I AM AN EXAMPLE OF CHRIST IN MY GENERATION
Apostle Prof. Opoku Onyinah
Theme Texts -1 Corinthians 4:16-17:
Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church (1 Cor. 4:16-17 NIV. Cf. 1 Cor 11:1; Phil 3:17-21; 1 Thess 1:6-7; 1Thess 2:8-12; 2 Thess 3:9).
1.1 Examples Needed in the World
In the world we live in, whenever we hear of something, we want to see it in a pictorial form. When a building is being put up, the architect gives us the artist impression of it. This artist’s impression helps us to know how the completed building will look like. Examples are like ‘impressions’ that represent or illustrate what would be the reality.
Examples are very important in life. If we say God is a king, it is very difficult to understand the concept of His kingship. We understand the kingship of God better when we see an example of a king in our community or world. We better understand Jesus as a good shepherd when we see how shepherds tend their sheep.
1.2 Two Sources: Christ and Paul
If we consider the texts we have chosen including 1 Corinthians 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 11:1 carefully, we realise that we have two sources. For example, 1 Corinthian 11:1 says that you imitate me as I imitate Christ. There are two sources here. The first one is Christ and the second is Paul. That is, Christ becomes the primary or the ultimate source, and then Paul becomes the secondary source.
1.2.1 Why Christ?
If we say God is righteous and just, or thatHe thinks of the poor, the neglectedor the oppressed, we may not understand it fully. For us to understand it better, God has given us the Lord Jesus Christ in whom dwells all Fullness of God in human form; that is, we have all the attributes and characteristics of God in Jesus. Jesus therefore is our perfect example of the person of God.
Jesus is the Son of God. He is the perfect likeness of God on earth. He is also the perfect man who has ever lived on earth. He was and is the perfect God-man. We see inHis life and character, the harmony of the will of God and the duty of humankind.
Jesus is no more in physical form,yet His work must continue. He has left us His footprints in the Bible. The one who preaches or speaks about Jesus must also becomeHis example. This is the best way to presentHim to others; otherwise people will not know who Jesus is. In other words, the one who preaches Christ must imitate Him. Imitating Christ produces a godly character within a person. This character is not made of human right laws such as putting down some moral-codesor memorising some verbal rules or laws, but it is the nature of Christ or behaviour of Christ that is formed within a person. This developed character is what is often referred to in Scripture as the image of God or the likeness of Christ. It is this likeness or image of Christ which becomes our example.It is this image that all must seek to possess.
1.2.2 Why Paul?
Paul was one of the apostles who clearly exhibited this image in the Bible. Therefore, Paul, who was a messenger of Christ, tells his converts to imitate him as he imitates Christ. This means Paul places himself as the closest example of Christ. Paul maintains that once you follow his steps, you are most likely to be imitating Christ. This is a statement of confidence and trust in his life and ministry. Thus, whoever follows him closely also follows Christ. This is what the theme for this conference is about. I must imitate Christ in such a way that I become an example of Him for others to imitate me. Christ did manifest the nature and principles of the kingdom of God on earth. His coming down to the world was necessary to give us this picture and understanding. The believer of Christ is committed to representingHim in the world this way.
For Paul to be able to say “imitate me” means he had been able to follow Christ closely and had been transformed into His likeness as far as His attitudes and character are concerned. Paul’s example of imitating Christ is what we will use in this study. First we shall find out how Paul’s life was centred on Christ. Then, we shall continue with how for Paul, there was no difference between his private and public life. The characteristic of Christ in Paul’s life will be harnessed, next. We shall follow this with the examples of Christ and the family in Paul’s ministry. Finally, we shall discuss the implications of these for the contemporary Christian.
2 PAUL’S LIFE WAS CENTRED ON CHRIST
2.1 Christ was first in Paul’s Life
Paul’s life was centred on Christ (Philippians 1:12-26). His aim in life was to live for Christ by following, preaching and glorifyingHim with his life and ministry (Gal 2:19). When Paul was writing to the Philippians, he had been put into prison but that was not an issue for him. For Paul, he was not a prisoner of Rome, but the prisoner of Christ (Eph 3:1; 4:1; Phil 1:7). Thus Christ was his focus.
Paul was happy the soldiers were aware that he had been imprisoned because of Christ. His imprisonment gave others the boldness to preach about Christ. (Phil. 1:13-14). Many were preaching Christ because of Paul’s commitment to him. Others, on the other hand, were preaching Christ out of selfishness (Phil. 1:15). Selfishness implies they were preaching because of their own interest. However, Paul was still happy that Christ was being preached. Who were those people who were preaching Christ out of selfish interest? And, were they truly preaching Christ? It is difficult to pinpoint those who were preaching out of selfish interest. However it can be surmised that these were the Jews, who opposed Paul about his gospel of grace, and insisted that Christians followed the Law in order to be saved. In other words, the issue at stake might have been Paul’s emphasis on Christ’s fulfilment of the Law. From this perspective then, the preaching of Christ by those people might not have been the same as Paul would preach. But for Paul so far as Christ was being preached he was happy. His reason was that their preaching might lead some unbelievers to Christ.
How can we know this? Philippians 1:13 shows that his issue was known among those in the palace guard: “As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ” (NIV). Then Philippians 4:22 shows that there were some saints in Caesar’s household: “All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household” (NIV). The implication of this is that some of the soldiers in Caesar’s household must have been led to Christ because of Paul’s imprisonment.
When we consider the presence of Christ in our lives in every circumstance, we will have joy. For example, I was looking for help at the JFK Airport in the USA with one pastor. We came out from the lane in which we were briefly, and as we walked back to continue, a staff stopped us and would not allow us continue that short distance. She redirected us through a very long route. As we took that long direction, we saw another staff who knew me and introduced himself to me. When I told him my reason of being there, he took the responsibility of taking up the issue and sorting it out for me. Now it is not difficult to accept that it was the Lord who touched this brother to help me. However, the challenge was to accept the action of the first staff as of the Lord. The Lord wanted me to find the second staff to assist me, yet I was heading towards the wrong direction, therefore He had to redirect me.
The way to redirect me was to use that staff to stop us from where we were going. The Lord may use a certain circumstance to prevent you from an accident or a disaster and assist you. However, not knowing what lies ahead, you may complain and accuse people in the process. Have confidence in God that He knows you, has your best interest at heart,and orders your steps is the way to happiness and fulfilment in life. It is for this reason that the apostle Paul comes to the conclusion that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:28, NIV). You and I are chosen by God according to His purpose in Christ Jesus. If we come to this understanding, we will not be anxious but will have complete assurance and rest in Him.
2.2 Whether Alive or Dead, Christ
Although Paul knew that there was the possibility of him dying in prison, yet his concern was that Christ would be glorified in either death or life. His purpose was to serve Christ by bringing people to Him, encouraging them, and helping them grow in Christ. He wanted to serve God’s will in death and life. His wish was not only to put Christ first but even others before himself. Through this he was able to live a life of joy in the Lord.
2.3 Putting Christ First in One’s Life brings Joy
The Christian who is able to put Christ first in his or her life will live a life of joy. The Christian who thinks of his neighbour as himself will also live a life of joy. He will overcome selfishness, complaints and accusations. He will pray for others, strengthen them, feel for them, and see them as a very important aspect of God’s kingdom. Then he will be able to accept ‘his portion of the Lords share’ in all circumstances. He will realise that whatever comes to him is to glorify Christ in one way or the other. It is this that brings joy in the midst of challenges and problems. For Paul, Christ was the one who mattered and still matters in life.
3 NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PRIVATE AND PUBLIC LIFE
For Paul, there was no difference between private and public lives. He was still the same; Christ was all in all.
