“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 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.”
God’s Church Is the Body of Christ
The Apostle Paul said in today’s Scripture passage, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 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” (Ephesians 5:1-2). Paul is teaching us here that just as Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for us, all our saints, ministers, and coworkers should also walk in God’s love. This is an extremely important lesson for us.
Earlier in Ephesians 4:16 the Apostle Paul said, “The whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Jesus Christ is the Head of God’s Church, and the Church is the body of Christ. To illustrate this, take a look at your own body. Not only does it have numerous joints, bones, and muscles that give you mobility and strength, but the whole body is also wired into the nervous system, from your head to the tip of your toes. So when your brain sends out an order, it is transmitted through the spinal cord to reach every body part, dictating how it should move and what it should do. Likewise, when the Lord commands us as the Head of God’s Church, each and every member of the Church does as commanded by the Lord. That is why the Lord said regarding God’s Church that the saints are “joined and knit together by what every joint supplies” (Ephesians 4:16).
Like this, all the members of God’s Church are indispensable to one another. If you are missing even just a single joint in your finger, the whole finger is rendered useless. There must be a joint that connects your finger to your hand; your hand must be connected to your arm, and your arms to your shoulder. Like this, there is no body part that is dispensable, but every part must be connected thoroughly to your body. Every part doing its share is joined together to form your whole body.
Likewise, All the Saints Are Indispensable to One Another
In God’s Church, all its members are supposed to carry out their share of work from each of their assigned positions. That is why God told us to have true faith in Christ and walk in love. If we really cherish each other wholeheartedly, and if we really believe that Jesus is our Savior who has delivered us from all our sins and trespasses, then we have indeed become one through our common faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Just as the Bible says that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:5-6), all of us believe in one God.
By believing that Jesus Christ has saved us from all our sins through His ministry of the water, the blood, and the Spirit, we have become one body of God. If we really are God’s people and one family, then we would all walk in love and try to edify one another instead of hurting each other. We would also pool our strength to serve the will of Jesus Christ our Head. If we decide to cherish one another to serve the true gospel like this in our lives, then we would face no problem at all. In contrast, if we succumb to selfishness to only care about our individual well-being, then we would face a huge spiritual problem.
What should we do to avoid this then? All that we have to do is just help one another and faithfully carry out the task God has assigned to each of us according to our faith. Indeed, it is only proper that we should all devote our lives to Christ no matter what, living for the spreading of the gospel of the water and the Spirit and the work that is pleasing to God. When all of us are thus united together and carry out God’s righteous work in unity, we will find encouragement from one another and faithfully fulfill all the tasks God has entrusted to us.
The Lord Commanded Us to Walk in Love
The love that God has shown us is exceedingly good. The love between fellow human beings is also good. Even when it comes to our human relationships, it is far better for us to love one another than hate and envy each other. Because none of us can live for the spreading of the gospel of God by oneself, it is fitting that we should all unite our strength together. Indeed, it is beautiful in the Lord’s sight when we pool our strength together to serve Him, as it is written,
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)
However, there are some people among us who are serving the gospel of the water and the Spirit unwillingly. The Bible says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). It’s true that we are carrying out the Lord’s work because this is what He commanded us all to do, but we ought to serve Him not just out of a sense of duty but willingly out of thanksgiving, trusting in His righteousness with all our hearts. That’s because when the Lord came to this earth to save us from all our sins, He was baptized by John the Baptist and gave up His body on the Cross for our sake. Just as the Lord has saved us from all our sins, we ought to serve Him by faith in our lives so that others would also be saved from their sins, and this is what it really means to carry out the Lord’s work.
The Lord commanded us to serve the gospel in love. If you want to walk in love, then you must devote your life to God. And you must guide others carefully so that they may also live for God. If a church leader ministers just to ensure the material prosperity of his congregation, then this leader’s ministry is all useless. Every leader must therefore lead the saints onto the spiritually right path and share fellowship with them so that they may live properly for God.
The whole body must do as commanded by the head. If we pool our strength together for God and serve Him, dedicating our lives to Him according to each talent, then God will surely bless us and protect us all. That is why all of us must live according to God’s commandments in obedience to His will. The Word of God commands us to walk in love, and only those of us who truly have faith in the righteousness of God can live according to this Word. And this is possible only if we abide in God. Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches; and just as the branches that abide in the vine can bear fruit, only those who trust in God and follow Him can walk in love and dedicate their lives to Him. Therefore, if your predecessors of faith are leading you and sharing fellowship with you in such love, you should count it as a tremendous blessing.
However, there are many people who follow the things of the flesh even as they call themselves Christians. God said in Galatians 5:19, “The works of the flesh are evident,” and then proceeded to list all kinds of sins. It’s when Christians follow the desires of the flesh that they end up giving rise to heresy. In contrast, if we really walk in God’s love, then we would never follow the things of the flesh but always follow the will of God no matter what happens to our flesh. Following God’s will, sharing fellowship with one another in His providence, leading each other to obey His will, pooling our strengths together to serve the Lord, and praying for this work—this is what it means to walk in God’s love.
