In his efforts to guide the members of Corinth towards spiritual maturity, the apostle Paul frequently encouraged members to follow his example and view things from a spiritual perspective.
Therefore, I urge you, imitate me. (1 Corinthians 4:16, NKJV)
Paul confidently encouraged the congregation to follow his example. Can we also confidently make such a statement encouraging others to follow our example as Paul did without hesitation or qualification? Many of us might feel unsure about expressing such a sentiment. However, we can find the source of Paul's assurance a few chapters later in this letter written to the Corinthians.
Imitate (ST 3402 mimetes) me, just as I also imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1 NKJV)
Paul wrote to imitate him, as Paul had no doubt about his alignment and unity in following Christ. The Helps Word Study defines the Greek word mimetes, which is translated as "imitate", the positive imitation that arises by admiring the pattern set by someone worthy of emulation.
Some people from the older generation might recognize the resemblance between the Greek word mimetes and the word mimeograph. This is because both words come from the Greek term mimeo, meaning to imitate. Mimeographs were the predecessors to modern-day copiers and Xerox machines. They were used to create copies of an original image. I can still recall the unique scent and appearance of the ink on mimeographed handouts I received during my elementary school days. If you're curious, younger individuals can learn more about mimeographs on Wikipedia.
Paul was able to exhibit the mindset of Christ through his spiritual thoughts, actions, teachings, and character as he had a strong bond with Christ. By truly understanding Christ, Paul embodied the spiritual growth and the development of a Christ-like mind.
Paul had a deep relationship with his Lord and Savior, allowing him to understand Christ's mind, nature, character, and love. This enabled him to imitate and follow in the footsteps of Christ.
That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph 3:17-19, NKJV)
To imitate Christ, one must fully know Christ. A partial understanding of Christ will only result in a poor imitation. To illustrate this, imagine asking a skilled carpenter to duplicate a dining room table with only the height and depth measurements. Without knowing the length measurement, the new table would not accurately reflect the original.
Another way to understand this is by observing young children in the years that they try to be just like one of their parents. As children of God, Paul expresses this same thought in walking as Christ walked, in a life given to God.
Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children. 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. (Eph 5:1-2, NKJV)
In his second letter recorded in the Bible, Peter encourages readers to continue growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior. He believed, like Paul, that studying Christ and His teachings would help us become more like Him.
Let's continue to continue to imitate Christ through a personal and deep relationship with our Lord and Savior. And if an opportunity presents itself, we can encourage others to follow our example as we follow Christ.
Have an incredibly meaningful spiritual rest this Sabbath.