We can’t look at the man on the street and look down on him because of his lifestyle or beliefs. Each of us here was once just as bad, regardless of our background.
Where would we be if Christ hadn’t taken that attitude? He didn’t judge his contempories from afar, he didn’t expect them to reach a certain standard. He approached them all in love. He even admitted Judas to his inner circle.
To finish, I want to go back to the quotation I started with:
“Therefore” – Because you have received so much – ” 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.”