1 Corinthians 11:1 AMP Pattern yourselves after me [follow my example], as I imitate and follow Christ (the Messiah).
Paul spoke this sentence to the believers in Corinth. Paul – the one who has been portrayed by many teachers and preachers through the years as proud and arrogant. Paul – the one who has been made out to be a chauvinist. Paul – who went after Christians in every way he could, even going so far as having them killed, attempting to stop the spread of the gospel prior to his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus. This same Paul has the audacity to say to believers to pattern themselves after him as he imitates and follows Christ. How dare he say that?! Would a humble Christian say that?!
Paul’s confidence appears to many to be self-confidence. His boldness to declare in Acts 20:26, “I am innocent of the blood of all men,” looks like an outright lie to those who know his past. That’s what stops most of us from telling others that we are innocent, or to follow us and imitate our example as we follow Christ. We know the wrongs of our past, and we know others know them, too. We would never consider ourselves good enough, pure enough, or righteous enough, so the last thing we’d want is for others to imitate us. But is that what we are to consider?
Paul was not deceived, in denial, or suffering amnesia. He practiced what he taught, and he taught what the Lord taught him – that we are to leave the past behind (even the positive) and press on toward the mark (Phil. 3:13-14). He understood that when Jesus forgave His sins, they were no longer to be his focus, as they were truly washed away by His blood. He needed but to go forward in the Lord, seeking to know Him more and to make Him known (Phil. 3:10) – not continually re-examining past sins, or receiving the judgments of others who wanted to do so.
When Paul called others to imitate him, there was no pride or self-confidence at all. There was complete confidence in Who Jesus Christ is, knowing the power of the Holy Spirit alive in him, enabling him to follow Christ and lead others in the same way. He knew the authority and the righteousness of Christ in him, and that God called him righteous because of Christ. His focus was not on his sin, but on the completeness of Christ in him, Who is so much greater than all sin. Jesus called Paul to follow Him and become His disciple, so he chose to do likewise.
As believers, we can have this same confidence in Christ – this same boldness to call others to follow our example. It comes from focusing on our risen Savior, not on our old, fallen nature. It also comes from believing the Word. We have a new nature. We are God’s righteousness, risen with Christ, seated with Him in heavenly realms. It is not based on our feelings, but on His Word and what He has done. He did it for Paul. He’s done it for us. Making disciples means giving them an example to follow. So, like Paul, we can choose to say, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.”