We come this morning to a new chapter, but not a new subject. We are still talking about the worthy walk. We are talking about how we are to live day by day:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; Ephesians 5:1 NASB
Therefore—is the Greek oun, which is a resumptive inferential conjunction that goes back to 4:1:
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, Ephesians 4:1 NASB
The worthy walk is one of imitating Yahweh. "Therefore" also builds on the previous section. It is a word that always looks back on something. He has already explained it once, and he is simply referring to it again. Notice the last two verses of chapter 4:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32 NASB
Then he says, "Therefore," to do this you must be an imitator of Yahweh.
Trinity: In 4:20 Paul says, "You did not learn Christ in this way." In verse 30 he said, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit," and here he says we are to be "imitators of Yahweh." So we have the Trinity! Notice also that in 5:1 he says, "Be imitators of Yahweh" and in verse 2 he says, "Walk as Christ walked." So walking like Christ is imitating Yahweh.
"Be imitators of God"—"be" is a present imperative and has the idea: "to become." They are to develop continuously into imitators of Yahweh. The Greek word for "imitator" is mimetes, which is the word that we get our English word "mimic" from: to mimic or to copy something. What it denotes is an actor, an actor who spends time and energy in studying a character with the view to reproducing it.
Mimetes is used six times in the New Testament, always in conjunction with "to become," and all uses are in Paul except one. Paul knew the importance of example in teaching others. He told the Corinthians that he was their father in the Gospel and then added:
Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. 1 Corinthians 4:16 NASB
Why does he want believers to imitate him? It is because he is imitating Christ:
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 NASB
Paul tells the Thessalonians:
You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 1 Thessalonians 1:6 NASB
So Paul was living out this command that he is giving believers, he was imitating Christ. Notice what he told the Philippians:
The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9 NASB
Basically, Paul is saying, "Do what I do." Can you say this? "Follow me as I follow Christ"?
So throughout the New Testament we are called to imitate other believers. But this is the only place in the Bible that I know of where we are told to copy Yahweh. But this is not a new teaching because the Tanakh taught:
"Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, 'You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. Leviticus 19:2 NASB
Peter repeats this in 1 Peter 1:16. And Yeshua also taught this:
"Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48 NASB
The constant call to the Christian is to be like Yahweh. It is Yahweh's purpose that each of us reflect the image of our Father. Be prefect? The word for perfect in Greek is often translated: "mature," and simply means: "to reach a stage of completion." In this context, it has reference to the matter of showing love and mercy:
"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:44 NASB
Note the parallel passage:
"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36 NASB
When we display love and mercy to our enemies, we demonstrate a maturity of character—we are like our Father.
Who is it that we are to imitate? Our text says, "God." And I have to ask, especially in light of what Jeff taught several weeks ago, What God? Whose God? The Anglo-Saxon word "God" means: "the invoked one." The English word "God" is so nebulous, it tells us nothing about the One we love and serve. So who are we to imitate? Is it Thoth, The Egyptian god of magic? Which God? In deism, God is the creator of the universe who wound it up and let it go. In pantheism, God is the universe itself. When referring to God, a follower of New Age is not talking about a transcendent, personal God who created the universe, but is referring to a higher consciousness within themselves. Muslims believe there is the one almighty God named Allah, who is infinitely superior to and transcendent from humankind. Hindus acknowledge multitudes of gods and goddesses.
In the Greek, the word "God" is a translation of the word "Theos" meaning: "Mighty One." This can refer to any person; man or in some cases non-man. The context determines the meaning. Assuming the word always refers to a non-man, or deity, is error since the Greek referred to many with authority as "Theos" (Mighty One).
In the LXX they translated El, Elohim, and Yahweh as Theos. Many times they mistranslated Yahweh as Theos. The closest Hebrew equivalent of "mighty one," or Theos, is Elohim. Elohim is used 2606 times in the NASB. Elohim is the plural of El, which comes from a root word meaning: "might, strength, power." Elohim is plural, but it is what grammarians would call a morphological plural. Hebrew nouns that end in "im" are plural. But in most cases throughout the Tanakh the meaning is singular. We know this from Hebrew grammar. Elohim is like the English word deer or sheep. How do you know if "deer" is singular or plural? By the grammar of the sentence in which it is used. "I shot a deer" would be singular. "I saw a bunch of deer" would be plural. In the very first use of Elohim in Genesis 1:1 the verb bara identifies the subject of the verb as masculine singular.
Most of you may think of Elohim as another name of Yahweh, but elohim is used in Scripture for many others beside Yahweh. Yahweh is called Elohim over 2,000 times as in Gen 1:1. We know that Yahweh is called Elohim, but He is not the only one.
