“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Philippians 3:17-18)
Although Paul urged the Philippian believers to follow his teaching and way of life, he was really encouraging them to emulate Christ just as he did. Follow me as I follow Christ. This was to warn them to be wary of all those who came in Jesus’ name but were not His servants, whose lives did not follow Jesus. Many of these false prophets and preachers were out to make a name for themselves or amass money, power and fame. They coerced trusting believers to obey them with their claims to authority and credentials, just as did the rulers of the Jews back in Jeremiah’s day, and as many in our day do.
Paul also made claim to his credentials which included a fine Jewish heritage. Yet he used them only to advance the gospel. He realized that salvation and righteousness do not come from our credentials, education, works or achievements but from God. He imparts His grace and gifts to those He calls, to those He brings to repentance and faith and who earnestly follow Him.
Paul was painfully aware of his sins and shortcomings but many so-called leaders in the church today would hesitate to admit such things. They want to be perceived as in control, having all the answers, with boundless energy and free from the doubt and temptation that plague the rest of us. They want to be perceived as successful and confident. And believers desire this as well. They shudder at the thought of a pastor struggling with any issue, or not having the solutions to their problems. Quite a contrast to Paul. He let his audience of his past life and present struggles. In spite of them, he pressed on in ministry, forgetting the sins of the past, knowing that he was forgiven in Christ, ignoring the deprivation and suffering of the present and working toward the glory of heaven. Our leaders are human and fallible. We must pray for them in their struggles.