Steps toward spiritual maturity

Rev Jerry McGhee, Pastor, Sun Lakes Community Church

Ephesians 5:1-16

In Chapter 4 of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul issues what might be called an apostolic edict. He has said that believers in Christ are to no longer be immature infants tricked and deceived by promoters of false doctrines. Christians are to stop living as the Gentiles do in the futility of their thinking. Believers are to start living lives worthy of their calling, be equipped for works of service and not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.

And then in Ch. 4, vs. 2, Paul says: “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Paul has set before the Christian community a high standard of attitude and conduct which, if followed, would reveal their relationship to God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

In Ch. 5, vs. 1, we find a bridge word. It’s the word therefore. Therefore is used to join all that has been said previously to that which follows.

Therefore based on the previous instructions, Paul urges “be imitators of God as dearly loved children…”

Clement of Alexandria, Egypt, an ancient church father, wrote in his commentary on Paul’s admission to imitate God. “The wise Christian practices being God “, Clement continued. “When Christians genuinely forgive one another and live lives of love, they are indeed practicing God.”

Paul’s use of the word imitators has its genesis in the Greek schools of debate, logic and rhetoric. The ancient teachers held three basic principles relative to the art of debate. They taught the theory of speech and debate; they encouraged imitation and they required practice of speech and debate.

From the perspective of the teachers, imitation was as important as the theory of debate and on equal par with practice. They urged their students to study and then practice imitating the great orators, the master debaters and public speakers of their day and of history in the belief that imitation would assuredly guarantee success.

Paul leaned heavily on this well-known philosophy among the scholars. He urges Christians to follow the same principle. If imitating the masters of debate and public speech holds the possibility of success, then imitating the Lord of glory will surely help the believing community be equipped to live lives acceptable to God, lives of obedience and service and of good deeds. We would do well to follow Paul’s instructions.