15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. (1 Timothy 1:15–16, NKJV)
God’s forgiveness is deep and wide. Note what motivates, mandates, and maintains God’s forgiveness of our sins. 1) God’s love. Paul said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” and he considered himself to be the prototype, the chief of sinners. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to save us by His death (Jno. 3:16). Without God’s love, we cannot be saved. 2) God’s mercy. Forgiveness is the compassion applied, and God is rich in mercy toward all who call on Him for forgiveness (Eph. 2:4; Rom. 10:12). 3) God’s longsuffering. His forgiveness hinges on His longsuffering toward sinners. He does not want anyone to be lost. He wants every sinner to come to repentance. That’s why He is longsuffering toward us (2 Pet. 3:9). He could punish us all for our sins without patiently giving us opportunities to repent. His “forbearance and longsuffering” ought to “lead us to repentance” (Rom. 2:4). Do not think God cannot save you. Paul’s forgiveness is an example for all believers. Like Paul, have faith to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Do not take God’s love, mercy, and longsuffering for granted. The day of the Lord will come, and we must be ready (2 Pet. 3:10-13). His longsuffering is for our salvation (2 Pet. 3:14-15).
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 of Christ had just been beaten for preaching the gospel of Christ in Jerusalem. They were also commanded by the ruler council of the Jews not to speak in the name of Jesus” (Acts 5:40). They were not discouraged or deterred. Lenski commented, “These disgraceful stripes the apostles considered badges of honor” (The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles, p. 237). Their work was of God; men would not overthrow it (Acts 5:39). Christ’s apostles continued their daily practice of publicly and privately instructing and proclaiming Jesus as the Christ. We must not allow opposition to God’s truth to prevent us from continuing to speak God’s word faithfully. Threats and obstacles, even violent hostility, did not cause the early Christians to stop preaching the word (Acts 8:1-4). Let them be our examples when we face resistance and aggressive opposition to the truth of the gospel (Phil. 3:17; 4:9). Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12). May we seek Christ’s blessing rather than the favor of men (Gal. 1:10).
18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth;” (1 Peter 2:18–22, NKJV)
What empowers Christians to endure injustices without reacting in sinful and destructive ways? Peter’s instruction to mistreated servants shows us how (v. 18). 1) We accept the pain of injustice because it is the commendable thing to do (v. 19). “Commendable” translates charis (grace). It is favorable, gracious, or acceptable before God when we patiently endure the grief of wrongful suffering. He will bestow honor (credit) on us for doing so (v. 20). 2) We endure the misery of injustice because of our conscience toward God (v. 19). We must train our consciences to regard persecution for the sake of righteousness as a blessing (Matt. 5:10-12). To do so requires faith in the Lord instead of self-reliance. 3) We accept suffering for doing good because the gospel of Christ calls us to this noble response (v. 21). Our calling is to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21). 4) We can endure by following the example of Jesus (v. 22). He has already walked this road. Look for His footprints.
1 Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. (Acts 16:1–3, NKJV)
Are we willing to follow the example of Timothy? Some debate whether Jews would consider Timothy to be Jewish or Gentile (New American Commentary: Acts, Polhill, 343). Regardless of that, as the uncircumcised son of a Jewish mother, Timothy’s gospel influence among Jews would be diminished if not nullified (v. 3). His circumcision was not compulsory; it was voluntary for the progress of the gospel. Paul did not want uncircumcised Timothy to be a potential barrier to the spread of the gospel and the salvation of souls. Neither did Timothy. His willingness to become “all things to all men” and be circumcised is an example of not becoming a stumbling block by refusing a personal right or liberty (1 Cor. 9:19-23). Timothy did not have to be circumcised to be saved (Acts 15). But, as a companion of Paul and Silas, it was expedient for him to do so. Are we willing to accept pain and forego our “rights” for the sake of the gospel? Or, are our personal liberties more precious to us than trying to save some? Timothy continues to be “an example to the believers” (1 Tim. 4:12).
“Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:33, NKJV)
Christ’s words were scalding as He exposed the sins of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. “Woe to you…hypocrites!” “Blind guides!” “Fools and blind!” “Serpents, brood of vipers!” May disciples of Jesus follow His example of exposing, rebuking, and even pronouncing God’s condemnation of those who teach error and, by it, lead others into sin? Some say, “No, this was Jesus! He knew men’s hearts, but we don’t. We are not Jesus; we cannot do this.” Yet, here and elsewhere, Jesus addressed both the sinful conduct and the motives of heart that produced their error and sin. Both teachings and behavior, whether good or evil, come from the heart (Matt. 12:35). When He warned against false prophets, Jesus said: “you will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15-16). Since we can know false proclaimers of God’s word from the fruit of their teachings, surely we are to warn others of the danger their error poses (Paul did this, 1 Tim. 4:18-20; 2 Tim. 2:16-18). Couple this with the undeniable truth that disciples follow their Master’s example, and we have ample right and reason to carefully identify and denounce sin and error (Lk. 6:40). Perhaps we should ask, did Jesus sin by using such harsh denunciations? No. Was His heart pure when He did? Yes. And, our hearts can be pure and our conduct without sin when we follow His example of warning against error and identifying those who promote it. Indeed, our hearts must be pure as we examine and expose error, lest we fall under the same condemnation (Rom. 2:1-2; 1 Tim. 4:16). God’s truth is our guiding light to expose sin and to advance righteousness (Jno. 3:19-21).
14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:14–17, NKJV)
Nothing in the context of this text demands the conclusion that Jesus was instituting a foot-washing ceremony for today (John 13:1-17). Far from it. He was, however, setting an example of humble service that every disciple must follow in our treatment of each other. At this Passover meal, none of His apostles lowered themselves to the menial task of washing the dirty feet of their companions (or even to wash their Master’s feet). In fact, there had been an ongoing squabble among them about who would be greatest in the kingdom (Mk. 9:34-37; 10:35-45). Earlier, Jesus had taught them, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Jesus is great because Jesus served. And so, the Son of God sees greatness when we humbly serve each other (Matt. 20:27). Practicing humble service toward others is crucial. Jesus said the blessing comes when we actually follow His example and become a servant of others. We cannot say but not do, and expect to be blessed. By serving others we remove self-interest and give ourselves over to the welfare of others. That’s the example of Jesus we are called to follow.
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).
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).
22 Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. 23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. 24 For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. (Acts 11:22–24, NKJV)
Do people get closer to the Lord or farther from Him when they are around you? Does the influence of your life preserve and promote righteousness, or does it distort people’s consciousness of God and knowledge of His truth? Are you genuinely the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16)? Barnabas was. He was reliable, so the Jerusalem church sent him to Antioch to strengthen the new converts. He was dedicated to the Lord, to His gospel and to God’s people, so he encouraged them to remain faithful. He was a good man who lived by faith under the control of the Holy Spirit, so it was by his efforts that many souls were saved (“added to the Lord”). What an impact one godly person has on others. Be a Barnabas. Commit yourself to setting godly examples, to influencing others for truth and righteousness, to teaching the lost, and to bringing honor to Christ every single day of your life.
17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:17–19, NKJV)
The examples set by the apostle Paul and the other apostles form a pattern we must follow. By way of contrast, Paul warned there are many who appear to be following the apostles, but who are in fact “enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Not everyone who says they love Jesus, does in fact, love Jesus.) When will we heed Christ’s warning about false prophets who are wolves in sheep’s clothing? “You will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15-21). Likewise here, Paul describes these enemies as those who worship their own desires (“whose god is their belly”) and who set their minds on earthly things instead of things above (cf. Col. 3:1-4). Does it matter what a person believes and does? Absolutely! Their end will be destruction – eternal punishment (2 Thess. 1:8-9). We weep with Paul over the existence of such enemies of Christ. Many walk – but they do not walk in the apostolic pattern of revealed truth. Whenever we walk by our own desires and purposes, our end will be destruction, too. Let us be warned, and never become an enemy of Christ. Walk worthy of Christ by following the examples of His apostles (Eph. 4:1).