Summary: Imitators of God? Mimickers of God? Was Paul kidding? (#1 in "The Christian Victor" series)
“IMITATORS OF GOD”
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
Here at the opening of the fifth chapter of Ephesians, we are confronted with possibly the most astounding challenge in scripture. Paul tells us to be imitators of God.
Imitate God? Mimic God? Could it be that his great learning really had driven him mad? (Acts 26:24)
Well of course not. As always, he spoke words of sober truth. Paul was a genius, possessed of great gifts and full of the Holy Spirit. So let’s take a close look at these words; this exhortation of Paul’s, today, and let the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts also.
Step back with me for a moment to the final phrases of chapter 4.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” 4:31,32
Those characteristics of evil listed in verse 31, as we said previously, are all based in self-pride. Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, malice… they all stem from a lack of forgiveness for some perceived wrong or slight or harm done, that touched our self-pride.
Lack of forgiveness, refusal to forgive, is disobedience to God, and an expression of unbelief.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus made it very clear that forgiveness from us for others was not optional:
“For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14,15)
Now that seems to be a hard saying. But it’s not so hard. Lack of forgiveness manifests itself in those characteristics of the flesh that are opposed to the character of God. Those characteristics are therefore to be put away from us as we put on the new man.
This is saying two things. 1. We can’t just give lip service to Christianity and not live a changed life. If God has recreated us in His likeness, the character and grace of God will be demonstrated in our lives, and that means forgiveness for our fellows.
2. It is saying that if forgiveness is not in us, then forgiveness cannot be on us. It is saying that the true believer cannot continue to display the evil characteristics of the flesh, unrepentant and unrelenting. The person who does that does not belong to God, and therefore God’s forgiveness is not available to him. God cannot lay His gift of forgiveness in hands that are covered with the blood of others.
So going back to Ephesians; if you are one who Paul has been describing in chapter 4, then you are empowered by the Spirit in you and enabled by the very fact that you have been made in His likeness, to be kind and tender-hearted and forgiving, for these are all Godly characteristics.
So with that foundation laid, let’s go to chapter 5 verse 1
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;…”
IMITATING THE FATHER
I guess it was in the 1970s, whenever it was the American Cancer Society began putting ads on television to warn of the hazards of smoking; there was a spot that portrayed a father with his small son, walking through the park. The scene was very peaceful. The sun was shining, there were flowers all around, lot’s of shade, green grass… then they stopped walking and sat down, their backs against a tree.
The father reached into his pocket, took out a pack, extracted a cigarette and lit it, as the boy watched him intently. Then the boy looked around, picked up a small stick, and pretending it was a cigarette, went through the exact motions he had just seen his father do.
Well the message was obvious, of course. But I think most, if not all of us, have at one time or another seen a small child mimicking the movements and actions of a parent they idolize, whether it’s the little girl copying mom doing laundry or ironing or cooking, or the boy, trying to match his father’s gait, hold his head just like Dad, duplicate Dad’s mannerisms.
Another example that comes to my mind is a great scene in the 1975 movie ‘Jaws’. The Constable, played by Roy Scheider is at the dining room table lost in thought over this problem with the killer shark that’s terrorizing the water ways. Suddenly he looks out the corner of his eye and realizes his small boy is copying his every move. So he pretends not to have noticed, and a very touching scene ensues as the boy’s intent mimicking draws Dad away from his troubles and steals his heart.