Thursday, February 12, 2015

Does God speak to us through the examples found in the Bible?

The Bible is not just a book of commands. It also contains narrative, letters, poetry and more. Most Christians desire to follow God’s word, but at times get confused on what they are supposed to do. One of the ways that God guides us in Scripture is through the examples Apostles, Jesus and even the early Church. Which examples are to be emulated and which ones are merely incidental actions is a discussion for another time, but this post seeks to prove that God does not merely teach by command, but also by example. 

First and foremost, one must go to the text and observe if there are any occasions where God’s people were “commanded” to follow an example. Immediately one is reminded of the several instances in which God’s people were commanded to follow the example of Christ.  
  • “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
  • “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
  • “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,a who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,b being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7).
The example Christ left throughout His life presents actions and activities worthy our own personal replication.

Even more prevalent then then the passages that command the reader to follow the example of Christ, are those provided which command the follower of God to emulate the example left by the holy apostles.
  • “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, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7).
  • “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:17).
  • “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
  • “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
The examples provided in Scripture serve various purposes. At times examples will teach principles which encourage greater faithfulness. “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (1 Corinthians 10:6) he continues “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Biblical examples can provide comfort to the suffering, they can provide encouragement and give us a great pattern for believers to follow today.

Throughout the Bible there are several instances of approved examples being followed. What is also recorded for the exegete are the consequences of not following the example left, or following a bad example. Romans 15:1-6 declares:
  • We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10 concerning the sins committed by Israelites in the wilderness that “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). The Israelites in the wilderness engaged in idolatry, immorality and grumbling all of which served as an example to the Corinthians of what not to do.

There are many consequences when people do not follow the examples provided for them by God. One of the clearest examples of this thought is found in Romans chapter 1. In this section of Scripture the apostle Paul declares that the Gentile pagans were without excuse in their disobedience to God. It is shown that God has left them an example of His existence through His creation and they are without any excuse. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).

If God expected the pagan worshipers to draw a certain conclusion from the example He left regarding His nature through the creation, one might also come to the assumption that other examples left for us by God would be for our learning. The consequence of not obeying the example in this case was a depraved mind. One might also assume that if Christ and the apostles left us examples to follow, if one chooses to not follow those examples, the consequences will be just as dire.

A deeper study on the topic of "Bible Examples" can be found here

By Cliff Sabroe