Be you therefore followers of God, as dear children;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1, 2) These verses are an expansion and enforcement of the last verse of Ephesians 4. There the forgiveness of “God in Christ” is set forth in one pregnant phrase. Here the two parts of this idea are divided; and there is put before us, first, the free universal love of God as our Father, and next, the self-sacrificing love of Christ, as the Son of God and man.
(1) Followers of God.—The phrase is unique and very striking; literally, imitators of God: and the word “therefore” implies that this imitation of God must be chiefly in His essential attribute of love. It is instructive to observe that our Lord’s startling command, “Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), is explained both by the context and the parallel passage in St. Luke (Luke 6:36) to mean, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father in heaven is merciful.” See in Hooker’s Ecc. Pol., i. 5, a striking passage on the imitation of God as the law of all moral progress in man. In this idea, indeed, lies the essential and distinctive principle of a religious morality as such.
As dear children.—Literally, as children beloved of Him. The knowledge of the love of God to us is the first source, as of our love to Him (1John 4:19), so also of our love to men as brethren under His fatherhood (1John 4:11). As being His “children,” and therefore partakers of the divine nature (2Peter 1:4), we can imitate Him; as His “beloved children” we imitate Him most naturally in love, and especially in that form of love which we call “mercy,” and which, as being ourselves sinners, we especially crave and receive from Him.
Ephesians 5:1The Revised Version gives a more literal and more energetic rendering of this verse by reading, ‘Be ye, therefore, imitators of God, as beloved children.’ It is the only place in the Bible where that bold word ‘imitate’ is applied to the Christian relation to God. But, though the expression is unique, the idea underlies the whole teaching of the New Testament on the subject of Christian character and conduct. To be like God, and to set ourselves to resemble Him, is the sum of all duty; and in the measure in which we approximate thereto, we come to perfection. So, then, there are here just two points that I would briefly touch upon now-the one is the sublime precept of the text, and the other the all-sufficient motive enforcing it. ‘Be ye imitators of God as’-because you are, and know yourselves to be-’beloved children,’ and it therefore behoves you to be like your Father.
I. First, then, this sublime precept.
Now notice that, broad as this precept is, and all-inclusive of every kind of excellence and duty as it may be, the Apostle has a very definite and specific meaning in it. There is one feature, and only one, in which, accurately speaking, a man may be like God. Our limited knowledge can never be like the ungrowing perfect wisdom of God. Our holiness cannot be like His, for there are many points in our nature and character which have no relation or correspondence to anything in the divine nature. But what is left? Love is left. Our other graces are not like the God to whom they cleave. My faith is not like His faithfulness. My obedience is not like His authority. My submission is not like His autocratic power. My emptiness is not like His fulness. My aspirations are not like His gratifying of them. They correspond to God, but correspondence is not similarity; rather it presupposes unlikeness. Just as a concavity will fit into a convexity, for the very reason that it is concave and not convex, so the human unlikenesses, which are correspondent to God, are the characteristics by which it becomes possible that we should cleave to Him and inhere in Him. But whilst there is much in which He stands alone and incomparable, and whilst we have all to say, ‘Who is like unto Thee, O Lord?’ or what likeness shall we compare unto Him? we yet can obey in reference to one thing,-and to one thing only, as it seems to me-the commandment of my text, ‘Be ye imitators of God.’ We can be like Him in nothing else, but our love not only corresponds to His, but is of the same quality and nature as His, howsoever different it may be in sweep and in fervour and in degree. The tiniest drop that hangs upon the tip of a thorn will be as perfect a sphere as the sun, and it will have its little rainbow on its round, with all the prismatic colours, the same in tint and order and loveliness, as when the bow spans the heavens. The dew-drop may imitate the sun, and we are to be imitators of God; knit to Him by the one thing in us which is kindred to Him in the deepest sense-the love that is the life of God and the perfecting of man.
Well, then, notice how the Apostle in the context fastens upon a certain characteristic of that divine love which we are to imitate in our lives; and thereby makes the precept a very practical and a very difficult one. Godlike love will be love that gives as liberally as His does. What is the very essence of all love? Longing to be like. And the purest and deepest love is love which desires to impart itself, and that is God’s love. The Bible seems to teach us that in a very mysterious sense, about which the less we say the less likely we are to err, there is a quality of giving up, as well as of giving, in God’s love; for we read of the Father that ‘spared not His Son,’ by which is meant, not that He did not shrink from inflicting something upon the Son, but that He did not grudgingly keep that Son for Himself. ‘He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up to the death for us all.’ And if we can say but little about that surrender on the part of the infinite Fountain of all love, we can say that Jesus Christ, who is the activity of the Father’s love, spared not Himself, but, as the context puts it, ‘gave Himself up for us.’
