Tag Archives: Paul

Whose Example Do You Follow?

Setting the proper example has been at the forefront of my mind since 1998, the year when I was elected to be my Christian college fraternity’s “preacher,” and realized soon afterwards that I would have to start “practicing what I preach” if I was to be taken seriously.  As a minister, being a good example has always been a goal of mine, and even more so now that I am a father.  I do not always meet this goal I have set for myself; nonetheless, it is still a good goal to have and work towards, and I am still working on it.  It is a goal that God want all Christians to have.  Scripture tells us to imitate others who in turn imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1; cf. Phil. 3:17; Heb. 13:7).  Therefore, it would be good for us to consider  who our own role models are, who looks up to as an example of right or wrong, and most importantly, what kind of examples we set as Christians.

“For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” (John 13:15)

First and foremost, Jesus Christ should be whom we strive to imitate (1 Cor. 11:1).  He must be the example on how we strive to please one another (Rom. 15:1-3), love one another (Eph. 5:1-2), look out for one another (Phil. 2:4-5), and how to suffer patiently when mistreated (1 Pet. 2:20-23).  Our Lord said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).  How much like Jesus are we?

The apostle Paul would be another role model to emulate (1 Cor. 4:6; 11:1).  He must be our example on how to avoid offending others (1 Cor. 9:19-23; 10:32) and how to serve others to their benefit rather than our own (1 Cor. 10:33).  Paul recognized that he had not obtained perfection, something we must always remember as well (Phil. 3:12); however, he also did his best to mature in the areas he needed to (Phil. 3:12-15), to never regress back into immaturity (Phil. 3:16), and to enjoy a close relationship with God (Phil. 4:9).  We should follow his example in these ways, as well as in choosing to receive God’s Word even in the midst of hardship as he did (1 Thess. 1:6) and avoiding being a burden to others (2 Thess. 3:7-10).

Paul also told us, “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you” (Phil. 3:17).  The writer of Hebrews likewise exhorted Christians to imitate the faith and patience of their fellow inheritors of God’s promises (Heb. 6:12), and to follow the faith of our leaders (Heb. 13:7).  Many Christians today provide examples worth of emulation; whose example are you following?

Even more importantly, whose example are you?  I think we forget sometimes that the people sitting around us in the pews on Sunday follow our example, for better or worse.  This is why God wants us to mindful of the example we set for others (1 Thess. 1:7; 1 Tim. 4:12; Tit. 2:7).  Others, such as children (Matt. 18:6) and unbelievers (1 Pet. 2:12), are watching us, easily influenced by what they see in us, carefully observing us to see if we “walk the walk.”  Oftentimes, the unchurched decide just how worth their time it is to follow Christ by looking at what kind of example is set by those who profess to follow him.  Christians need to remember that.

What kind of example are you?  Is it indicative of a faithful Christian?  Do you show the world what it means to be an obedient follower of God?  Do you show spiritual infants what maturity means?  Is your example helping others to become a disciple of Christ…or discouraging them?  Is your example helping the church grow?  How often do you show up when the doors are open?  How interested are you in developing skills needed to help the church grow, and how interested are you in using your talents to serve God’s kingdom?  Is your example helping or hindering the progress of the church?  If every churchgoer was exactly like you, would the church be strong and growing?  Would it even exist?

None of us are perfect, and all of us have room to grow.  We should not be discouraged by our shortcomings, nor should we harshly and hypocritically judge each other without patience and love when we see faults in others.  Instead, let the questions asked above challenge us all to take Christianity more seriously and, with God’s help and grace, become an example worth following and help others to do the same.

Baptism: Was Paul Against It?

“He who believes and is baptized shall be saved…” (Mark 16:16)

Many in Christendom believe that baptism is not something one is required to do in order to be saved, even though both Jesus and Peter said differently (Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).  One of the reasons many sincerely believe this is due to what Paul said to the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 1:14-17, specifically his statement, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…” (v. 17).  Many conclude from this statement that baptism must not be essential to salvation.  However, when one takes into account the immediate context (1 Cor. 1:10-13), as well as the inspired record of Paul’s preaching in Corinth (Acts 18:1-8), it becomes apparent that Paul definitely preached that baptism is necessary.  Therefore, his comments to Corinth should not be taken as suggesting that baptism was not essential.

When we examine the context of 1 Cor. 1:14-17, we see that Paul was addressing a problem within the church there.  They had the wrong attitude towards preachers, an attitude which divided them (1 Cor. 1:10-12).  Some of them gave all of their allegiance to Paul, others to Apollos, others to Peter, and others to Christ.  Basically, they were thinking too highly of the different preachers who had preached the gospel to them, an attitude which was worldly rather than spiritual (1 Cor. 3:3-4).  After all, preachers such as Paul and Apollos are nothing more than fellow servants of Christ (1 Cor. 3:5-9), which is why Paul told the Corinthians that they should not boast that their allegiance was to their fellow man (1 Cor. 3:21-23).

With this in mind, notice Paul’s question to them:  “Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”  (1 Cor. 1:13).  Since many of them had this divisive, misguided allegiance to preachers, the fact that Paul would ask them this question seems to imply that the Corinthians were claiming to be disciples of those who had personally baptized them.  This would be the reason why Paul would then express his gratitude that he had personally baptized only a few of them, lest anyone should say that he was baptizing in his own name rather than in the name of Jesus (1 Cor. 1:14-15; cf. Acts 2:38).  Luke records how “many” of the Corinthians were baptized as a result of Paul’s preaching the gospel to them (Acts 18:1-8).  Paul himself baptized only a few of them, including Crispus (Acts 18:1-8; cf. 1 Cor. 1:14).

Thus, one should not twist Paul’s words to the church at Corinth to imply that he didn’t believe baptism was necessary for salvation.  On the contrary, his writings make it clear that baptism is a necessary component of spiritually dying to sin, being buried and clothed with Christ, being spiritually resurrected to a new life, and entering into a covenant relationship with God similar to the Old Testament covenant relationship manifested by circumcision (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:11-12; cf. Gen. 17:9-14).  Paul himself verbally testified of his own baptism and how he was told that it was how his sins would be washed away and he would call on the name of the Lord in order to be saved (Acts 22:16; cf. 2:21).  So when we read Paul’s statement to the Corinthians, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…” (1 Cor. 1:17), we should understand that he is not repudiating the necessity of baptism.  Rather, the context informs us he is trying to cause the Corinthians to repent of their misguided allegiance to the ones who had personally baptized them.

Furthermore, the fact that Paul was an apostle (a word which means “one sent”) should also be taken into consideration, especially when we read him give the reason Christ “sent” him:  “to preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 1:17).  As an apostle, Paul’s role was to preach the gospel, “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).  Paul fulfilled his role by preaching divinely inspired sermons wherever he went (Gal. 1:11-12).  His preaching resulted in the baptism of his converted listeners, as was the case at Corinth (Acts 18:8).  However, it was not imperative that he himself baptize his believing listeners.  Others (such as his traveling companions like Apollos), could easily do that task.  This evidently happened at Corinth, for while “many” were baptized (Acts 18:8), Paul himself personally baptized only a few (1 Cor. 1:14-16).

In rebuking the Corinthians for their misguided allegiance, Paul reminded them that he had not been crucified for them, nor had they been baptized in his name (1 Cor. 1:13).  However, Christ HAD been crucified for them, and for us as well.  Have you been baptized in the name of the One who died for you?