Oh, how much easier things are when you have examples. When you are assembling something from Ikea for example. You saw it in the store. They had an example of a fully mocked-up room, and they showed you how the item could be used. You buy it, take it home, and start the process of assembling the item. The instructions are helpful, but sometimes it is good to see the actual, fully-formed item. To see how it all fits together and how it should function helps in the assembly. In a similar fashion, we have encouragement from the Scriptures to look toward good examples.
Paul writes, “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Phil. 3:17). It is clear that Paul is not touting himself to be deity to be followed, just an example of one who walks with Christ. He wrote to the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). It is simple to see the concept. Reading Scripture gives us knowledge. Yet, seeing it lived out in others helps us to understand the application. This only works because there is a standard. In the above verse from Philippians, Paul uses the Greek word “tupos” for “pattern.” It is the idea of a stamp or impression. It is a copy of the original. In the previous verse he wrote, “let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained” (Phil. 3:16). Translated from Greek, it literally reads, “by the same rule walk, the same thing think” (YLT). The concept of following the example of others carries with it the responsibility for us to make sure those we follow are following the same rule. There are a lot of bad examples out there.
“For many walk of whom many times I told you—and now also weeping tell—the enemies of the cross of the Christ! whose end is destruction, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who the things on earth are minding” (Phil. 3:18-19). This is the accusation that Jesus had against Peter, “Get thee behind me, adversary! thou art a stumbling-block to me, for thou dost not mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matt. 16:23). Peter didn’t want Jesus to die for his own reasons. When we try to blend the will of heaven with our own fleshly will, we distort the pattern, and we are no longer good examples. We should be quick to discern between those who genuinely want to serve God and those that are serving their own gain.
It is clear that proper examples can be helpful. We all have the same instructions for life. Yet, seeing someone living them out is a great asset in our Christian walk. Beware of the bad examples around us. Compare them to the pattern given so as to divide between right and wrong. Then, be an example.