The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
September 2, 2012


1) Ephesians 5:1-3 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Ephesians 5:1-3
by Tom Edwards

We often express the need to follow in the footsteps of the Lord so that we will become more like Him.  For to develop the qualities of Jesus is to develop the characteristics of God, which is truly what the Lord wants us to do and has so commanded through the apostle Paul: "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children" (Eph. 5:1).

The "therefore" links this verse with what we saw in the previous chapter of things we are to put off and things we are to put on, especially toward the close of the chapter where the instruction is to "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you" (Eph. 4:32).  So it is traits like these that we are to strive to develop to be more like the Lord -- and not that we are to imitate God in the sense of receiving worship from people, carrying out vengeance, or being a final judge who sentences sinners to hell, etc.  

Jesus also shows the need for us to be like God in Matthew 5:48: "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."  This, however, does not mean we are perfect in every way, as God is; but, according to the context, we see of God's impartial love toward the righteous and the unrighteous:  "...for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (v. 45).  So our love is to also reach out to even our enemies and those who do not love us (vv. 43-47).  

Notice, too, how this is expressed in Luke 6:35,36, the parallel account: "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

Here, instead of saying "be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect," it says, "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."  So we are to imitate God in that sense also.  

The phrase "be imitators of God" is also rendered as be "followers of God" in some other translations, but the Greek word is the word that our English word "mimic" stems from; and though we normally think of this word as being used in a negative sense -- such as those who would mimic someone playfully, derisively, or mockingly -- here it pertains to imitating in a very sincere, serious, solemn way.  For we truly do want to develop those same virtues in our lives and not merely play-act with them.  

After washing His disciples' feet and showing His willingness to give Himself over to menial and humble servitude, Jesus then states in John 13:15,  "For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you."  Just as Christ came into this world to serve and not to be served, according to Matthew 20:28, it should also be our desire to follow that same example of humble, willing, and unselfish service to put others above ourselves.  So, though we do not have the custom of foot washing here in 21st century America, the principle the Lord has set forth can still be carried out in other ways as well. 

Peter also points to the Savior as being our role model: "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21).

In thinking of how He served His Father, Jesus did so even when the commands would lead to the extreme of torture and death!  If Christians today, therefore, would ever have to become martyrs for serving Christ, as many were during the early church, would our faith in the Lord and our love for Him enable us to give up our lives, too, if need be, for righteousness' sake? 

When someone is truly imitating God or striving to be a follower of Him, then that person is also developing qualities we can imitate.  For example, think of the apostle Paul.  How truly devoted to the Lord he was; and because of that, he was able to also say, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1).

And Paul wasn't the only one setting forth that kind of example.  Consider, for instance, Philippians 3:17: "Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us."

Isn't it also encouraging to know that there are many people -- even today -- who strive to maintain those examples and patterns to keep Christ first in their lives?  And in their doing so, they, too, become a good example for others to emulate, such as the Thessalonians whom Paul commends in 1 Thessalonians 1:6,7: "You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia."

Imitating the right people can lead to great results, as we see in Hebrews 6:12: "so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises."

The Hebrew writer refers to some of these people in Hebrews 12:1,2: "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

These "cloud of witnesses" is pertaining to the great people of faith in the previous chapter (Heb. 11), and how they obeyed God by their faith -- even in spite of difficulties. They are, therefore, witnessing toward what faith in God can do, and leaving us an example to also have that same type of obedient faith.  

So we should not only be concerned with following the right example, but also being that right example ourselves.  And the best time to begin is when we are young.  In thinking of this, consider Paul's exhortation to Timothy: "Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe" (1 Tim. 4:12).

Paul also touched upon this when writing to Titus: "in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us" (Titus 2:7,8).  

So Paul says to "...be imitators of God, AS BELOVED CHILDREN" (emphasis mine).  As we think of children who would imitate their parents, we who are children of God are to do the same with regard to our Father in heaven.  

Paul then says in Ephesians 5:2, "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."

We have seen before that our "walk" is our manner of life, how we conduct ourselves, how we live.  And just how often should love be a part of our walk?   Paul answers that in 1 Corinthians 16:14: "Let all that you do be done in love."  Notice Paul's desire for the Thessalonians concerning this: "and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you" (1 Thess. 3:12).  In addition, not only are we to love, but notice again the intensity of it in Ephesians 5:2: "...just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us...."  To love as Christ loves is a command that the Lord also gives in John 13:34: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another."  Notice that He calls this a "new commandment."  For though the command to love had been given before, now one is to love as even Christ does.  Jesus also goes on to show in the very next verse the impact this type of love would have on the world: "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn. 13:35).  

So we are to love "even as" Christ has loved us.  And to what degree did He love us?  Paul shows some of that in Romans 5:8: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  The Lord was willing to give His all in loving others; and He even loved those who hated, ridiculed, and tortured Him -- not for what they did, of course, but because He could see them as lost sheep without a shepherd.   Compare, for example, Luke 23:33,34: "And when they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.  But Jesus was saying, 'Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.' And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves."  We are reminded in Ephesians 5:25 that husbands are to love their wives "just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her."  And Christians, in general, are shown in 1 John  3:16, that "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."  If we are to love as Christ, is there any wonder why Peter instructs the brethren to "keep fervent" in their love for one another (1 Pet. 4:8)?  So Jesus' love is a very deep, unselfish, and sacrificial love, a love that gives its all -- and does so even when unrequited.

