It is not easy living in a fishbowl. Paul did not pretend to be perfect—-quite the contrary (Phil 3:12–-14). He wanted all believers to join with him, as a struggling sinner, to constantly pursue the goal of becoming Christlike. If Paul had suggested he was perfect, he would not have been an example that others could follow.
In Philippians 3:17, when Paul commands us to “continuously be imitators,” he uses a word only found in this text. The prefixes give the meaning “to join together [as a community] in imitating” his life.
We need examples of leaders who are not perfect, who struggle to overcome temptations, imperfections, disappointments, hurts, failures, or disillusionments. How do they handle these problems? Paul was our example for godliness, overcoming the flesh and temptation, worshipping and sacrificial service to God, patience under persecution, contentment, financial management, and relationship building.
In this passage, Paul asks us to take the challenge of following future leaders. The Philippians were commanded to “be continually and carefully watching those who are living this way, just as you have us as an example.” The Greek word for watch means to “mark, spy out, observe, or give attention to”; it comes from a word meaning the “goal–marker,” or pacesetter, an athletic term referring to runners, as in 3:14.
Paul is saying, “Focus on those whose daily conduct is according to the correct pattern—-the one you saw in us.” The plural us implies that Epaphroditus and Timothy were also examples, and probably the “bishops [or pastors] and deacons” (Phil 1:1) were included.
Leaders in the churches are to “set [themselves as] an example of the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Tim 4:12). Every church needs pacesetters in humility, unselfish service, willingness to suffer without complaint, exemplary devotion to Christ’s purpose on earth, courage, and dedication to spiritual maturity. Those who teach and preach the word of God have a double responsibility: first, to know accurately what the Bible says, and second, to incorporate its principles and commands into their lives until their obedience becomes evident to all. Live to be an example.
“Lord, it is amazing to notice people who are like You. They demonstrate Your grace and wisdom in all they do and say. Please help to be like those who are so much like You as revealed in Your word.”
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