A Verse Every Believer Should Aspire To

Posted on March 29, 2019

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By David Ettinger

A Tall Order
I hate being convicted about things I should be doing, but haven’t given any thought to. Of course, reading the Bible every day greatly reduces the odds of not being convicted. In fact, it is the job of the Bible to convict believers of those things they should be doing.

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So, what’s this latest dose of conviction which has seized me? It’s a nugget in 1 Corinthians which  reads: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (11:1). This may not seem cataclysmic to you, but it does to me. These 10 words – particularly the first three – are a tall order indeed!

The Background
This verse should be the end of Chapter 10. In the last portion of 1 Corinthians 10, Paul was discussing how confident Christians should not use their freedom in Christ to cause not-so-confident Christians to stumble. In other words, strong believers may have no problem with what they eat or drink from a “ceremonially clean” perspective, but weaker Christians witnessing such acts of consumption might be offended by them.

Therefore, Paul tells believers, “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God – even as I try to please everyone in every way” (v. 32). With this in mind, he says in the next verse – 1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

Paul’s Meaning
What so struck me about this verse is Paul’s unshakable confidence. Remember, this was not a man prone to boasting. In fact, he wrote, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle …” (1 Corinthians 15:9), and “Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people …” (Ephesians 3:8).

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Yet, he boldly asserted to the church at Corinth – and subsequently all who read his writings – that he was one whose example is to be followed. In essence, he was saying that his walk with God was so sure, so right, that all believers in the Lord Jesus could look to him as a model for their own walk with God.

Furthermore, he was so certain of his impeccable walk with God that he, with unvarnished resolution, could instruct his disciples to do the same. He told Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12, italic added). To Titus he wrote, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good” (Titus 2:7, italic added).

In essence, Paul was saying, “Timothy, Titus, my life has been an example of how to conduct one’s relationship with God. Because of this, I have the right to encourage you to emulate me.” Paul is telling you and me the same thing.

The Great Challenge
The bottom line of 1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” – is this: Can you and I tell anyone to follow our example when it comes to our relationship with God? I can’t answer for you, but I can for myself. Sadly, approaching 31 years as a believer, I cannot look to any other believer and say, “Follow my example.”

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Oh sure, we each have areas in our Christian walk that can be held out as examples, but what about the entirety of our walks? At age 59 and saved since age 28, can I say to a young believer, “I walk uprightly and wholeheartedly before God. Keep a close eye on me, and emulate me. I am an example you should follow.”

Not even close. However, should this not be a goal to aspire to? Should this not be a goal you should aspire to? Should we not commit 1 Corinthians 11:1 to memory and aspire to live such lives that we with humble confidence can, as does Paul, say, “Follow my example?” Yes, we should.

It will take quite a bit of self-examination of character and actions, but I believe this is what God would have us do. If I can confidently tell another believer to follow my example, then I know that my relationship with God is in accord with biblical teaching and conformity.

If you, like me, are convicted by this verse, then let’s ask the Lord to shape and mold us to be the examples He would have us be to all the fellow believers in our lives!