This verse is unfortunately misplaced as the first verse of chapter 11, as it rightly belongs to the subject matter of chapter 10. Just three verses earlier (verse 31), Paul admonishes them, ". . . whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." This was how Jesus Christ lived life, doing it perfectly. The apostle strove to do the same. To imitate them, we must live life as a living sacrifice. We can imitate Christ, not in the sense of enduring the agony of His crucifixion, but by obediently walking in His footsteps (I Peter 2:21) and by showing love and thankfulness to Him by keeping His precepts.
Christians who love God fully with heart, soul, and mind, and who love their neighbors as themselves, will do everything to please Him. So how can a person sacrifice himself before the God he says he loves without doing the works entailed in those sacrifices? Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 5:1-2: "Therefore be followers of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." Love is extremely rewarding yet also costly since one who loves will sacrifice. Indeed, sacrifice is love's very essence.
We can illuminate Paul's thought in Ephesians 5:1-2 by placing it in a larger context. Note Ephesians 2:8-10:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Salvation indeed is a free gift; it cannot be earned by works. Yet, after saving us from our sins, God requires us to work! We are to perform work that He has laid out beforehand for us to accomplish. In fact, verse 10, standing by itself, asserts that to do these good works is the very reason we have received justification!
This verse, in the phrase, "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus," also says that God, in turn, is working on us. Before being saved, we were not in Christ Jesus. God's creative processes brought us into Christ, and once there, He continues to shape and form us into His Son's image (II Corinthians 3:18).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required to Do Works? (Part One)
How can one imitate both Christ and Paul unless he can discern they are both living by the same code of behavior? How can one study God's Word for instruction in righteousness without self-evaluation? The Bible instructs us, "Test all things; hold fast what is good" (I Thessalonians 5:21). Doing this requires judgment, discerning what is good from evil.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Judging Our Brothers