Follow My Example…
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV)
The apostle Paul had just finished exhorting the believers in Corinth, telling them in his letter that although they were free in Christ, they had to seek the good of others rather than their own good. He was addressing specifically an issue that was relevant for his day, which was the matter of eating meat that had been offered to idols before being sold in the market. Although the believers were free to eat the meat, Paul recommended that they abstain from eating it if they were eating in the home of an unbeliever and someone raised the issue of its having been offered in sacrifice. In such a case, Paul said that the believer should make his freedom subordinate to the good of the other person, for the sake of that person’s conscience. He said to the Corinthians, “Do not cause anyone to stumble… even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good, but the good of many, so that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:32-33). Paul then ended his exhortation with the command: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
Today most of us aren’t confronted with the issue of meat sacrificed to idols, as the early church was. Further, Paul’s command might seem overly confident – maybe even arrogant. But being a good example for Christ should be something to which every Christian should aspire. Remember that the loudest sermons are not the things we say but the things we do. In other words, people in your sphere of influence “hear” what you do more loudly than what you say. Parents who bring babies to church to be dedicated have to know that there is no magic incantation that will cause their children to follow the straight and narrow path. While it is a good thing to dedicate and pray for the children, it can’t take the place of the godly example of a Christian parent.
Throughout the New Testament, Christians are admonished to be a model for others. Titus is told to urge the older women in the congregation to teach the younger women what is good. And Paul urged Timothy to “set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). In his letter, Peter told the believers who had been scattered abroad to “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12).
Going back to Paul’s command, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ,” was it self-righteousness or overconfidence on Paul’s part? Not at all! The apostle said that that we “do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4); and that we “are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in [us]” (Romans 8:9), i.e. if we are Christians. It is the Holy Spirit that enables us to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to model that walk for those around us. That was the reason for Paul’s confidence, and it should be the reason for our confidence as well.
Read 1 Corinthians 10:23—11:1.