Paul was not afraid to set an example and to ask others to follow him. It was not a request to blindly follow a man without discernment. Notice how Paul states this matter to the church at Corinth; “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Christ is the standard, not Paul. Earlier in Chapter 4, Paul wrote to these believers as His “beloved children” (4:14) because he “became [their] father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (4:15). Through this intense spiritual relationship, Paul had a basis to say to them, “I urge you, then, be imitators of me” (4:16). Communicating the gospel of grace through word and life became the moral basis for exhorting them to follow his example.
Would others see the gospel clearly revealed in our lives and ministry such that we could say to others, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”? I am very challenged by this. Because it is challenging does not mean that it is not attainable or not a model to follow. If we really want to be effective in spreading the gospel and equipping others to do the same, this should be our goal.
Remember, the key to being an effective model that can be followed by others is that we are following Christ. One cannot happen without the other! In Paul’s mind, this was an expanding process that did not center around himself. “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:17). There were others who saw Christ in Paul and they in turn became examples for others to follow. The Thessalonian church imitated Paul and they in turn “became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7).
Each of us are examples of something. The challenging question is; of what? In a world full of bad models, we need to step up and be followers of Christ that others can follow.
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