And that is the pattern for us. That thought is not a subject to be decorated with tawdry finery of eloquence, or to be dealt with as if it were a sentimental prettiness very fit to be spoken of, but impossible to be practised. It is the duty of every Christian man and woman, and they have not done their duty unless they have learned that the bond which unites them to men is, in its nature, the very same as the bond which unites men to God; and that they will not have lived righteously unless they learn to be ‘imitators of God,’ in the surrender of themselves for their brother’s good.
Ah, friend, that grips us very tight-and if there were a little more reality and prose brought into our sentimental talk about Christian love, and that love were more often shown in action, in all the self-suppression and taking a lift of a world’s burdens, which its great Pattern demands, the world would be less likely to curl a scornful lip at the Church’s talk about brotherly love.
You say that you are a Christian-that is to say a child of God. Do you know anything, and would anybody looking at you see that you knew anything, about the love which counts no cost and no sacrifice too great to be lavished on the unworthy and the sinful?
But that brings me to another point. The Apostle here, in the context, not for the sake of saying pretty things, but for the sake of putting sharp points on Christian duty, emphasises another thought, that Godlike love will be a forgiving love. Why should we be always waiting for the other man to determine our relations to him, and consider that if he does not like us we are absolved from the duty of loving him? Why should we leave him to settle the terms upon which we are to stand? God has love, as the Sermon on the Mount puts it, ‘to the unthankful and the evil,’ and we shall not be imitating His example unless we carry the same temper into all our relationships with our fellows.
People sit complacently and hear all that I am now trying to enforce, and think it is the right thing for me to say, but do you think it is the right thing for you to do? When a man obviously does not like you, or perhaps tries to harm you, what then? How do you meet him? ‘He maketh His sun to shine, and sendeth His rain, on the unthankful and the evil.’ ‘Be ye imitators of God, as beloved children.’
Now note the all-sufficient motive for this great precept.
The sense of being loved will make loving, and nothing else will. The only power that will eradicate, or break without eradicating, our natural tendency to make ourselves our centres, is the recognition that there, at the heart, and on the central throne of the universe, and the divinest thing in it, there sits perfect and self-sacrificing Love, whose beams warm even us. The only flame that kindles love in a man’s heart, whether it be to God or to man, is the recognition that he himself stands in the full sunshine of that blaze from above, and that God has loved him. Our hearts are like reverberating furnaces, and when the fire of the consciousness of the divine love is lit in them, then from sides and roof the genial heat is reflected back again to intensify the central flame. Love begets love, and according to Paul, and according to John, and according to the Master of both of them, if a man loves God, then that glowing beam will glow whether it is turned to earth or turned to heaven.
The Bible does not cut love into two, and keep love to God in one division of the heart and love to man in another, but regards them as one and the same; the same sentiment, the same temper, the same attitude of heart and mind, only that in the one case the love soars, and in the other it lives along the level. The two are indissolubly tied together.
It is because a man knows himself to be beloved that therefore he is stimulated and encouraged to be an ‘imitator of God’ and, on the other hand, the sense of being God’s child underlies all real imitation of Him. Imitation is natural to the child. It is a miserable home where a boy does not imitate his father, and it is the father’s fault in nine cases out of ten if he does not. Whoever feels himself to be a beloved child is thereby necessarily drawn to model himself on the Father that he loves, because he knows that the Father loves him.
So I come to the blessed truth that Christian morality does not say to us, ‘Now begin, and work, and tinker away at yourselves, and try to get up some kind of excellence of character, and then come to God, and pray Him to accept you.’ That is putting the cart before the horse. The order is reversed. We are to begin with taking our personal salvation and God’s love to us for granted, and to work from that. Realise that you are beloved children, and then set to work to live accordingly. If we are ever to do what is our bounden duty to do, in all the various relations of life, we must begin with recognising, with faithful and grateful hearts, the love wherewith God has loved us. We are to think much and confidently of ourselves as beloved of God, and that, and only that, will make us loving to men.
The Nile floods the fields of Egypt and brings greenness and abundance wherever its waters are carried, because thousands of miles away, close up to the Equator, the snows have melted and filled the watercourses in the far-off wilderness. And so, if we are to go out into life, living illustrations and messengers of a love that has redeemed even us, we must, in many a solitary moment, and in the depths of our quiet hearts, realise and keep fast the conviction that God hath loved us, and Christ hath died for us.
