Wherefore I beseech you, be followers of me.” (1 Corinthians 4:16)
Hey, wait a minute! That’s the same verse. Is this a mistake? No, just feel I need to look into it more and focus on that follower part that Paul is talking about and the follower that You Jesus, call us to be. I didn’t exactly do that the other day. So today I will. I’ll compare and contrast the following of Paul and the following of Christ.
Paul, in speaking to believers turned awry, or believers not walking like believers, pleads with them to follow him. Who am I really supposed to follow? Am I supposed to follow Paul or Jesus? Is it true that I can only follow Paul because he is another mere man? Is Jesus too much to follow because He is God and who can follow in God’s footsteps? Well, according to Jesus, we are to follow Him. According to Paul, those believers who had lost sight of Jesus, were urged to imitate him to gain that image back.
The word Paul used here, which is sometimes translated as follow, is the word mimetes. It is an imitator. Skip Moen makes this statement of this instance’ “Sometimes the perfect copy is as good as the original.” Can you imagine that? Can you imagine Paul saying, “Hey, look at my life and my actions and my words, and you’ll see the Source. Copy my example and you’ll get back to knowing the Source.” That’s a really bold statement.
Was Paul being too bold? Or was he just being what Christ is calling each of us to be? See, this mimetes carries “the sense of being an exact copy of the original, the kind of copy that reflects all the craftsmanship and beauty of the source. When you put the two side by side, you can’t tell the difference. Especially if the producer of the origninal is also the producer of the copy.” (Skip) This is all about the work of the Holy Spirit in Paul and in each copy. It’s not about the work that Paul is doing and it’s not about what Paul is going to do for other believers. Its that the same Holy Spirit who did this marvelous work in Paul, He’ll produce the same godly actions in the other copies of the original that He makes also. But Paul isn’t the original copy. Christ is. Paul allowed the Holy Spirit to produce Christ in him and Paul is urging the Corinthian church to follow that example, the example of what has been produced in him, to allow the Holy Spirit to produce the same character of Christ in them. Has my character been so produced? Is it in the process of being produced? Or am I producing my own character after a different source and model?
Like Paul, can others see Jesus in me? Is my copy a copy of His life? Really? If other people imitated me, who would it make them like? Would they be more like You or more like me? Am I that transparent that people see through me and see Jesus?
Again, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” See the Source? In Ephesians 5:1 he urges, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Ever heard that expression, “Like father, like son”? There are lots of natural things that happen in our lives and natural feelings we have that want to pull us to handle things our own way. But we have this Better Example, this One who showed us forgiveness and mercy and love. Therefore, we’re called to imitate Him and His behavior and His attitude, all of His character and “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” This is who we’re called to imitate by the power He gives through the Holy Spirit to be made imitatable.
Being made able to imitate God is an awesome thing. Paul keeps re-emphasizing it’s importance in our lives. In 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8 he commends the Thessalonians saying, “and you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere so that we need not say anything.” How’s that for a powerful imitation? How’s that for a work of God in someone’s life? How’s that for having an effect on others?
And this imitation shouldn’t be limited to only imitating individuals who are imitating You, Lord. Paul says that the brethren in Thessalonica became “imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea” because they were going through the same suffering from their own countrymen as the churches in Judea were. Our lives are imitations of each other as believers because we each are imitations of the Original Source. My life here in the U.S. ought to look like an imitation of a fellow believer in Egypt, or India, or Pakistan, or the Philippines, or Kenya. If I am allowing the Holy Spirit to make me an imitation of Christ, I ought to resemble the church of Christ whereever one looks.
It’s not an easy road. Paul urges the Hebrew believers to “not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Yeah, it’s a hard road, but believers are called to walk it. But we don’t walk it alone. We have One who walked it first and not only does He call us to imitate Him in that walk, but He calls us to follow Him.
So, walking that road brings us to the following Jesus part. When You say “Follow me,” in all those different instances straight from Your mouth, You know those words in red in my Bible, it’s that Greek word akoloutheo. It’s two parts- of union and a road. It means to be in the same way with, to accompany, to follow. It’s the idea of a disciple. It’s not the same word for learning facts. It’s all about following after and going behind. It’s not just about communicating information to pupils. Being a disciple, being a follower is about “active, behavioral transformation.” It’s all about “life purpose and behavior.” Your life purpose and behavior become my life purpose and behavior. I”m not Your pupil; I’m Your follower. A follower is a true disciple; a mere pupil is not a true disciple.
Paul had it right on. If I am truly Your disciple, then my life will follow Yours in “actions, thoughts, and atittitudes.” I will be personally transformed. My life and I will draw closer and closer to Your life. I won’t be the only one who notices. No class can do this for me. No Bible study alone is enough. I must absorb what I learn and let You put it to action in my life. My study must be followed with the behavior , attitudes , and thinking that I’m “learning” being applied and lived out in my life. My behavior, attitudes, and thinking must be being transformed by Your Spirit. Skip Moes states, “All following includes active obedience.” I must absorb You to be Your disciple, to be Your follower. Hearing is obeying. Followers follow, they walk behind. Followers follow the One who leads. So the real question is, am I really my Father’s image? Or whose image am I portraying? Am I really a follower of You, Jesus? Am I a real follower of the Way?