‘Imitate me,’ urged Paul. That is a bold request. We cannot imagine that many church leaders today would dare to say such a thing.
But fathers often tell their children to imitate them. Perhaps a child is unsure what to do, or perhaps he is afraid or foolish. So the father tells the child, ‘Copy what I do.’
That is a much better way to teach than just to give instructions. The child sees what the father is doing. The child has confidence because his father is doing that thing first.
Paul has just described himself as the ‘father’ of the church at Corinth (4:15). And here he speaks not merely as a teacher, but as a father. For 18 months, the Christians in Corinth had seen how Paul behaved (Acts 18:11). So they knew his statements in 1 Corinthians 4:10-13 were true. That was how he had behaved in Corinth. And that was how he wanted them to behave, too.
If church leaders today would not tell anyone to imitate them, perhaps their attitude is different from Paul’s attitude. Perhaps they feel that they are carrying out a job, like a teacher. Perhaps they feel unable to take the sort of responsibility that Paul took.
Of course Paul was not pretending to be perfect (13:9-10). But he was not afraid of responsibility. He had examined his own life, and he urged people to copy him. He had tested his thoughts, behaviour and attitudes with many experiences. What had proved to be good in Paul’s life would be good for other people, too.
Next part: About Timothy (1 Corinthians 4:17)
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© 2014, Keith Simons.