But a solemn consideration has to be pressed on all our consciences, and that is that there is something wrong with a man’s Christian confidence whose assurance that he himself possesses a share in the love of God in Christ, is not ever moving him to imitation of the love in which he trusts. It is a shame that any one without Christian faith and love should be as charitable, as open to pity and to help, as earnest in any sort of philanthropic work, as Christian men and women are. But godless and perfectly secular philanthropy treads hard on the heels of Christian charity to-day. The more shame to us if we have been eating our morsels alone, and hugging ourselves in the possession of the love which has redeemed us; and if it has not quickened us to the necessity of copying it in our relations to our fellows. There is something dreadfully wrong about such a Christian character. ‘He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how shall he love God whom he hath not seen?’
Take these plain principles, and honestly fit them to your characters and lives, and you will revolutionise both.Ephesians 5:1-2. Therefore — Because you are forgiven by God, and have been so much loved; (Ephesians 4:32;) be ye followers — Μιμηται, imitators, of God — In loving and forgiving; as dear — Αγαπητα, beloved, children — Whom he hath not only forgiven after many and great offences, but hath taken into his peculiar favour, adopted into his family, constituted his heirs, and joint heirs with his beloved Son, and inspired with blessed and lively hopes of unspeakable glory and felicity for ever. O! how much more honourable and more happy it is to be an imitator of God, than of Homer, Virgil, Alexander the Great, or any other human being, however renowned for learning, prowess, or achievements! And walk in love — Toward one another and toward all men, as well as toward God. Let your whole conduct toward others proceed from love as its principle, be governed by love as its rule, and be directed to, and terminate in love, as its end. As Christ also hath loved us — In such an astonishing manner, and to such an inconceivable degree, and hath so demonstrated his love, as to give himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God — To atone for our transgressions, and render our salvation consistent with the divine perfections. Some divines have thought that in these expressions both the peace-offerings and the sin-offerings enjoined in the law of Moses are alluded to, the truths shadowed forth by both being attained by true believers through the sacrifice of Christ, which both expiated sin, or removed condemnation and wrath, and obtained for them the divine favour, with all the blessings consequent thereon. But it does not seem that any great stress can be laid on this distinction, as the word προσφεροω, translated to offer, with the noun derived from it, rendered offering, is used in a multitude of places in the LXX., for presenting any victim before God; as it is likewise in the New Testament, (Matthew 5:23-24,) for bringing a gift and offering it on the altar. Of a sweet-smelling savour — Or fragrant odour; an epithet given to the sin-offering, (Leviticus 4:31,) and to the burnt-offering, (Genesis 8:21,) to denote the acceptableness of such oblations to God, when offered by upright worshippers in the way he had appointed. For in the warm eastern climes nothing is more refreshing to mankind than fragrant odours. The sacrifice of Christ, however, as is here implied, was far more acceptable and pleasing to God than any of the victims or perfumes which had been offered of old, whether on the brazen or golden altar of the Jewish tabernacle or temple. Indeed, their sacrifices and perfumes were only acceptable as being emblematical of the offering of his body once for all, and of his continual intercessions for us before the throne of the Majesty on high. And it is a pleasing and encouraging consideration, that through these all our sincere prayers and praises, and our acts of pious and charitable liberality, beneficence, and goodness, come up before God as a grateful memorial, and draw down upon us a most valuable blessing. With regard to the exhortation to mutual love here given, it is justly observed by Macknight, that “Christ’s love in dying for us, is” [as on many other accounts, so on this] “a strong reason for our loving one another; because, if we do not love one another, we are destitute of that disposition which rendered Christ so acceptable to his Father; and have no right to be called his disciples, or to share in the inheritance of his children.Matthew 5:44-47; As he forgives us Ephesians 4:32, we should be ready to forgive others; as he has borne with our faults, we should bear with theirs; as he is ever ready to hear our cry when we ask for mercy, we should be ready to hear others when they desire to be forgiven; and as he is never weary with doing us good, we should never be weary in benefiting them.
As dear children - The meaning is, "as those children which are beloved follow the example of a father, so we, who are beloved of God, should follow his example." What a simple rule this is! And how much contention and strife would be avoided if it were followed! If every Christian who is angry, unforgiving, and unkind, would just ask himself the question, "How does God treat me?" it would save all the trouble and heart-burning which ever exists in the church.
Eph 5:1-33. Exhortations to Love: And against Carnal Lusts and Communications. Circumspection in Walk: Redeeming the Time: Being Filled with the Spirit: Singing to the Lord with Thankfulness: The Wife's Duty to the Husband Rests on that of the Church to Christ.