3.1 An Evidence of a Changed Life
A crucial aspect of the Christian life is to have a change of lordship and as such, a change of life. Once you become a Christian, there must be a change of life from the old to the new. Paul was an Israelite full of religion. He was a lawyer. Perhaps he had the best possible reputation as a Jewish rabbi. In birth and training, he far surpassed all of his friends (Gal 1:11-24). He was sincere; his Jewish religion meant life and death to him.
3.1.1. No Value in Former Way of Life
However, he did not see any value in his former life. He saw himself as theworst sinner while he was living the old life:
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life (1 Tim 1:12-16, NIV).
Paul knew he was a sinner, however, when he accepted Christ, he became a new creature. He declared, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17-18, NIV).
The change in Paul’s former life caused him to have a complete new attitude towards God and life; he also considered the former things as garbage. In Philippians, 3:7-11, Paul describes his new way of life:
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead (NIV).
Publicly, people knew Paul had changed lordships.His former ‘lord’ was religion. He left his place as a respected rabbi in the Jewish community. He obtained faith in Christ, gained righteousness from Him and knew Him personally. While religion leads to death, Christ offers life freely. It is one thing to knowabout Christ and another knowing Him. Many people know about Christ, but don’t know Him. Outside Christ is condemnation; being in Him leads to salvation and imputation of His righteousness. The idea behind “and be found in Him” is that, during the judgement of the saints, it might be found out that Paul was united with Christ and solely depended on Him. His concern was to show the people that there was no salvation in religion. Salvation is only found in Christ.
3.1.2 Knowing Christ
Paul’s private desire was to still know Christ, “that I may know him” (Phil 3:10). He already knew Him,but why this? What does this mean? Knowing Christ is progressive. It meant that he wanted to be fully associated with the person of Christ, His character, and the salvation He had obtained for humanity through love (CfEph 3:19). Knowing the love of Christ makes a big difference in a Christian’s life. This love is the one which was shown for the fallen humanity,thus, giving himself to die for us. To know this love, understand, feel, touch, sense and see it makes a person no longer the same. The awareness of this love leads to a life of gratitude, breaks pride, kills lust in a person and makes a person dead to the world.
3.1. 3 Knowing the Power of Christ’s Resurrection
Paul’s knowledge of Christ was linked with knowing the power of His resurrection. Paul, as an orthodox Jew, believed in the resurrection. The Jews believed in a general resurrection at the end of the age. However, Christ introduced a resurrection of the just out from among the dead. This is called the first resurrection (1 Thess 4:13-18; Rev 20:5). Christ was the first to resurrect that way. This one truth has greater powerover Christians when properly understood and believed. Christ’s resurrection confirms the truth of the Christian faith (1 Cor 15). By saying “that I may know the power of his resurrection”,implies that he might experience the impact that the resurrection must have on his life as a Christian. The resurrection shows that God has absolute power over death and by implication over sickness, suffering and everything. The resurrection also makes it certain that indeed there is life after death; heaven is real. It makes it clear that the dead in Christ will rise. Those who hope in the resurrection live as strangers on earth and see heaven as their home.
3.1.4 Fellowship with Christ Suffering
Knowing the power of the resurrection was also connected with the fellowship of His suffering. I wonder why Paul would link power with suffering (Phil 3:10). The implication is that power does not come without suffering. Paul wanted to be identified not only with Christ’s power but also with His suffering. Many want to share in Christ’s glory but not His suffering. They want to reign with Christ, but not to suffer with Him. Albert Barnes, a Presbyterian minister and theologian in the nineteenth century, laments that many are willing to wear the crown of glory but not the crown of thorns. Many want to be leaders, but they don’t want to go through what leaders go through—the hard work, the mockery, the fasting, the praying and the studies. Paul wanted to be like Christ in all things.
Paul was even prepared to die as Christ died. He was doing all this in the hope that one day he would also resurrect to be with Christ in bodily form. The doctrine of resurrection was in Paul’s mind. He believed that all believers of Christwould be raised (Acts 24:15; 26:6-8; 23:6; 1 Cor 15:1). Christ was the centre of Paul’s life; indeed he was an example of Christ. These were Paul’s private life desires.
