2013-03-10 Loving One Another Sacrificially | Ephesians 5: 2b
Eph 5: 2b And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
As we said last time, in this passage we find three ways that Christ has loved us and that we are in turn to love one another. There are three overlapping aspects of Christ’s love here that we should imitate. Last time we saw that His love for us was voluntary. Next week we will see that his love for us was acceptable to God. This week we will see that His love for us was sacrificial, and therefore we should love one another sacrificially.
Remember during our elementary school days, the various ways we showed we “liked” that cute little girl or boy in our class? In my day it was love notes neatly folded and passed across the classroom asking “Do you like me, yes or no, check one?” or it was carefully selected candy hearts that said “True love” and “Be mine” on Valentine’s Day; or it was slugs on the shoulder when passing one another in the hallway between classes. (You only slugged the girls you really liked!)
But just as innocently, I remember daydreaming about becoming even a hero to them. Specifically, I imagined seeing the girl standing in the middle of the road unaware of an oncoming car hurtling in her direction. In the second frame I imagined myself rushing onto the road and pushing her out of the path of the oncoming car into safety and often losing my own life in the process. The third frame was less distinct however. I never really imagined myself lying there dead, just the look of appreciation and endearment on her face when she realized what I had done for her. Looking back, I guess the goal of my daydream was an idealized demonstration of love to whichever girl friend I had in mind at the moment. I wanted her to see my “true love” in action, not just in love notes or candy hearts or shoulder slugs. Maybe it was a result of watching too many episodes of Superman risking exposure to deadly Krytonite to save Lois Lane, but even at that young age, I had the sense that the ultimate demonstration of love was to give one’s life for another.
And I believe each of us has a sense that we should live for – even give our lives away for – something greater than ourselves. But as you know, it’s not as easy to do in real life as in my daydream. When we see what God requires we are humbled in such a way that we become willing to receive what God offers us in Christ. (Keller, Ministries of Mercy, p. 66) We must do whatever we are called to do in total dependence on Christ.
In our passage today we are told that Christ not only “gave himself as an offering,” he “gave himself up” as a “sacrifice.” The question I would like us to answer today is, “What does it mean to live sacrificial lives – to lay down our lives for one another as Christ did for us and how can we put that into action?
First, let’s look at the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice – his suffering and death – and then at how this affects our relationships with one another. Ever since Adam’s fall in the Garden, the sacrifices of the OT taught God’s people the necessity of dealing with sin and, at the same time, demonstrated that God had provided a way for dealing with sin. God himself appointed it as the mode in which guilty man should approach a holy God. As we saw in our earlier Bible studies on Genesis and are now seeing in our study of Exodus, all the OT sacrifices pointed to the once for all sacrifice of Christ in his suffering and death on our behalf.
It has been pointed out (Grudem, Systematic Theology) that Christ’s suffering and death has met four needs that we have as sinners:
- We deserve to die as the penalty for sin.
- We deserve to bear God’s wrath against sin.
- We are separated from God by our sins.
- We are in bondage to sin and Satan because of our sins.
Our needs have been met in four corresponding ways through Christ’s sacrifice, Christ’s propitiation, Christ’s reconciliation and Christ’s redemption.
First, Christ’s sacrifice solves our problem of death. Though we deserved to die as the penalty for our sin, his sacrifice paid the penalty of death for us. In Heb. 9:26 we are told, “He has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself”). In John 10: 11 Jesus said, I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Christ solved our problem with death by dying in our place as our substitute.
Since Christ paid the penalty of death for us Therefore we should lay down our lives for one another. In 1 John 3: 16 we are told, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” And here follows an example of how we should do so in verses 17-18. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. Also, in Heb 13.16 we are told, “Do not neglect [or forget] to do good and to share what you have.” “For such sacrifices are pleasing to God. We can look back at verses 1-3 of the same chapter to see what doing good and sharing what we have looks like.: “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body. It means offering hospitality; visiting people in prison; caring for those who are afflicted; basically, living for others as the needs arise. Are you living – even willing to lay down your life – for the needs of others as Christ has for you, or are you living primarily for yourself?