Elohim is used of the gods of foreign nations:
because they have forsaken Me, and have worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the sons of Ammon; and they have not walked in My ways, doing what is right in My sight and observing My statutes and My ordinances, as his father David did. 1 Kings 11:33 NASB
"Goddess and god" in this text are elohim.
The angelic watchers/divine counsel are called elohim:
God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. Psalms 82:1 NASB
Here "God" and "rulers" are both elohim, this is speaking of the divine counsel, or the watchers.
I said, "You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. Psalms 82:6 NASB
Here "gods" is elohim. Yahweh said, "You are gods." But notice the next verse:
"Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes." Psalms 82:7 NASB
If these elohim were men, why would Yahweh say, "You will die like men"? Yahweh is saying here that He will judge the disobedient watchers.
Elohim is also used of demons:
"They sacrificed to demons who were not God, To gods whom they have not known, New gods who came lately, Whom your fathers did not dread. Deuteronomy 32:17 NASB
Here "God" is Elohim, and "gods" is elohim. So demons are also called elohim.
Here's one that may surprise you. Speaking of Samuel, the witch of Endor said:
The king said to her, "Do not be afraid; but what do you see?" And the woman said to Saul, "I see a divine being coming up out of the earth." 1 Samuel 28:13 NASB
"Divine being" here is elohim. It seems like all uses of elohim in the Tanakh refer to spiritual beings. Michael H. Heiser says, "Elohim is a place of residence term." Meaning that elohim is only used of those in the spirit world. So, hopefully, you can see that elohim has a broad range of uses and is not strictly referring to Yahweh.
Anyway, my point is that elohim is like Theos, it is used of many different spiritual entities and is, therefore, not a good substitute for Yahweh. It is Yahweh, the creator and sustainer of the universe, that we are to imitate and not any of the false gods. God could mean many different entities, but there is only one Yahweh.
This command, "Be imitators of Yahweh," is more staggering when we consider what Yahweh is like. He is spirit, infinite, eternal, unchangeable in His being; wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. Now there are things about Yahweh we cannot imitate. Theologians call these "Yahweh's incommunicable attributes." Yahweh's self-sufficiency, sovereignty, omnipresent and omnipotence belong only to Him. But Yahweh has so many other attributes to mimic! Theologians call these "Yahweh's communicable attributes." It is these we are to imitate: His love, mercy, justice, longsuffering and grace are to be evident in our lives. Paul teaches us to imitate Yahweh by demonstrating the same kind of love which He has shown us. The entire Christian life could be summed up as a life of imitating Yahweh as beloved children as we walk in love.
If we are going to imitate someone, whether it be Paul or Yeshua or Yahweh, what is the prerequisite? You have to know them well. You cannot imitate someone that you do not know. To know Yahweh, we must understand who He is as revealed in His Word.
Yahweh has revealed Himself to us through His Word, the Bible. It is crucial that we come to know Yahweh as He has revealed Himself and not Yahweh as our culture portrays Him or Yahweh as we would like Him to be. For example, I have often heard people say, "My God is a God of love, not a God of judgment." The implication of that statement is that this "God" tolerates our sin. The problem is, this is not the God of the Bible. Yes, He is love (1 John 4:7); but also He is holy and disciplines His children (Heb. 12:10; see also, Exod. 34:6-7). So we must learn of Yahweh and His ways through Yahweh's written revelation to us, the Bible. And we must submit to Yahweh as He is revealed in the Bible.
This means that the more you know Yahweh, the more you know what you're to be. So what is the primary pursuit then of any believer? To know Yahweh. If we are to be like Yahweh, we must know what Yahweh is like, if we are to know what Yahweh is like, we've got to study Yahweh's character, and so as we study the Bible we see Yahweh's character. By the way, the whole Bible is the Revelation of Yahweh. It's Yahweh's self-disclosure. We must be diligent to spend consistent time alone with Him. There are no shortcuts!
What is the motive for this imitation? It's given in verse 1: "as beloved children." The comparative conjunction "as" gives the manner in which believers become imitators of Yahweh, namely, as beloved children.
