21 “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:21–22, NKJV)
Jesus spoke these words to His twelve apostles before sending them out to preach “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:6-7). After His resurrection, He would send them into all the world to preach His gospel (Mk. 16:15). Jesus was preparing them for the resistance they would face because of their faith in Him and their work for Him. The gospel produced harsh reactions from faithless family and friends as well as strangers in the first century. (It still does.) Their lives would be endangered and embroiled in controversy. Jesus exhorted them to endure the hatred and persecutions “to the end” to be saved. This helps us understand what Jesus went on to say, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matt. 10:34, 35-36). Many react to the truth of the gospel with hostility, including family members. Just as He called the apostles to endure, He calls us to love Him more, follow His truth first, deny ourselves, and always fear God rather than people (Matt. 10:37-39, 28). When we choose family (or ourselves) over the truth of the gospel we are no longer worthy of Christ. We will lose our life, not save it (Matt. 10:37-39).
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1, NKJV)
In the Roman Catholic Church, an imprimatur is “a license granted by a bishop certifying the Church’s approval of a book to be published” (thefreedictionary.com). The word is more generally used to denote “a mark of approval or distinction” (merriam-webster.com). No such ecclesiastical certification is issued by the church of Christ in the New Testament. Today’s verse affirms our conduct must imitate the apostles of Christ to the extent they also imitate (mimic) Christ. Some scoff at binding apostolic approved examples today. “Where is your apostle badge?” is sarcastically asked when an appeal is made to apostolic examples to authorize practices. The apostles not only left us their inspired words, they also left us examples to follow. Jesus said, “He who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Jno. 13:20). Their examples help us pattern our conduct after the will of Christ. By following their examples we are assured of the Lord’s favor (Phil. 3:17). How can one possibly think the Lord is pleased by refusing to follow the apostles’ examples (that imitate Christ)? “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9). The “imprimatur” of heaven is the apostolic doctrine, taught by their words and their examples. We ought to follow their examples because they have heaven’s approval (2 Thess. 2:15; 3:4, 9).
41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:41–42, NKJV)
The apostles had just been beaten and threatened for preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:40). One would think they would go underground to avoid further pain and threats of death. But, astonishingly, they continued daily to teach and preach, both publicly and privately. Their faith in Christ was greater than their fear of men. The apostle Paul vividly portrays the suffering of the apostles when he said, “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now” (1 Cor. 4:11–13). Later, Peter would exhort us to have courage to gladly accept suffering as a Christian: “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Pet. 4:16). Like the apostles, we must “not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” – regardless of the reactions of those who refuse to believe in the power and authority of Jesus Christ to save.
9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him. (Luke 5:9–11, NKJV)
The carpenter told the fishermen where to cast their nets to catch fish. Like Peter, when the Master speaks, those who trust the Lord will follow His word. The miraculous catch of fish they hauled to shore prompted Peter to confess his sins to the Lord (Lk. 5:4-8). The fishermen were astonished and afraid, but Jesus eased their fears by assuring them of even greater catches to come. Peter, James, and John soon would be catching souls. The gospel these future apostles preached continues to capture lost souls by convicting sinners and converting them to Christ (Mk. 16:15-16; Lk. 24:46-48). These men set us a worthy example of immediate conviction, uncompromising priority, and sacrifice of faith in order to serve Jesus. When Jesus speaks, we must forsake all and follow Him (Lk. 14:33; 9:23).
Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. (1 Corinthians 11:2, NKJV)
Traditions hold a place of value in our lives. They distinguish families, enclaves, nations, and religions. The Bible discusses traditions we are to hold fast as the teachings and practices handed down to us by the apostles (2 Thess. 2:15). It is praiseworthy when Christians keep the apostolic traditions because they came from God by revelation and were transmitted by inspiration (Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Christians who refuse to live according to the truth the apostles taught are “walking disorderly” (2 Thess. 3:6). Note how Paul commended the Corinthians because they kept the apostolic traditions “just as I delivered them to you.” They were not at liberty to change what the apostles taught and practiced to suit themselves. Indeed, they apostles taught the same truth “everywhere in every church” (1 Cor. 4:17). Commit yourself to keeping the apostles’ traditions. They are the traditions that have eternal value.
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1, NKJV)
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit expect Christians to follow the examples set by the apostles. By inspiration, Paul the apostle commands imitation of him as he imitated Christ. Obviously, our ultimate model is Christ Jesus. The apostles were His faithful witnesses to the world. It is by their preaching that we know of Christ, come to trust in Christ, are called to follow Christ, and are saved in Christ. It naturally follows that once saved by the apostolic gospel, we then follow the pattern they set to continue to be faithful to the Master (Matt. 28:19-20). To imitate means to mimic, to be a follower of another. In today’s verse, Paul is repeating an earlier exhortation (1 Cor. 4:16). Who is your role model? Jesus, you say? Then, you will be following the examples of His apostles, because they are our “pattern” (Phil. 3:17). Let us imitate the apostles of Christ to have peace and fulfillment in life and throughout eternity. “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9).
Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians 2:15, NKJV)
Those who stand victoriously with Jesus Christ are “called, chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14). This relationship with Christ is precisely what the apostle Paul began to lay out for why he gave thanks to the Lord for his brethren (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). Today’s verse concludes his point with an exhortation to be faithful by standing fast and holding the apostolic traditions. We are not faithful to the Lord when we fail to seize and retain the teachings of His apostles. Their teaching (first spoken, then written) is the doctrine of Christ in which we must stand fast and not go beyond (2 John 9). It is the “pattern of sound words” from the apostles that is our standard of faithfulness (2 Timothy 1:13). To relinquish it for the creedal confessions men developed through the centuries (and the diverse doctrines they generated) is to abandon faithfulness to the “word of the truth of the gospel” that the apostles preached under Christ’s authority (Colossians 1:5-6; Matthew 28:18-20). Who ever said “church traditions” establish truth? Not the Lord Jesus, and not His apostles. Neither do we. Let us not be Catholic or Protestant, but simply Christians like followers of Jesus were in the New Testament. Like them, let us be faithful to Jesus by standing fast in the teachings of His apostles. Called by the gospel, we are chosen by God for salvation in Christ, and faithful to apostolic traditions.