3.2 An Ongoing life of Discipline (1 Cor 9:24-27; Php 3:12)
3.2.1 Keeping the Body Under Control
In Paul’s public life, he continues to show a life of discipline, "But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should not be disqualified" (1 Cor 9:27, ESV). This shows the on-going disciplinary life that Paul was living. He was using his body as an example for others to follow. He tells the Thessalonians that, “it was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves as example to imitate” (2 Thess 3:9, ESV).
Paul knew that the body is completely depraved and the only hope of it is the grace of God. Once you allow the body to follow its feelings you will end up fooling yourself in the worst possible way (Rom 1). This is what we see in the promotion of homosexuality, trans-sexuality, exchange of spouses and all sexual deviances. We see this in cheating and amassing wealth, while neglecting the poor and the needy. We see this in theft, robbery, and murder. How can a person leave the natural desire for a woman or man and go for the same sex? Is this not the result of the corrupt nature of humanity? Once you allow the cravings of the flesh to control you, you can be foolish to the highest level (Tit 3:3).
Paul shows the example by keeping the body under control. What did he mean? Paul had just said in 1 Corinthians 9:26 that he did not “fight like a man beating the air” (NIV). This means that as he was speaking, he had fighting in mind. Perhaps, he had in mind the act of subduing an enemy, conquering him, reducing him to bondage and taking him captive. Thus, by this, he meant that he would use all possible means—run, fight and keep the body under control—to subdue his sinful and sensual inclinations, so that he would not come under the dominion of evil passions, but would be wholly controlled by the Spirit of God.
3.2.2 Yet not Perfect
Nevertheless, to the Philippians he said …
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Phil 3:12-16, ESV
Paul had shown how he controls himself and considers worldly pressures rubbish. Some people may think that by that he meant he had completely achieved perfection but here Paul makes it clear that this does not mean that he had already achieved perfection. Rather, like a runner, hepresses towards the goal to achieve the prize. Here again, Paul is not talking about salvation but sanctification; the growth and progress in the Christian life that shows holiness in a person’s life.
Then he shows how to reach the goal. You must forget the past, not look back and glorify yourself about past successes, but like a runner, you must look ahead and win the race. The Christian must not be enjoying the world and at the same time wanting to enjoy Christ. The pastor, for example, cannot be in the ministry and still meddle with the world—doing ministry and at the same time doing business for profit. He will not have both; he will lose one. The reason for Paul disciplining his body was to have complete mastery over his evil natural tendencies and feelings, so that he would not be disqualified (1 Cor 9:27). If he did that, he would win the prize (Phil 3:14).
3.2.3 Living a Careless Life is Dangerous
Believers who are not faithful stand the chance of being disqualified. The King James Version uses a term, "castaway", and that gets some people confused. Paul was not talking about salvation but Christian service. The term "castaway" is also translated as "disapproved” or “disqualified". Many of the new versions translate the term "castaway" as "disqualified". Paul was not afraid of losing his salvation, but of losing his reward for faithful or sacrificial service. The pastoral calling is a high calling; our general calling in Christ is also a high calling.If we live for the world we will lose the prize that goes with this honourable and high calling.
These notwithstanding, we must not overlook the strength of the term ‘disapproved’, ‘rejected’, or ‘castaway’ which could also appear that after all, an undisciplined person could be cast away as unfit to enter into heaven. The point Paul is stressing is that we must work on our own salvation with fear and trembling (cf Phil 2:12). As Paul disciplines his body, so does he want his followers to follow his example:
Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things, (Phil 3:17-19, NIV).
Can you tell your followers to follow your examples? Are they safe by following your examples?