It Is Extremely Important for You to Live According to the Will of God
Ephesians 5:1 says, “Be imitators of God as dear children.” Just as Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for us to blot out all our sins and give us new life, the true imitators of God share fellowship with each other in love, guide one another, and strengthen each other so that they may together serve the gospel in their lives. So, whenever you share fellowship with the saints, it is never good for you to just counsel them on fleshly affairs. Good fellowship is one that guides you spiritually so that you would be able to live for God. Those who walk like this are those who walk in God’s love. How are your predecessors of faith leading you spiritually? Do you have such leaders who share fellowship with you and guide you to follow God faithfully, rather than just leading you to seek fleshly matters? If you have such leaders, then you should consider yourself blessed beyond description.
It is our fundamental human nature to wish to follow fleshly matters. If left alone, we would all follow nothing but the flesh, and on top is this, Satan is always trying to incite us to follow worldly matters. What would happen if we succumb to his temptation? The end result is as predictable as the suns rising: We would all end up perishing. Anyone who departs from God to follow just his own flesh will surely perish in the end. Whoever leaves God to follow the flesh will be cursed, and anyone who is thus cursed will ultimately be cut off from all blessings. Such people will also be cut off from God’s Church. If your relationship with God’s Church is terminated, then your relationship with God Himself is also over.
Jesus said to us, “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5). And He also said that He is the Head of the Church and we are His body. Therefore, if we leave the Church, we will perish right away, for we will no longer have its guidance. One of our coworkers told us about a movie titled Dead Man Walking. This movie deals with one nun’s struggle to help a convicted death row inmate to come to terms with his imminent execution. Our coworker used this movie as an illustration to enlighten the lost souls on their imminent spiritual death, pointing out that whoever is not yet born again by believing in the true gospel of the water and the Spirit is actually a “dead man walking.”
Actually, anyone who lives in whatever way he wants is already dead in God’s sight. When an arm is cut off from the body, it can still twitch momentarily. But is this arm really alive just because it’s twitching? No, it’s already dead. Likewise, even though someone who departs from God’s Church and gets separated from Jesus Christ may try to live by faith at first, this person will ultimately perish; for he is cut off from God’s Church and no longer has its guidance.
It’s very important for you to consider carefully whether or not you really have someone guiding you to follow and serve God. And you must also ask yourself whether or not your church leaders and your predecessors of faith are teaching you to serve God rather than themselves. Your church leaders may occasionally admonish you to serve the Lord once, but if what they really want from you is to follow and serve them, then you ought to reject them. There was a certain minister in one of our branch churches who actually behaved like this. This pastor got very upset whenever the saints wanted to contribute financial resources to our Mission. He preferred to see all the offerings go to his own church, and he would rather have the members of his church give him gifts or even money for his own personal use. Such a person is a wage earner rather than a minister in God’s Church. Even the ministers leading God’s Church cannot use the Church’s financial resources in whatever way they see fit; rather, they must always ask God what the best way in using the money is.
When my birthday comes around, I sometimes receive financial gifts from some of our brothers and sisters. I appreciate it very much; after all, who wouldn’t be happy to receive money? What’s really important, however, is how this money is spent. It would obviously be a great mistake if I were to order you, “It’s my birthday, and so give me some money!” Whenever I need money, I do not hesitate to explain to the treasurer in charge of church finances why I need the money. Since I spend the money only to serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit, my conscience is always clear. But if I were to collect your offerings and spend them just for myself, then this would be a serious problem.
The Lord Commanded Us to Walk in Love
If you have someone guiding you and sharing fellowship with you so that you would serve God, someone who rebukes you when you go astray and holds you steadfast always so that you would never leave the Church, then this person is the one who really loves you. This person is not out to harm you, but he is someone who truly loves you.
The Lord clearly said to all of us, “Walk in love” (Ephesians 5:2). If you walk in love in obedience to this commandment, then you will surely maintain your peace with God, commune with Him, and be blessed by Him as well. Because we have first put on God’s love, we must be His imitators and love others as well, just as the Apostle Paul said here, “Be imitators of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1). And when our fellow saints admonish us to the right path, we ought to listen to them and follow their counsel.
The same requirement applies to me as well. Whenever our ministers have any advice for me, I listen to them carefully and agree if their counsel is compelling. If I say something wrong in my mistaken thought, our ministers point it out to me. And when they share their opinions with me, I listen to them attentively. I recognize that I could be wrong, and so I ask them to speak out their minds; I listen to them carefully, and if their suggestion is right, then I accept it without any hesitation. That is God’s wisdom. Since these exchanges take place not for any selfish reasons but for the sake of God, there is no need for me to feel that my pride is hurt, but just accept good advice to find the most fitting and best way.
The same principle applies to you also. Whenever someone shares fellowship with you so that you would live for God, you should accept this admonishment by faith. Even if you are too weak to follow the admonishment right away, once you accept it into your heart and faith springs forth, you will eventually have the strength to follow the admonishment. And when you thus accept your fellow saints’ admonishment by faith, you will be blessed by God. So I ask you to accept the admonishment of your fellow saints so long as it is for God. If the admonishment is for God, the Lord will strengthen you to follow it. So we can do all things in Christ who strengthens us. That is why the Apostle Paul admonished us to be imitators of God as His dear children.
