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Ephesians (2010)

Imitation of God

Ephesians 5:1-14

Lesson audio

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. But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 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. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, "Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you."

(Ephesians 5:1-14 NASB)

The Imitation of God

The Principle of Imitation

Imitation, as a word, has somewhat of a bad reputation. In some senses it means a cheap copy. In this use, however, we mean it benignly.

·         First, it's how we learn. Small children know that they must imitate their parents speech. Indeed, this can sometimes be funny — especially if your kid learn to walk from the cat.

·         More than that, it is how we are known. If you don't think so, go to any junior high school. The girls can be classified by what fashion they wear.

·         That may seem okay for children, but it's also true for adults. It's just that the word used instead of imitation is the word practice.

Dearly Loved Children

Paul uses an interesting word here: agapetos. It's a diminutive form of agape, and it means "dearly loved children." Have you ever considered the characteristics of dearly loved children?

·         Children who are dearly loved are children who imitate their parents. Children who are not loved are those who act out trying to get attention. There is a sense of security which gives rise to the imitation of the best thing you know.

·         Loved children are disciplined children. The word "discipline" has somewhat of a bad meaning today. You can find all kinds of child psychiatrists who are horrified at the thought that you would discipline your children. Think of it, however, in terms of the phrase "disciplined athlete." Loved children are well trained.

·         As a result, their parents are proud of them. Going to a high school graduation ceremony will teach you this.

Walking the Talk

There is no concept in the New Testament of faith which is "intellectual only." The idea that you can have a faith which accepts certain facts as being true but does not reason upon them and then Act upon them is contrary to all understanding of the New Testament. As James said,

You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?

(James 2:19-20 NASB)

So, if you call yourself a Christian there is no logical way you can avoid the imitation of Christ.

Giving up Sin Is a Sacrifice

Paul now launches into a list of do’s and don’ts. We will take up the don’ts first:

·         Sexual immorality — that's what the word means here — comes from a Greek word from which we get our word pornography. You must remember that in this time it was still a common practice for a man to go down to the Temple of some goddess and have sex with a Temple prostitute. Your wife was given no right to object, because after all you are worshiping in order to have more children, bigger crops, more animals in your herds. The children by your wife were legitimate children, who inherited your money. But sex was viewed as being something the man could have with any woman, as long as he included his wife and granted her children. It is shameful to say this, but I think we are worse than they were.

·         Impurity — the word in question comes from the root word from which we get catharsis. The sense here is that of a man who refuses to cleanse himself; as a Christian, we are called upon to repent and receive the Lords cleansing. It is one of the reasons you take communion each week. You examine yourself, repent, and then accept the body and blood of Christ as sacrifice which cleanses you from all sin.

·         Greed – here is a concept that has undergone a complete transformation. In its biblical sense, it is a sin. But the same actions today are well approved of. They are called entrepreneurship, or diligent money management, or financial brilliance. One reason for this is that Christians today often identify with the conservative politics of the Republican Party. That party is pro-business; therefore making money is good, no matter the circumstances. It remains, however, a sin.

·         Obscenity — also translated filthiness, in its root word it means something that causes you shame. This too has undergone a transformation. Modern psychology has taken the position that guilt is a feeling. The feeling of guilt is actually shame; guilt is a factual state. Modern psychology holds that one must get rid of this shame. In short, your psychiatrist should talk you out of being ashamed of something. This is an excellent way to sear your conscience. We used to justify our shame; now we reject it.

·         Silly talk — this is a delightful word in the Greek. It is composed of two words: the first is logos, which is generally translated word or message. The second one is transliterated into the English as "moron." I leave as an exercise to the reader just what kind of talk this might be.

·         Coarse joking — one scholar described it this way: “Sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quirkish reason, in shrewd intimation, in cunningly diverting or cleverly retorting an objection: sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart irony, in a lusty hyperbole, in a startling metaphor, in a plausible reconciling of contradictions, or in acute nonsense.... Sometimes an affected simplicity, sometimes a presumptuous bluntness gives it being.... Its ways are unaccountable and inexplicable, being answerable to the numberless rovings of fancy and windings of language”.

Wrath of God

God, by modern standards, is a benign old grandfather who wants to see the children have fun. This concept has no place in the Bible. It is the God we would like to have, not the God who is. Jehovah it seems is a God who is indeed quite capable of wrath. So it's a good idea to know what angers God.

