CHRIST AS OUR EXAMPLE
T. Pierce Brown
Probably almost everyone who claims to believe in Christianity would at least pay lip service to the idea expressed in 1 Peter 2:21 that Christ left us “an example, that we should follow in his steps.” Yet, much of the religious world, and even some in the fellowship of the churches of Christ, do not understand what that means.
For example, one religious group teaches their members that they are to be baptized (immersed in water) to follow the example of Jesus. Furthermore, since Jesus was NOT baptized for the remission of his sins, then our baptism cannot be for the remission of our sins. They miss the point on at least two or three counts.
First, to follow the example of Jesus does not mean that we are to do the specific THINGS he DID, but by doing AS he did–whatever God wanted him to do. For example, he probably walked 40 miles or so to be baptized. He was baptized in the River Jordan. We are not required to do either. I have talked with those who felt they should be baptized “in running water” to follow the example of Jesus. I told them I would be happy to open the faucet and the drain in the baptistery if it would help their feelings any! When one protested that it needed to be a river, I told her that to be consistent, it would have to be theJordan!
He took the Lord’s Supper in an upper room. Many years ago I was told that in a town near where I was preaching there was a group of Christians thought they had to meet in an upper room. They never grew too large to meet in a room above the garage. We know of groups who think they have to take the fruit of the vine from one container. What kind of cup they would have for the 10,000 or more members inJerusalemwe have never discovered! Of course, these groups are not expected to grow that large in numbers! At any rate, we can see that this misunderstanding of what it means to “follow His example” is not confined to some denominational group.
Those who claim we cannot be baptized for the remission of sins, since we must “follow the example of Jesus,” also miss the point by failing to realize that neither was he baptized thinking his sins were already forgiven! Nor was he baptized so he could be voted into some church! He was not baptized into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are to be. There are many other things that Jesus did, such as washing the feet of his disciples, which were not done for us to do the specific THING he did, but to follow his example by practicing the principle he taught.
So our point now is that the way to follow the example of Jesus is to ACT ON THE PRINCIPLES HE DID. He was determined to obey God in all respect at whatever the cost! He died on the cross for his enemies. We follow his example, not by dying on a cross, but by loving our enemies (Matthew5:44) and thus being perfect, “even as our Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew5:48).
I do not know how to develop this aspect of the mind of Christ except in these ways: 1. Teach persons the necessity of doing that. That is, determine to obey God in all respects. 2. Encourage them to do it by example and by exhortation. 3. Start practicing it on “little” things–that is, things you can do with little effort– so you can develop strength when the big ones come. You do not have to find a den of lions or a furnace of fire to go into, nor try walking on water! Just DO WHAT YOU CAN, WHERE YOU ARE, WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, and you will be following the example of Jesus. By that process you will develop the strength to go to the cross, if necessary, and do what you could not, where you are not, with what you do not have. The lad with the loaves and fishes did that. He could not feed 5000 with a few loaves and fishes, but HE DID! Peter couldn’t walk on water either, but he did! And he did because he was willing to obey Jesus although it did not appeal to his senses.