Isn’t it because we have received God’s love before others that we can share this love with them? Indeed, it’s precisely because you and I have put on God’s love first that we also love everyone else. Do we somehow love each other even though we have not put on this love of God? No, of course not! The love that we share with one another is of Christ; it is Christ who has saved us; it is also through Christ that we share fellowship with one another; and all this is done for the sake of Christ. To walk in love is not only for our own sake, but it is also for the sake of others and Christ. So it’s very important for us to listen attentively to what the Apostle Paul admonished us in today’s Scripture passage.
The Lord said that the body of Christ edifies itself in God’s love (Ephesians 4:16). For us to abide by our faith in God, trusting one another and uniting together in the love that God has bestowed upon us, is to truly edify the body of Christ in love and follow and serve the Lord. You and I are also carrying out a particular task that has been entrusted to each of us, and this too is done to imitate Christ, all because we have put on God’s love.
Every Christian must obey the commandments coming from above—that is, each and every God-spoken Word. That God has revealed Himself to us means that He has opened His Word and shown His will to us through it. It is through His Word that God has disclosed and manifested His will, and the Christian faith is all about listening to this Word, realizing God’s will and His pleasure from the Word, and walking in obedience to the Word. In contrast, worldly religions are all about worshipping the god of one’s own making.
How about you then? Are you a beloved child of God? Are you an imitator of God? Are you walking in God’s love? All of us must walk in God’s love. Even though we may not have much to offer in terms of material means, we are walking in the real love, that is, we are helping one another spiritually. There are countless people in this world who claim to be helping others when in fact they are just hurting them. In contrast, we cherish others wholeheartedly. We do so not just for our own sake, but for the sake of Christ Jesus. For us to help others to follow Christ and receive God’s blessings is to walk in God’s love.
Who spoke of love? It’s God. If there is anyone in this world who can speak of love and practice it, let him step forward. How could any human being ever discuss any genuine love? True love is God’s love. God’s love is the real love that He has bestowed on us by sacrificing Himself for our sake.
Are we really walking in love? How are we sharing fellowship with one another? Are the people sharing fellowship with you doing so to help you live for Christ? If you have such people sharing this kind of fellowship, do you really know how grateful you should be to them? Regardless of whether they are your fellow brothers and sisters or God’s servants, you ought to be thankful to all who share their fellowship with you to help you live for God.
The Rich Fellowship Shared in God’s Church Is What Sustains Us
Even though our gathering is small, I have every confidence that all our affiliate churches throughout Korea and beyond are helping and edifying one another. We are nothing if we are scattered around to be alone. Do you think you can do anything you want outside the Church just because you have been saved? No, without the Church, Satan will devour you in no time.
It’s not so difficult for the Devil to bring spiritual destruction even to the saints. In fact, destroying the soul is actually quite simple for Satan. All that the Devil has to do is just add some poison when a sermon is preached, and once you swallow this poisoned sermon, you will perish right away. Food is not the only thing that can be poisoned. Nor is poison found just in certain ideologies. Even a sermon can be poisoned by misquoting the Word of God. And if the Word of God is poisoned, all the righteous will perish for sure.
Take a look around yourself and see if you really have fellow members of the Church teaching you in love, guiding you to the right way, and sharing their fellowship with you so that you would abide in the Church and follow the Lord faithfully. And be thankful that there are such fellow saints around you. The very fact that you have such caring members of the Church should make you grateful enough.
Brother Lim is no longer with us as he was recently drafted into the military. How do you feel now that brother Lim is gone? Don’t you think that he would have a hard time as he can’t share fellowship with us anymore in his army life? Of course, he will have the companion of his fellow soldiers, but they will only talk to him about worldly matters. It will be next to impossible for brother Lim to really share his heart with anyone because there are no born-again saints there. And he might miss us badly whenever he wants to share spiritual talks with us to his heart’s content.
Indeed, it’s only because we are abiding in the Church with the same heart after receiving the remission of sins that we can share fellowship from heart to heart. Nothing could be more wonderful than the fact that we are able to share our hearts with one another. So you and I ought to be united in love, walk in love, follow the Lord in love, and emulate Him in love. Just as Christ sacrificed Himself to save us, all of us ought to also help and edify each other.
It’s written in Hebrews 13:9, “It is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.” As this passage teaches us, your heart and mine should indeed be strengthened by the true grace that God has bestowed on us, rather than trying to edifying one another through our own merits or material means. We must establish our hearts by believing in God’s love and the salvation He has brought to us.
It is God who keeps us, guides us, and protects us; it is God who has placed us in His Church, made us serve Him, and blessed us to grow strong in the Church so that we would live for the Lord; and this God has told us to be strengthened in His blessings. So let us all be strengthened in faith. And let us all walk in God’s love and abide in Him by faith.