The prolific penman and able apostle Paul wrote the brethren in Corinth exhorting them to “Be ye followers of me, even as I am also of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1). Paul did not just say follow him, but qualified it with the words, “even as I am also of Christ”. Paul was himself a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and desired that others become the same. He once told King Agrippa, “I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds” (Acts 26:29). It is all important that one follow only those who are going the right way. To follow one who is not in harmony with the way of the Lord is to follow someone to hell. Consider what is involved in following the apostle Paul.
To follow Paul is to place full confidence in the authority of God’s word. Paul recognized that one must be knowledgeable of, a believer in and obedient to the word of God in order to please God. He spoke of the Thessalonian brethren as having become “followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost” (I Thess. 1:6).
Paul said that the gospel of Christ “is the power of God unto salvation” and “therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:16-17). He also expressed the importance of God’s word by affirming that we will be judged by it in the last day. He wrote, “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Rom. 2:16).
This full confidence in the authority of God’s word is why Paul said, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (I Thess. 2:13).
When one follows Paul, he will have to follow in obedience to the word of God, for Paul was obedient. He was not as some he wrote about who taught, but did not live up to their own teachings (Rom. 2:19-23). While actively persecuting those who followed the Lord Jesus, Paul was met by the Lord on the road to Damascus and realized that as sincere as he was, he had been wrong. He then believed in the Lord and desired to do whatever was needed in order to have salvation. He asked “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do”? He was told to go into Damascus and he would be told what to do (Acts 9:6).
When Ananias came to him with instructions from God, he was told to “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). There was no hesitation on his part, He obeyed God. He didn’t question God’s way, he just obeyed, based upon that confidence he had always had in the authority of God’s word. Paul taught the necessity of obedience.
Though many may point to some of Paul’s writings seeing only salvation by the grace of God, Paul himself pointed to the word and taught salvation by the grace of God upon obedience to His will. Paul taught that when one obeys God’s word from the heart, he is “then made free from sin” (Rom. 6:17-18). Paul also wrote that when the Lord returns, it will be to take vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thess. 1:7-9). One cannot follow Paul without being obedient to Christ.
Following Paul requires teaching others. After embracing the truth, while still in Damascus, it is said of Paul, “And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). His missionary journeys further show the zeal Paul had for spreading the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus.
Prior to his conversion, while he persecuted the church at Jerusalem, many were scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Paul was a teacher of God’s word and to follow him, so must we be.
Paul conducted himself as a child of God should. A number of times Paul mentions that those he had taught knew how he had conducted himself when in their area (I Thess. 1:5, 2:7-8), he instructed Timothy concerning “how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God” (I Tim. 3:15) and instructed him to “be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (I Tim. 4:12).
Following Paul as he followed Christ Jesus may seem like a lot of effort, yet the result is worth all the effort it takes. For then one will be able to say as did Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (II Tim. 4:7)
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.