1. therefore—seeing that "God in Christ forgave you" (Eph 4:32).
followers—Greek, "imitators" of God, in respect to "love" (Eph 5:2): God's essential character (1Jo 4:16).
as dear children—Greek, "as children beloved"; to which Eph 5:2 refers, "As Christ also loved us" (1Jo 4:19). "We are sons of men, when we do ill; sons of God, when we do well" [Augustine, on Psalm 52]; (compare Mt 5:44, 45, 48). Sonship infers an absolute necessity of imitation, it being vain to assume the title of son without any similitude of the Father [Pearson].Ephesians 5:1,2 Paul exhorteth to the imitation of God, and of the
as dear children; and because they are such by adopting grace; being predestinated unto the adoption of children, in the eternal purpose of God, and taken into that relation in the covenant of grace; and which is declared and made manifest in regeneration, and by faith in Christ Jesus: and they are dear, or beloved children, being loved with an everlasting and unchangeable love, and which is the spring and source of their adoption; and their being dear to him is seen by what he is unto them, their covenant God and Father; and by what he has done for them, in giving his Son to them, and for them; as well as in choosing, calling, and quickening them by his grace, and by the account he makes of them, as his jewels, his peculiar treasure, and the apple of his eye; and by the pity and compassion he has for them, and the care he takes of them; and therefore it becomes them to imitate him; for who should they imitate and follow after, but their Father, and especially when they are so dear unto him?Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Ephesians 5:1-2. If Paul has just said καθὼς καὶ ὁ Θεὸς ἐχαρίσατο ὑμῖν, he now, on the ground of these words (οὖν), sums up under one head the duty of love expressed in detail, Ephesians 4:32, and that as imitation of God by a loving walk, such as stands in appropriate relation to the love shown to us by Christ, which serves as pattern for our conduct. With this is expressed the specific character and degree of the love required as an imitation of God (John 13:34; John 15:13). Accordingly, Ephesians 5:1 corresponds to the καθὼς καὶ ὁ Θεὸς ἐν Χρ. ἐχαρίσατο as a whole, and Ephesians 5:2 to the ἐν Χριστῷ in particular; γίνεσθε οὖν at the same time corresponds emphatically to the γίνεσθε δέ of Ephesians 4:32, introducing in another form—flowing from the last words of Ephesians 5:32—the same thing as was introduced by γίνεσθε δέ.
ὡς τέκνα ἀγαπ.] in accordance with your relation to God as His beloved children. ἀγαπητά denotes neither amabiles (Zanchius), nor good, excellent children, nor is it to be said with Vater: “ut solent liberi, qui tunc diliguntur;” but, what a love has God shown to us by the υἱοθεσία (1 John 3:1; Romans 5:8; Romans 5:5, al.)! Now, to be God’s beloved child, and not to become like the loving Father, how contradictory were this! See Romans 6:1 ff.; 1 John 4:7 ff.; Matthew 5:45. Yet the expression “imitators of God” is found with Paul only here.
καί] annexes wherein this imitation of God must consist, namely, therein, that love is the element in which their life-walk takes place—love, such as also Christ has displayed towards us.
καὶ παρέδωκεν κ.τ.λ.] Practical proof of the ἠγάπησεν. Comp. Ephesians 5:25; Romans 5:8 f.; Galatians 2:20. Paul, might have written παρέστησεν, but wrote παρέδωκ., because he thought of the matter as a self-surrender. The notion of sacrifice does not lie in the verb, but in the attributes (in opposition to Hofmann’s objection). We may add that with παρέδ. we have not to supply εἰς θάνατον (Grotius, Harless, and others), but τῷ Θεῷ (which Bengel, Hofmann, and others with less simplicity attach to προσφ. κ. θυσίαν) belongs to it, to the connecting of which with εἰς ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας (Luther, Koppe, Meier, Harless) the order of the words is opposed (comp. Exodus 29:18; Leviticus 1:9; Leviticus 1:13; Leviticus 1:17; Leviticus 23:13; Leviticus 23:18; Genesis 8:21), since the emphatic prefixing of τῷ Θεῷ, if it belonged to εἰς ὀσμ. εὐωδ., would be quite without reason, inasmuch as there is not any kind of contrast (for instance, to human satisfaction) in the case.
ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν] for our behalf, in order to reconcile us to God. The idea of substitution is not expressed in the preposition, but lies in the conception of a sacrifice, under which the N.T. represents the death of Christ, and that, indeed, as expiatory sacrifice. See on Romans 5:6; Galatians 3:13.
