1 Corinthians 11:1
See how Paul begins his epistle, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” He says something similar in Philippians 3: 17, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” Again, in 2 Thessalonians 3:7 he uses the word imitate. In Philippians 4:9 he expresses the same idea, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things.” So, the apostle wasn’t shy about suggesting people follow or imitate him.
Dr. Carson once knew a young man who was very evangelistic, very zealous so he brought two men to him, who seemed to be seeking the truth. To one of the men, he said, “Watch me. Spend time with me, move in with me, see what I do when I get up and go about my day. Watch me. At the end of a month, see if my life is different as a Christian.” Have you ever said that to anyone – “Watch me”? “Imitate me”?
Why don’t we say that? For one thing, it sounds like pride. Who am I? Well, Paul said it; we have biblical warrant to say it. Did Paul say “imitate me” because of pride? He was a humble man. He said, “I am what I am by the grace of God.” (1 Corinthians 15: 5) He wanted others to see that the grace of God changes a person’s life. We shouldn’t hesitate to say this. Whether we say it or not, people do imitate you. Children imitate their parents. We are all imitators.
In 1 Timothy 4: 12 Paul says, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Again, to Titus, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works” (2:7). Hopefully we invite people to see us at church, in the home and at work. We shouldn’t be ashamed to say, “Watch me. See what my priorities are, what I am living for.” The apostle Paul sets the example for us; he is someone we can imitate. Paul says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” It’s one of the reasons we read the Bible – to imitate Christ.
Dr. Piper wrote a book, Thirty Reasons Why I Love the Apostle Paul. He says, “I love him for his single-mindedness.” Here was a man who set the course of his life and stayed on it to the end. He could say at the back end of his life, “I have fought the good fight and I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) At any point in his Christian walk we could look at the apostle Paul and imitate him. Jesus even pointed to our being examples in the sermon on the mount when he spoke of us being salt and light. So, we can imitate Paul as he imitates Christ just as others will be imitating us.