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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Loving as Christ Loves

Continuing on in our series Be Imitators of God this week we will hear the fourth message under the heading Walk in Love from Ephesians 5:1-7. We have learned from verse 1 that we imitate God by being holy, by hating what God hates, and by loving what He loves. Now moving on to verse 2 we will learn that we imitate God by Loving as Christ Loves. (The message will be available to listen to or download for free later today).

Instead of simply posting my brief preaching outline as I usually do, I want to get into some detail here and offer this outline more in a devotional format.

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.


In order to imitate God by loving as Christ loves we must do three things. These are our main points today. We must walk, love, and give.

Walk

First, we are to walk (live or conduct ourselves) in love. The word for love here is the Greek word agape and it refers to a pure love which flows from a decision of our will. We covered the definition of this kind of love in our message last week titled Loving What God Loves.

Love

Secondly, we are to love as Christ has loved us. He is our example. He has loved us unconditionally. He has loved us humbly, condescending to take human form and become a man. He loved us obediently, keeping the Law of God perfectly and being faithful even to His death on the cross. He loved us completely. And He has loved us sacrificially.

John MacArthur writes about this phrase:
Divine love is unconditional love, love that depends entirely on the one who loves and not on the merit, attractiveness, or response of the one loved. Christ did not simply have a deep feeling and emotional concern for mankind. Nor did He sacrifice Himself for us because we were deserving. “While we were yet sinners,” He gave Himself for us purely out of sovereign, gracious love, taking our sin upon Himself and paying its penalty on our behalf. God’s love, and all love like His, loves for the sake of giving, not getting. God makes no condition for His love to us and commands that we love others without conditions. (Ephesians commentary, page 197)

Give

Thirdly, if we are to love as Christ has loved us, then we must give as Christ has given. A direct result of His love for us and the Father motivated Him to give Himself completely for us. The word "given" means "turned over to, handed over, surrendered, yielded, or arrested." He has given Himself for us in the following ways:

He has given Himself for Us to God. Note that this is worded specifically in our text. He did not give Himself to us for God. He gave Himself to God for us! His sacrifice, as all acts of worship, was focused toward God. While we received a benefit from His sacrifice, ultimately in giving Himself for us His true gift was a gift to God.

He has given Himself as an Offering. An offering is a gift that is given freely, that is, without compulsion. His gift was not given by force. His life was not taken from Him, He gave it freely of His own will. In fact, as Christ died on the cross, we are told that He chose when He would die and He laid down His life and had the power to take it up again at the resurrection. The focus in the text is not on the act of giving, but on the substance and content of the gift itself. We learn that the act of giving is not nearly as important as what we give!

He has given Himself as a Sacrifice. To sacrifice is to willingly give something up to another. Here it refers to allowing injury for a greater cause. It is to forgo something valued for the sake of something that has a more pressing claim. In other words, to sacrifice in the Biblical sense is to yield something that is valuable because there is a more pressing or urgent need that this surrender will meet. With all sacrifices there is a cost to the one making the sacrifice and there is an exchange. There is a benefit received for the sacrifice given. However, the sacrifice is not worthy or good if the sacrifice is given with the purpose of receiving the benefit. In other words, if we give in order to get then our gift is not given freely but out of greed and selfishness. We do not give to get. We give to give, and anything we get is an added blessing along with our obedience.

He has given Himself as a Sweet Smelling Aroma. There were five sacrifices ordained by God in the Old Testament. Three of the five are said to be sweet smelling to God when they are offered. Let us look at those five and see what they were ordained for and what they resulted in when offered.

1. The Burnt Offering - For Atonement - Leviticus 1:3-9, 13, 17
2. The Grain/Meal Offering - For Consecration - Leviticus 2:1-3, 9
3. The Peace Offering - For Reconciliation - Leviticus 3:1-5, 16
4. The Sin Offering - For Propitiation - Leviticus 4
5. The Trespass Offering - For Repentance - Leviticus 5

The first three specifically are said to have been a sweet smelling aroma to God, meaning that in these offerings especially He was pleased.

Application

In our application of this we need to answer a question:

"How do we give ourselves as an offering and a sacrifice to God for others and thus walk in love as Christ has loved us?"

The answer is found in our three main points today - Walk, Love, Give.

1. Walk in Victory - 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?

When we walk in victory over our sin we are showing forth the power of God as He triumphs over the power of sin in our lives. And through us He diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge. This is the influence we have on others through our walking in victory. When younger or weaker Christians see us walk in triumph it encourages them to also walk and live in victory and gives them determination against temptation and sin.

