Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no 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 become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Understanding And Applying the Text
Verse 1 starts with, Therefore. “Therefore be imitators of God…” To find out why we should be imitators of God we need to back up to chapter 4 verse 32. Paul concludes that verse with “…as God in Christ forgave you.” Since God has forgiven us, we owe Him our lives. But what does that mean? Paul continues his thought in verse 1, to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called. To this point, Paul has discussed what we are and what we are to be. We want to know what to do. Paul here says what to do, imitate God.
We learn by imitation. Paul is writing to a Greek audience. They would have understood this. Aristotle wrote that man is the most imitative of all creatures. And he learns first by imitation. Paul’s audience would have recognized and understood this concept well. The training in oratory consisted of three parts; theory, imitation, and practice. The main part of the study was the imitation of the masters. So Paul is saying to imitate God, the master of masters. By imitating God we know Him and learn from and of Him.
How does our culture today determine what is right and good? We take a poll. What most people are doing is average. What is average is normal. What is normal is good. Not being in the norm, that is, being an extremist. An extremist is bad. We think we find virtue in being normal. Using that thought process; sexual immorality is not only okay, it is a virtue. Sexual immorality was not a big deal in the first-century Greek culture.
Cicero stated. “If there is anyone who thinks that young men should be absolutely forbidden the love of courtesans, he is indeed extremely severe…. He is at variance not only with the license of what our age allows but also with the customs and concessions of our ancestors. When indeed was this not done? When did anyone ever find fault with it? When was such permission denied? When was it that, that which is now lawful was unlawful?”
Sexual immorality was normal. And since it was normal it must be a virtue. Looking to our culture to determine righteousness is the wrong place to look.
Not only are we to avoid sexual immorality, impurity, and covetousness, but we are not even to talk or joke about it. There was an argument in the early church that distorted the grace of God. The argument went like this. The more we sin the more opportunity we give to God to show His grace. God’s demonstration of grace glorifies Him. Since we are to bring glory to God and God’s forgiveness of our sin demonstrates His glory. We should sin. In fact, it is our obligation to sin.
God through Paul disagrees. Such argumentation is only empty words. We bring glory to God through thanksgiving, avoiding sexual immorality, impurity, and covetousness.
The argument today has changed only a little. What we hear today is, “God made me this way. If God did not want me to be homosexual, or have such a strong sex drive He would not have made me like this.” Paul is very clear. “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God,” verse 5.
Paul ends this chapter with a repetition of a theme from chapter 4. We need to support and encourage each other. Here he says to greet each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. This demonstrates we are to live the Christian life in a community. How else can we support each other? We can support each other only as we are filled with the Spirit. Not only are we to support each other we are to show reverence to Christ by submitting to each other.
As Paul says in verse 8 at one time we were in darkness. It should not surprise us when the culture assaults us. They are ignorant. God has given us the light. Do not be angry when the culture assaults you. Rather you should feel pity and sorrow for those that assault you, for the sake of Christ. God has given you something they do not have. That can sound very arrogant and prideful. And if you do not realize you had nothing to do with receiving the gift, it can be very prideful. You did nothing to deserve it. You did nothing to receive it. And you do nothing to keep it. It is a gift from God. Nothing about you is worthy of it. There is nothing inside of you that causes you to merit it. You are not better than those who have not received the light. God chose you to glorify His name. He could have used the dog next door. After all, He once used a jackass. Coming to that realization drives you to want to imitate God. To forgive others even when they do not deserve it and do not merit it. Since you now have the light, try to discern what is pleasing to God and do that. After all, He has given you a great gift, a gift you do not deserve.