Contrary to much popular thought, all people are not children of Yahweh. There is a general sense in which we all are Yahweh's children by virtue of the fact that He created us (Acts 17:28). But the Bible is clear that we become children of Yahweh when we are born into His family through a spiritual birth:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13 NASB
We were born by the will of God and became His children. Not only were we given new life and brought into the family of God, but the Bible also says that we were adopted:
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Yeshua Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, Ephesians 1:5 NASB
The adoption picture emphasizes Yahweh's sovereign choice of us as His own children. Just as parents who adopt a child pick the child they wish to adopt, so Yahweh chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. But the difference is that human parents often pick the child who is the most attractive or cute. But Yahweh chose us knowing that we would be sinful and rebellious towards Him. He brought you into His house and gave you all of the privileges of being His beloved child.
We are not just children, we are the beloved children of Yahweh. We, as beloved children of Yahweh, are to imitate Him. It seems to me that in referring to us as "beloved children" Paul is reminding us of the fact that our sonship is both the motivation and the means for imitating Yahweh.
How do we imitate Yahweh as a child? Well, look at His Son!:
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. Ephesians 5:2 NASB
The "and" serves as a coordination, or an epexegetical conjunction, explaining what he means in verse 1. These two statements parallel each other, to imitate Yahweh is equal to walking in love.
"And walk in love"—this is the fifth time that Paul has used the word "walk" in Ephesians. In 2:2, he mentions how we used to walk in our sins. In 2:10, he says that we are now to walk in the good deeds which Yahweh prepared beforehand for us. In 4:1, he says that we should walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called. In 4:17, he says that we should not walk as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind. He will go on to say (5:8) that we must walk as children of Light and (5:15) that we must walk carefully, not as unwise men but as wise.
The word "walk" implies a step-by-step, slow but steady process. It refers to our entire manner of life. This command to "walk in love" is reminiscent of Christ's command to His disciples in His farewell discourse where He tells them to love one another:
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. John 13:34 NASB
"Walk in love"—our heavenly Father is a God of love, and as His children, we are to walk in love as our heavenly Father does. This subject of love is very important to Paul. He prays that believers would walk in love in 3:14-19:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father...17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, Ephesians 3:14,17 NASB
Paul urges us to bear with one another in love (4:2), to speak the truth in love (4:15), to build up the body in love (4:16). He urges husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church (5:25) and as they love their own bodies (5:28), as he loves himself (5:33). And he bestows a blessing on those who love Yeshua with love incorruptible (6:24).
Biblical love is not an emotion, it is never defined as an emotion, it is an act of self-sacrificial giving. Our love is to be sacrificial, not self-serving. Christian love does not seek its own gratification, but the good of another. Christian love seeks to do good to another at its own expense. True Biblical love says, "I will love you even if I never get anything out of it." More than this, Christian love is expressed by acts of sacrifice to Yahweh.
Love is a debt that we owe to all men:
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16 NASB
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11 NASB
The word "ought" in both of these verses is opheilo, which means: "to be under obligation, to be in debt." It is because Yahweh loved us that we are under obligation to love one another. It is a debt that we are to be paying.
Origin, the early church father, said, "The debt of love remains with us permanently and never leaves us. This is a debt which we pay every day and forever owe."
So how are we to love? "Just as Christ also loved you"—in what way has Christ loved us? Paul says that Christ has given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to Yahweh for a sweet-smelling savor.
The greatest proof of the love of Christ is that Christ laid down His life for us at Calvary's cross, that He gave Himself for us—and we love Him because He first loved us and gave Himself for us! God, our heavenly Father, showed His love for us in that:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NASB
He loves to give, and we are to walk in His example, we are to give as He gave Christ, and as Christ gave His life at the place called Calvary:
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16 NASB
the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:6 NASB
Do we realize the impact of what a life of love has upon the life of an unbeliever? Do you know the story of the Auca Indians and their conversion in South America? You've maybe read the book of Jim Elliot. In January 1956 five young American missionaries were killed, martyred for their faith, trying to reach these Auca Indians with the Gospel of Yeshua Christ. Today, these five killers are Christians, these men became pillars within the church of Yeshua the Christ in that particular part of the country. A building of worship which they called, "The Place Where God Speaks," was built by those five killers right on the spot where they martyred those missionaries. How did that happen? How was there such a revolutionary change, from being ones who martyred men of God, to becoming men of God themselves? Do you know what happened? Rachel Saint, the sister of the martyred missionary, Nate Saint; Betty Elliot, the wife of Jim Elliot, went back to those who had killed their loved ones and demonstrated the love of Christ to them.
Does that not blow your mind? That is the love of Christ; they were laying their lives down so that they might win others.
Paul tells us specifically how we are to imitate Yahweh in Christ by walking in love: "Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma"—the phrase "for us" in this verse comes from the Greek words "huper hemon." According to the Greek scholar, Kenneth S. Wuest, "Huper is the great preposition of substitutionary atonement in the New Testament, and means: 'instead of, in behalf of.' It does not merely mean that Christ died for us, for our benefit. He died instead of us, in our place. He substituted for us, receiving the full impact of the divine wrath against sin."
