Imitators of God – Ephesians 5:1-20

Imitators of God

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, – Ephesians 5:1 NIV

The fifth chapter of Ephesians starts off with an interesting directive: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children“.  If you are like me, your initial response to this might be something along the line of “Huh!  How could I possibly imitate the creator of this universe and all that’s in it?  I have a hard enough time managing my own life without attempting to manage a universe.”  But fortunately that’s not really what Paul meant, and he goes on to give us better instruction in the process of being a God imitator.

Live a life of love

and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. – Ephesians 5:2-7 NIV

The first clue in how to imitate God comes in verse 2; live a life of sacrificial Christ-like love.  If we are to be imitators of God, then our best example to follow is that of Jesus, who was God incarnate.  God loved me and gave himself for me.  If I am going to imitate him then I need to love those around me and be willing to give myself for them.

Sexual immorality, any kind of impurity, and greed are out.  And not only are these things to be avoided, we should not even give people a cause to suspect them in us.  They are improper for God’s holy people.  Paul goes so far as to warn us that if these things characterize our life, then we have no place in the kingdom of God.  We cannot be like God and be immoral, impure or greedy.  And note the connection Paul established between greed and idolatry.  Greed, the desire for more and more, is a form of idol worship; you are worshiping the god of materialism.

In verses 4 & 6 Paul again returns to our speech.  He has already told us that only things that are helpful to others should come out of our mouth.  And now he expands unwholesome talk (Eph. 4:29) to include obscenity, foolish talking and coarse joking.  My mouth oftentimes seems to have a mind of its own, and I really need to guard against letting it run unattended.  Rather than speech that is hurtful or vulgar, focus on helpful and thanksgiving.  Paul also warns us against those who would come with deceitful and empty words.  Don’t be taken in by those who would try to lead us astray (Eph. 4:14).

Live as children of light

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness,righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.” – Ephesians 5:8-14 NIV

We used to live in darkness, separated from the light of Christ.  But that is our past and we should no longer live like that.  Instead we should shine the light of Christ into the darkness and expose those actions for what they really are.  Where the light shines, there is no place for the darkness.

Now we are light, children of light, and should live accordingly.  Be imitators of God, find out what pleases him, and do that.  If it is truly good, righteous, or true, then we can embrace it and know that it pleases God.  In any situation, we should be able to do what is right, what is good, and hold to what is true.  If I am indeed a child of the light, then it will be clear to me what is right, good and true.  I should not be deceived about that by those who would draw me away from God to follow their own agenda.

Live with wisdom

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Ephesians 5:15-20 NIV

While some will claim that our technological and societal advances are ushering in a new age of enlightenment and growth for humanity, Paul paints an entirely different picture; the days are evil.  Much of the so called advancements that we have made have come at the cost of leaving behind the supposedly old and outdated images of God that have tied us down for so long; a return to darkness.

Be wise and make the most of every opportunity.  Look for ways to allow the light of Christ to shine into the dark world around us.  Do not foolishly follow the ways of the world in its wisdom.  Rather know and understand the will of God and choose to follow it instead.

Be filled with the Spirit of God, and allow the Spirit to speak out through you.  Let’s sing together in praise of God, and give thanks to him, regardless what is going on around us.

How does one imitate God?  By living a life of love, by living as a child of the light, and by living with wisdom.

All Posts In This Series

  • A Brief Introduction to Ephesians: Who and Why - This brief introduction to Ephesians will share some of the ideas of authorship, audience and purpose that many scholars see, as well as my views.
  • Spiritual Blessings – Ephesians 1:3-14 - God has given his spiritual blessings to us in the heavenly realm. And we have these blessing because we are in Christ. Praise God for all he has done.
  • Prayer – Ephesians 1:15-23 - In Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul's prayer for the recipients of this letter is for a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they could know God better.
  • From Death Into Life: An Act of Grace – Ephesians 2:1-7 - In my natural state I was spiritually dead, separated from the life of God. But by his grace, I have been made alive, with a life that will never end.
  • Amazing Grace – Ephesians 2:8-10 - Grace. More specifically God's grace. As believers we talk about it a lot, frequently defining it as God's unmerited favor towards us. And indeed it is. It is by God's grace that we are saved, and not by anything we can do (Ephesians 2:8). God's grace has dealt with our sin and we now have a future with him. It is unfortunate however that we often leave it there.
  • Tearing Down Walls – Ephesians 2:11-22 - In Christ it makes no difference whether we are Jew or Gentile. We are all one body in him because of grace. It is by faith in what Jesus did that we come into relationship with God now; not by adherence to the commands and regulations of the law. Because observance of the law as a means to righteousness has been replaced by God's grace, we are all equally able to stand before God, not because of what I have done, but because of what he did.
  • The Mystery of Christ – Ephesians 3:1-13 - And the mystery is not only that the barrier that separated Jews from Gentiles has been eliminated. But also that the need for a priestly intermediary has been removed. All believers now also serve as priests and each have direct access to the throne of God.
  • Rooted and Established In Love – Ephesians 3:14-21 - Paul prays that the Ephesians would be rooted and established in love, a suitable dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.
  • Walking Worthy – Ephesians 4:1-6 - What does walking worthy of our calling mean? In the context of Ephesians 4:1-6, it refers to our role in the body of Christ. Be the best member you can be.
  • Growing a Mature Church – Ephesians 4:11-16 - Christ provides his church with the necessary equippers to that we can be a mature church, fully equipped to do the work he has called us to.
  • Out With the Old, In With the New – Ephesians 4:17-32 - How do I live as an effective member of the body of Christ? It involves personal transformation, putting off the old self, and taking on the new self.
  • Imitators of God – Ephesians 5:1-20 - Don't be like the world around you. Instead, be imitators of God by living a life of love, living as a child of the light, and living with wisdom.
  • Married to Jesus – Ephesians 5:22-33 - One of the images for the church in the New Testament is the Bride of Christ. This image pictures the intimate relationship between Christ and his church.
  • All In the Family – Ephesians 5:21-6:9 - Paul's instructions to first century families contains useful information for families today. It also contains advice for workplace relationships.
  • Spiritual Warfare – Ephesians 6:10-20 - A spiritual battle is raging all around us. So take up the armor God provides so you can stand your ground and be engaged in that spiritual warfare.

Post History

  • June 5, 2012: Original post
  • September 21, 2018: Updated for content and SEO

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