In one word, the answer is "idolatry." That means that we worship something other than God. Now most of us think that's not really possible; after all, Greek gods left the real estate several hundred years ago. But let's back up a bit: just what does it mean to worship a God? Webster defines worship as "supreme respect." Note that word supreme; it's the key to understanding idolatry. Idolatry happens when you put something else first before God.

So what is he angry about? Let me give you a parallel example. Suppose you find some sweet young thing at your office who just thinks you are wonderful. You decide to have an affair with her, and soon all of your affections center on her. Do you think your wife will be upset? Or do you expect her to be "understanding?" You just placed another woman in front of her; what do you think she's going to think? Now you understand how God feels.

Let me list for you some things that people put first in their lives, above God: money, sex, power, prestige, notoriety, food, and most of all pride. See anything on the list that disturbs you?

The Children of Light

Three Virtues

Paul now takes us through the do's. To begin with he lists three virtues which every Christian should have:

·         Goodness — the word used here means someone with a benevolent spirit, a giving person.

·         Righteousness — the word in the Greek means to give each man his due. It brings to mind Henry II, who implemented changes in the English judiciary system which lasted for the next 800 years by being conservative. He may radical change with the conservative principle of finding out what was due to each and every man, and rendering it to him. Righteousness has that radical quality.

·         Truth — the concept of truth in the New Testament may be taken to be in three steps: fact, logic and action. You determine the facts, you reason on those facts and come to a correct logical conclusion — and then you take action on that conclusion. It is one of the most neglected concepts in Christianity.

What Pleases God

Did you ever notice the characteristic of lovers: they always want please their beloved. It's why men bring flowers to their wives. If you think about it, flowers are practically useless. You can't vacuum the floor with them, for example. The only reason you would bring them to your wife is that she is pleased to have them — and that is quite sufficient reason.

If you would do that for one who loves you in this world, how much more should you do that for the one who loves you for your soul? Men love for many reasons; they may love your body, or your money, but true love comes when they love you for who you are. That's how God loves you: for who you are, as you are. Should you not love him in return, the same way? Therefore, should you not attempt to please him just as you would anyone else you? Lover of my soul, my soul loves you.

Expose Evil

The Christian is required to expose evil. We do this in three ways:

·         The first is by word. We need to speak out against the evil that is around us. Sometimes this is more practical than others, but the requirement is always there. Otherwise, we imply our approval by our silence.

·         The second is by example. If you disapprove of the state of sexual morality in this country, you can show this most effectively by how seriously you take your own marriage. The choice is before you: either you do it the world's way, or you do it God's way. The people around you are going to notice which way you do it. If you view the trip to the annual sales convention as a chance to pick up girls (because your wife will never know, of course) then you are a hypocrite.

·         The third is by deed. Sometimes you just have to get the thing done.

Sleepers Wake

The reader should know that verse 15 contains some difficulty with the quotation. It is not a direct quotation from any particular part of the Scripture, though it certainly has a parallel in Isaiah 60:1. There are other passages which express the same thought. It should be noted that the sense of quotation we have today depends upon things like shorthand, digital recorders and video cameras. In our day, exact quotation can be done — and if you put quote marks around it, it should be done right. In those days however, this was not the case. Paul expresses similar sentiments in other letters.

Bach’s Cantata

The musically inclined will be familiar with Bach and his Cantata entitled, "Sleepers Wake." What may surprise you is that this is actually based on a section of Scripture, in particular this one:

"Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. "Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. "For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. "Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. "But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' "Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. "The foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' "But the prudent answered, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' "And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. "Later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.' "But he answered, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.' "Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.

(Matthew 25:1-13 NASB)

This might serve as the warning for us. You will notice that the virgins in question were asleep when the bridegroom came. Paul is not just warning us to take heed of ourselves in our immediate circumstances, but also to look forward to the return of Christ. This is one of the most difficult messages the teacher can provide. Many students simply nod their heads up and down and take no real warning. Many thinkers believe that we are in the Laodicean age of the church, the lukewarm era. It certainly appears so.

Now you know why this lesson is difficult for the teacher. It is very, very trying to repeat this message and watch heads nod North and South but see no sign of comprehension. Therefore, let me encourage you: take this seriously.

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