5:2 This verse specifies the characteristic of God the Christian should imitate. Being imitators of God means being imitators of Christ in his sacrificial love.
5:2 live in love Christ provides the model for how Christians are to live in love; His sacrificial death is the definition of love.
offering and sacrifice This description of Christ’s death draws on language from the sacrificial system in the ot. The first term, prosphora, alludes to that which the worshiper brings to God. The second term, thysia, refers to the sacrificing of animals.
fragrant smell In the ot, sacrifices are described as having an aroma pleasing to God (e.g., Exod 29:25; Lev 1:9).
5:2 Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us. The Lord is the supreme example in His self-sacrificing love for lost sinners (4:32; Ro 5:8–10). He took human sin upon Himself and gave up His very life that men might be redeemed from their sin, receive a new and holy nature, and inherit eternal life (see note on 2Co 5:21). They are henceforth to be imitators of His great love in the newness and power of the Holy Spirit, who enables them to demonstrate divine love. a fragrant aroma. Christ’s offering of Himself for fallen man pleased and glorified His heavenly Father, because it demonstrated in the most complete and perfect way God’s sovereign, perfect, unconditional, and divine kind of love. Leviticus describes 5 offerings commanded by God for Israel. The first 3 were: 1) the burnt offering (Lv 1:1–17), depicting Christ’s perfection; 2) the grain offering (Lv 2:1–16), depicting Christ’s total devotion to God in giving His life to please the Father; and 3) the peace offering (Lv 3:1–17), depicting His peacemaking between God and man. All 3 of these were a “soothing aroma to the Lord” (Lv 1:9, 13, 17; 2:2, 9, 12; 3:5, 16). The other two offerings, the sin offering (Lv 4:1–5:13) and the guilt, or trespass, offering (Lv 5:14–6:7), were repulsive to God because, though they depicted Christ, they depicted Him as bearing sin (cf. Mt 27:46). In the end, when redemption was accomplished, the whole work pleased God completely.
5:2. As imitators of God believers are to walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us. Christ showed the greatest act of love when He died in the place of sinners, paying for sin and conquering death. Jesus’ sacrifice was a sweet-smelling aroma to God.
5:2 Another way in which we should resemble the Lord is by walking in love. The rest of the verse explains that to walk in love means to give ourselves for others. This is what Christ, our perfect Example, did. Amazing fact! He loved us. The proof of His love is that He gave Himself for us in death at Calvary.
His gift is described as an offering and a sacrifice to God. An offering is anything given to God; a sacrifice here includes the additional element of death. He was the true burnt offering, the One who was completely devoted to do the will of God, even to the death of the cross. His sacrifice of unspeakable devotion is eulogized as being for a sweet-smelling aroma. F. B. Meyer comments, “In love so measureless, so reckless of cost, for those who were naturally so unworthy of it, there was a spectacle which filled heaven with fragrance and God’s heart with joy.”
The Lord Jesus pleased His Father by giving Himself for others. The moral is that we too can bring joy to God by giving ourselves for others.
Others, Lord, yes, others!
Let this my motto be;
Help me to live for others
That I may live like Thee.
—Charles D. Meigs
5:2. To imitate God in this context means to walk in love. Love denies self. It is willing to give up self-interest for God’s sake. Since Jesus gave himself up for us, we ought to give ourselves up for him. To give oneself up means “to follow, to obey, to live in relationship with.” When we live with this attitude toward God, we please him just as a pleasant aroma pleases the one who smells it (see Lev. 1:17; 3:16; Isa. 53:10). Jesus became the sacrifice for our sins. We must become a living sacrifice, obeying him (see Rom. 12:1).
Ver. 2.—And walk in love. Taking up anew the exhortation of ch. 4:1. Let your ordinary life be spent in an atmosphere of love. Drink it in from heaven, as plants drink in the sunshine; radiate it forth from eyes and face; let hands and feet be active in the service; let looks, words, and acts all be steeped in it. Even as Christ also loved us. The passing from the Father to the Son as our Example is not a new departure; for the Son reveals the Father, the Son’s love is the counterpart of the Father’s, made visible to us in the way most fitted to impress us. Though Christ’s love, like his Father’s, is eternal, the aorist is used, to denote that specific act of love which is immediately in view. And gave himself for us. The Pauline phrase (Gal. 1:4; 2:20; Titus 2:14; 1 Tim. 2:6), simple, but very comprehensive: “himself”—all that he was as God, all that he became as Man, a complete self-surrender, a whole burnt offering. “For us,” not merely on our behalf, but in our room (after verbs of giving, dying, etc.); this, indeed, being implied in the idea immediately following of a sacrifice, which, alike to the Jewish and pagan mind, conveyed the idea of a life given in room of another. An offering and a sacrifice to God. Offering and sacrifice are nearly synonymous, but the first probably includes the whole earthly career of Christ incarnate—his holy life, blessed example, gracious teaching, loving companionship, as well as his atoning death, which last is more precisely the θυσία, sacrifice. The offering and sacrifice were presented to God, to satisfy his justice, fulfil the demands of his law, and glorify his holy and righteous government. For a sweet-smelling savour. Allusion to Noah’s sacrifice of every clean beast and of every fowl—“the Lord smelled a sweet savour;” that is, the whole transaction, not the offering merely, but the spirit in which it was offered likewise, was grateful to God. The whole work of Christ, and the beautiful spirit in which he offered himself, were grateful to the Father, and procure saving blessings for all who by faith make the offering their own.
2. And—in proof that you are so.
walk in love—resuming Eph 4:1, “walk worthy of the vocation.”
as Christ … loved us—From the love of the Father he passes to the love of the Son, in whom God most endearingly manifests His love to us.
given himself for us—Greek, “given Himself up (namely, to death, Ga 2:20) for us,” that is, in our behalf: not here vicarious substitution, though that is indirectly implied, “in our stead.” The offerer, and the offering that He offered, were one and the same (Jn 15:13; Ro 5:8).
offering and a sacrifice—“Offering” expresses generally His presenting Himself to the Father, as the Representative undertaking the cause of the whole of our lost race (Ps 40:6–8), including His life of obedience; though not excluding His offering of His body for us (Heb 10:10). It is usually an unbloody offering, in the more limited sense. “Sacrifice” refers to His death for us exclusively. Christ is here, in reference to Ps 40:6 (quoted again in Heb 10:5), represented as the antitype of all the offerings of the law, whether the unbloody or bloody, eucharistical or propitiatory.
for a sweet-smelling savour—Greek, “for an odor of a sweet smell,” that is, God is well pleased with the offering on the ground of its sweetness, and so is reconciled to us (Eph 1:6; Mt 3:17; 2 Co 5:18, 19; Heb 10:6–17). The ointment compounded of principal spices, poured upon Aaron’s head, answers to the variety of the graces by which He was enabled to “offer Himself a sacrifice for a sweet-smelling savor.” Another type, or prophecy by figure, was “the sweet savor” (“savor of rest,” Margin) which God smelled in Noah’s sacrifice (Ge 8:21). Again, as what Christ is, believers also are (1 Jn 4:17), and ministers are: Paul says (2 Co 2:17) “we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ.”
5:2 / Since forgiveness and love are bound together, believers are admonished to live a life of love. That love finds its example in Christ who gave himself up for us. By implication, the Christian’s love is to be expressed as a self-giving sacrifice (cf. 5:25). Love is the essence of God and is to be the main feature of the believer’s walk (peripateō). By mentioning Christ’s death, the apostle recalls words that were applicable to Jewish sacrifices—namely, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. The sacrifice of Jesus and the sacrificial life of love that believers live are pleasing to God.
2 The example of Christ is appealed to alongside the example of God: their way of life must be marked by love, as Christ’s was. He showed his love by giving himself up to death on their behalf; the practical implication is clear, even if Paul does not spell it out expressly here as John does: “by this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
In an earlier letter Paul manifests his personal appreciation of this love when he speaks of “the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). It is open to every believer to use the same language: Christ loved each one of them individually and gave himself up for them, just as he loved the whole church collectively and gave himself up for it (Eph. 5:25). Paul can speak of Christ as giving himself up (cf. Gal. 1:4) and of the Father as giving him up (cf. Rom. 8:32); in the whole ordo salutis the Father and the Son act as one. When the Son’s giving himself up is spoken of, the language of sacrifice lies ready to hand. The lifelong obedience of Christ was an acceptable sacrifice to God: willing obedience is the only kind of sacrifice that God desires. His crowning act of obedience in saying “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Mark 14:36 and parallels), and in embracing the cross in that spirit, was preeminently acceptable. The writer to the Hebrews consistently speaks of the work of Christ in terms of sacrifice: Paul does so occasionally. The “fragrant odor” of all the main types of sacrifice in the levitical ritual betokened their acceptance by God;10 in the NT the language, like the idea of sacrifice in its totality, is transferred to the spiritual and personal realm. It is used of the perfect self-offering of Christ and of his people’s dedication of themselves and their means. The one other place in the Pauline writings where this phrase—“a fragrant odor”—occurs is in Phil. 4:18, where Paul uses it of the gift which his friends in Philippi had sent him: “a fragrant odor, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”
2 Or imitating God may point to what Paul says next, for he says, “and walk in love” (present tense, imperative mood—i.e., “keep on conducting your lives in love”; NIV, “live a life of love”). Paul used the verb peripateō (“walk”) for the conduct of life in 2:2; 4:1, 17. “Love” represents the crucial divine trait to be imitated, and one that Paul has stressed for the community (recall 4:2, 15–16). Here Paul presents Christ’s self-giving love for his people as the pattern of love to emulate. With an active form of the verb, Paul insists that Christ “gave himself up” for his people (cf. v. 25; Gal 2:20). Employing language of the sacrificial system, Paul shows how love and giving are closely identified (cf. Jn 3:16). In Paul’s view, Christ’s death was a vicarious death—“for us”—and elsewhere Paul spelled out some of the benefits of Christ’s salvific work (e.g., 1:5, 7; 2:5–6). It was a sacrificial offering “to God” that was, literally, “for a smell of fragrance.” Paul paints the picture of the aroma of the sacrifice ascending to God and bringing God pleasure (cf. Ge 8:21; Ex 29:18; Lev 2:2, 9, 12). Paul clearly implies that God was pleased and accepted Christ’s offering. By implication, then, when believers love one another—i.e., when they sacrificially put others’ interests above their own—God is pleased with this offering to him. Paul employs this same language to capture what the Philippians demonstrated in giving Paul gifts (Php 4:18).
2. And walk in love as Christ also hath loved us. Having called on us to imitate God, he now calls on us to imitate Christ, who is our true model. We ought to embrace each other with that love with which Christ has embraced us, for what we perceive in Christ is our true guide.
And gave himself for us. This was a remarkable proof of the highest love. Forgetful, as it were, of himself, Christ spared not his own life, that he might redeem us from death. If we desire to be partakers of this benefit, we must cultivate similar affections toward our neighbours. Not that any of us has reached such high perfection, but all must aim and strive according to the measure of their ability.
An offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet smelling savour. While this statement leads us to admire the grace of Christ, it bears directly on the present subject. No language, indeed, can fully represent the consequences and efficacy of Christ’s death. This is the only price by which we are reconciled to God. The doctrine of faith on this subject holds the highest rank. But the more extraordinary the discoveries which have reached us of the Redeemer’s kindness, the more strongly are we bound to his service. Besides, we may infer from Paul’s words, that, unless we love one another, none of our duties will be acceptable in the sight of God. If the reconciliation of men, effected by Christ, was a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savour, we, too, shall be “unto God a sweet savour,” (2 Cor. 2:15,) when this holy perfume is spread over us. To this applies the saying of Christ, “Leave thy gift before the altar, and go and be reconciled to thy brother.” (Matt. 5:24.)
Live as the Child of God (5:2)
In savoring their new identity the Ephesians are reminded that they are to live not only as children of God, but also to live as the Child of God. Held before us and the Ephesians is the example of Jesus Christ. We are told to “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2). Imitating God means imitating his Son, and that means doing whatever is required to make our lives a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. The smell of Jesus, the fragrance of the Savior that we are to have waft from our lives, also includes offering and sacrifice.
The image that the apostle is bringing to mind, of course, is that of the Old Testament sacrifices where the people brought an offering to God and sacrificed it upon the altar so that its fiery consumption would cause the odor of a sweet sacrifice to God. There is much in the image that is pleasant. But it also reminds us that the fragrance from an altar does not come without some giving of self (an offering) and some dying of another (a sacrifice). There is no life of love without a degree of giving and dying.
As intimidating as that sounds, it may also be a source of comfort to us. In a world where we are tempted to advertise the earthly benefits of the faith, the Scriptures remind us of the theology of the cross. All who would be like Jesus must offer and sacrifice themselves. Luther taught that if we are truly to imitate Christ, then we must also in some measure suffer for the sins of others. The Reformer did not mean that we can atone for others’ sin, but we do suffer for their sake as we endure suffering so that they might know him.
In a world full of people caught up in sinful practices and attitudes, living like Jesus for the sake of others will involve both the giving of ourselves and the dying of self. Why is this a comfort? Because it allows me to confess that there is nothing unusual or odd in me when the purity and integrity to which God calls me also hurt me. Christian young men and women are too often ill-prepared for battle and weakened in spirit by the sense that they should not have to struggle much with the temptations of physical lust and personal gain. Such persons are tempted to think that if they were really holy, mature, and Christian, then it would not be difficult or painful to please God. But what is fragrant to God involves a giving and a dying of self—there is going to be some pain. If there were no pain involved, there would be no sacrifice. The fact that your obedience involves pain and struggle does not necessarily mean that God is displeased with you or that you are less spiritual than others. In fact, without the pain of giving and sacrifice there could be no fragrant offering to God. What enables us to bear and offer this pain is savoring our identity as children of God, and remembering that we are called to live as the Child of God who offered and sacrificed himself for us.
On the Imitation of God
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
The fifth chapter of Ephesians begins with one of the most startling admonitions in the New Testament: “Be imitators of God.” It is the only place in the Bible where these words occur, and what makes them so startling is that they point to a standard beyond which there is no other. William Barclay calls this “the highest standard in the world.” Alexander Maclaren calls it “the sum of all duty.”2 To Martyn Lloyd-Jones it was “Paul’s supreme argument … the highest level of all in doctrine and in practice … the ultimate ideal.”
“Be imitators of God” reminds us of Thomas à Kempis’ classic, Of the Imitation of Christ. Thomas was born in 1380 at a time when Europe was in turmoil. The church was split by rival popes, one of whom still sat on the throne of St. Peter in Rome while the other exercised a rival rule in Avignon. The Hundred Years War was in progress. The Black Death had ravished city after city. Thomas grew up in the midst of corruption, unrest and disillusion, entered a monastery and, presumably in the 1420s, wrote what has since been called “the most influential book in Christian literature.” To be honest, Of the Imitation of Christ has never moved me as other books have, but it has been influential, and for more than five hundred years Christians have apparently found no difficulty with the concept of imitating the Jesus of history.
But the imitation of God the Father is quite another matter—or at least it seems so. How is it possible to imitate one who is infinitely above us, the sovereign God of the universe?
Part of our problem comes from the nature of God and from what theologians call his noncommunicable attributes. In theological textbooks a distinction is made between God’s communicable attributes, in which we share, and God’s noncommunicable attributes, in which we do not share. For example, when we talk about God we often begin with the fact that he is self-existent, self-sufficient, and eternal.
Self-existent means that God has no origins and consequently is answerable to no one. This sets God utterly apart, for everything else does have origin and is accountable. Human beings are accountable to people (parents and friends), organizations (the church, the state, the company for which one works), and ultimately God. Everyone will face a final judgment.
Self-sufficient means that God has no needs and therefore depends on no one. That is not at all true of us. We need countless things—food, warmth, clothing, homes, companionship, oxygen. If our supply of oxygen is cut off even for a few minutes, we die.
Eternal means that God has always existed and will always exist. That is not true of us either. We have a point before which we did not exist. Moreover, we change as time passes. God does not change. He is always the same in his eternal being.
To these initial attributes, without which God would not be God, we can add such things as omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, majesty, and holiness in its fullest sense. We cannot be like God in these characteristics.
Omnipotent means all-powerful. We are not nor will we ever be all-powerful. If we could be, we would be God.
Omnipresent means being everywhere at once. We will never possess this ability. We are finite creatures and will always be finite.
Omniscient means knowing all things. We will never know all things. We will spend all eternity learning.
Majesty and holiness also set God off from his creation. They are what make him “wholly other.” We are not that. Each of these incommunicable attributes sets God apart from us and delineates an area in which we cannot and never will be like him.
But we are also overwhelmed by God’s communicable attributes, that is, those attributes in which we share. They are things like justice, wrath, wisdom, faithfulness, goodness, love, mercy, compassion, tenderness, forgiveness. We can exercise these attributes and indeed we ought to. But when we think of them in reference to God the Father, who is perfect in them, we are necessarily overawed and wonder properly if there is any point in comparing our wisdom to God’s wisdom, our goodness to God’s goodness, our faithfulness to God’s faithfulness, and so on.
That is a healthy comparison, which should humble us, if nothing else. But it is nevertheless true that in our text Paul says that we are to imitate God. We are to imitate God “as dearly loved children.” In other words, just as a son should imitate a good father (though he is not a father and cannot imitate his father in many respects) and just as a daughter should imitate a good mother (though she is not a mother and cannot imitate her mother in many respects), so should the children of God imitate God. And they have this going for them: They have the enabling life of God within through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Consequently, just as physical genes should lead a child in the direction of a parent’s chief characteristics, so should a Christian’s spiritual genes lead in the direction of the moral character of God.
When we look at the passage in which the command to imitate God occurs we see at once that it is not just any attribute of God that Paul has in mind for our imitating, though it would be possible to imitate God in more ways than the one he mentions. What Paul chiefly has in mind is the imitation of God’s love. Indeed, this is what ties Ephesians 5:1 to the end of chapter 4 and links it also to the following verse. (Ephesians 5:1–2 are part of the preceding paragraph.)
The entire text says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” It is in loving that we are to imitate the Creator.
What kind of a love is this? The passage answers this question in several ways, and the first answer is that this love is to be forgiving. Since God the Father forgave us through the work of Christ, we are to forgive one another. This is love’s nature.
This link between God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others is important, because it is only through knowing ourselves to be forgiven that we are set free to forgive others lovingly. People are in desperate need of forgiveness. Some years ago I was talking with a friend who is a psychiatrist, and he said, “As far as I am concerned, most of what a psychiatrist does is directly related to forgiveness. People come to him with problems; they feel guilty about their part in them; they are seeking forgiveness. In effect, they confess their sins to the counselor and find that he forgives them. Then a pattern is set up in which they can show their change of heart in tangible ways toward others.”
In his book on confession John R. W. Stott quotes the head of a large mental hospital in England as having said, “I could dismiss half my patients tomorrow if they could be assured of forgiveness.”
That is what we have in Jesus Christ—forgiveness—and because we find forgiveness there, we can in turn be forgiving. God’s forgiveness is not a mere overlooking of sin, as though he said, “Well, boys will be boys (or girls will be girls). We’ll overlook it for now; just don’t let it happen again.” God takes sin with such seriousness that he deals with it fully at the cross, and it is on that basis—the death of Jesus—that we can know we are forgiven.
Do you know that, really know it? So long as you think you are a pretty good person who does not really need to be forgiven, you will naturally have a very hard time loving and forgiving others. But if you know yourself to have been a sinner under God’s just wrath, all that is changed. God says that in his sight even the best of us is vile to the extreme:
It is written,
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
“Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
That is the way God sees us. If we see ourselves through his eyes, knowing our vile rebellion against his love and moral standards and yet finding ourselves forgiven on the basis of Christ’s death for us, then we will inevitably love and forgive others. For nobody can act as badly toward us as we have acted toward God, and yet he has forgiven us.
If we are not forgiving in our love, we really do not know the extent of God’s forgiveness of us. We still consider ourselves to be better than we are. But if we see ourselves as forgiven sinners, then we will be set free to love others in imitation of God.
The second thing these verses teach about the love of God, which we are to imitate, is that it is a giving love—not merely forgiving but also giving. Again, God is the model of such love, and the point at which it is most clearly demonstrated is the cross.
What is it that God chiefly gives us? He has given us all things, of course. Before Adam and Eve were even created God had prepared a wonderful environment to receive them. It was a place of beauty and interest, with meaningful work to do. Sin marred that environment, as we know. But even marred by sin, our experience of God’s gifts to us is not entirely unlike the experience of our first parents. God has given us life itself, and he has placed us within an imperfect but nevertheless beautiful and fascinating world. And the work we have to do in it is important. Having said this, however, we have to admit at once that it does not even come close to an expression of the full measure of God’s giving love. For that, like God’s forgiving love, is seen primarily at the cross:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).
I am particularly interested in Philippians 2:5–8, for those verses tell us that even Jesus did not merely give up things to save us; he gave himself. He did not only give up things which were outward accompaniments of his divinity: his outward glory, the service of the angels, his position at the right hand of God the Father: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” The heart of the passage is that Jesus gave himself, to the point of even death: “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” The greatest expression of love is not that it gives things or even that it gives up things, but that it gives itself.
In this too we are to be God’s imitators. Years ago, Donald Grey Barnhouse was counseling a couple who were having marital difficulties. The husband spoke in frustration at one point, saying, “But I don’t understand it. I have given you anything a woman could want. I’ve given you a nice house. I’ve given you a car. I’ve given you all the clothes you can wear. I’ve given you …” The list went on.
At last the man ended and his wife replied sadly, “Yes, John. That much is true. You have given me everything … but yourself.”
Why don’t we give ourselves to other people? It is because we are afraid to, and because we are selfish. We want ourselves for ourselves, and we are afraid that if we give ourselves to others, we will be hurt or disappointed. Only those who have God are set free from these fears and can give to others out of God’s own immensity.
The third thing our text teaches about the love of God which we are to imitate is that it is to be a living love: forgiving, giving, but also living. It occurs in verse 2, where Paul says, “and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
There are two things that a living love suggests. First, it suggests a practical or active love. This is what Paul’s whole section on practical Christianity involves. For if we ask, “What does it mean to ‘live a life of love’?” the answer is in the very thing Paul has been saying. To use the outline of the last chapter, it means: (1) to put off lying and speak truthfully, (2) to put off anger, (3) to put off stealing and work for a living instead, (4) to put off unwholesome talk and instead speak to help others, and (5) to put off bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice, and instead to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving. That is what it means to live a life of love.
Second, living love suggests love that is made alive by the very life of God and is therefore an eternal love, as God is eternal. What a need we have for this today! Our loves are weak and faltering, variable and untrustworthy. What we need in our loves is something of the character of God’s love as Paul writes about it in Romans:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Can you be an imitator of God in such an eternal love as that? The answer, if we look only to ourselves, is no. No, we cannot. Nothing that is natural to us is eternal, or forgiving or giving either, for that matter. But the answer is yes, if we look to God. The very man who wrote Ephesians 4:1 said, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).
But we must spend time with God if that is to happen. The word that our text translates “imitate” or “imitator” is mimētai, from which we get our English word “mimic.” Mimic means to copy closely, to repeat another person’s speech, actions, or behavior. That is what we are to do with God. We are to repeat his actions, echo his speech, duplicate his behavior. How can we do that if we do not spend time with him? We cannot, because we will not even know what his behavior is. Spend time with God! Spend time with God in prayer. Spend time with God in Bible study. Spend time with God in worship. It is only by spending time with God that we become like God. We need men and women who are like God today.
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 Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Ephesians (pp. 207–208). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 353). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
 Patzia, A. G. (2011). Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (p. 255). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (pp. 368–369). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, p. 133). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (p. 304). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Chapell, B. (2009). Ephesians. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 238–239). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.
 Boice, J. M. (1988). Ephesians: an expositional commentary (pp. 171–177). Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library.