Or, “The Imitation of Christ.”
- The Goal of Our Course
- The Process of Perfection (i.e the process through which we become like Jesus)
Jesus gave His life on earth as an example of how we should live: that is, overcoming evil with good. Therefore, we should become like Jesus.
To be righteous means to be like Jesus. That is, when the Lord is teaching us about righteousness, He is teaching us about Himself, His character.
To become like Jesus is to follow a course – a course with defined starting and ending points.
Although less important, a subsidiary post on this subject is Assorted Extra-Biblical and Non-Biblical Thoughts on Being Like Jesus.
The more we know what Jesus is like, the more effective we can be in imitating Him. Therefore consider His qualities (e.g. humility): He Is…
Matthew 5:48 – “you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”
Matthew 10:25 – “It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master” – The natural course of things is that a disciple becomes like his teacher (see especially Luke 6:40 below) and a slave like his master. This is even true for teachers unworthy of imitation (Matthew 23:15).
Matthew 11:29 – “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me” – The figure of a yoke, especially when considered in the light of all the verses below, implies a walking through life together in step with Him. The Lord is not portraying Himself as a driver separated from the beasts under the yoke, but rather one that is walking the path with each disciple.
Matthew 23:10 – “One is your leader, that is, Christ” (see Isaiah 55:4 below). Those who “follow the leader” do what the leader does and thus behave like the leader.
Luke 6:36 – “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Luke 6:40 – “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher”
John 5:19 – “the Son also does in like manner” – As Jesus imitated the Father, so we should imitate Jesus (John 20:21).
John 13:15 – “I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you”
John 13:34 – “even as I have loved you” – That is, we should love in the way that Jesus loved. (Ephesians 5:2)
John 14:12 – “the works that I do, he will do also”
Acts 4:13 – “began to recognize them as having been with Jesus”
Acts 13:22 – “A MAN AFTER MY HEART WHO WILL DO ALL MY WILL”
Acts 26:29 – “And Paul said, ‘I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains’.” – See 1 Corinthians 11:1 below. We are to imitate the apostles as they imitated Christ.
Romans 8:29 – “He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren”
1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”
2 Corinthians 3:18 – “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image”
2 Corinthians 4:2 – Just as truth was manifested in Jesus (Ephesians 4:21; John 1:14, 17; 14:6), so the truth of His life should be manifested through us. This is Christ living His life through us (Galatians 2:20).
Ephesians 4:15 – “we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Micah 2:13)
Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Ephesians 5:1, 2 – “…be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love just as Christ also loved you” (John 13:34)
Ephesians 5:25 – “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,”
Philippians 2:5 – “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus”
1 Thessalonians 1:6 – “You also became imitators…of the Lord” – See section below on our imitating the apostles since they were imitating Christ.
Hebrews 1:3 – “the exact representation of His nature” – As Jesus was the exact representation of God’s nature so we should seek to be the exact representation of Jesus’ nature.
Hebrews 6:11-12 – “…so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Hebrews 6:20 – “a forerunner for us” (1 Peter 2:21; *** Micah 2:13) – Consider in the light of Hebrews 12:1, 2 says about running the race in the presence of the one who ran it before (“fore” as in “forerunner”) us.
Hebrews 13:7 – “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” – See 1 Corinthians 11:1 above.
1 Peter 1:15 – “like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior”
1 Peter 2:21 – “leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps”
1 John 2:6 – “walk in the same manner as He walked”
1 John 3:1 – “the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.”
1 John 3:10 – Especially when considered along with John 1:10, this verse implies our presupposed likeness to Christ in two ways: 1) in that we are called “children of God” (see the note on “the sons of God” below), and 2) in that the world treats us as it treated Him (implying that it sees us as it saw Him).
1 John 4:17 – “as He is, so also are we in this world”
Genesis 1:11, 12, 24, 25, 29 – after its kind, with seed in it
Genesis 1:26, 27 – in the image of God, according to God’s likeness
Psalm 81:13 – “…that Israel would walk in My ways!”
Isaiah 55:4 – “leader” – a leader goes first and shows the way (see “The Way” below; also Micah 2:13 and Hebrews 6:20)
Micah 2:13 – “goes up before them,” “goes on before them” (see Hebrews 6:20 above), “the Lord at their head” (see Ephesians 4:15 above)
INSTRUCTIONS TO BECOME LIKE JESUS
WHICH ARE LESS EXPLICIT
“Follow Me” – 19 times in the New Testament (e.g. Matthew 4:19), Jesus instructs “Follow Me.” This, of course, implies that He was offering Himself as an example (1 Peter 2:21). “Followers” should certainly be “imitators.”
“the sons of God” – Our calling to be “sons of God” implies that we are called to bear His image. It appears 5 times in the New Testament (e.g. Romans 8:14)
“the Way“ – Jesus famously said “I am the way.” In the book of Acts, Christianity was called “The Way” 5 times – more than it was called anything else (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 24:14, 22) (a sixth reference: Acts 22:4; other possible references in Acts: Acts 16:17; 18:25, 26). Consider also that “this way” is “the race set before us” (Hebrews 12:2) for which Jesus is “the forerunner” (Hebrews 6:20, which is included in the list above).
WE ARE TO IMITATE THE APOSTLES
IN THEIR IMITATION OF CHRIST
The apostles were living their lives in imitation of Christ, so we benefit from seeing what such imitation means.
Matthew 23:3 – “but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them” – The true apostles didn’t merely say things on behalf of Christ – they said things…and did them.
Acts 26:29 – “might become such as I am, except for these chains.”
1 Corinthians 4:16 – “be imitators of me.”
1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ”
Philippians 3:17 – “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.”
Philippians 4:9 – “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things”
1 Thessalonians 1:6 – “You also became imitators of us”
2 Thessalonians 3:7 – “you ought to follow our example”
2 Thessalonians 3:9 – “to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example”
1 Timothy 1:16 – “so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life”
Titus 1:16 – Like Matthew 23:3 above, this is an example we are to avoid.
Hebrews 13:7 – “imitate their faith” – The apostles are those who “led” by example, just as the Lord had led them by example (1 Peter 2:21).
FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS,
THOSE WHO FOLLOW THE APOSTLES
– INCLUDING US –
ARE TO BE EXAMPLES OF FOLLOWING CHRIST
You are a “walking advertisement” for your teaching (doctrine), for the worldview you promote. Therefore, you are “preaching” with your behavior as well as with your words. It stands to reason that if you have been a student of the teaching you are putting forth that you will exemplify it.
If your behavior does not match what you are teaching, then you are teaching others but not yourself (Romans 2:21). You are a hypocrite, like the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day (Matthew 23:3). That this may not be your lot, determine to be the most faithful and zealous among all the students of your teaching.
1 Corinthians 4:17 – “he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ”
1 Thessalonians 1:7 – The Thessalonians had become just what Paul would exhort Timothy (1 Timothy 4:12 below) and Titus (Titus 2:7 below) to become: an example for others.
1 Timothy 4:12 – “show yourself an example”
Titus 2:7 – “show yourself to be an example”
Titus 3:14 – This is what Jesus went about doing: “meet[ing] pressing needs” (Acts 10:38).
1 Peter 5:3 – “proving to be examples to the flock”
Daniel 12:3 – To “lead the many to righteousness” is to lead them to Christ, and we lead by being examples of those who believe in Him (1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Peter 5:3).