Look what the apostle Paul says in Ephesians 5:1-2.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
There are 2 commmands: (1) Imitate God and (2) walk in love.
Paul tells us to look at God and copy Him. Mimic everything He does. The emphasis of the word, "imitate" is on the quality of the original – the authenticity and authority of the example. We are trying to match Him as closely as possible, studying every single detail with great pains and precision so that we can do exactly as He does. But, can we even do that? Can we really copy God?
No one can imitate God completely because many of His attributes are what make God God, and we can never be God! What are those attributes that set God apart from us? He is self-sufficient, unchanging, all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing, all-present, sovereign, and so on. We can't be these things. These attributes are sometimes “incommunicable attributes.” They can't be communicated, or shared. But, other attributes of God can be shared: grace, mercy, patience, kindness, gentleness, wisdom, holiness, etc. These are called communicable attributes.
We are to strive to be like God when it comes to His moral attributes. Paul has the moral attribute of love in mind. That's the second command Paul gives: walk in love.
Walk in love
Our whole Christian life is to be in the sphere of love. If I said, “Walk in water,” you would know that you have complete freedom to move about as you please as long as you do all of your moving in the water. Christian, you are to live your whole life in love. Everything you do should be an act of love. That's a tall order.
How do we do it? Just grit our teach and do good to someone nearby? Can sheer will-power sustain our efforts? Paul tells us how a Christian "walks in love."
1. Rejoice in your Father’s love for you as His child…and walk in love (v 1).
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
It isn’t simply that God loves people, and I’m supposed to watch that and imitate that. It is that He loves me! And I am to watch that, and meditate on that, and enjoy that, and then imitate that, and even draw strength from that, as I enjoy it.
Listen to this! Christian, you are God’s “beloved child.” In some translations it says “dear” children. The word means, “beloved” or “contented.” It is a word that referred to an only child to whom the parents had devoted all of their love. Because the child received so much love, the child had the security of being loved and thus was contented. You are a beloved child.
The Holy Spirit chose the word “child” rather than “son.” The word for child connotes a closer relationship to the parent. It communicates not only a legal relationship, but a child-like dependence. As you hear this command to imitate God by walking in love, remember who this God is! He is your Father. He is totally for you! He loves you with a perfect love - a tender, sympathetic, faithful, eternal love. Now, this is not the first time Paul has spoken of these ideas. Early, in Ephesians 1:4-6, he spoke of God’s intention for us to live “in love” and our familial relationship with God. In 1:4, he said...
...he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love[.]
God the Father chose us for the purpose of making us holy and blameless before Him in love. Paul tells us in 1:5 that God made this choice having marked out boundaries for us ahead of time. We would be within the boundaries of His family.
he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Our entrance into His family (our adoption) would be through Jesus Christ to the praise of His grace with which he has blessed us in the Beloved! Look at that word! Why did Paul choose Beloved to speak of Christ? Obviously, it has to do with the connection with “adoption as sons.” These blessings come to us in connection with Christ. Christian, you are permanently united, or connected, to Christ. Like a body is connected to its Head, so you are connected to Christ. Like a building is connected to its cornerstone, so you are connected to Christ. Like a bride is connected to her husband, so you are connected to Christ.
The Father’s blessings to the Son belong to those who are joined to Him. Our holiness and blamelessness and our love are blessings that come to us through Christ. We are connected to Christ like a branch connected to the Vine. We receive spiritual life through Him. The blessing of adoption is grace – unmerited favor – that we receive in the Beloved. God loves His Son. Jesus Christ is the Beloved Son of the Father. The Father said it at Christ’s baptism and at Christ transfiguration. “This is my beloved Son; with Him I am well-pleased.” The Father loves the Son.
Christian, you are in Christ. You are in the Beloved One. The love the Father has for God the Son is the same love He has for you! The very same love! Not a watered-down version of that love. Not an intermittent version. No! The same love!
Consider John 17:22-23. This is Jesus’ high priestly prayer. He is praying for us and for all who would believe in His name – that we would be holy, unified, pure – basically everything Paul is exhorting us to do and to be. I want you to see a short snippet that tells us of the Father’s love for His redeemed ones.
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
The Father loves you, beloved Christian, with the very same love He has for the Beloved One. His love for you is equal to His love for His Son. The same proportion. The same kind. It’s the same love.
Ephesians 2:3 says, “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” That was your life before you were adopted into God's family. You were a child of wrath. At that time you were not the object of Fatherly displeasure. You were the object of God's wrath - the wrath of the Judge! When you were saved and Christ’s accomplishements on the cross were applied to you, you were made right with the judge…and, added to that, you received the love and care of God as your Father! You received the same love as the Father has for His Son.
You may think, “But, I’m a wretched sinner! I have had rotten words come out of my mouth this week! I have been sinfully angry! I have sinful habits that I hate!” Yes. But, if you are in Christ, God counts you as holy and righteous. He loves you as His beloved child.
Your confidence that God loves you this way is confidence that rests solely in Christ. Legalism ends here! You must never try to earn His love. You wouldn’t get anywhere if that’s the way it worked! Your effort to walk in love must be a thankful response to His love.
We'll consider some implications of all of this in another post.