Summary: The analysis of the concept of imitating God in Ephesians 5:1-7 teaches us to walk in love.
Today I am beginning a new sermon series in Ephesians 5:1-21 that I am calling, “Be Imitators of God.”
In his letter to the Ephesian Christians, the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:1a, “Therefore be imitators of God.” Commentator James Montgomery Boice says that this is “one of the most startling admonitions in the New Testament.” It is the only place in the entire Bible where Christians are commanded to imitate God. What does that mean? And how are Christians to imitate God? That is what we will be examining in our series titled, “Be Imitators of God.”
Paul began by exhorting Christians to walk in love.
Let’s read about walking in love in Ephesians 5:1-7:
1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them. (Ephesians 5:1-7)
Ron Walters tells the story how in the autumn of 1912, presidential hopeful Teddy Roosevelt was in Milwaukee to deliver an important campaign speech. Throngs of well-wishers lined the motorcade route, hoping for a glimpse of the American icon. Roosevelt was only too happy to accommodate them, waving his hat and flashing that famed bully grin from his open-air motorcar.
But from out of nowhere, a deranged man stepped to the edge of the car and aimed a pistol at Roosevelt. From point-blank range he fired a single bullet deep into Roosevelt’s chest. The blast knocked TR across the car and into a crumpled heap. Blood was everywhere. Chaos reigned. The police gang-tackled the gunman. All eyes focused on the fallen hero.
Immediately, TR’s handlers discussed contingency plans and the quickest routes to nearby hospitals. But the wounded Rough Rider would have none of that. “You get me to that speech. It may be the last one I ever deliver, and I’m not going to miss it.”
A man with a message is a powerful force.
Minutes after the shooting, Teddy Roosevelt stood before his appreciative, albeit unaware audience. And without a microphone, the usually robust politician meekly said, “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I have just been shot, and even now the bullet is in me. So I cannot speak for long, but I will do my best.”
As Roosevelt opened his coat to retrieve his handwritten notes, he exposed for the first time his blood-soaked shirt. The crowd gasped. Doctors rushed to the stage, only to be held off by Roosevelt. Medical attention would have to wait. The message was the priority.
That night TR’s speech was more candid than scripted, more urgent than routine. It was driven by passion, not politics. It contained no campaign rhetoric, no jockeying for votes, no idle promises. Instead, he spoke with deep resolve to cure the nation’s problems, even at the risk of his own. The truth had to be told. Political correctness took a beating. Winning an election was less important. Declaring his deepest beliefs was the issue.
Even the many detractors who had come to jeer and protest sat silently.
Ninety minutes later, an exhausted and colorless Roosevelt was finished. He had done what he came to do. Slowly he turned to the nearby doctors and said, “Now, we can go to the hospital.”
A thunderous applause erupted and continued until the motorcade was out of sight.
It’s interesting that audience reactions tend to change when they sense the urgency of a message; they evaluate it differently. Truth is more acceptable. Vision is caught. Passions are stirred. Even Roosevelt’s greatest critic, the New York Herald, saluted him in the next day’s headline: “WE’RE AGAINGST HIS POLITICS, BUT WE LIKE HIS GRIT.”
A man with a message is a powerful force.
The same could be said of the Apostle Paul. He endured unbelievable suffering for the sake of getting God’s message of salvation to the world. He simply had to preach and teach and write the good news of the gospel so that the world could hear the saving message of God.
One senses Paul’s urgency throughout his letters. But, perhaps today’s text ranks supreme when Paul calls Christians to “be imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1). In fact, William Barclay calls this “the highest standard in the world.” Alexander Maclaren calls it “the sum of all duty.” And to Martyn Lloyd-Jones it was “Paul’s supreme argument…the highest level of all in doctrine and in practice…the ultimate ideal.”