προσφορὰν κ. θυσίαν] as an offering and a sacrifice. The latter (זֶבַח) is a more precise definition of the former; for προσφορά is everything in general which is brought as an offering, whether it be bloody or unbloody (מִנְחָה). Comp. Sir 14:11. Of the sacrifice of Christ, also Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 10:14. Harless explains the joining of the two substantives to the effect that Christ, as He was a sacrifice for others (θυσίαν), also presented himself as an offering (ΠΡΟΣΦΟΡΆΝ). But, apart from the fact that thus Paul must logically have written ΘΥΣΊΑΝ Κ. ΠΡΟΣΦΟΡΆΝ (as in Psalm 40:7; Hebrews 10:5), both words, in fact, state in what character Christ presented Himself to God, both express the objective relation, while the subjective relation of Christ is conveyed in παρέδωκεν ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν. Comp. 1 Peter 1:18.
εἰς ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας] so that it became for Him an odour of fragrance, figurative designation of its acceptableness to God (Php 4:18), after the Hebrew רֵיחַ־נִיחֹחַ (Leviticus 1:9; Leviticus 1:13; Leviticus 1:17; Leviticus 2:12; Leviticus 3:5), which was the original real, anthropopathic basis of the idea of the acceptableness of a sacrifice to God. See Genesis 8:21; Ewald, Alterth. p. 31. The underlying notion of the burning of that which was offered did not of course come into account in the case of the ἱλαστήριον of Jesus, but the thought of the expression is in the sacrificial designation of the atoning deed independent of its origin. Comp. on the expression itself the Homeric κνίσσης ἡδὺς ἀϋτμή, Od. xii. 369.
The question whether Christ is here in reality presented as an expiatory sacrifice, or merely as one who in His self-surrender well-pleasing to God has left us a pattern (so Usteri, Lehrbegr. p. 113; Rückert), has been raised by the Socinians (see Catech. Racov. 484, ed. Oeder, p. 1006), who denied the former (see also Calovius, Bibl. ill. p. 716 f.), is decided not merely by ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν, but by the view prevailing throughout the N.T., and specially with Paul, of the death of Jesus as the ἱλαστήριον, Romans 3:25 (comp. also Matthew 20:28; Matthew 26:28; 1 Peter 1:18; Ephesians 5:1-14. A paragraph ruled by the general idea of the imitation of God in the forgiving love which has been appealed to in the preceding verse. In the light of that Divine example Paul charges his readers to follow purity, unselfishness, sobriety and other graces, and to avoid all heathen vices and indulgences opposed to these.Ephesians 5:1-14. The subject pursued: Christ’s Sacrifice the supreme example of self-sacrifice: Purity: Reproof of darkness by light
1. therefore] The argument passes unbroken from the previous words.
followers] Lit. “imitators.” The A. V. consistently uses “follow,” “follower,” to render the original verb and noun; 1 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 13:7; 1 Peter 3:13; 3 John 1:11. For the thought here cp. Matthew 5:45; Matthew 5:48; Luke 6:36; 1 Peter 1:15-16; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 Peter 3:13. (In this last passage the true reading gives probably “emulators,” not “imitators”; but this obviously is the same thought intensified in expression.) The “Imitation of God” is the true sequel and index of Peace with God and Life in God. It is, from another aspect, the Manifestation of God in His people.
of God] Who, in that supreme instance, set the example of forgiveness.
dear children] Better, beloved children. As children (see Matthew 5:45; 1 Peter 1:17, where read, “If ye invoke Him as Father, &c.”) they were to shew the family likeness. And as children who had become such by a sacred act of pardoning love, they were to shew it above all things in self-forgetting kindness.—Cp. on the whole subject 1 John; esp. Ephesians 3:10.—The word rendered “children” is the word specially appropriate to ideas not of adoption but of birth.Ephesians 5:1. Μιμηταὶ, imitators) in forgiving (comp. the verse above, ch. Ephesians 4:32), and in loving; for beloved (τέκνα ἀγαπητά, beloved children) follows. O how much more glorious and blessed is it to be an imitator of God, than of Homer, Alexander, Apelles, etc.!—ὡς τέκνα, as children) Matthew 5:45.Verse 1. - Be ye therefore imitators of God, as children beloved. These words are closely connected with the preceding. In Ephesians 4:32 he had urged the example of God in one very momentous matter; he now urges it in a more general sense and on another ground. We ought to forgive men because God has forgiven us - all admit that; but moreover, we ought to imitate our Father in his forgiveness and in his loving spirit, be-because beloved children should always imitate, and will always strive to imitate, what is good in a beloved father. Forgiving love is one of the great glories of our Father; it has been made peculiarly attractive in our eyes, because it has been exercised by him towards us; every consideration, therefore, ought to induce us to show the same spirit.
Become, as Ephesians 4:32.
Rev, correctly, imitators.
Rev., beloved. As those to whom Christ has shown love
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