This verse in fact makes reference to the Triumphal Parades when a Roman general would return from battle in victory. There would be a great parade through town that would lead a procession into the presence of Caesar where the victory would be announced for his credit. As the general and the soldiers marched and rode their horses through the street in this parade, the people would throw flower petals into the road. It is said by historians that the flowers were thrown in such abundance that the whole city would be filled with the fragrance as they were crushed under foot.

When we walk in victory we fill the whole church and the world around us with the fragrance of a Christ honoring life.

2. Love through Actions - Philippians 4:18-19

Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

The church at Philippi was a poor church, suffering hardship for the gospel. And yet in the midst of their own hardship and even as they themselves lacked much, they responded to Paul's needs and sent him a gift by the hand of Epaphroditus. This sacrificial offering was a sweet smelling aroma to Paul. They gave even in the midst of their great need. This is love!

We must love one another in the church with a love that is not hindered by our own needs. This is a love focused on others instead of on self. It is a love that gives even if that means the giver will do without. In the midst of the luxury in which we live today too often we are satisified to give a little, but rarely do we see sacrifice in the church. This is to our shame. It is time that we learned to do without for the benefit of others in the body.

3. Give as a Holy Priesthood - 1 Peter 2:5

You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

We are “being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Let us look at what this means for us as we learn to give within the framework of our priesthood as believers.

Note first of all that the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer does not mean that anyone can pick up a Bible and interpret it however they please. I have heard this more times than I can count. A person in a church I pastored years ago stopped coming to church. When asked why they were missing church and if they needed any help with anything, the response was, "Oh, pastor, we don't have to come to church to worship God. After all, I have read my Bible and it says that we are under grace and not under the law, so since I am saved I can do whatever I want." When I asked for clarification the reply was, "Since I have decided to accept Christ as my Savior the Bible tells me that once I am saved I am always saved. I am not going to hell no matter what I do, so that means I can do whatever I want for the rest of my life and it does not matter."

This is a serious and dangerous misinterpretation of many texts of Scripture. So we are not saying that as a "priest" that we are able then to interpret the Bible any way we want. The truth is that a passage of Scripture has one correct interpretation. This is a simple understanding of the rules of interpretation (hermenuetics). Though that passage may have only one interpretation we can be confident that there may be many applications for what we read and learn.

But let us look at this verse in 1 Peter 2:5.

We are a spiritual house (Hebrews 3:6), and a Holy Priesthood. So let us look at a few of the things the Bible tells us about priests of God.

To be a priest is an elect privilege – Ex. 28:1; John 15:16
Priests are cleansed of sin – Lev. 8:6-36; Titus 2:14
Priests are clothed for service – Ex. 28:42; Lev. 8:7; Ps. 132:9, 16; 1 Peter 5:5
Priests are anointed for service – Lev. 8:12, 30; 1 John 2:20, 27
Priests are prepared for service – Lev. 8:33; 9:4, 23; Gal. 1:16; 1 Tim. 3:6
Priests are ordained to obedience – Lev. 10:1; 1 Peter 2:4
Priests are to honor the Word of God – Mal. 2:7; 1 Pet. 2:2
Priests walk with God – Mal. 2:6; Gal. 5:16, 25
Priests impact sinners – Mal. 2:6; Gal. 6:1
Priests are God’s messengers – Mal. 2:7; Mt. 28:19-20
Priests have access to God - Eph. 2:18

And as priests, each believer has access directly to God through Jesus Christ our Mediator. And the work that we are called and equipped to do is the work of offering spiritual sacrifices, that is God honoring works done in obedience to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit through the guidance of the Word of God.

So in answer to the question, "How do we give ourselves as an offering and a sacrifice to God for others and thus walk in love as Christ has loved us?" we answer:

Offering Oneself to God – Rom. 12:1
Praising God – Heb. 13:15
Doing Good – Heb. 13:16
Sharing Resources – Heb. 13:16
Bringing People to Christ – Rom. 15:16
Praying – Rev. 8:3
Sacrificing for Others – Eph. 5:2

Here then we see what is required of us to love as Christ has loved. We must walk in love, love unconditionally, and give as Christ has given Himself for us. In our daily lives that means that we are to walk in victory, love through our actions and not just our words, and give sacrifically to others, freely and even if we ourselves are lacking and have needs.

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