Imitators of God

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children… ” (Ephesians 5:1)

Bible Reading: Ephesians 5:1-2

These two verses bring to a close the section we have been studying on “the new self” (Ephesians 4:20ff.). They provide a summary that ties together everything that Paul says on this matter. The new person we are to become is to take on the form of God and Christ. Our lifestyle is to be one of imitation. “Therefore, be imitators of God,” the apostle writes (5:1).

The reason for imitating “God” is that in Christ, we have become his “dear children.” We have been adopted into God’s family and made members of his household (Ephesians 1:5; 2:19; 3:15). How natural it is, then, that we should take on the family likeness by imitating the ways of “our Father.” It happens in human families; how much more should it happen in the spiritual or heavenly family?

Paul, for example, has just mentioned God’s forgiveness of us as the reason why we should forgive one another (4:32). God’s action in forgiving us our sins is indescribable. Though we deserve only his rejection, or at best his censure, he walks with us in Christ as one who has entirely set aside our innumerable offences against him. He has banished them from our relationship altogether. What a wonder that is.

Now, Paul says, we are to imitate God in actions such as this. Our Father is forgiving; should not we, as children he dearly loves, forgive others as well? A forgiving spirit is to be an essential part of our new family likeness. 

Similarly, turning attention to Christ, Paul urges his readers to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (5:2). We have seen how love is to undergird our behaviour – our new life is to be an outflowing of the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. In that regard, it is to follow the pattern of Christ.

His life was a coherent expression of love. Everything he did for people – even his stern rebukes – was a manifestation of his loving heart. Nowhere is that seen more clearly than in his death for us on the cross, where he offered himself to God “a fragrant offering” and a “sacrifice” (see 1 John 3:16).

Here, then, is the key to putting on our new identity (our “new self”) in Christ. We don’t do so by the mere strength of our efforts. That is a recipe for failure, every time. Rather, we do so out of a relationship of love and grace with God and Christ through the Spirit.

When God’s goodness, love and kindness to us saturate our minds and hearts, and when Christ’s self-giving love for us on the cross captivates our thoughts, we will find ourselves drawn irresistibly to them.

We will want to be like our Father and his Son, and we will constantly look to them to work their life-changing influences within us through the Spirit.

Closing Thoughts:

  • Are there other people you intentionally try to imitate or copy?
  • Have you committed to imitating the ways of God and the Lord Jesus Christ?

– Andrew Young