We are in the midst of our study on Christian freedom. Paul has given the church in Ephesus a solid foundation of belief and now he is helping them to understand the little things of life that are worth living for. He helps them to comprehend the difference between “becoming a Christian” (justification – Eph 1-3) and “becoming Christian” (sanctification – Eph 4-6). In other words, since we are chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven and filled with the Holy Spirit, we ought to live in a manner worthy of the calling and grace we have received. We are looking at several aspects of living in ways that honour God. We should not live as the Gentiles live in darkened understanding and behaviour. We should be careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit by lying, being anger, stealing, unwholesome talk and bitterness. As believers we practice right thinking and put this Christ thinking into action and freedom becomes our daily bread. Today’s message highlights the importance of living in love.
Imitators of God
The Apostle Paul uses the idea of imitation as the premise for living in love. Paul was not shy about exhorting believers to follow his example as a leader. Paul tells the church of Corinth to imitate himself (1 Cor 4:16). He states, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Now to the church in Ephesus he gives a strong command – “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Eph 5:1). In much the same way a child grows and learns by imitating their parents, Paul is saying we can do the same with God. The word in the Greek language speaks of mimicking the words or behaviour of another. This is the opposite of hypocrisy where we pretend to be someone we aren’t. One of the safest ways of living in love is to imitate God, in all he says and does.
Living in Love
In applying his doctrines to the Ephesian believers, Paul now uses for the third time the word “live” in the NIV. As God’s children we are to walk and live in unity with God and each other, in holiness, and now “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2). We are all familiar with John 3:16 – “For God so loved…” God’s love is sacrificial in the giving of his only Son with the foresight of Jesus’ death on the cross. The Apostle John clarifies this truth in 1 John 3:16 – “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” I believe there are several key points Paul wants the believers to practice.
· Living is all about loving behaviour. So, what does love look like? We are told that “Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. Love never dies” (1 Cor 13:4-8). In other words, love is something that can be measured and practiced to all to see.
· Secondly, Paul reminds us of Jesus’ example of love in that he “gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2). True love is considerate of others often at the expense of one’s own wellbeing. Just look at how Jesus lived; Phil 2:5-11 reminds us of Jesus’ live, death and resurrection. Jesus was brought to the greatest state of freedom by loving others more than himself. This was fragrance upon fragrance to his Father in heaven. Love is in the air in Ephesians – 1:4-6, 15; 2:4-5; 3:17-19; 4:1-2, 15-16; 5:1-2; 25-33; 6:23-24.
Living in Love not lust
The Apostle Paul now addresses an area in the city of Ephesus that many were in bondage to – sexual sins. Artemis (Greek) was the prominent pagan goddess of worship in Ephesus (Diana was the Roman counterpart) and was known as the goddess of fertility. One of the aspects of her worship was rampant sexual sins; they worshipped their goddess through sex and prostitution and money. The believers in Ephesus would have been confronted daily by ungodly sexual practices and their demonic influences. Paul understands they need great freedom in this area. “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving” (Eph 5:3-4).
· Living in love means we should treat sex with purity and thankfulness. We should not pull sex out of its proper setting of a loving marriage between and man and a woman. We should not treat sex as common or unholy or ugly or lustful.
· So, should the Christians at Ephesus say sex is wrong? Not at all. In the midst of this struggle for freedom, Paul says to the believers to be thankful for sex the way God intended. It is a wonderful gift, but not to be cheapened or abused.
Paul makes sure the church in Ephesus understands the seriousness of these temptations.
“For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph 5:5). Living in idolatry disqualifies their inheritance in the kingdom of God; those are very somber words. The challenge in Paul’s day is the same challenge in our day; sexual sins are rampant, pornography is at our fingertips, and greed permeates our society. And in the midst of such blatant sin, there are those who want to tell us it is OK revealing their hardened hearts trapped in deception.
In our pursuit of freedom, we must be enlightened IN CHRIST. The love of God fills our hearts and minds as we become a Christian; we are chosen, adopted, redeemed and filled by the Spirit of Jesus. However, becoming Christian doesn’t happen by accident. The Christian life has to be learned from Christ and then lived out in a manner worthy of our calling. It’s learning to live a life of love and purity in the midst of secular society. The power of right believing IN CHRIST leads to a life of love and holiness. Living in Love is essential to fully being free as followers of Jesus Christ.
Let’s pray with each other - Eph 3:14-21…