4 CHARACTERISTICS OF CHRIST IN HIM
4.1 Paul always Seeks to Please God (Rom 15:3; 10:33; 2 Cor 5:9; Gal 1:10; Col 1:10; 2 Thess 2:4; 1 Thess 4:1)
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal 1:10, NIV)
Pauls always tried to do the will of God by serving people, rather than himself. His purpose was to please God; he was not aiming in any way to please people. He desired God's favour rather than the favour of human beings. Paul had lived to please the Sanhedrin before. But now as a servant of Christ, he must do his duty, and must regulate his conduct by the will of God, whether people were pleased with it or not.
Paul was not encouraging disobedience to authority. Rather, there were some people in Galatia who used some of the apostles as examples to promote the need for the Gentiles to observe the Law in addition to believing in our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul felt that Christian leaders who were doing that were pleasing men; they were not pleasing God. His aim was to preach the gospel as it is, without watering it, as Jesus did. Jesus obeyed the will of God in all aspects. His food was to do God’s will, and so was Paul.
On the other hand too, Paul was pleasing people (Rom 15:1-3). He was not only pleasing people but also encouraging others to follow his example. In what ways was he pleasing people?
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 11 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Cor 10:31—11:1, (NIV).
In Roman 15:1-6, Paul makes a similar appeal; God’s Way Translation puts it rightly:
So those of us who have a strong faith must be patient with the weaknesses of those whose faith is not so strong. We must not think only of ourselves. 2 We should all be concerned about our neighbor and the good things that will build his faith. 3 Christ did not think only of himself. Rather, as Scripture says, "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." 4 Everything written long ago was written to teach us so that we would have confidence through the endurance and encouragement which the Scriptures give us.5 May God, who gives you this endurance and encouragement, allow you to live in harmony with each other by following the example of Christ Jesus. 6 Then, having the same goal, you will praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The principles he layshere are very important. He is not speaking of being a coward in a way such as to be men pleasers. But rather he wants us to consider the weaknesses of our neighbours and seek their welfare instead of ours. The principles are two: we must consider the weaknesses of people and we must not seek only our welfare but theirs first. To please them here is to bear with their weaknesses, ignorance, and shortcomings so as not to become a hindrance to them in their salvation.
Then, he usesChrist as an example. Christ did not please himself, or seek personal comfort, butdid the will of God by going to the cross for us (Jn 5:30; 6:38; Heb 10:4-10).
4.2 Paul always sought the Welfare of the Vulnerable
This point of seeking to help the weak is linked with Paul’s desire of helping the vulnerable. Christ was always bringing the marginalised, the sick and the poor to himself,soalso is Paul. Paul willdo all he could to minister to them and let them know they are part of God’s inheritance (e.g. Acts 13:26, 46-48). Beside his call to help them he declares, “Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (2 Cor 11:29, NIV). Again,as in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (NIV), Paul accommodates all sorts of people. He will understand them, and not drive them away. He will not become religious to them, and by that frighten them. His actions were just like Jesus, who drew the Samaritan woman to himself. Why should Paul do these? He brings the answer: “I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings” (1 Cor 9:23 NIV).
4.3 Paul always stood in Boldness for the Lord
Paul never gave in when it came to things of the Lord, no matter who was involved. He stood in boldness to defend the Christian faith before the Sanhedrin (Act 21:33—24). Luke states in Act 23:1, “Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day” NIV). He defended the Christian faith before other Jews and Gentiles (e.g. Rom 1:13-16; 15:8-20; Gal 3:25-29; Eph 3:1-3).
Paul was able to point out Peter’s fault to him, when Peter behaved as a hypocrite (Gal 2:11). This might have happened after the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 where Peter had come from Jerusalem to Antioch. Peter enjoyed fellowship with all the believers, both Jews and Gentiles alike. He had earlier eaten with the Gentiles which showed that he had accepted the Gentiles on the same level as the Jews in the Kingdom of God.
