Resurrection Lutheran Church, St Catharines
You Are Just Like Your Father
Rev. Kurt Lantz Lent 3 Ephesians 5:1-9
March 12, 2023 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear saints who are faithful in Christ Jesus,
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:2)
“He’s just like his dad!” Hopefully when you hear that it is meant as a compliment, but sometimes it is not. When it was becoming clear that the Jews were rejecting Jesus as the Son of God and their Saviour from sin, He told them that they were just like their father.
They answered Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to Him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of My own accord, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” (John 8:39-44)
You are just like your father. Is your father the devil, or God? Is your name Christian or pagan? Do you identify with your birth into this wicked world, or your rebirth by water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism?
St. Paul wrote “to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1), “Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children” (5:1). Christians are God’s children. They are baptized into Christ Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God. “To those who believe in Jesus Christ He gives the power to become the children of God and bestows on them the Holy Spirit” (LSB 151; cf. John 1:12). The name “Christian” identifies you as a brother/sister of Jesus Christ, and therefore a child of God. And that means that you are loved.
As a child of God you are loved by your brothers and sisters in Christ who gather with you in God’s house and eat with you at the Lord’s table. They bear your burdens with you. When you weep, they weep; and when you rejoice they rejoice.
As a child of God you are loved by Jesus, “who gave Himself up for you as a fragrant offering and sacrifice” (Ephesians 5:2). He died upon the cross and shed His blood there as a redeeming payment for your sins. He brought you out from under the power of your former father, the devil, and paid the adoption fee for you to come into the family of your heavenly Father. On the night when He would be betrayed to go to that death, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). No one has greater love for you than Jesus. And that is because He is just like His Father.
You are loved by God the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth. You are His beloved children. Jesus’ love for you is not the only love that sent Him to the cross for you. He did it also because He loves His Father and His Father’s will is to have you as His children. It is their combined and compounded love that has rescued you from the house of evil and the power of Satan in order that you might have all of the eternal treasures of God’s family, sharing in His holiness, righteousness, glory, and love for all of this life and for all of eternity.
Jesus is just like His Father, and so are you. “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” (5:1-2). Certainly you cannot imitate the Father’s act of creation out of nothing. But you can imitate His holiness and care and love for others. Certainly you cannot sacrifice yourself in order to pay for your sins or the sins of anyone else. But you can imitate Jesus’ holiness and humility and obedient love to the heavenly Father.
When Paul was in prison and the Christians in Philippi sent supplies to him by the hand of Epaphroditus, he wrote back to tell them it was “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18), the same words he used to describe Jesus’ act of love.
You see, people make sacrifices to their gods in ways other than the slaughter of animals and burning the carcasses on an altar. In Ephesus, where the Christians lived to whom Paul wrote today’s Epistle Reading, there was a huge cult to the goddess Artemis of the Ephesians. The temple to her there was one of the ancient wonders of the world. Paul had to leave Ephesus because he preached against this false god and it led to a riot because the local economy depended on the sale of all kinds of silver idols and shrines (Acts 19:24-41).
It was not only prayer and meditation before such idols that was the way of worship of Artemis of the Ephesians, but also in offering to her sexual fertility. And so, in his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul goes even beyond what we heard in rebuking and condemning sexual immorality in last week’s Epistle to the Thessalonians. To the Ephesians Paul underscored that it is not even proper for Christians to talk about the kind of stuff that was going on. For people who do so, are obviously not imitating God the heavenly Father, but in Ephesus it was clear that they were imitating that demon goddess, and the father of all evil, the devil.
However, it is not just to those in Ephesus, but to all Christians whether in the first century in Thessalonica, or in the twenty-fourth century in Canada, that the Lord Jesus speaks through the pen of His apostle Paul to tell us: “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.” There is no inheritance in God’s kingdom, because it is plain that they are imitating their father the devil. “...because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Who they imitate reveals who their father is.
“Do not become partners with them,” not sexual partners, not even taking part in joking or frivolous talk about such things. You have been given a different part, a part of the inheritance of Christ in the family and kingdom of God as His children. You have a part in the glories of Him who gave Himself for you and rose victorious over sin, death, and devil. You are a part of His body, the Church. You have been clothed with His holiness and righteousness. You have His body and blood put into you. You have His life now and eternally.
What is proper for you, for all of the children of God, for all of His saints, is to put all such things away from you; to separate yourself from them, even as God has separated you from the house of Satan. The heavenly Father sent Jesus to rob Satan’s house. Satan, that strong man held us all captive by his entrapment of our first parents in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). He consigned us all to captivity by his temptation to do what God had forbidden. And the old evil foe hasn’t changed his game. He is still tempting us to do what God has forbidden, to doubt the wages of sin, to tempt us with things that are pleasing to the senses. He seeks to hold you enslaved in the crypt of his castle.
But Jesus came resisting his temptations (Matthew 4:1-11) and casting out his demons (Luke 11:18). He healed people of their unclean spirits and commanded the demons to be silent. He bound up the strong man, Satan, who would enslave us, and Jesus plundered his house and rescued us from that dungeon of disobedient depravity and destruction.
It should have been plain to everyone who saw and to everyone who continues to hear, that Jesus of Nazareth is the devil’s enemy and his victorious foe. He has ransacked the house of sin and death and brought us out to be God’s children. He has clothed and fed and sheltered us. He has healed us and cleansed us and exorcised our demons, and given us a new name through His powerful Word in the water of Baptism.
So as beloved children of God, we are encouraged to imitate Him in holiness and not to open the door for the exorcised demons to return to such a swept and ordered house, bringing spirits more evil back into us. Do not open the door through sexual immorality and impurity and covetousness and filthy talk. This stuff isn’t just about physical pleasure. It isn’t fodder for harmless jokes. It is idolatry. It is the worship of demons, like Artemis of the Ephesians. It is running away from your home where the heavenly Father has made you His beloved children.
“for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (5:8). Once you were in the dark dungeon of the devil’s domicile. Now you are in the light of God’s holy house. “Walk as children of light,” beloved children, not chained captives; treasured heirs, not hoarded trophies. You are not slaves to sexual immorality, impurity, and covetousness, but saints of goodness, righteousness, and truth (5:9). You are just like your Father.
“Peace to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible” (6:23-24).