Don The Armour

January 30, 2024

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1 (ESV)


“Do as I say, not as I do.”

How often do we hear this line? People say it in jest, and we have a good chuckle about it, but this is actually how many people live their lives and try to instruct others — in word, not deed.

Not only is this a poor teaching method, but it’s not what God wants for us.

Our ultimate role model is always Jesus Christ. We are all to be imitators of him, as he is the only one who has set a perfect example for us to follow. However, there are many instances in the Bible where God tells us to look to godly people who are good imitators of Christ and imitate them. Here are a few:

I urge you, then, be imitators of me. - 1 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV)

so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. - Hebrews 6:12 (ESV)

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, - 1 Thessalonians 1:6 (ESV)

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. - Philippians 3:17 (ESV)

God knows that we learn better with physical examples around us — people we can see, touch, and know — so he instructs us to find these people and imitate them as they imitate Christ. This shows us the importance of face-to-face interactions with other believers.

We can see many examples in the New Testament of the lengths Paul went to be present with each church. He wasn’t content to write them letters; he wanted to live amongst them and set an example. He wanted them to know him and the other church leaders, to see how they lived their lives, and to be a living testimony for the things they preached. We need this same thing today. We need to know our brothers and sisters and the people teaching us. We can’t do that through a screen; we must be together in person.

Paul’s example also encourages us to be people others want to imitate. We shouldn’t instruct our children to “do as I say, not as I do” but instead strive to live out our beliefs so they can do as we say and as we do.

I imagine the success rate of the “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy is meager. Humans are good at spotting hypocrisy, which is devastating to a message. It raises the question, “If what you say is true, why don’t you live it?” On the contrary, we often don’t have to say anything when we live out our beliefs. Our actions speak for themselves, and the fruits in our lives become our testimony.

The hypocrite does no less than mock God in all his duties… Christ preached this doctrine when he cursed the fig tree, which did, by her green leaves, mock the passenger, making him come for fruit, and go ashamed without any.

- William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour