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Ephesians 5:1-21; Be Imitators of God, Part 1 (of 4 Parts)

by Karl Kemp  
9/03/2014 / Bible Studies


All quotations were taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition, unless otherwise noted. Sometimes I make comments in the middle of quotations using brackets [ ] or [[ ]] to make them more obvious. I am using straight quotation marks ("), hyphens (-) instead of dashes, and a few other things like this because some of the internet sites where I post these articles require it. Cf., e.g., means compare, for example

I believe the book of Ephesians is one of the most important books in the New Testament. All of the papers, articles, and discussions I mention in this paragraph are available on my internet site (Google to Karl Kemp Teaching): Ephesians chapters 1 and 4 are discussed verse-by-verse. "Ephesians 4:17-32 and Righteousness and Holiness." "Ephesians 1:3, 4, 7; Holy and Blameless; Redemption and 'Aphesis.' " Ephesians 2:1-10; 3:14-21; and 6:10-20 are discussed (on pages 77-80, 53-55, and 55-56) in my "A Paper on Faith." Ephesians 6:1-3 are discussed on page 21 of my paper, "The Christian, the Law, and Legalism." Ephesians 1:7; 5:3-8; and 5:22-33 are discussed (on pages 151-153, 186, and 174-178) in my book "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ" and in my recently published e-book, "Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin." (Both books are available at amazon.com.)

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved [born-again] children [[To be imitators of God as beloved children is quite a high calling, isn't it? It certainly includes being dead to sin and walking in the truth, righteousness, holiness, and love of God by the enabling grace of God in Christ (cf., e.g., Eph. 2:1-10), through the atoning death of Christ (cf., e.g., Eph. 1:7; 2:5, 6, 15; 5:2, 25-27), and by the indwelling Holy Spirit (cf., e.g., Eph. 1:13; 2:18; 3:16; 4:3, 4, 23 [I would translate, "be renewed by the Spirit in your mind/way of thinking"; see my article "Ephesians 4:17-32; Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin" on my internet site; on thinking right, also see Rom. 8:5-8; 12:1-3], 30; 5:18; 6:17, 18). As we think in line with the word of God in our hearts and walk by the indwelling Spirit of God on a continuous basis, we will be imitating God, by His saving grace in Christ through faith.

There are many similar passages in the New Testament; passages like these certainly include the ideas of being dead to sin and walking in the truth, righteousness, holiness, and love of God by His grace. Since this is so important, I'll quote a few of them: "As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, (15) but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; (15) because it is written, 'YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY' " (1 PETER 1:14-16). "And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself just as He [the Lord Jesus; God the Son] is pure" (1 JOHN 3:3). "Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness [better, "the one who is doing righteousness"] is righteous, just as He [the Lord Jesus] is righteous" (1 JOHN 3:7). "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (MATTHEW 5:48). "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ [the apostle Paul said]" (1 CORINTHIANS 11:1).

I'll quote several verses from 1 John that demonstrate that being born (born again) of God, who is totally righteous and holy and separate from sin, is designed to result in the righteousness, holiness, and victory over all sin for those born of Him: 1 JOHN 2:28, 29: "Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. (29) If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices [everyone who is doing] righteousness is born of Him." 1 JOHN 3:7 (quoted in the preceding paragraph). 1 JOHN 3:9 (NIV): "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed [the Holy Spirit] remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God." 1 JOHN 4:7: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." (These verses and many other verses from 1 John are discussed in some detail in my recently published e-book, "Righteousness, Holiness, and Victory Over Sin," that is available on amazon.com.) 1 JOHN 5:18: "We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He [he] who was born of God keeps him [[I would translate "himself" instead of "him," with the KJV; NKJV. The New Testament makes it very clear that we must cooperate with God's saving, sanctifying grace, which includes learning the basics of new-covenant salvation and resisting temptation. 1 John 3:3 (which is quoted in the preceding paragraph), for example, speaks of our purifying ourselves as the Lord Jesus is pure.]], and the evil one does not touch him."

The epistle to the Ephesians is packed with passages that speak of the call, enablement, and requirement for Christians to walk in the truth, righteousness, holiness, and love of God, with the victory over all sin ((cf., e.g., Eph. 1:3, 4 ["...He (God the Father) chose us in Him (in Christ Jesus) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love" (NKJV)], 7; 2:10; 4:1-3, 17-32 [These verses are extra important in that they come just before the verses we are studying in this paper (5:1-21). At the beginning of this paper I mentioned my article on Eph. 4:17-32 and my paper that includes all of Ephesians chapter 4. In Eph. 4:13-16 the apostle Paul dealt with the topic that "we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming" (Eph. 4:14), for example. I have a section there titled, "A Discussion on the Overall Teaching of the Book of Ephesians Regarding How Long It Should Take for Christians to Become Holy/Spiritual (by the Spirit)/(Relatively) Perfect."]; 5:22-33 (These interesting and important verses that speak of our being "holy and blameless" in union with the Lord Jesus Christ [the apostle said we have become one with Him; the two have become one] are extra important in that they come just after the verses we are studying); and throughout most of Ephesians chapter 6 Paul exhorts us with the need to walk in the righteousness of God. For one thing, he exhorts us with the need to "be strong in the strength of His might" and "to put on the full armor of God, so that [we] will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:10, 11).))

We always need to include the idea that as we are faithful to God we will be growing; we will be changed "from glory to glory" (2 Cor. 3:18). In the ideal case we will be walking in the truth, righteousness, holiness, and love of God with the victory over all sin, but "we all...beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory..." (2 Cor. 3:18). Throughout this life we are being transformed (some of this will probably continue after we are glorified). In the ideal case we will be living in an abiding state of holiness and growing (being changed "from glory to glory").

When the apostle Paul speaks of imitating God here, as beloved children, there is some emphasis on "[being] kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven [us]" of Eph. 4:32 (which is the last verse in chapter 4) and on our "[walking] in love, just as Christ also loved [us] and gave Himself up for us," which are the words that follow in Eph. 5:2, but I believe the epistle to the Ephesians (very much including the verses that come before Eph. 5:1 and the verses that follow), and much of the rest of the New Testament, demonstrate that when Paul spoke of imitating God here he includes walking with the victory over all sin in God's truth, righteousness, holiness, and love. If we actually and fully walk in love toward God and people (through the grace of God in Christ, which includes all the work of the indwelling Righteous, Holy Spirit, in accordance with God's Word, by faith) there is no room for sin. Doesn't that sound good? For one thing, to walk in love is to keep all the commandments of God's moral law (cf., e.g., Matt. 22:36-40; Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14). (God's moral law derives from His nature that cannot change.)

In Eph. 4:22 the apostle exhorted us to once-for-all and completely lay aside the old man, which is corrupt in accordance with the lusts of deceit. In Eph. 4:24 he exhorted us to once-for-all and completely put on the new man, which in accordance with God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (These verses are discussed in some detail in my article on Eph. 4:17-32.)

I'll quote part of what D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said on Eph. 5:1, 2 ("Darkness and Light: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:17-5:17" [Baker Books, 1983], page 291). "Here in this new chapter we come to what is perhaps Paul's supreme argument, to the highest level of all in doctrine and in practice, to the ultimate ideal. There is nothing possible beyond this. This is the highest statement of Christian doctrine that one can conceive of or even imagine. It is really staggering, it is almost incredible; but here it is. 'Be ye followers [imitators; on the following page Lloyd-Jones says that "imitators" is a better translation] of God'! ... ...here Paul seems to me to be laying down what is after all a principle that governs everything; he is gathering up his message as it were; and then he will proceed to draw his practical deductions in verses 3 to 5. But the point is that the Apostle is here reminding us of something that we must never forget in the whole of our lives, all our thinking, all our conduct and practice and behavior. 'Be ye followers [imitators] of God, as dear children'! ...."]]; (2) and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us [referring to His atoning death], an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (3) But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named [as existing] among you, as is proper among saints ["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" (NIV).] [["Saints" (plural of the Greek adjective "hagios"; "saints" ("holy people") are SET APART by God for God. In the ideal case those who are set apart for God will live for Him from their hearts on a continuous basis in His righteousness, which includes not sinning against Him. God makes us holy by His saving/sanctifying grace in Christ, but the New Testament also makes it clear that we will not be holy (set apart for God) if we do not cooperate with His grace, and walk in line with His Word and by His Spirit, on a continuous basis, by faith (cf., e.g., Rom. 6:11 [with most of Romans chapter 6]; 2 Cor. 7:1; Gal. 5:13-25; Col. 3:5-9; Heb. 12:14, 15; 1 Pet. 1:14-19; 1 John 3:3). I'll quote a sentence from what Lloyd-Jones (he was quoted under verse 1) says under verses 3-5, page 329: "We must never lose sight of the fact that the ultimate object of Christianity is that we should be holy, and that we should walk before God blameless, in love."]]; (4) and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting ["obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking" (NIV)], which are not fitting [not fitting for God's born-again children, who are called to be saints], but rather giving of thanks. (5) For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater [[The "immoral [person]" here in verse 5 refers back to the word "immorality" of verse 3; the "impure person" to the word "impurity"; and the "covetous man, who is an idolater" to the word "greed." The covetous man bows down, so to speak, before the things he covets, which makes him an "idolater."]], has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ [God the Son] and God [God the Father]. [[The apostle Paul says that those who are practicing the sinful works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God in GALATIANS 5:19-21: "Now the deeds [works] of the flesh [The works of the flesh (which is the equivalent of the works of the old man), which include all sins and not just sins especially associated with the physical body (consider idolatry and sorcery, for example, or pride and unbelief), are contrasted with the works of the Spirit (the works of righteousness and holiness that the indwelling Spirit of God enables us to do). Christians are to crucify the flesh (the old man [see Rom. 6:6; Gal. 5:24]) with its passions and desires; we are called to walk by the Spirit on a continuous basis and to not do the sinful works of the flesh (see Gal. 5:16), which equals walking with the victory over all sin.] are evident, which are immorality, impurity, sensuality, (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, (21) envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things WILL NOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD [my capitalization for emphasis]." He says the same thing in 1 CORINTHIANS 6:9, 10: "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, (10) nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, WILL INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD [my emphasis]." All the verses I quoted or referred to in this paragraph are aimed at the apostle Paul's Christian readers. These passages contain powerful warnings to his Christian readers. So too for Eph. 5:3-7.

Although the apostle Paul spoke of sinners (sons of disobedience) not inheriting the kingdom of God at the end of this age in Gal. 5:21 and 1 Cor. 6:9, 10 (and clearly affirmed that faithful Christians will inherit the kingdom of God at the end of this age), apparently what he said in Eph. 5:5-7 is a little different in that he apparently also mentioned their being denied a present (during this age) inheritance in the kingdom of God (cf. Rom. 14:17; Col. 1:13) and of a present participation in the wrath of God (cf., e.g., Rom. 1:18-32; John 3:36) along with wrath of God to be manifested at the end of this age. (This isn't a big difference, because it is obvious that those who are on the path that leads to the eternal wrath of God do not have a present inheritance in the kingdom of God and are subject to the wrath of God that is manifested during this present age.) To be denied having an inheritance in the kingdom of God goes with partaking of the wrath of God (cf. Eph. 5:6). Typically the apostle Paul speaks of the wrath of God being manifested at the end of this age (cf., e.g., Rom. 2:5, 8; 5:9; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 1:10). In Eph. 1:11 Paul spoke of our having an inheritance now. In Eph. 1:14 he showed that what we have now is "a pledge [down payment] of our inheritance." A big part of our inheritance is reserved for the end of this age, when we will be glorified and begin to reign in a never-ending reign with the Lord Jesus and God the Father.

This is serious business! To not have an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God the Father is to miss heaven, and there is only one other alternative. In Eph. 5:6, 7 the apostle goes on to warn his Christian readers that if we are characterized by sin and are "sons of disobedience" (things which are incompatible with what Christianity is all about) we will inherit the wrath of God instead of having an inheritance in the kingdom of God. We must take warnings like this seriously! Many Christians don't take such warnings seriously. One primary reason for this is that they have been taught that they are saved and there is no way they can lose their salvation. Many passages, including the one we are studying, show that they are making a big mistake. See my paper, "Once Saved, Always Saved?" God is not trying to get rid of us, quite the contrary, but, like I said, we must take such warnings seriously - they are part of God's word too!

When Christians sincerely repent if they sin, they are forgiven, but the heartbeat of Christianity is to live in the center of God's will in His truth, righteousness, holiness, and love. We must be aiming at that target! God hates sin, and He paid an infinite price to set us free from spiritual death and bondage to sin and spirits of darkness, and God knows our hearts.

We will continue with this verse-by-verse study of Eph. 5:1-21 in Part 2, still under Eph. 5:5.

Copyright by Karl Kemp

http://www.karlkempteachingministries.com Karl Kemp worked as an engineer in the space field throughout the 60s. He became a born-again Christian in 1964. He received an MA in Biblical Studies in 1972. He has been a Bible teacher for 45 years. See the website for more info on his books, papers, etc.

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