As a traditional Jew, Peter had a challenge initially but Jesus had taught them when he was with them physically (Mk 7:1-23; Matt 15:1-20). Furthermore, Jesus taught Peter through the revelation given to him just before Cornelius sent for him (Acts 10). The truth was accepted and confirmed at the Jerusalem council where Peter was one of the key players. But when some Jews came from Jerusalem Peter stopped eating with the Gentiles in order to please them. He had been able to defend himself earlier on when he was questioned after ministering to Cornelius household (Acts 11) but this time he could not. Peter’s old nature of fear had come back. Remember he denied Jesus three times. By his example, he had led some weak Christians astray; and he had also become a hypocrite.
Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray (Gal 2:12-13, NIV).
How often have you allowed your old nature to dominate you? The old nature may express itself in telling lies, annoyance, shouting, cheating, stealing or sexual desires of all kinds. How many people have you led astray through your inability to control the old nature?
It took Paul to stand in the face of Peter to oppose him and defend the truth of the gospel. It was this hypocrisy on Peter’s part which eventually led Paul to stress on the truth that, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20, NIV). His life was a life of Christ. Can you say this with Paul?
5. PICTURE OF CHRIST AND THE FAMILY IN PAUL’S MINISTRY
5.1 Relationship should be based on Christ (Eph 5:21-33, Ephesians 6:1-9)
Paul, like Christ, was not married, yethad a lot to teach on family. He was qualified to teach since he based his teaching on relationship. For Paul, thebasis of every relationship, whether in marriage, home, or work, is Christ. Christ must be brought into every relationship.
5.2 The General Principle
The general rule he laid is that we must all submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21). Christians owe one another in submission. We must bear one another’s burden. We must not advance ourselves above others. We must not dominate one another. We must respect one another out of the fear of Christ. Once there is this fear of God in our lives relationship will be smooth and everyone will perform his duties. Note that the relationship is based on Christ. This relationship must be brought to bear in marriages.
5.3 Wife’s Submission and Its Meaning
The wife must submit to the husband (5:22). Wherever there is more than one person, there should be a leader. For the fact that the man was created first before the woman, the headship of the family has been given to the man. The wife must submit wherever there is misunderstanding between the couple; she must submit in domestic issues and she must submit in business issues. The submission must however be in the Lord. What does this mean?
Submission ends at issues that are related to Christianity and conscience. For example, the husband has no right to require the wife to commit an act of unfaithfulness such as telling lies, committing adultery, and agreeing with him to steal, She must not follow the husband when it comes to visiting a place where her conscience prevents her from going. “In the Lord” also means the husband has no right forbidding her not to go to church or to exercise her Christian influence over their children.
Leadership here does not mean control. It means offering oneself as an example in humility and persuasion. This is the kind of example that Christ sets for us in the Scriptures. That is, if the husband exercises control over his wife as in the aforementioned issues, the wife is bound to obey the Lord. In other words the wife must not obey the husbandfor the husband has stepped beyond his boundaries. He has taken the prerogative of the Lord. Therefore, the husband’s authority ceases to be binding on the wife. Insuch cases Acts 4:19 applies, “But Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard’" (NIV).
5.4 Husband’s Love and Its Meaning
The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. The love of Christ is very strong; this is unconditional, redemptive, protective, sincere and pure. Despites the failures, weaknesses and flaws of the Church, Christ still loves the Church. The husband must exhibit these virtues to the wife. These will bring happiness and joy in the home.
5.5 Children, Slaves and Masters’ Part
The same principle applies to children (Eph 6:1). They must obey the parents in the Lord.
Parents must not provoke their children but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (6:4).
Servants must obey their masters as they would to Christ (6:5-6).
Masters should do same to their servants (6:9-10).
5.6 The Thrust of Paul’s Message: As to the Lord
You must take notice of the emphasis Paul lays on Christ: wives, husbands, children, parents, servants and masters are all instructed to perform their duties in Christ or as to the Lord. The general principle Paul lays here is that whether you are a husband or wife, child or parent, servant or master, you must respect your neighbour in the Lord. You are responsible to the Lord for your life and relationship with one another. You will one day give an account of your conduct to your real Master, Christ. Understanding of this minimises pride, opens up to one’s own limitations, and strengthens relationship whether in marriage, family or work. Thus Paul’s admonition to married couples and other relations is that Christ must be the centre. You must be an example in whatever you do.
