“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.”
It is noteworthy that in his instructions to live according to the new nature, Paul references the three Persons of the Trinity. He tells us to “imitate God” (5.1), to “learn Christ” (4.20-21), and not to “grieve the Holy Spirit” (4.30). All three Person’s of the triune God are at work in the ongoing process of our spiritual growth and transformation.
Full comprehension of God as three-in-one is beyond our understanding; nevertheless, scripture constantly makes reference to God’s triune nature.
“Be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Just as children copy their parents, so we are to imitate God the Father. In order to be imitators of God, we must know him. Study him. Learn about him. And that requires a focused study of what scripture teaches about God and his attributes, and then the disciplined process of “imitating” his attributes and applying them to our own lives.
This is how learning works, including learning for spiritual growth. God is the Author of the physics of learning, and we are wise to follow his architecture. Learning is the ongoing cycle of explanation, observation, imitation, correction, then reps, reps, and more reps.
We are also to follow Christ and to walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. “Gave himself up” is one Greek word (paradidomi), and it literally means “giving yourself” Earlier in chapter 4 Paul uses it in reference to unbelievers, saying that they “give themselves” to the old nature, whereas kingdom people follow the example of Christ and give themselves in acts of service to others.
Such giving of oneself is what it means to walk in love, and it pleases God. As with Christ so with us, self-sacrificial love is a fragrant offering and sacrifice to the Lord. It is thus a powerful truth that sacrificial love for others becomes a sacrifice acceptable to God.
This act of giving oneself as a sacrifice and act of worship is also Paul’s message in Romans 12:1-2:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
May we be imitators of our Creator, and may we walk in love, thereby offering ourselves as an act of worship and a living sacrifice to the God who loves us and calls us to himself.