If you could pick someone to be like, who would it be? There certainly can be many answers to that question, but Paul had an interesting perspective on that topic. Notice what he says in Phil. 3:17,
“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”
The first thing Paul tells us is to join in imitating him! The word translated “imitate” is describing “one who joins others as an imitator—‘to join as an imitator, to be an imitator together with others, joint imitator’” (Louw and Nida). In effect, Paul is saying to the readers that they should join together and unite in imitating him. The emphasis of the verb is something they should continually be doing. Therefore, Paul is saying, “join together with the other brothers and continually be imitating me and my life!” That is quite a statement. Most say, “do as I say, not as I do.” Paul is confident enough to say the opposite. “Do as I do.”
This may appear to reveal pride in Paul until the rest of the verse is considered. Paul is saying not only that we should imitate him but also others who walk according to the same model of life we see in Paul. Paul is not the only one worth imitating in the Christian life. There are many believers today who are worthy of imitating because their ultimate goal is to be like Jesus.
Paul uses phrase “keep your eyes on” to describe the kind of looking we should be doing in trying to find those worth imitating. This Greek word is where we get the English word “scope.” We are to “look intently or scope out” others who are living a faithful Christian life to see how we can model them as they follow Christ. This implies an intentional thought process. You and I should be intently observing and thinking about the example others in the faith have left for us to follow.
I have been very fortunate to have believers in my life that I have tried to model because they were trying to be like Jesus. There have also been men who I have read about but never met, that have influenced my life. An example of this would be Jim Elliot who was martyred as a missionary. In reading one of the books about his life he made a statement that has been with me for 40 years! He said, “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” He was talking about not being afraid to even give up your life if need be in the service of Christ because of the certainty of what awaits the disciple of Jesus in heaven. He ended up doing that very thing when he was killed by the people he was trying to reach with the Gospel!
Father, I thank you that we have examples in scripture to follow and imitate. Great men and women who lived by faith. I thank you also that we have current and past believers that are still worth imitating as well. There is alway someone further down the road in his faith that is worth me modeling in addition to Paul as described in this passage. May you help me be someone worth imitating. May others be able to say they are trying to become like me because I am trying to become like Christ.
Following Jesus with you,