Thursday, 29 May 2014
Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 1 Corinthians 4:16
Paul has been speaking of divisions within the church for four chapters. Such divisions can only lead to a breakdown in harmony, infighting, and other trials. Eventually, they can ruin or completely divide a church. So one might think that Paul is actually causing a new division by his words in the previous verse (that he is a father to them) and in this verse by asking them to imitate him. Is he trying to greedily have the church follow him and not Apollos? The answer is no. His statement that he is a father to them implies that they are children to him. A father will look out for good, not evil, when guiding his children. And a father will have his own example to follow. In the case of Paul, he states his example explicitly in 1 Corinthians 11:1 by again instructing them to imitate him, while explaining why –
“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”
Paul’s example is Christ. If this is so, then asking them to imitate him is, in effect, simply learning the greater example of Christ. This is a common theme of Paul, often implied, often explicit. In Philippians 3:17, he makes it explicit again –
“Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”
As another example, found in Ephesians 5:1 & 2, he will actually go around himself and ask them to directly imitate God –
“Therefore be imitators 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.”
The reason for speaking this way to the Ephesians as opposed to how he speaks to the Corinthians (“imitate God” rather than “imitate me”) is that the Corinthians were carnal and not yet grounded in how to imitate God. If he were to have told them to “imitate God” as he did to those at Ephesus, they would have had nothing substantial on which to accomplish this admonition. One must first learn what God expects before imitating Him. As Paul knew what God expected, they could follow him and thus learn how to imitate God.
Paul’s words are logical, clear, and demonstrate the wisdom which God granted him in order to handle every situation in the most effective way.
Life application: How important it is for instructors, teachers, and pastors to understand what God expects before teaching others. Without being God-like in their behavior, those who are instructed by them will most likely never truly learn how to imitate God.
Lord God, give me the wise sense to act in accord with Your will and the instruction You have given us in the Bible so that I can turn around and be a proper example to those around me. If their impression of You is faulty because of me, then I have failed You. May it not be so! But rather, keep me on that straight path of Christ, never deviating from what You would desire for me in the sight of others. Amen.