Imitate God


Sunday School Lesson for May 5, 2002


Ephesians 5:1-21


A Call to Imitate God (5:1-2)


In this fifth chapter, Paul continues to paint the picture of the radical change the Gospel produces in the lives of those who have been saved by God’s grace.  This inner transformation sets the stage for Paul to order his readers to “Be imitators of God” (v.1).  That is, the ethical demands of the Christian life are summed up in this one imperative—to mimic (the actual word Paul used was mimetes from which we derive “mimic”) the very character and excellence of God Himself.  In general, this concept is characterized as a “life of love” patterned after the life of Jesus who “loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (v.2).  The sacrifice of Christ upon the cross for undeserving sinners satisfied the holiness and justice of God. As the Old Testament sacrifices provided a sweet aroma to the heavenly Father, the sacrifice of Christ did what the Law and ceremonies could never do in providing final payment for sin.  With this same self-sacrificing spirit, Paul calls upon the Ephesian believers to love one another.


A Call to Holy Living (5:3-14)


Verses 3-4

Verse 3 presents the basic theme of this section—that of distinction and separation from what they once were when they were apart from the grace of God. In order to display the genuineness of their salvation and commitment to Christ, Paul declares that they are to stay away from:





Note the following passages where similar teaching is sounded:  Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-9; 2 Timothy 3:2-5.


The list of sins the child of God should avoid continues in verse 4.  Here Paul forbids:





Each of the behaviors described above are “out of place” – that is, inappropriate for the kingdom of God and those called to salvation. Rather than indulging in such vices, the children of God should practice thanksgiving” for the gracious provisions of their heavenly Father. Praise to God should be substituted for any unholy speech.



Verses 5-7

Verse 5 contains a solemn warning to all those claiming to be followers of Christ.  Paul says that it is a certain fact that none of the following people “has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God”—another way of saying that they are not the redeemed children of God:




The point of this verse is painfully clear:  No person who continues to practice these vices, without regard for the commands of Scripture, has a share in the Kingdom of God. While true believers do, in fact, fall into many of the sins named above, none live comfortably in them with an undisturbed conscience.  The sinful child of God will surely come to experience the discipline of their Father in addition to the convicting ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit.


In verse 6, Paul declares that such persons as described above are targets of “God’s wrath.”  Such sinful practices actually attract God’s holy indignation much like “a fully lit up enemy target attracts bombs” (Hendricksen, 230). Therefore, believers are forbidden to be “partners,” or fellow-sharers, with the ungodly (v. 7).


Verses 8-14

Now Paul again announces the discontinuity between the believer and the non-believer—“For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the world” (v. 8). The responsibility of those who have received the free gift of salvation is to “Live as children of light.” That is, to conduct one’s life in such a way as to manifest “goodness, righteousness and truth.”  Bruce reminds us that the “fruit of light” is identical with the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-33 (374).


In particular, the characteristics of a God-pleasing life of holiness are:




A Call to Wise Living (5:15-20)


In this passage, the life of wisdom in contrast to the reckless abandonment of pagan depravity is promoted.  Paul states that believers are to “Be very careful” regarding the way they conduct their lives. More to the point, believers are to be “wise.”  (v.15). In the verses that follow, Paul presents six practical ways in which the life of wisdom manifests itself.