As a church, our highest ethic is love.

In this passage, we find a unique command to be like God, a call to non-emotive love, and the ultimate example of both.

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Our Ethical Goal (verse 1)

A commandment to be like God is a high standard indeed. How can we ever fulfill it? Looking back at Ephesians 4:25-32, we have already been told to display God's character. God is Truth (Eph. 4:25); He is completely Righteous in His anger (Eph. 4:26); He is the ultimate Giver (Eph. 4:28); and He is Eternally Relational (Eph. 4:32).

This command echoes Jesus' head-turning statement in Matthew 5:48: "you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." This is surely an impossible assignment on our own. The only way we can fulfill these commands is to have a perfection not our own - to know and own God's Son, Jesus Christ, and have His pure righteousness living inside us.

Once we own Christ, we progressively live out the perfection we already have positionally in Christ. We obey this command practically by carefully observing and following those older than us in the Lord.

Our Ethical Virtue (verse 2)

The love we are to walk in is not an emotive kind of love. In Greek, it is agape, sacrificial love. This love is simply the choice to do what is right, even when it is hard. Choosing to walk in obedience to God's Word will always make you sweeter, not harsher, as the Holy Spirit displays his fruit in your life. The fruit of right choices can be emotive, but the choice always comes first.

To walk in love means developing a lifestyle of obedience to the whole mind of God found in His Word. As you make hard but right choices in your walk, you will know God's grace to bear you through all the circumstances of life.

Our Ethical Example (verse 2)

Jesus is our prime example of what it means to be like God and to walk in obedient love. He was God in human form and lived all of God's attributes perfectly. Christ showed a love of initiative and sacrifice that we are to imitate as we serve one another.

Jesus' offering of Himself as a sacrifice summed up all of the Old Testament's sacrificial system. He is the final offering that gives us the ability to please God.

Application Points

  • Do you know Jesus Christ? Is His perfect righteousness living in You? You will never be able to imitate God on your own. If you do know Christ, are you progressing in living out His righteousness? One key to this is learning from the example of more mature Christians. Who are you observing and following?
  • Are you choosing to do right even when it's hard? This is true love for God - obedience to His Word. Choose to walk in love today.
  • Do you show love to your spiritual family in sacrificial ways? How can you serve someone in our church this week?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore:
  • Romans 5:1-5, 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 - The only way to be like God is to own Jesus Christ, His Son.
  • Hebrews 4:15, Romans 8:29, John 17:1-3 - Jesus perfectly lived all God's righteous requirements so that we might be righteous through Him.
  • Philippians 3:13-21 - How to keep moving toward our ethical goal.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:4-9 - If we own Christ, we are not sons of disobedience with the wrath of God abiding on us.
  • 2 John 6, John 14:15 - To love God is to obey Him.
  • Hebrews 12:2 - Jesus obeyed with joy and endured suffering because he was motivated by joy.
  • Ephesians 5:25; 5:28; 5:33; 6:24 - Other uses of agape "love" in Ephesians.
  • Philippians 2:5-8 - Jesus' obedient love of initiative and sacrifice.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Jesus, I Am Resting"

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole.

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.

O, how great Thy loving kindness,
Vaster, broader than the sea!
O, how marvelous Thy goodness,
Lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Belovèd,
Know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise,
And have made it mine.

Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings:
Thine is love indeed!

Ever lift Thy face upon me
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting 'neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth's dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father's glory,
Sunshine of my Father's face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting,
Fill me with Thy grace.

Quotes to Ponder:

"It's no good giving me a play like Hamlet or King Lear and telling me to write a play like that. Shakespeare could do it; I can't. And it's no good showing me a life like the life of Jesus and telling me to live a life like that. Jesus could do it; I can't. But if the genius of Shakespeare could come and live in me, then I could write plays like his. And if the Spirit of God could come into me, then I can live a life like Christ."

--William Temple