Puritan Catechism Question #42 - Which is the first commandment?
Answer - The first commandment is, "You shall have no other gods before Me." (Exodus 20:3).
Devotional Thoughts This week we are moving to the next segment of our study from Ephesians 4-6 titled Learning to Walk. We have spent time the last several weeks working through the previous segment Walk in Unity (Eph 4:1-16) and Walk in Truth (Eph 4:17-32), and now we will study how to Walk in Love (Eph 5:1-7).
Here is our text for the next section of our study:
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.
We see right from the start that while the theme of this passage is walking in love the steps for fulfilling this mandate center around learning to imitate God. The imitation of God is best understood as the process of sanctification, that is the provess whereby the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to conform us to the image of Christ. How are we sanctified? By the Word of God! How do we imitate God? “Follow” Jesus! (John 17:14-17).
The word "imitate" is translated from the Greek word mimetas, from which we get the word mimic. It is to copy or to imitate. The NKJV, ESV, and NASB translate this word as "be imitators." In the Tyndale New testament and the KJV it is translated "be followers." This helps us gain a better understanding of what is being conveyed here. It is not merely that we copy behavior or attitudes or act in a similar fashion. Here it means that we indeed mimic God by following Him.
Jesus over and over again issues the commands (and the invitations), "Follow Me" and "Come after Me". He is asking us here to do what Paul tells to do in Ephesians 5:1. Be like Me. Walk like I walk. Live as I live. See things from My perspective and respond as I would respond.
The phrase has been rendered WWJD - or "What Would Jesus Do?", but I think in studying the Scripture we should amend that to WDJD - meaning that we should ask, "What DID Jesus Do? This takes the question out of the realm of speculation and lays it firmly in the arena of obedience to the Scripture.
If we are left to imagine how Jesus would respond and are then determined to act accordingly we might very well presume ourselves into sin. On the other hand, since Jesus in the Word has given us everything that we need that pertains to life and godliness, then our task is not to presume, but to read, hear, and obey the Word!
Jesus is also our example. He was tempted in every way as we, except without sin. And so as we examine the Scriptures we do not come away trying to presume upon what Jesus might do in a given situation. Instead we see what He did do, and we are told to do likewise. To follow.
To follow Jesus, to answer the call to "Come after Me", is not only taking His name and professing faith in Him. That is what we have studied through Ephesians 4. It is living like He lived. It is obedience, surrender to the will and ways of God, yielding ourselves as slaves of righteousness. It is also self denial and taking up our cross. Putting the flesh down and keeping it in submission to the spirit.
So what does it look like to imitate God? Surely we cannot be as holy as He is holy, at least not while still on this earth. But in truth, that is our goal. To be holy as He is holy. It is commanded, expected, and we are empowered to walk in holiness.
The command is repeated in Scripture in several verses. The two key verses for us to consider are found in Leviticus 11:45 and 1 Peter 1:13-16.
For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
We forget at times that God is perfect in holiness. He is holy, holy, holy. We need to remember, and fear Him, for we are unholy! But as we do remember how holy God is, as we gain a proper view of Him, we realize as Isaiah did that we are unclean.
Since we know that God is holy, and upon that basis He demands that we too be holy, then how can we obey the command? How can we imitate God by being holy? Here are a few of the ways that God is able to make us holy:
His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust
Here in 2 Peter 1:3-4 we see first that He has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. So everything we need to live and be holy He has provided! Along with all of this He has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises. This is the gospel, and through the gospel we become partakers of the divine nature. It is by this new life, this new nature that we are able to escape from the corruption of lust. So the first way that we are empowered to be holy is through the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
Here in James 1:21 we are told to lay aside all filthiness. Similar to putting off the old man with his lusts we are to also continually put away from us wickedness and those things that defile and corrupt us. How? We are to receive the implanted Word - the Word of God written on our hearts (Jer 31:31-34 - " I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts".) This Word is able to save our souls! "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" (Rom 1:16). The second means of empowerment we are given then is the written Word of God, the Bible.
But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.
God not only chose us for salvation and called us to new life through His Word, but according to 2 Thess. 2:13-15 He also has enables us to stand fast, or to stand our ground, holding to the traditions which we have been taught. This refers to the teaching of sound doctrine and traditions that align with Scripture. God has given us pastors and teachers, disciplers, mentors, parents, friends, and counselors in order to teach us the truth of the Word of God. As we are taught to live lives that please God we are being taught godly traditions, sound doctrine which leads to godliness. So the third enabling means for holy living is found in those who teach us the Word of God.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
According to 2 Cor. 3:18 we are told that it is the Spirit of the Lord that transforms us into the image of Christ. How does the Spirit accomplish this? Through the Word of God. Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them by truth, Your Word is truth." (John 17:17). And Paul wrote, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Rom. 12:1-2). We are transformed by the Word of God, as it enables us to keep our way pure and avoid sin (Ps 119:9, 11). So the fourth means of holiness is the wok of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.