25 October 2012

Ephesians 5:1-14

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (vv. 1, 2)


The Letter to the Ephesians deals with specific advice as to how to behave, and at the beginning of today's passage there is the extraordinary demand to "be imitators of God". This seems to be a very strange thing to write, and some versions of the Bible record it as "be followers of God" (King James Version) or even "Try to be like him" (New English Bible). But "be imitators of God" is what is meant.

Perhaps it helps to realise that Jesus shows what God is like, and so much of what is written in this letter is about behaving like Jesus. In another letter in the Bible, Jesus is actually described as "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15). So there it is - try to behave like Jesus and therefore be an imitator of God!

Sacrifice is often a difficult concept for people today. In the Old Testament there are records of the sacrifice of animals in the worship in the temple. However, for Christians the death of Jesus Christ is the final sacrifice. Jesus willingly offered himself in love.

The rest of today's passage is about how followers of Jesus should behave.

"Live as children of light" (v. 8) - Jesus is often described as the "light of the world" (eg John 1:4, 5 and John 8:12, 13). The writer of the Letter to the Ephesians is telling readers that behaving like Jesus is like living in the light rather than living in the darkness.

To Ponder

  • In what ways do you think that you might be able to be an "imitator of God"?
  • Do you find it hard to think of Jesus' death as a sacrifice to God? Why?
  • What sort of behaviour is like living in the darkness? And what sort of behaviour is like living in the light?

Bible notes author

The Revd Stephen Burgess

Revd Stephen Burgess is chair of the York & Hull District of the Methodist Church. He initially trained as a chemist and after some years in industry and teaching served in two school chaplaincy appointments before becoming superintendent of the Cambridge Circuit and then moving to Yorkshire.