Second, Christ’s propitiation solves our problem of God’s wrath Though we deserve to bear God’s wrath against sin, Christ bore it for us. In 1 John 4:10 we are told, “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”. He has become a propitiatory sacrifice upon which God is merciful or propitious to his people in spite of our unrighteousness and sins. God’s justice toward sin is pacified or placated or appeased toward us for what we have done. He lays aside his displeasure and anger toward us. Remember in Lk.18:13 “13 …the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful – propitious – to me, a sinner!’” That is, be merciful to me through the propitiation, the appeasing blood of the Messiah. (Gill, Propitiation…)
Since in Christ God has been merciful to us, Therefore, we should be merciful to one another. Earlier In 1 John 4:10 we were told, “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”. What follows in verse 11 is our expected response, “11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” If Christ has appeased God’s anger toward us, shouldn’t we put away our anger toward one another? That’s what we were told a few weeks ago in Eph.4:31-32 “31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” We should also remember the words of the Lord’s prayer, “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” and the parable of the unforgiving servant which concludes with these words. Matt.18:33-35 ” 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” A sacrificial life – laying down our lives for one another – means putting away our anger toward one another and putting on mercy and forgiveness.
Third, Christ’s Reconciliation solves our problem of separation from God. Though we deserved to be separated from God by our sins, Christ’s death reconciled us to God. In 2 Cor. 5:18–21 we are told, God “through Christ reconciled us to himself…that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself…not counting their trespasses against them… For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Through his death he became our sin – and thus was separated from holy God – that we might become his righteousness.
Since Christ has reconciled us to God through his suffering and death, So we should be reconciled with one another. In Matt 5:23,24 we are told,”Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you; leave there your gift before the altar and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” In the Garden, men were at peace with one another because they were at peace with God. After the fall, men were not only enemies of God because of sin, they were also enemies of one another. In Christ’s death we have once again been reconciled to one another. However, we can fall out of reconciliation at times, so we must “be reconciled” once again. A sacrificial life – laying down our lives for one another – means being reconciled with one another when that happens. It can be painful, but it’s part of the life we are called to live. Is there anyone with whom you need to be reconciled today?
Fourth, Christ’s Redemption solves our problem of bondage to sin and Satan: To free us from bondage, we need someone to provide redemption and thereby “redeem” us out of that bondage. A better translation of the original word is ransom. A ransom is the price paid to free someone from bondage or captivity. In Matthew 20:28 we are told, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. In Gal.3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us– for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”–”
The Latin term ‘redeem,’ means to buy back, while the Greek term which it renders in the New Testament means rather to buy out, or ransom. Both indicate the same fundamental idea of purchase. However, ransom indicates more accurately the notion of a re-purchase. (Warfield) By his death on the cross – with his precious blood – he has re-purchased us out of slavery to sin and Satan.
Since Christ’s death has re-purchased our freedom from bondage to sin and Satan, So we should seek not to abuse our freedom out of love for one another
In Gal.5:13 we are told, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” And in 1 Co.8:9 ” But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”
This is what is called the “weaker brother principle.” Paul wrote to the Corinthians, 1 Co.10:23-24 ““All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” In Christ we remain bound by the moral law, but many of the cultic practices prescribed in the Mosaic law were fulfilled in Christ, and therefore we have much more freedom to eat and drink and do whatever our conscience allows in these areas. However, every Christian’s conscience does not have the same freedom. Some in Corinth felt free to eat meat that had been offered to idols but others did not. Likewise today, some feel free to drink alcohol while others do not. Loving one another in this case would cause one person to refrain from drinking alcohol in the presence of others whose conscience will not allow it. “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” So finally, a sacrificial life – laying down our lives for one another – means not abusing our own freedom out of love for one another lest we cause others to stumble.