What Jesus did is described as "...an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma" (Eph. 5:2).  Though not in every case, the term "offering" is often used in the Scriptures to denote a bloodless sacrifice, such as the grain offerings or the sweet-smelling incense offerings.  However, it was not just an offering, but also a sacrifice which Jesus had offered unto God as a fragrant aroma.  So, this fragrant aroma is figuratively indicating that what the Lord did was pleasing to His Father in heaven, which is implied in John 10:17,18: "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.  No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father."  So Jesus not only pleased the Father during His life on earth, but also in His death, which was prophesied about 700 years before the actual event: "But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.  As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.  Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors" (Isa. 53:10-12). 

Paul then instructs in Ephesians 5, "But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints" (v. 3).  

The Greek word for "immorality" is "porneia," which Thayer defines as "illicit sexual intercourse  1a) adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals, etc." and incest.  It is a general term, and the one which the Lord uses in Matthew 19:9 to warn: "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."

After "immorality," Paul then mentions "impurity," which would certainly include these sins of immorality; but it also goes beyond that.  For note how it is used in Ephesians 4:19: "and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness."  The phrase "every kind of impurity" implies that there are various forms of it.  And even our verse under consideration, Ephesians 5:3, uses the phrase "any impurity."  Thayer shows that the Greek word also includes "the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living" and even "impure motives."  According to 1 Thessalonians 4:7, it appears to be the opposite of holiness: "For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification [holiness, KJV]."  This can also be inferred in Romans 6:19, where "impurity," along with "lawlessness," seems to be summing up the life of one before coming to Christ: "I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification [holiness, KJV]."  So impurity can stand for many sinful things; and the phrase "any impurity" (Eph. 5:3) is also rendered as "all uncleanness" in many other versions.  

In addition to putting off immorality and impurity, the child of God is to also put off greed, which Solomon refers to as a type of trap: "The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the treacherous will be caught by their own greed" (Prov. 11:6).   

One of the bad things about greed is that it is an insatiable desire that leads the person away from what life is really all about.  Jesus shows this when warning to "...'Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions'" (Luke 12:15).  Jesus made this statement to an individual who wanted the Lord to help him receive his share of the family inheritance.  For his brother was withholding that from him. The Lord then illustrates His warning with the parable of the rich productive farmer whose crops were so great that he had to tear down his barns to build larger ones.  He then thought that he would have many years to come, in which he could eat, drink, and be merry; but he soon found out that that very night his soul was required of him, and he would be leaving all of those goods behind (Luke 12:16-21).  So the tragedy in this man's life was that he had left God out of it; and, therefore, did not have the kind of spiritual life the Lord wanted him to have.  The Lord then goes on to show in Luke 12:22-31 that one should not be overly concerned with even the necessities of food and clothing; but, rather, to be more concerned with seeking God's kingdom first and all His righteousness (v. 31).  And when we are doing that, there is no room in our hearts for greed. 

Another reason why greed is so bad is because it is also equated with idolatry: "For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (Eph. 5:5)  For whatever a person is greedy for has become his idol, which he wants more than he wants the true and the living God.  And, as Paul shows in this verse, the greedy or covetous man will not have an inheritance in God's kingdom. 

So let those of us who are Christians take heed to Paul's instruction in Ephesians 5:1-3 to "be imitators of God," so that we will develop the proper traits in our lives; "to walk in love," just as the Lord has loved us (unselfishly, fervently, and sacrificially); and to abstain from all immorality, from any impurity, and from all greed.  For this is all part of becoming more like Christ, so that we may follow His steps that lead to heaven above.


News & Notes

Though for a while it had reached hurricane status, even as a tropical storm, Isaac brought much wind, rain, power outages, and flooding to Louisiana.  It had even brought death to some and destruction of homes and property.  More than 900,000 homes were without power.  Mine had been off from Wednesday 12:35 PM to Friday 3:45 PM, which was much shorter than I had expected.  For during Hurricanes Gustav and Katrina, my power had been out about 5 or 6 days each time.  We had cancelled our Tuesday evening service at Park Forest.  Many of us had also been under a dusk-to-dawn curfew for a few days.  Some folks were seeing more water -- around or in their homes -- than ever before.  I had about 7" in the backyard of standing water and a few in the front.  It was just a couple inches from passing over the thresholds of my front and side doors; so I had taken the precaution to move low items (such as books on the bottom shelves or LPs leaning against the wall) to higher locations.  It was a very long, continual rain; but I was glad it had not made its way over those thresholds.   Three of the men, who had been working in my neighborhood to get the power back on, were all the way from Kentucky, having driven about 800 miles in three trucks.  Last I heard, there had been workers from at least 23 states to help Louisiana.

Let those of us who are Christians continue to remember these following people in prayer:

Linda Lefort (Harris Lefort's sister-in-law) who has throat cancer, fluid buildup, and is receiving hospice care; Bill Barfield (Virginia Fontenot's brother) who was admitted to ICU last March and has been in a step-down unit ever since; Jean Calloway, who has been having a foot problem; Shirley Young, who experiences fibromyalgia every day; and Cheryl Crews, who is now undergoing therapy for some of her physical ailments.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)