Here we have the exhortation to mutual love, or to Christian charity. The apostle had been insisting on this in the former chapter, and particularly in the Eph. 4:17-32 of it, to which the particle therefore refers, and connects what he had said there with what is contained in these verses, thus: “Because God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven you, therefore be you followers of God, or imitators of him;” for so the word signifies. Pious persons should imitate the God whom they worship, as far as he has revealed himself as imitable by them. They must conform themselves to his example, and have his image renewed upon them. This puts a great honour upon practical religion, that it is the imitating of God. We must be holy as God is holy, merciful as he is merciful, perfect as he is perfect. But there is no one attribute of God more recommended to our imitation than that of his goodness. Be you imitators of God, or resemble him, in every grace, and especially in his love, and in his pardoning goodness. God is love; and those that dwell in love dwell in God and God in them. Thus he has proclaimed his name, Gracious and merciful, and abundant in goodness. As dear children, as children (who are wont to be greatly beloved by their parents) usually resemble them in the lineaments and features of their faces, and in the dispositions and qualities of their minds; or as becomes the children of God, who are beloved and cherished by their heavenly Father. Children are obliged to imitate their parents in what is good, especially when dearly beloved by them. The character that we bear of God’s children obliges us to resemble him, especially in his love and goodness, in his mercy and readiness to forgive. And those only are God’s dear children who imitate him in these. It follows, And walk in love, Eph. 5:2. This godlike grace should conduct and influence our whole conversation, which is meant by walking in it. It should be the principle from which we act; it should direct the ends at which we aim. We should be more careful to give proof of the sincerity of our love one to another. As Christ also hath loved us. Here the apostle directs us to the example of Christ, whom Christians are obliged to imitate, and in whom we have an instance of the most free and generous love that ever was, that great love wherewith he hath loved us. We are all joint sharers in that love, and partakers of the comfort of it, and therefore should love one another, Christ having loved us all and given such proof of his love to us; for he hath given himself for us. The apostle designedly enlarges on the subject; for what can yield us more delightful matter for contemplation than this? Christ gave himself to die for us; and the death of Christ was the great sacrifice of atonement: An offering and a sacrifice to God; or an offering, even a sacrifice—a propitiatory sacrifice, to expiate our guilt, which had been prefigured in the legal oblations and sacrifices; and this for a sweet-smelling savour. Some observe that the sin-offerings were never said to be of a sweet-smelling savour; but this is said of the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. As he offered himself with a design to be accepted of God, so God did accept, was pleased with, and appeased by, that sacrifice. Note, As the sacrifice of Christ was efficacious with God, so his example should be prevailing with us, and we should carefully copy after it.
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