As we reach the end of Ephesians chapter 4, let’s review where we have been. Paul’s instruction to “lay aside the old self” (vs 22) and “put on the new self” (vs 24) is followed by specifics of what this laying aside and putting on looks like.
Putting on the new self means … laying aside falsehood and speaking truth with each other (vs 25); not falling into sin when anger comes upon us (vs 26); working instead of stealing, not just to meet our own needs, but to have something to share with others (vs 28); speaking only words of edification (vs 29); embracing the Holy Spirit’s presence and work in our lives (vs 30); replacing bitterness and its cousins with kindness, tender hearts, and forgiveness (vs 31-32).
This life of putting on the new self and having it reflected in these attitudes is not difficult…IT IS IMPOSSIBLE! Yes, it is impossible apart from Christ’s presence in us. It is only possible because Christ has put His new nature in us. And it is only in “Christ in and through us” that we can express this new self to the world.
We can only do this because we carry God’s seed inside us (I Jn 3). So when we act in ways consistent with our new nature, we demonstrate our family likeness as children of God. Paul continues into the next chapter in Ephesians, “Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children” (Eph 5:1). When we walk in the new nature, the new self, we are imitating God just as a child imitates their father.
We imitate God by “walking like God” and the next verse teaches us that the number one way we imitate God is to “walk in love” (Eph 5:2). Because the new self was created in God’s likeness, His incredible love (the very essence of His character) is the ultimate expression of the new self. I find it fascinating the the number one reason Scripture gives for why we should love our brother is not just because it is the right thing to do. Our number one motivation is that this is what God is like.
We love because God loved us. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (I Jn 4:10-11).
Likewise, the number one reason Christ gives for why we should love our enemies is not just because it is the right thing to do. Our number one motivation is that this is what God is like.
Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:35-36). We love because that is what God is like and we are His children, imitating the Father.
Love is the best expression of walking in the new self. Why? Because that is what Christ did. “Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph 5:2). Christ’s sacrifice in our place was a beautiful aroma. And when we love as God loves, we become a fragrant aroma as well to those in our path.