Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. Ephesians 5:1
In this section of Scripture beginning in verse 17 of Ephesians 4, we have been examining the most basic manner of Christian living – what we are to put off and put on, as we relate to one another in the body of Christ. We have been instructed that we are to put off lying (v.25), sinful anger (v.26), theft (v.28), corrupt communication (v.29), and a bad temper (v.31). We are told that such activity actually grieves the Holy Spirit (v.30). This fact explains the misery that far too often is the experience of some believers. Rather than stemming from their outward circumstances or another person, the misery that a Christian experiences is in fact the result of his or her own grieving the indwelling Holy Spirit, by permitting such practices in their lives; thus they lose the joy, peace, and blessedness they once knew.
The Christian life however, is not merely characterized by the removal of vices. The vacuum created as these sins are ejected from the heart are to be filled with the lovely virtues of truthful, edifying speech and loving, giving and helpful hands. Verse 32 admonishes all Christians to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. The present imperative, ginesthe, translated be, can be more literally rendered, be becoming kind, tenderhearted … the Greek word suggests that this is something that is not naturally part of the human frame, but is created in us by God, which we in turn learn to become. We are once again reminded in this verse that we are conformed to His image, in both our words and our deeds. The Greek word for “kind” is built upon a root that means useful, helpful, or generous. To be tenderhearted involves expressing compassionate feelings of pity because of the weakness or frailty of others. Then it goes on to say, forgiving one another. There is perhaps nothing that characterizes a Christian more than his ability and eagerness to forgive. This unusually rich word is built on the same root for “grace;” so it means to freely give pardon to one another. The supreme example of such pardon being that of God’s free and full forgiveness received because of Christ’s pardoning sacrifice. It is in our forgiving one another that a Christian most resembles his heavenly Father.
It is unfortunate that there is a chapter break at this point, as it suggests that Eph 5:1 constitutes a separate thought, but it does not. The repetition of the same Greek word, ginesthe, found in vs. 32, connects these two verses. We become imitators of God then as we dwell with one another with kindness, pity, and forgiveness. Children are mimics; they learn by watching and hearing, and then imitating the behaviors of their parents. Paul here transposes this idea to a higher key admonishing us to model our lives and character after our heavenly Father. As we remember the kindness and pity God has toward us; as we consider His mercy in light of our sin; as we grasp the reality of our justification – that God treats us as if we have never sinned – how then can the Christian continue to bear a grudge against anyone. When we look at the cross and hear Christ say, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” how then can we help but to learn from this example to forgive and love one another?
Read Matthew 18:21-35. Take note of the severity of Christ’s words to the unpitying servant in verses 32-35. Are there any outstanding debts against you that you have not forgiven? If God reveals any, become an imitator of God and forgive those who trespass against you.
Listen to this message here: