“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.”
Three questions present themselves here: What is a man’s walk; what is the meaning of Save; and what does it mean to walk in love?
A man’s walk is his life. The Greek word here means to walk about. In a thousand places, the Bible refers to our life as our walk, our conversation, our way or our path.
And mark you well, not our life only as it becomes manifest in our acts and works, because that is the least important of our life. That part of life is very deceiving. A man is often not as he reveals himself. O no, but we are liars from our youth, all of us! Often we have a smile on the face but a curse in the heart! You cannot trust the face, the speech, the hands and feet of man. Especially is this true when you are speaking of a concept such as love! To walk in love means first of all something entirely different from action and speech. This becomes still more evident when we note the connection of the text. We must be kind and forgiving to one another and thus become imitators of God. Now, forgiving is not first of all a matter of action and words, but it is very definitely a question of the thoughts of the heart!
First, therefore, your walk is your life as you live it from the heart. You may say that as your heart is so you are. If you are hateful in the heart and bear an ugly grudge against your fellow-men or your God, you are a hater, no matter how sweet your smile may be and no matter how honeyed your words may sound. As the heart is, so is the man. And from the heart are the issues of life.
Moreover, we have to do with God first of all. And His Word tells us that He does not accept the face of man. No, but He trieth the hearts and beholdeth every man’s heart to see of what kind it is. You cannot keep your heart hidden from Him even if you tried. He knows all our heart and the secrets within.
Behind every thought, word and deed lies that heart of ours and at that exact point starts your life and your walk. As the heart is so will the walk be. Your heart therefore also determines where you ultimately will go. We can see that now in the direction my heart is going. If your heart is heavenly minded and God-centered, you are traveling to heaven. If you are hateful as the devil in your heart, you are traveling to hell. Your heart will find you out in the day when, the Lord shall turn the hearts of man inside out, and then it will be clearly shown whether heaven fitted you all your days on earth, or whether hell was your fitting dwelling place, even while you walked on earth with a smile on your face.
Secondly, your walk also comprises your actions, actions of speech and actions of works. We may put it this way: Your walk is your life as it starts in the heart and bears fruit in word and deed, in relation to all and everything that meets you on the way. That is your walk.
The second question we were to ask ourselves is: what is love?
In general we may say that God is love. The Bible has said so very simply and beautifully. And in Col. 3:14 love is called the bond of perfectness. And in Col. 2:2 we read of being knit together in love. Love is there the state of being knit together. The same idea therefore as when love is called a bond. If we put these two thoughts together, namely, the bond of perfectness and the being knit together, we come to the conclusion that love is a cleaving, a being knit together in the sphere of perfection. If we love a body we have an inmost desire to be united to that body, we seek that body and cleave to it. Thus there is a cleaving, a being bound together in God, for He is called Love. It is the very essence of the Covenant God for love is the bond of perfectness.
Now, to walk in love certainly means that this bond of perfectness must dwell in our hearts. In other words, God must dwell in our hearts, must be seated on the throne of my heart if I am going to walk in love. Therefore, it can only be done by those that are the beloved children of God. To give this injunction to a child of the devil is nonsense. How could a man that is full of hate love God and his neighbor?
Do you not see that the admonition of the text is a direct appeal to the wonderful work of God’s Holy Spirit in the heart of God’s people? Paul says to the Ephesians: You are children of God, much beloved from all eternity. As such the love of God, that is, God Himself lives in your hearts. And for that reason I come to you, Ephesians, and admonish you: live from the heart out of the principle of love, love towards God and love towards the brethren.
But we know that such wonderful life is not in harmony with every day life of reality. We find hatred and malice and strife, also in the church of God. We are sinners even after we are born of God. There is but a very small principle of that new love of God. For the Christians are not as yet perfected. But in spite of all that, we would maintain that whenever you do not walk in love as outlined above, you are very miserable and your heart will tell you that you live not in harmony with the God you worship. The principle of the walk in love which is found in the meanest Christian is so strong that it permeates your every endeavor, be it ever so far removed from the glorious ideal of my text. And whenever you depart from the golden road of love of God you will notice it and you will deplore it in a grieving heart.
