“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (KJV, Eph. 5:1-2).
“Be ye therefore followers of God”
Herein we see the high calling of God toward the Christian. The Christian must never settle for less than Christ likeness. To be a follower of God is to walk in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Christ. When God called the Christian through the Gospel message, He did so with the intent to save the Christian from his sin.
When Christ came to the earth, He came to save His people from their sins. God did not simply call the Christian to forgiveness, although that is a glorious aspect of the Gospel message. Instead, God is seeking an entire salvation which is past, present, and future.
Salvation past consists of justification and forgiveness. Salvation present consists of sanctification and God’s practical cleansing work. Salvation future consists of glorification and the Christian’s final redemption in which he is taken out of the presence of sin to be with God.
Currently, the Christian stands as a forgiven Saint. God sees him as righteous, sanctified, and holy. Thus, the Christian’s position before God is entire and complete. He is wholly righteous, sanctified, and holy before God because he is in Christ, and Christ is in him.
However, as the believer walks this earth, he is also being made into that which has been granted to him. He has been granted righteousness, sanctification, and holiness outside of himself, but God’s desire is for the Christian to walk in what he has been granted.
Therefore, we see that the Christian is to be a follower of God. He is to learn to walk as God walks, to do what God does, to speak as God speaks, and so on.
“as dear children”
Here we see an essential component of the Christian following God. Paul tells us that the Christian has God as a Father. When God calls the Christian to Himself, He intends to bring the Christian near. The relational dynamic the Bible speaks of between the Christian and God is familial.
Thus, God is not distant from the Christian but has set the tone for the newfound relationship. With God as Father, God has promised to be a source of protection for the Christian. God being Father also means that He has promised to provide. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of how people can be too concerned about worldly matters and resort to worry and fear.
Therefore, Jesus directs the believer’s attention to the Fatherhood of God. Since God is the Christian’s Father, the logical conclusion is that God will take care of the Christian and provide for his needs. Finally, we see in the verse at hand that since God is the Father, the Christian must learn to follow God and emulate his heavenly Father.
To embrace the newfound position of being in the family of God is to look to God for protection, provision, and guidance through His example.
“And walk in love”
Paul goes on to pinpoint a specific area the Christian must emulate. He started with the broad by speaking of emulating God, then narrowed his thoughts to love. The Bible has much to say about love; here, we see that the Christian is to walk in love.
To walk in love is to have one’s life characterized by love. Thus, to walk in love means that the whole of one’s life must be done in love, whether he eats or drinks or whatever he does. Elsewhere, we read that when the Christian learns to walk in the Spirit, he will not gratify the desires of the flesh. To walk in the Spirit is to be led by the Spirit constantly. It is to have the Spirit working in and through the Christian.
The Bible tells us that the Christian is to walk in newness of life, in wisdom, by faith, and after the Spirit. But Paul, in the present verse, was highly concerned with love.
“as Christ also hath loved us”
Paul moves from emulating the Father to imitating Christ. In one sense, to emulate Christ is to emulate the Father. When Philip asked to see, the Father Jesus told him that he had seen the Father because he had seen Christ. Knowing that someone can get to know the Father and the Spirit when they get to know Jesus is essential.
The nature of Christ is clearly displayed in the Bible. Some might believe they do not know the Father or the Spirit very well. Some might wonder what the Father or the Spirit is like. They need not look any further than Jesus to gain a good understanding of the Father and Spirit as persons. While the roles within the Godhead may differ, the essential nature of the three is the same.
The Holy Spirit shares the same compassion and humility of Christ as does the Father. The Father loves the Christian with the same love as Christ, and so does the Spirit.
Nevertheless, Christ has been set forth as the Savior, and uniquely the Christian must learn to fix his gaze upon the Messiah.
“and hath given himself for us”
Here we see how Christ loved the Christian. Christ gave Himself for the Christian. Thus, the love of Christ was sacrificial. It cost Christ something. Real love will cost something. Love is selfless, and it costs something whenever a selfless act is performed. It does not always need to cost a lot, but it may sometimes cost someone his very life as it did Jesus.
However, it is important to note that Christ’s life was characterized by selfless and sacrificial love. It was not simply at Christ’s death where He showed His love to a dying world. Throughout His life, His love was on display.
He gave up the riches of heaven to be made into a man of no reputation. He took on the form of a servant and lived with no place to lay His head. He ministered to the lost and cared for them despite their sin and failure. More could be said, but in each and every moment, it cost Christ something to love as He loved.
“an offering and a sacrifice to God”
But here we see why Christ loved. While different reasons could be discussed, the following point must be made clear. First, Paul focused his attention on Christ’s love for man. Then Paul turns to the result of such a display of love and what would have been foundational for Christ’s love.
Therefore, it must be foundational for the Christian’s love as well. Paul tells us that the love of Christ was an offering and sacrifice to God. When the Christian learns that his foundation for all of life must be the glory of God, he will also learn to love as Christ loved.
“for a sweetsmelling savour”
Christ offered Himself to the Father, and in the nostrils of God, it was a sweetsmelling savour. The love of God displayed in Christ was the most magnificent display of God’s love that the world had ever seen. God is glorified when He is displayed. The reality of this fact can be seen in God creating man in His own image.
The point was for man to display God and for God to get the glory. Elsewhere we read the Father is glorified when the Christian bears much fruit. The reason is that the Christian displays God through the fruit in his life as the fruit of a garden points to the gardener/vinedresser.
God wants to be displayed by the Christian. Therefore, the Christian must learn to look upon Christ and walk in the love of Christ. When he learns to do so, he will also be a sweetsmelling savor.
Father, I thank You for the example you gave me in Christ. However, I recognize that Christ is more than an example; He is my life. Therefore, teach me to allow Christ to work through me so that I would love as Christ has loved. In Jesus’ name, Amen.