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What does “imitate me as I imitate Christ” mean (1 Corinthians 11:1)?

imitate me as I imitate Christ

In closing a section of teaching on the nature of Christian freedom (1 Corinthians 10:23–11:1), the apostle Paul issued this bold directive: “And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (verse 11:1, NLT). Christian freedom can be summed up as following Jesus Christ’s example or imitating Christ. “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ,” states the New International Version. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to follow His example and become like Him (John 13:15, 34; Matthew 11:29; Romans 8:29; 13:14). We can be helped by imitating other mature Christian servants who have provided spiritual encouragement to us (see 1 Thessalonians 2:14).

When Paul said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ,” he was instructing us as believers to carefully examine our Savior’s life and the lives of His faithful servants. He gave a similar command earlier in 1 Corinthians 4:16: “Therefore I urge you to imitate me.” In the original Greek, the verb translated as “imitate” in 1 Corinthians 11:1 and 1 Corinthians 4:16 is mimētai and means “become a person who copies the words and behaviors of another.” The Greek term is the root of our English word mimic. Paul chose the same verb to tell the Ephesians, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children” (Ephesians 4:32—5:1, NLT).

Our freedom in Christ is not a license to do whatever we want but a call to follow in Christ’s footsteps. Jesus told His disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, NLT). Imitating the example of Jesus involves dying to self, as Christ Himself demonstrated (Philippians 2:5–8). But this is the secret of genuine Christian liberty.

To imitate Christ, we must get to know Him intimately. We do this through the consistent, in-depth study of His life and words. Paul’s teaching here in 1 Corinthians 10:23—11:1 gives us some insight. We can recognize that Jesus never settled just for what was permissible or allowed; instead, He always sought what was beneficial and constructive (verse 23). He wasn’t focused on His own good but on the good of others (verses 24 and 33; cf. Philippians 2:4). He was constantly considerate of His actions and how they might affect the conscience of another (verses 28–29; cf. Matthew 17:24–27). Jesus did everything to reflect God’s glory (verse 31; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Hebrews 1:3).

In ancient times, students were expected to imitate their teachers as part of their training. In the Christian faith, believers get to know Christ’s character through fellowship with godly mentors and by taking spiritual cues from them. The author of Hebrews wrote, “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Hebrews 6:12). Later, he urged, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).

As Christ’s disciples, we imitate His character and, in doing so, provide life models worthy of imitation (Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 3:2–4). And, as we imitate Christ and become more like Him in all we do, we are genuinely free (Romans 12:1–2; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:14–16, 22–24). The apostle John affirmed, “And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world” (1 John 4:17, NLT).

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What does “imitate me as I imitate Christ” mean (1 Corinthians 11:1)?
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This page last updated: January 11, 2024