In Philippians 3:17, Paul encouraged the brethren to be “followers together of me…”and to “mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.” When the Apostle Paul told the Philippian brethren to “follow” him, he also instructed them to first make sure he was worthy of being followed. It was not that the apostle thought highly of himself or of his service. In fact, he was quick to point out in a later writing that he was “chief” of all sinners.” His point to the brethren was that he knew some of them WOULD emulate him; some of them were already looking to him as an example. His caution to them was to only follow him if he was worthy of being followed. They should only follow his example if that example was one that would lead them in the right direction.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 11, he told those brethren to be followers of him “as I am of Christ.”
With those two scriptures in mind, let us consider this question: Would you want others to follow you?
It can certainly be a sobering thought. Would I want other brethren to follow my lead? Would I wish upon them a life like mine? Would the Church be stronger if all the other members showed the faith I displayed?
We can translate the passage from Philippians into a series of statements that more resembles how people would talk today, without taking them out of context. What Paul might write to us today might say something like this: Be what I am in Christ. Be as strong as I am. Be as dedicated as I am. Be as knowledgeable and forgiving as I have shown myself to be.
Would you encourage others in the Church today with those same words? Would you WANT your brethren, your children and anyone else who sees you on a daily basis to be the kind of Christian you are?
Parents are sometimes asked to consider their children and then to consider the example they give those children on a regular basis. Would we want our children to speak as we do, to live as we live and to behave as we behave? Sometimes, of course, the answer would be a resounding, “NO.”
Likewise, those of in the Church need to stop from time to time and consider whether or not we are presenting an example of Christian living worth emulating. Remember Paul’s admonition to the young man Timothy in 1 Timothy 4, verse 12. He told him first to understand that anyone in the Church has the same expectations – even the young. A baptized believer of any age is expected to “be an example of the believers’ in every aspect of his or her life.
What about your speech?
If we are to be an example of the believers, then surely our language is one of the areas we must consider. Our speech, as James so eloquently pointed out (James 3), is one of the most powerful examples of our daily influence. We can do so much good and an equal amount of evil with the words we utter under various circumstances.
“If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect …” James said.
What about your words? What about you habits when it comes to how you express yourself vocally during difficult times? Should brethren pattern themselves after you when it comes to their speech?
In Ephesians 4 verse 29, Paul told us to “let no corrupt communication proceed out of (our) mouths.” That’s a tall order, when you consider how many words we speak during a normal day or week. He told us to weigh EVERY word to ensure that we only speak edifying things. Jesus said it was not the things that went into our mouths that would defile us, but the things that come out (Mark 15:11). And Paul, in Colossians 4 verse 6, told us to season all of our speech with salt.
And so, if we truly examine ourselves in regard to our speech habits, can we honestly say that our brethren would be wise to follow our example? Would the Church be stronger in speech, more pure in conversation, if our brethren were as strong as we are?
What about your daily living?
There are a great number of passages where scripture commands and encourages us to be careful in how we live daily. Christians are told to walk, dress and behave in a manner that “preaches Christ” or lets “our light” shine to the world.
One of those is in 1 Peter 2 verse 12, where Peter tells us to have a conversation that is “honest among the Gentiles.” What that means is that we never forget that the world (referred to here as Gentiles) is always watching us, and that we need to be mindful of how we present ourselves in every aspect of living.
What if every person in the Church was just as honest as you? What if the world thought as highly of all the brethren as they think of you? Would that be a good thing, or would it be a shame?
Consider, for instance, what Paul wrote in Philippians 1:27, when he told us to have our “conversation only be as it becometh the Gospel.” Our “conversation” that he spoke of refers to our overall life. He wanted us to focus on making sure that everything we present to the world is worthy of a Christian’s example.
Then he went on to say he hoped to hear good things when he “heard of (our) affairs.” That’s also a not-so-very-subtle message to us, reminding us that people are going to speak about us in one way or another. Paul said that, even if he was never in Philippi, he would “hear” about the brethren and how they had been living. What would he hear about us? And, if our brethren followed our example, what would he hear about them?
What about your Bible knowledge?
Going back to Paul’s letters to Timothy, we find an often quoted passage in 2 Timothy 2:15, where he wrote “Study to show thyself approved unto God.” He went on to tell us how we can make ourselves “not ashamed,” because of our ability to “rightly divide” God’s teachings. Our preachers have encouraged us all our lives from the pulpit to read the Bible more, to truly study God’s word in more detail and with more frequency. But why? For what purpose? Paul tells us it not only helps us to know what God’s commands are, but also how to apply them. Peter said God has given us “all things that pertain unto life and godliness,” and yet many Christians continue to avoid the scriptures as if they were the plague.
So, what about you? Would the brethren be better off if their study habits were equal with yours? Would the Church be better armed with scriptural wisdom if everyone spent as much time with the Word as you? What if every member of your congregation knew as much, or as little, as you did about why we worship the way we do? What if every member of every congregation was just as strong, or just as weak, as you in their ability to lead someone through the Scriptures and explain to them the plan of salvation?
Do you truly understand and appreciate that “all scripture is given by God,” and that it is “profitable (meaning helpful) for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness”? Honestly, if we all TRULY believed that with all our hearts, would there be anything that could keep us from spending more time studying and learning those things?
There are many other topics we could address along these lines; topics like our work habits, our tendency to forgive and other truly important aspects of our Christian life. But, hopefully, these few things we have addressed in this article will encourage all of us to consider our example before the world and especially before our brethren. We live in a world where our brethren face so many evil examples every day. They desperately need us to be all that we can be when it comes to a strong and willing example of godly living.
Article by: Roy E Deering