6 IMPLICATIONS FOR THE CHRISTIAN TODAY
6.1 Follow the Example of Paul
Paul had lived his life after Christ. He was an example of Him, therefore, he had the moral courage to tell his audience to imitate him (1 Cor 4:16-17 NIV. Cf. 1 Cor 11:1; Phil 3:17-21; 1 Thess 1:6-7; 1Thess 2:8-12; 2 Thess 3:9). His life was so transparent that he was not afraid to tell the people to follow his example. He had trained some people to become like him in Christ. They lived like Paul after Christ. The Christian life is based upon Christ and His teachings—doctrines. Christ and His principles are to be preached, taught and lived wherever we are. These principles are wrapped in the language and culture we live in, but they do not change. Thus he could send Timothy to remind believers in Corinth, Ephesus and also in Thessalonica of his way of life in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 4:16-17; 1 Tim 1:3; Phil 2:19-24). The same Christ and His principles are needed in our generation. There is no alternative to telling people “to follow me as I follow Christ”. If we fail him, the world will seriously sink into darkness. Most of the leaders of the world are driving the world into a ditch. This is evidenced in the promotion of issues such as homosexuality and transsexuality and still wanting the church to accommodate these. The Church is the hope of the world,andwe are the Church. Failure to imitate Christ means you and I have failed Him miserably. The Executive Director of the American Culture and Faith Institute, George Barna, observes in the US that, “Believers are largely indistinguishable from nonbelievers in how they think and live. The Church has lost her place on the table on cultural influence”. In other words, Barna is saying that there is lack of an example of Christ within the Church as he observes. Unless, we have examples of Christ on earth here the Church will not have impact; it will only be there in name but not as an example of people manifesting the principles of the kingdom of God as Christ did on earth.
Can you as an individual tell people to follow your example as Paul told his hearers? How can you live as an example of Christ?
6.2 Live as an Example of Christ in your Private life
6.2.1 When No One is Watching
Success begins when you begin to live as an example of Christ when no one is around. Once you are able to believe and actwith the knowledge that the Lord is watching you and that you are answerable to Him, you are on the way to victory in life. In your chamber, that is, when you are alone put all what you believe and say to practice. What you believe and do in private will automatically come out publicly.
6.2.1 As an Example of Christ at Home
The home needs people who will live like Christ. The father and mother must follow what they say at church. The best thing that you as a father or mother do for your children is to do what you say.
6.3 Live as an Example of Christ in Business
One of the challenging issues in modern world is bribery and corruption. Corruption is found throughout the world. It becomes difficult when you live in a country where government officials are very corrupt, and appear like looting money. It is then alleged that you cannot do business without corruption,but what is corruption? “The misuse of public or corporate position or power for personal gain”. The Bible clearly condemns corruption (Exo 18:21; 23:8; Lev 19:15; Deut 10:17; Eccl 7:7; Mic 3:11). The Koran does not only condemn it but puts a curse on the one who gives as well as the one who takes it. How can you do business or work without taking bribe? The bare fact is that if corruption was wrong 2000 years ago, can it be right now? Corruption is evil and bad in many ways such as perversion of justice, increasing financial cost, thereby, burdening the poor. Corruption makes people lazy. One of the serious effect is that there is the tendency to bypass regulation on product quality and safety,which could cause the death of many people. This is dangerous for society. The world is looking for examples. In Acts 24:26, Felix wanted Paul to give him bribe so that he would release him from prison but he did not. He was suffering in prison. His imprisonment could mean death but he didn’t. You and I must live as an example of Christ for people to imitate. The nations, governments, institutions and churches are looking for people of integrity.
