Paul Tells Us to Imitate His Pursuit of Christ-likeness

by Wayne Barber

The mission of the church is to model the message of Christ-in-you-the-hope-of-glory and to mature the saints, as we saw in our last article.  Now let us consider the motive of the church. Paul states the motive in the last part of Colossians 1:28—“that we may present every man complete in Christ.

Recall the context of Colossians: The gnostics and the legalists both believed they needed more than Christ. But every believer is complete in Christ. I do not believe that Paul has in mind “someday,” when we all see Christ. The exhibits he has in mind are those believers who are living now the message that Christ is enough. The church will never reach perfection until Christ comes. We will always find many in it who claim to know Christ but who choose not to serve Him.  They are the ones in the church that have the “gifts of dissention!”

But the remnant is always there. I’ve always believed that the more the message is modeled, the more saints are matured, and the bigger the remnant will be.

There are so many wonderful churches in our world today that have such a large remnant of “true exhibits” of those living the message of their completeness in Christ. I just thank God for that remnant. The goal of all our teaching is that those taught would live what they know. Then, and only then, do they stand as exhibits of the message that we have taught.

Now, this lifestyle stares error in the face and disarms it. Paul was in prison when he wrote Colossians. He also wrote Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon in prison, and in his Philippian letter, we see so clearly that his life was sufficient in Christ. In fact, Paul said in Philippians 3:8: “… I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” Then in vs. 10, he says, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”  His life was lived to experience Christ—as he wants us to.

 In Philippians 3:17 he urges: “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (NASB). In the Greek, Paul is saying “imitate me.” This is not in any way a conceited statement by Paul. He earnestly wants the Philippian believers to imitate his pursuit of Christ-likeness. He is summing up all of what he has been saying in chapter 3.

 The word “observe” is skopéo. It is in the command form. This is no suggestion. It is paramount that they pay attention to what he is saying. The word means to spy out; to observe very closely; to give attention to. Keep those who “walk according to the pattern you have in us” in constant focus. Why? Because these are the ones who realize that they are complete in Christ. “Observe” is in the present tense, meaning always be observing. It is in the active voice, which means let this be your conscious choice.

In this day and time, we have lost our focus on those who have gone before us—those who lived the simplistic but profound life of living in the sufficiency of Christ! Those who were humble and honest. Those who lived to experience Christ. Those who did not allow their failures to get in their way. Those who did not camp out on their victories in Christ but kept on keeping on!

 “…According to the pattern you have in us.” The word for “pattern” is túpos. It meant in its raw form the imprint left by the striking of a blow. Paul left his imprint on the believers at Philippi.

What kind of an imprint have you left thus far on others?  Do you really believe that Christ is enough? Do you really believe that you are sufficient in Him?

Wayne Barber is senior pastor of Hoffmantown Church, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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