J. Oliver Jones
“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” KJV
“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” NKJV
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” NIV
Most every major translation has a similar if not exact rendering of this verse found in 1 Corinthians 11:1. Paul is straight forward and unapologetically telling other believers to follow him, imitate him, and follow his example, just as he, himself, follows and imitates the example of Christ. How could he dare make such a statement? Does this not reveal a spirit of pride and arrogance in Paul, something quite contrary to humility, and not becoming to a Christian at all? Who does he think he is to suggest that his life is worthy of being imitated?
Well, Paul tells us many times just who he is. He identifies himself as a bond servant of Jesus Christ, one called to be an apostle by the grace of Christ, and in some instances, a prisoner of Jesus Christ. Paul identifies himself as one who has lost all things for the sake of Christ, and does consider those things lost as rubbish when compared to what he has gained in Christ. He is one who has been crucified with Christ, still he lives; yet he does not live, but it is Christ who lives through him. He is one who understands suffering hardships for the sake of the Gospel. Listen to his words from the second letter to the Corinthian Church, chapter 11, verses 22-28:
Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
So who was Paul that he should be so bold as to tell others to follow him as he followed Christ? He was a man who held nothing back, who made no excuses, and who sought no loopholes. He was a man who fought a good fight, finished his course, and kept the faith. Oh, and concerning humility, after all of this, he said of himself, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor. 15:9). And in 1 Timothy 1:15, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
Our prayer should be that we might be found so faithful to our calling that we too will be able to say as did Paul, “Follow me as I follow Christ!” How many of us have reached this point in our walk with Christ? Who among us dare make such a pronouncement? Can I? Can you? And if not, then we must ask, “Why can we not?” For if we are not following Christ in such a way, we must be following something else. Perhaps it is our own desires, our own ambitions, or our own way. And if this be the case, can we truly be called His disciples?
Now great multitudes went with Him.
And He turned and said to them,
“If anyone comes to Me
and does not hate his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
yes, and his own life also,
he cannot be My disciple.
And whoever does not bear his cross
and come after Me
cannot be My disciple.”