Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Learning Together

Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. (Philippians 3:17)
Paul has described the attitude that Jesus believers need to develop. It is the mindset of Jesus Himself that Paul set before them so richly in chapter 2, a portrait of divine humility and divine greatness. It is the path Paul himself is following, and now he calls the believers at Philippi to come follow his example. “Become followers together of me,” is how Young’s Literal Translation puts it. “Followers together” is one word in Greek, symmimetes, a compound of sym, which means “with” or “together” and mimetes, from a verb that means to imitate. That has been Paul’s concern throughout his letter, that believers would learn to walk together, with a common focus and of one heart and soul — that of the Lord Jesus.

Follow “my” example, be imitators together of “me,” Paul says. Does that seem arrogant? He has given them the example of the Lord Jesus. What could be better than that? Yet, he offers himself as an example of how that gets lived out. In his letter to the believers at Corinth, he said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Jesus practiced it perfectly, but Paul — not so much. Yet they had never actually seen Jesus as He walked this walk. But they did see how Paul did it, and they could do it the way he did it. Jesus was the perfect example, but Paul was a pretty good one.

They also saw how Timothy and Epaphroditus lived out the faith. Timothy was with Paul from the beginning of his ministry there, and Epaphroditus was one of them. Paul has already mentioned their example. Timothy is one who is of “like mind” with Paul, a man of proven character and a servant heart (Philippians 2:19-22). Paul called Epaphroditus, “my brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier,” and told of how Epaphroditus pushed himself, though perhaps too hard, for their sake (Philippians 2:25-30). “Hold such in high regard,” Paul said of these men, and of all who are like them. They are worthy of honor.

Now he says, “Note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus provide a good pattern, but there are others at Philippi who follow the same manner of life. “Note” them. The Greek word means to look at, observe, contemplate. In other words, study them, watch how they do it, learn from them — then do the same.

There is a simple teaching method that could apply here: “Watch one, do one, teach one.” Or to put it another way: Observe how others do it, practice their pattern yourself, then become a good pattern for others to follow.

Focus Questions
  1. Who are those you look to as examples for your own walk with others?
  2. Do you have to be perfect to be a good example yourself?
  3. Who are those who look to you for an example and pattern of how to walk?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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