Therefore, Christians, whether you be strong or weak, attend to this: because of the very sin that besets you every day, this admonition must be preached and preached again and again. Its beautiful ideal must be dinned into our ears from morning to night so that we may haply convert ourselves by the Lord’s grace over and in us from all the hatred of the devil which is ever remaining against our will in us until our dying hour. Therefore Christians be followers of God, walk in love, because you are beloved children of God!
And for our comfort and emulation the Lord has given us a wonderful example of such walk in love. Read the text: as Christ hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God!
Attend unto the real meaning of this stupendous truth: Christ hath loved us! Well, that means that Christ is knit together with the persons who are called “us” in the text.
How rich is that commentary of the Word of God of that concept. Christ hath loved us. That does not mean that He loved everyone. For He did not. Note how Christ Himself speaks of this truth in His high-priestly prayer: I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one! He tells us that He received His people from the Father, because they were His. He tells us that He prays for them, not for the world. Surely, Jesus loves the elect of the Father that are given to Him into His safekeeping.
And He has proved that love.
In history the children of God that were the beloved from all eternity, became children of wrath even as the others. We hated God, even as we hated His Son. And we showed that hatred in all our hearts and minds and ways. But Jesus ever saw the image of the Father in His sheep. Christ has a view of the sheep, the elect, which is beautiful and glorious. He beholds the sheep in the palms of the Father’s hands. And that image is wonderful and glorious. And it is His very work to make us as we are in those hands of the Father.
Therefore, when the holiness and the righteousness of the Father demanded satisfaction for the sin and the guilt of His sheep, the clinging, knitting and cleaving love of God kept Him united to His sheep in their misery. We hear of it in Isaiah’s prophecy: In all their afflictions He was afflicted. Christ proved His love for His sheep in that He became an offering and a sacrifice for them.
Sacrifice and offering are the two words that tell us of the terrible suffering of Christ, in the body and in the soul, for time and for the taste of a suffering that is eternal.
And therein is the love of God manifested, shown to us, namely, that Jesus willingly gave Himself to be an offering and a sacrifice for us.
That is our example.
Look strongly on Jesus and see how He loved us, dying the accursed death for the elect while they were yet sinners, while some of them still hated Him, one of them even denying Him with an oath.
Look strongly at Jesus and begin to try and measure the length and the breadth and the depth of that love as shown at Calvary. So that you may emulate it in your life of love and loving-kindness. For that is the whole thrust of the verse.
And why do we do that as Christians?
The text says: “unto God a sweet-smelling savor.”
That is why Christ gave Himself for us a sacrifice and offering. He became through all that labor of His soul a sweet-smelling savor to God, His Father.
When we hate one another we surely are no sweet-smelling savor to God. In such things the name of God is slandered. And thus we are living contrary to the purpose of our creation and our regeneration. The purpose why God created man on the earth is that He might be glorified in him.
And now we know, that God will be glorified whether we praise Him and love our brethren or not. He is glorified in our damnation as well as in our salvation. See the example of Pharaoh: For this purpose, saith God, have I raised thee up, that I might show My power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth. But the point of the text is this: The children of God must love! God is glorified in His children in that they are His image bearers! Therefore, He admonishes them to love! Answer the question for yourselves: do I love God and my brethren for His name’s sake? If you do, you are a beloved child of God: and if you do not: you are still in your sins and living from the motive of hatred and malice of the devil. And may God have mercy on your soul!
Why did Jesus give Himself for His people an offering and a sacrifice?
It was because He wanted to be unto God a sweet-smelling savor. That is the same as good pleasure. The Lord God was pleased when He saw Himself in the Savior giving Himself unto death for His people from the motive of love, His own love. God recognized His own love in the love of Christ for His sheep.
The Lord was pleased when He saw that love in Jesus was stronger than death, mightier than everlasting damnation and the curse which were heaped upon His defenseless head. God saw Jesus going under in the waves and billows of the burden of His wrath. He was knit together with His sheep and He never once let them go. He gave His life for the sheep. It was the only sacrifice that really pleased God. For it was motivated by perfect love.
And so we are called upon to love. Not only those that love us. That is easy. Even the sinners do that. But we must love when we are sinned against. We must love when we are shamefully treated. We must bless when we are cursed. We must pray for them that persecute us. Then we shall manifest the love of God. Then we are imitators of God.