“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”. – 1 Cor 11:1
In the letters of the apostle Paul to the Corinthian church, he gave many exhortations and directions. He occasionally received reports from the newly established church, and he patiently and clearly wrote back to answer questions about faith and practice. He made sure to expose carnal attitudes and sinful behavior, as well as provide guidance on doctrines such as spiritual gifts and the resurrection of Christ.
At one point in the middle of Paul’s exhortations, he simply wrote “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”. Naturally, this begs the question “what did Christ do”? Paul was not one of the original disciples of Jesus and so never met the Master in the flesh. He must have referred to the detailed gospel writings of people like Matthew and John, who spent much time with the Lord and testified to what he said and did. Evidently Paul not only knew Jesus’ teachings, he also knew about the blameless life that Jesus led, the miracles he performed, and his sacrificial service to others.
By Paul’s own admission, before his conversion, he was a zealous religious leader, “a blasphemer, persecutor of Christians and violent man” (1 Tim 1:13). However, since that unforgettable encounter with Christ on the road to Damacus, and having received mercy and grace from God (1 Tim 1:14), Paul’s life took an about-turn. It was as if he had become a different man. This is why Paul’s witness was one of not just talk, but of power – the sanctifying and life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 4:20).
To the Philippian church, Paul wrote similarly “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do” (Phil 3:17).
Paul was not asking people to change their outward behaviors to be seen by others, to ease their troubled consciences, or even to keep themselves from the consequences of their sins. Rather he was saying that a true follower of Jesus submits himself or herself to the righteousness of God, seeking Christ above all else. Such disciples show the fruit of the Spirit in living transformed lives, and are the best ambassadors of the gospel.
Are you one of those people whose lives provoke the questions for which Jesus is the answer? Do you know that the world is crying out to follow the example of a man or woman who follows Christ’s example? May God help us to be true disciples and disciple-makers.
By Aaron Lee, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 27 October 2019)