16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.” (1 Corinthians 4:16–17, NKJV)
Should we charge Paul with arrogance for telling the Christians to imitate him? Was Timothy encouraging Paul’s hubris by reminding the Christians of how Paul lived? No, because Paul’s ways were “in Christ” (see 1 Cor. 11:1). Paul lived what he taught, and his faithful life is a pattern to follow (Phil. 3:17). It is also notable that the inspired apostle Paul taught the same thing “everywhere in every church.” Truth is not definable by time, place, or situation. There was not one truth for first-century Christians in Corinth, and another truth for 21st century Christians. Every attempt to shape and mold the word of God to our situations, instead of reforming our situations to that word, is destined to end in spiritual failure. The gospel that was preached in the first century “endures,” and bears the same fruit now that it bore then (1 Pet. 1:22-25). What we need is not a new truth; it is a new heart to receive and follow the truth that has been once for all delivered from heaven to men (Jude 3).
1 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. (Ephesians 5:1–2, NKJV)
The depth and breadth of Christ’s love toward us in His sacrifice on the cross is the great example for us to imitate each day. Christ willingly suffered the rejection, reproach and cruelty of sinners by dying as an offering for their sins – and ours. Let us not forget to continue to love those who are unloving toward us. The love of which we speak is a decision of the will. William Barclay described love (agape) as “unconquerable benevolence, undefeatable goodwill.” A mark of discipleship is unfailing love in the face of injustice, heartache, or even hatred. Imitate God – not the world – and always love others as He has loved us.
31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. 1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:31–11:1, NKJV)
Jesus did not live to please Himself, but the Father (Rom. 15:3; Jno. 8:29). He was always careful not to influence others into sin. Paul followed this example of Christ, and in our passage he exhorts Christians to imitate him. Paul would forego his God-given liberty so as not to influence someone else to violate his conscience before God (see 1 Cor. 10:23-33; 8:7-13). Paul also said, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Cor. 10:24). To do that, we must willingly lay aside our right to do something (clearly, he is speaking of things God allows but does not mandate) so as not to place an offense or stumbling block (a trap or snare) before someone whose conscience is weak in that matter. By thinking of others before yourself and refusing to cause them to stumble, you honor God, not yourself. That is what a Christian does.