Now analyze here, just for a moment, what kind of a sacrifice Yeshua offered for us. It was voluntary, because we read that He has given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor. The supreme demonstration of Yahweh's love was when He gave His own Son to die for us on the cross. As John 3,proclaims:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 NASB
Paul tells husbands:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, Ephesians 5:25 NASB
Christ was our substitute. He gave His life for me, us, the Church. This doctrine of substitution was very important to Paul's life, as it is to ours:
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 NASB
This echoes Yeshua's own words where He states:
"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. John 10:11 NASB
Yeshua also said that there was no greater love:
"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 NASB
Christ "loved us and gave Himself for us."
The two terms, "offering and sacrifice"—include all kinds of sacrifices, both grain and animal. His death satisfied the justice and wrath of Yahweh against our sin, which is the meaning of the phrase, "a fragrant aroma." He's talking specifically about the burnt offering. Three times in the description of the burnt offering in Deuteronomy, when the Israelite brought the animal, put his hand on the animal's head, and the animal was slain, three times in that first chapter it was said that the sacrifice produced the odor of a sweet smell to the Lord":
'Its entrails, however, and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer up in smoke all of it on the altar for a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD. Leviticus 1:9 NASB
The Hebrew expression, "nichoach rayach," means something like this: "an odor of rest to the Lord." In other words, it's an expression that means, essentially, that as Yahweh looks at the sacrifice which is offered in payment of a debt owed to Him, He rests! He finds it an odor of rest. So, instead of executing His judgment against the person who has offended the throne of Yahweh, He rests, satisfied. The penalty is paid, so that He no longer desires and finds it necessary to execute His judgment. "An odor of rest."
The Lord Yeshua expressed this when He said on the cross, "It is finished!" And the finishing of the offering led the throne of Yahweh to smell a sweet savor, an odor of rest. So that Yahweh is satisfied by the cross of Christ, and men are saved when they, too, become satisfied with what Christ has done and stop relying on their own good works, or anything else they may be relying upon in order to be saved.
Christ's death is a voluntary death. It's a penal death in which He bears the punishment that is for others. It's a death in which he satisfies the holiness and righteousness of Yahweh because it produces a sweet-smelling savor in the Father in heaven. And it is for us; it is a substitutionary death. And those for whom Christ dies have had their penalty paid. And, therefore, heaven can no longer, and can no more, execute judgment upon them.
My payment has been paid by the Lord Yeshua the Christ, and I am free. Heaven itself can bring no further charge against me, because Yeshua has paid it all. Therefore, walk in love, as Christ has loved us and has given Himself for us. Someone has written, "Upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die, another's life, another's death, I stake my whole eternity."
When Paul tells us to "Walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us," we do not need nor are we able to be the substitute for another with regard to securing their pardon, but we are called to give our lives for others. How do we do this? We do it by sacrificing our:
Time—as busy as you may be, you need to fit in more time to give for the sake of those who need you to live like Christ with them? But we must begin considering how we can fit in walking in love as Christ loved us. Maybe a little less TV? Maybe a little less web surfing?
Money—consider how much you've been given! With Yahweh's resources, that He has given you, how could you provide more to those in need that they may see Christ and hear His good news? We must understand that our giving is worship. Let me prove this to you:
But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. Philippians 4:18 NASB
Paul tells them that their financial gift was overwhelming to him. He was full. Paul viewed their gift as an offering to Yahweh, a sacrifice that was well pleasing. Notice the words Paul uses here—"fragrant" is from the Greek word euodia, and "aroma" is from the word osme, and "sacrifice" is from the Greek word thusia. These are the exact three words Paul uses in Ephesians 5 of Christ's sacrificial offering of Himself to Yahweh in man's behalf.
and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice (thusia) to God as a fragrant (euodia) aroma (osme). Ephesians 5:2 NASB
Paul uses the same exact words for the Philippians offering to him as he does for Christ's sacrifice to Yahweh on our behalf. What does that say about your giving? It is an act of worship! Because Christ loved, He gave. I don't think that you can disassociate loving and giving. These words express the language of worship— GIVING IS AN EXPRESSION OF WORSHIP!
Life—we must examine our hearts and ask ourselves how much of our lives are spent procuring wealth and comfort and security to the exclusion of showing love to the world? Walking in love as Christ loved us is not convenient, but it is what we are called to do!
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