Ephesians XVI: Imitators of God - Ephesians 4:25-5:2

After solemnly declaring to the Ephesians that they must no longer walk in sin like Gentiles, Paul calls them to walk in love like Jesus. In particular, Paul tells us how we can imitate God with our mouths, with our hands, and with our hearts.

How do you imitate God with your mouth? Don’t lie; tell the truth. Don’t talk rot; build others up with your words. Christians are truth-tellers because God tells the truth, and we’ve put on His likeness in Christ. And when you talk to your neighbors, your words are either serving them fresh bread straight from the oven or week-old fish. So because God’s Words to you are full of grace, make sure you imitate God by giving grace to those who hear you speak. Before you open your mouth, ask yourself: “Is this true? Does it build up? Does it fit the occasion?” That’s how you imitate God with your mouth.

In addition to our mouths, Paul also has a word for our hands. Vs. 28 rebukes the thief, and commands him not only to stop stealing, but to work hard with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with others. Put simply, God is a maker, not a taker. And because not stealing and working hard are two sides of the same coin, it takes more than avoiding bad behavior to truly imitate God. If you don’t work hard for six days before resting on the seventh, you’re a thief. Laziness is a form of theft – if you are a shirker, if your work is done poorly, or if you cram a two hour task into an eight hour day, you’re a thief. If you constantly take the charity of others rather than working for yourself, or if you choose a lifestyle that repeatedly requires others to bail you out, you’re a thief!

But Christians don’t steal, because God doesn’t steal, and we imitate Him. And when God goes to work, what does He do? He doesn’t just provide for Himself; He uses His work to create an abundance that He gives to us! That should be your goal as a Christian: not just providing for your own house, but also working hard enough that you are able to share with the needy. That’s how we imitate God with our hands.

Christians also imitate God with our hearts. We see this in vv. 26-27 and 31-32, dealing with the anger and bitterness and wrath of the old man, and the kindness, compassion, and forgiveness that marks the new man. Our God is slow to anger, and abounding in love. Our God isn’t bitter; He’s quick to forgive. Our God isn’t resentful or malicious; He’s kind and compassionate! And now that we’ve been raised up as part of God’s one new man in Christ, we can live that way, too! Your anger doesn’t have to control you! You can be set free from the cancerous bitterness that eats away at your soul! Because God has forgiven you, you can forgive others! How good it is to worship a God like ours, and to know that in Christ we are becoming like Him!

So, Paul says, when you are angry, don’t sin. This means that getting angry isn’t sinful in and of itself. But it’s dangerous to be angry all the time, and so Paul uses a great word picture to tell us that we need to be in control of our anger, rather than allowing it to control us: don’t let the sun go down on your anger! Put a time limit on it, so that the devil can’t find it lying around and use it against you. Use your anger for godly and constructive purposes, then shut it off!

Paul’s heart and mouth instructions overlap in the great word clamor, which means shouting or yelling. This one may sting parents, especially. Yelling at your kids is not Christian behavior! Kids yell, too, and you need to discipline them for yelling, but not by yelling yourself. There is a big difference between an attention-grabbing tone of rebuke and angry yelling, just like there is a difference between a sharp spank and abusive striking. Are you a yeller? Did you yell at someone this past week? You need to confess your sin and put it away, and you need your spouse or Christian friends to hold you accountable. Instead of anger and clamor, ask God to fill your heart with kindness and compassion.

When it comes to our mouths, Christians are truth tellers. When it comes to our hands, Christians are hard workers. When it comes to our hearts, Christians are kind and forgiving. In all these things, we are imitators of God, walking in the way of Christ.

Posted on Thursday, September 19, 2019 by CJ Bowen