In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul famously told the Corinthian church to, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
When you think about it — that’s quite a thing to say.
Paul’s making both a command and a claim:
- A command for the Corinthian church to follow (or imitate) him.
- A claim that he’s following Christ in a way that’s worth imitating.
It makes me queazy to think about saying that to anyone else…
So what is Paul talking about here?
Is it a humble thing to say—or prideful? Is it a safe thing to say—or dangerous? And how can we learn from it?
The Context of “Follow me as I follow Christ”
First, it’s helpful to have some context about the verse itself plus the city of Corinth. Let’s tackle the city.
Theologian Gordon Fee wrote, “Paul’s Corinth was at once the New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas of the ancient world.”
Corinth was a wildly influential city. It had tons of money, sat on key trade routes, and even had tourists lining up on every street.
It was a cultural hub filled with all the stuff today’s big cities are. That meant the new believers came from a wide array of cultural, religious, and moral backgrounds, too.
The next bit of context is the verse itself.
Paul wrote, “Follow me as I follow Christ” just after 1 Corinthians 10:31–33, which reads:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
Paul’s helping the church understand that, in their city, they have a bunch of different cultures all smushed together. (Today, we call it a melting pot.)
This meant that even eating or drinking customs might unnecessarily offend people and make them dismissive of the Gospel.
So he drops this challenging statement: “For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.”
Like Jesus, his entire life was about seeing people get saved.
The Call of “Follow me as I Follow Christ”
Like Jesus, Paul set aside what he wanted for the good of others.
As Jesus said in Mark 10:45, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”Paul sought the advantage of other people before his own. Click To Tweet
Paul wanted to lead followers of Jesus, not build a following of his own. Click To Tweet
Paul’s heartbeat was for people to meet Jesus. He wasn’t in the business of building a huge fan club.
This verse is an incredible challenge for me today. It might be for you, too. Here are some questions to consider…
- Does my life imitate Jesus’ so closely that I’m comfortable telling people to “Follow me as I follow Christ”?
- Am I willing to set aside my own preferences for the chance to show people Jesus?
- Do I understand my culture enough to constantly share Jesus with them where they’re at?