Peninsula Community Church
February 15, 2015
Ephesians – What Is Love?
Ephesians 5:1-2 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.
As we look at these verses we find that Paul presents two specific commands for the passionate follower of Christ to obey. First, we are to “be imitators of God, and secondly we are to “walk in love.” By accomplishing these things we will be positioned for a changed outlook on life and to accomplish great things for God.
The first command Paul gives us is to be imitators of God. How is this accomplished? Paul answers this question by stating that we are to imitate Christ as beloved children. Someone has said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We flatter others when we imitate them. It is a compliment, or at least most of the times it is.
When our kids were small, one of the games they loved to play was copycat. Normally it was Josh who would begin to copy everything his sister would do. He would repeat her words and her actions. It usually started off as being a fun thing, but usually it ended in one of them getting angry at the other person because the doing the mimicking did not know when to stop. Of course, we are not talking about that kind of imitation but about the kind of imitation that brings out the best in us.
The derivative of the word “imitator” is the same word we get the English word “mime.” It is noteworthy to understand that a mime tells a story by their actions and not their words. We too must consider imitating Christ more by our actions than by what we say. Too often, the criticism leveled at Christians is that we say one thing but we do another. It is sad that this is the truth so many times. This is called hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the idea of wearing a mask so as not to expose one’s true identity. But as imitators of God, we are called to genuine, real, and authentic lives that are focused on God’s will and His character. We are not to be posers or players, but real authentic imitators of truth.
The fact is, we begin to imitate those we hang out with. To imitate God, we must know God. We must hang out with God so to speak. We must know His ways. We must know His acts. We must know His will. We must know His character. Have you ever been with someone so long that you begin to act like them? It is funny but you begin to talk like them and you mimic them without even thinking. You know how it goes. Suddenly, you say or do something that is so much like that other person that you have to laugh in the moment.
Remember the cigarette commercial that was popular a number of years ago. We see the father and son doing things throughout the day. They are washing the car together. They are driving in the car together. In each scene you watch as the son mimics the father. And in the last scene we see the father leaning against a tree, pulling out a pack of cigarettes and then lighting up. As the father places the pack of cigarettes on the ground next to him, his son reaches over and picks up the pack. Watch the video with me.
While we are to be imitators of God, Paul is clear that it is the beloved children of God who are called and empowered to imitate God. I feel I need to make a point here that may not go well with some, but it needs to be made. We are all a creation of God but we are not all His children. There is a false perception that we are all His children regardless of our spiritual condition. We miss the mark if we do not believe that His only children are those who have asked Christ into their hearts by seeking the forgiveness that comes through confession and repentance in Jesus’ name. That is why the Bible uses terms like adoption and being born again to characterize our salvation.
It is important to note that the word used in the Greek for children is the word TEKNA, which deals more with the relationship between the parent and the child rather than the age of the child. It is also noteworthy that this word also relates to an only child whose parents have been able to devote their full attention to the child. So here is the point that could be made. We can be imitators of God because it is God who works out his plan of salvation in us and because He treats each of us as if we are the only child He has. Now before you get too giddy or excited, the fact is, while He treats us as if we were the only one, He treats us all that way. We are all His favorites.
So then, as we are in relationship with God as His beloved children, we begin to imitate God. As we get to know Him, we will begin to act more like Him. Someone has said that the best way to raise kids is give them time, because in giving them time, they learn who you are and what you are about.
So how do we get to know God? We get to know God through prayer. We get to know God through Bible reading and study. We get to know God through fellowship with Him. We get to know God through fellowship with others. We get to know God through the circumstances of life. Here is the fact that cannot be denied. Without a relationship with Him, we cannot be the imitators we need to be. You see we cannot imitate what we do not know. We cannot be like Him unless His nature is in us. One of the problems, today, is that people try to live like Christ without having the nature of Christ in them. The result is they attempt to live without the power that comes from a personal relationship with Him.
The second command presented by Paul is that we are not only to imitate God, but we are to walk in love as Christ loved us. Notice the verbiage used. I think it is critical. Paul does not say run in his love. He does not say skip in his love. He says to walk. To walk means that it is a solid and constant pace. It is a journey for the long haul. It is not hit and miss. There is a constancy in the walk we should have on this journey. When the term walk was used in the Hebrew language it was most often used to define the entirety of one’s life. So we need a consistent walk that encompasses everything we do. As passionate followers of Christ, the defining quality and characteristic of our walk must be love.
As imitators of God, we don’t just talk about His love, we walk it out through our daily life. We live it and we express it in all we do. We don’t just tell people about our love, we show it. We must walk in love and make it real. The words of Paul challenge us to walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. That is a powerful command. When we recognize and understand the magnitude of God’s love for us, we can begin to live out this love in a new found way. Let’s look at God’s love for a moment.
First of all, it is a costly love. God gave his only son to die on our behalf to redeem us from our sin and shame. When we walk in the love of God, we will give ourselves on behalf of others. Christ gave all of himself for us. He gave himself willingly upon the cross for the forgiveness of our sin. He died so we could live. He was broken so we could be restored and put back together. He bled out, so we could be healed and forgiven. He did this for me and He did it for you.
Think about this love for a moment. Christ endured the shame, the rejection of His brothers, the beatings, the brutality of the cross for each one of us. Jesus proclaimed in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” The fact is if you were the only person alive, He would have given Himself just for you. He gave so that “whosoever” could have eternal life and could experience His love (John 3:16). He gave Himself as if you were that only child who needed redemption.
Paul also states that God’s love is like a fragrant offering and sacrifice. The idea of fragrance could be viewed as either a bad thing or a good thing but in the context of this passage it is a welcoming and inviting fragrance. It does not repulse but but it attracts. The love of God draws people to God. They may reject the message but they cannot reject the love that is given. For that reason, it is possible to give love even to the unlovable. Why, because it is a sacrifice. We sacrifice ourselves for those who are unlovable by choosing to love those who are not worthy of our love. We show God’s love by extending to others the same grace and forgiveness that God has shown to us. Why? It is because everyone we encounter needs us to express love to them.
The balance of Ephesians chapter 5 is Paul’s teaching on how to live out this real authentic love. In the next few verses he denotes that we can look for love in all the wrong places and therefore can develop a distorted view of God’s love. He deals with the marriage relationship. He deals with the employer/employee relationship. You see love is a choice to do what is right. It is not a only a feeling although there are feelings associated with it. When there are no feeling, we must choose to love regardless. We choose to show love when our feelings are screaming at us to do something totally different. That is God’s unconditional love and that is God’s call of love to us.
So what is love? It is God’s unconditional, life saving grace given to all who will receive it.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom