Ephesians 4:17-5:2 | Be Imitators of God
17So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.
- Insist on it in the Lord – Paul is following on from his previous subject of spiritual maturity and now insisting that a mark of maturity is no longer living as the world does. This a danger and temptation for many believers, that we become Christians and grow in knowledge, but not character!
- Futility of their thinking – our thinking has a degree of futility to it when it is not God centred. The attitude and worldview we bring to life is warped by sin and ultimately futile, so that we cannot truly discern what is good. For example, our highest hope for making a perfect world may be humanity but this is a futile thought.
- Hardening (hardness, noun) of their hearts – we are futile in our thinking and darkened in our understanding because we have hardened our hearts against God. Sin makes us spiritually blind and deaf, and so we are ignorant of greater spiritual realities.
19Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
- Having lost all sensitivity to God (our heavenly master), we give ourselves over to sensuality (our earthly master). Note that in Romans 1 Paul uses very similar language of being given over, however there it is God who gives us over
- The result of this is that we indulge ourselves in the things of life in a greedy manner to try and create as much happiness as we can. We are indulgent pigs in the muck of our sin.
20That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.
- ‘But you did not learn Christ in this way’ – Christ is not just the atoning sacrifice for our sins but also our ‘way of life’. Just as people might learn other methods to try and escape the trials of life (e.g. meditation), so we learn Christ who truly brings us freedom and transformation.
22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
- ‘Put off’ – to lay aside, to cast off. In putting off our old self, we choose to no longer be mastered by it and so gradually free ourselves from the control of our corrupt desires.
- ‘renewed in the spirit of your minds’ – The key to putting off our old self and putting on our new self is being made new in the spirit of our minds. This is a work of God by the Holy Spirit, but is one done when we present ourselves to God willing and wanting to be transformed.
- ‘Put on’ – to clothe yourself, to sink into a garment. Just as a little child cannot so easily close themselves, but in raising their arms to their loving parents they are willing and wanting to be clothed. So it is with the disciple of Christ.
25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body.
- Truthfulness – falsehood and lies are of the devil since he is the father of lies, but God is all truth and cannot lie. Even as believers we often present a mask of falsehood because we are ashamed to reveal the truth about ourselves to each other.
26“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold.
- Forgiveness – instead of being driven by anger and bitterness, we are to forgive each other quickly
- ‘In your anger do not sin’ – this can often be used to excuse or say that being angry is not sinful itself, but that we must not be led to sin. Paul is quoting Psalm 4:4 which says “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” The emphasis here is that whilst we are wrestling with our frustrations and anger, we do not allow ourselves to be mastered by them.
- Certainly, the majority of anger we experience is sinful in its origin, and we are to wrestle with our internal private anger before it manifests as external public sin.
- We do this, by keeping short accounts with people and learning to forgive quickly, not letting the sun go down whilst we are still angry. We may not always have a chance to reconcile with the person before the day is out, but we always have a chance to internally forgive them.
- When we harbour bitterness and anger we give the devil a foothold and allow him a place and opportunity to influence our lives. Our bitterness and anger can easily become an open doorway to further corruption.
28Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
- Integrity – instead of stealing things (time, resources, money, opportunities) to avoid hard work and doing the right thing, God calls us to live with integrity
- The heart of stealing is laziness and selfishness, whereas the heart of integrity is hard work and selflessness.
- When we think of stealing we often only think of physical theft, like shop-lifting. We are very prone to ‘invisible theft’ though, like using our employed time for personal reasons or not reporting income we have made to the tax office.
29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
- Wholesomeness – to slander and condemn others is a trait of the devil, not of the people of God.
- The word ‘unwholesome’ actually means ‘rotten’, like how rotten food contaminates and corrupts everything else around it. Unwholesome talk spreads and corrupts the minds of those listening, whereas wholesome talk builds and edifies others.
30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
- The Holy Spirit has sealed us for the day of redemption, he is our companion and helper throughout life. He will never leave us, even though we may grieve him.
- The ways of our old self, which is corrupted by deceitful desires, are what grieve the Holy Spirit. These ways are bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice, and when we let these master us we grieve the Holy Spirit.
- How compassionate and forgiving is God then, that even though we grieve his heart, he remains with us and in our lives. This should be our motivation for expressing kindness, compassion and forgiveness to each other, just as in Christ God has forgiven us.
5:1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
- ‘Be imitators of God’- God has set an example for us to follow in himself. In putting off of the old self and putting on the new self we are imitating and mimicking the character of God
- We walk in the way of love, by following the footsteps of God and keeping in close fellowship to him. Galatians 5:25 “Since we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the spirit”
The church are to be imitators of God, in the putting off of our sinful selves which are corrupted by deceitful desires and to put on the new self created to be like Christ and pursuing truthfulness, forgiveness, integrity and wholesomeness.