“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” (Ephesians 5:1)
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8)
“For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ʻFor this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.ʼ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:30-32)
In this well-known chapter of Ephesians, it is easy to focus on the “to dos,” particularly for husbands and wives. We should pay attention to the context as Paul continues to frame the expectations for our behavior on an underlying identity. The theme of “in Christ” or “in Him” runs like a strong current through this letter, and Paul does not miss the chance to reinforce this identity even while giving instructions for imitating Christ. But if we stop with just the command to imitate Him, we will quickly find ourselves overwhelmed.
Paul begins chapter 5 with an exhortation to imitate God because we are His children. Our imitation should follow the fact that we have been connected to Christ such that we are indeed children of God (1 John 3:1-2). The family resemblance naturally follows being part of the family. Paul continues this theme with verse 8: “But now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” As he works through the roles of submission and servitude in marriage, Paul does not miss the opportunity emphasize that he is tying these expectations to our identity in Christ. So in verse 30 he says, “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.” Then he follows this up with a quote from Genesis 2:24 where he says that the union of Adam and Eve is a description of Christ’s relationship to the church. The great mystery is that we are intimately joined with Christ. That is our identity.
Based on this reality in Christ, we can make practical applications to what we do. For example, our intimate relationship with Christ means that when we pray we are not asking God to cross the universe to hear our prayer. No—we are like a nerve in His body sending a signal to the brain. We are in pain! We are in distress! We are in pleasure! Our “Head” knows because He is connected to that nerve. Our Savior responds, nourishing and cherishing us individually and corporately as His body. The lesson for us is to remember our identity and the church’s position in Christ (our forgiveness, redemption, sanctification and son-ship) so that we naturally imitate our Savior who is all things.