6.4 Live as an Example of Christ in Your Profession
6.4.1. Live as an Example of Christ in Politics
Politicians are considered as liars and people who make false promises. The Christian politician must live to bring a difference. He should be able to life Christ-like character to challenge his colleagues to follow suit. He should be able to refuse bribe and portray Christ in politics. He should live as an example of Christ in politics
6.4.2 Live as an Example of Christ in Royalties
Chieftaincy is the centre of culture in many African countries. Many people associate chieftaincy with idolatry. How can you live as an example of Christ as a chief or a queen? Some people have been successful here and brought a change. Some have even been removed from office as they tried to bring a change. But once you sow a seed it will certainly germinate. Christ needs people who will live as His example in chieftaincy to transform the evil side of cultures.
6.4.3 Live as an Example of Christ in Police Services
In many countries the Police is associated with taking bribes and twisting judgment. You must live as an example of Christ in the Police Service to prove to people that we have people who are really ‘Christ on earth’.
6.4.4 Live as an Example of Christ at the Work place
It will not be possible to name all types of professions here. The general rule is that live as an example of Christ in your profession and at your workplace. Workplace can be an office, mechanic shop, tailoring/dressmaking shop, market, building site, farm, baking centre, media house or on a flight as an attendant. Let there be a difference between you and those who are not Christians. Many people are cheating the government and their own business owners. Assess your work to know whether the pay you take befits the job you do or not. Be faithful and economic about the little things you do such as the use of paper, office pins, and water. Do not ‘steal things’ from work. Work as if the work belongs to you and that you are working for the Lord.
In the market, how do people see you? When someone asks for something and fails to buy, how do react? How do people see you at the mechanic shop? What type of words do you use?
6.5 Live as an Example of Christ at School
Young people and Children must live the life of Christ wherever they are. Lifeon campus is terrible. Sometimes, the type of dress people put on almost expose every part of their bodies. People who do not give in to the craving of this world are considered narrow minded and naïve,yet,you must live an example of Christ. Such are the type of people the world will consider as true models.
6.6 Live as an Example of Christ During Times of Difficulties
One of the most challenging period for you as a Christian is to put into practice what you believe and say during times of difficulties. Many people can preach, teach or counsel others well, but fail when they get into similar challenges. Christians can, face challenges such as mistreatments by others, abuse,singleness, sickness, accident, barrenness or bereavement. These conditions are difficult to experience yet it is precisely in such situations that Christians must live as examples of Christ.
In conclusion, the question that we need to address is “how can we become like Christ?” Paul has shown us the way. He did all that he did just to show us examples.
We must let Christ be the centre of our lives. When we are faced with life’s challenges in our businesses, failures, sickness, barrenness, bereavement or any other misfortune, we must believe that Jesus whom we serve is aware of it, and He will address it in His own way, although we may not understand it.
Christ must be placed first in our lives. For example, He must come before us, our spouses, families and businesses.
We must be honest with ourselves in both our private and public lives. Our ‘halls’ and ‘chambers’ must be opened. Christ must be the centre of both. We must put away anything that will embarrass us when people see us doing it. Our former ways of life must be abandoned. We must have the desire to know Christ and even suffer with Him where necessary.
Relationship is essential in life. We must live at peace with our spouses, children, household members, friends, fellow workers, bosses and servants. We must seek the welfare of all people. Workers should not steal from their bosses and bosses should not cheator exploit their workers. Masters should endeavour to pay the right wages to their workers.
Our aim should be like Christ and to please Him. We should stand for Him in good and bad times. By these, we would become a good example of Christ on earth to the glory of God.
George Barna, Growing True Disciples: New Strategies for Producing Genuine Followers of Christ (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2001), 11.
Richard Higginson, Questions of Business Life: Exploring Workplace Issues from a Christian Perspective (Carisle: Spring Harvest, 2002), 161.
The Chairman of The Church of Pentecost and President of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council (GPCC), Apostle Professor Opoku Onyin read more