Pastoral Letter 01 May 2022

My dear readers,

“Follow Me as I Follow Christ”

1 Corinthians 11:1: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”

There are some believers and church leaders who tell their followers not to follow them because they are not perfect, but to follow Christ who is perfect! This seemingly noble statement is quite unbiblical. It reflects an escape from the responsibility and conviction to live a holy life. They think that by making this disclaimer they are excused from being a holy witness for Christ!

For the Apostle Paul, the opposite was true. He wanted Christians to look at his life and follow him, i.e. to mimic him. In fact, he commanded it! Was Paul being proud and arrogant? Did he think that his life was so great so that he asked other believers to mimic his manner of life? Obviously that was not the reason, which is sinful and self-centred. The Apostle Paul was not a self-aggrandizing servant of Christ trying to take some of Christ’s glory for himself! He was humble and never liked to boast or talk about himself (cf. 2 Cor 11). His only desire was to promote his Saviour Jesus Christ all the days of his life, having been saved by Him while he was in the midst of persecuting Christians. He was eternally grateful and thankful that Christ would save such a chief of sinners like him. He warned others of this danger that is potentially found in all servants of Christ. Acts 20:29-30: “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” [Emphasis added] Paul was very conscious of this danger.

1 Corinthians 11:1 is to be understood in the blessed sense as this was the context in which it was written. Paul urged all believers to follow, i.e. imitate, him as a Christian continually. They were to imitate how he prayed, worshipped, studied God's Word, endured suffering in the face of unending persecutions, patiently trusting in the LORD under all circumstances, his readiness to share the gospel of Christ even in persecution, his compassion for the weak, his devotion to Christ always, his generosity when he saw others in want and that he worked as a tent maker to provide for them, his way of preaching and teaching God’s Word, how he forgave others and others forgave him when he repented, his reaction to the enemies’ lies and attacks, and his selflessness always to be all things to all man in order to save some.

All of us learn by imitation. We may imitate others’ way of praying. Don’t our children learn from us how to pray? We imitate others as we live. From a very young age we imitate our parents, teachers, friends, what we watch on television, and the internet, etc. Imitation is the best and most effective way to learn. To be a strong and courageous Christian we need to see the courage of others. Philippians 1:12-14: “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Discipleship training in those days was by following the teacher everywhere he went. Young believers would imitate his manner of life from the moment the teacher rises to the moment he lays down to sleep. The teacher was very conscious of his need to be exemplary in all that he did in Christ. He knew that there were other children of God watching and learning from all that he did. He could not afford to be lax. He needed to draw strength from the LORD to succeed as a holy witness for Christ. In this manner it helped Paul to have that extra impetus to live carefully. There was no moment in his life when he could “let his hair down” and be a little carnal! The disciples were like his family watching his every move and imitating him in every way. This was the mutual understanding between Paul and his disciples.

No matter how careful Paul was in being a holy witness for Christ, he knew that he was not perfect. Therefore, he qualified his command to follow him with “even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). In other words, follow Paul in all the areas of his life where he followed Christ. In those areas where he failed to follow Christ and fell into sin, do not follow and fall into sin like him. Follow him in repentance if he committed sin; but avoid sinning at all costs. What Paul taught here is absolutely right. It protects the Christian from idolatry. When the believer followed Paul who followed Christ, i.e. according to the Bible, the believer was actually following Christ! But if he followed Paul blindly, i.e. without discernment, then he would be following man and not Christ. Paul could become an idol to him believing that his new way of life was beholden to Paul and not Christ. Paul knew that following without discernment is cultic. Blind following has ruined many young lives.

Following a spiritually mature believer is always with discernment. This biblical guideline covers all kinds of following. The following of all pastors and elders and deacons in the church must be carried out with discernment. Follow these leaders only when they follow the LORD, i.e. when they live their lives according to Holy Scriptures. If they do not, then do not follow. Also, do not be stumbled by them as they are fallible men like every believer on earth! This includes the Apostle Paul. Children also must not follow their parents blindly, and are not to be stumbled by them as well when they sin. They must follow their parents including their teachers as they follow the LORD. For in so doing the children are actually following Christ in practical ways as they see how their parents and teachers put the Word of God into practice. This is one of the more difficult aspects of the Bible. Many children have head knowledge but do not know how to turn them into practical heartfelt knowledge. This is the way of novices in the faith. However, when they see how more mature believers, like their parents whom they trust the most, live out their Christian life in holiness they must follow them.

If we do not follow godly men and women in our Christian walk, we will live a faith that is void of reality and only in theory. This is the life of a hypocrite. He is merely a theoretical head-knowledge believer with no heart. If he does not follow godly men then he might follow the way of ungodly men whom he interacts with in the world. The faith of the believer will be choked. He will only be a carnal witness void of the holy testimony of Christ. He is only a Christian in name and perhaps even in reality but not in life. His life is like Lot who refused to follow godly Abraham his uncle whom he lived with for many decades. He paid a heavy spiritual price as a failed witness and ended up with two incestuous relationships with his daughters who tricked him into sleeping with him when they got him drunk! What a tragic end to what could have been a good testimony as he had a good beginning with godly Abraham for him to follow.

Look out for godly men and women to follow, even as they follow Christ. Amen.

Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew
Advisory Pastor

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