So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.
— 1 Thessalonians 2:8
One common failure among ministers is to teach people the Word yet neglect to model the principles so the people will know how to live it in their personal lives. But true discipleship is not complete until there is an example to follow. When people receive the Word only as an intellectual exercise, their heads may become filled with knowledge, but that knowledge won’t become workable in their lives until they have access to someone who models the message before them.
For example, Jesus modeled His message before His disciples. He lived with them, walked with them, worked with them, traveled with them, and spent nearly every minute of three whole years with them. As a result of working with Jesus so closely, the disciples not only received Jesus’ message, but they also saw the way He lived it as He modeled an example before them.
We know that modeling the Word was also a part of Paul’s teaching style. In First Thessalonians 2:8, the apostle Paul wrote, “…We were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls….” In this statement, Paul gave us the dynamic, life-changing principle that we must teach the Word and use our lives to model the message!
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Certainly Paul taught publicly — and there was probably no better teacher than he in New Testament times. He was the “crème-de-la-crème” of New Testament theologians. Paul could have lectured for multiple hours from the vast wealth of information and revelation stored up in his incredible intellect — and I’m sure that from time to time he did this.
But Paul didn’t just lecture and preach. He gave the people not only the Gospel, but also his own soul. His “soul” was his life, his emotions, his view of things, his lifestyle. He lived so openly before the Church that he was able to model his message before them.
Paul even told the Thessalonians, “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us…” (2 Thessalonians 3:7). The words “ye ought” are taken from the Greek word dei — a strong word indicating the Thessalonians understood that Paul was giving them compelling advice they should obey. In other words, Paul’s readers understood that even though the apostle did not directly command them to obey, they were to strictly follow the advice he was giving them.
Paul continues to tell the Thessalonians, “…Ye ought to follow us.…” The word “follow” is the Greek word mimeomai, an old Greek word for an actor or a mimic. Therefore, Paul’s command to “follow” isn’t referring to a casual type of following; rather, it implies an intentional study of the life, deeds, actions, and thoughts of another person in an attempt to fully understand that person and then to replicate his attributes in one’s own life. This type of following enables one to think like his subject, walk like his subject, mimic his subject’s movements, make the vocal intonations of his subject, and to act like his subject in a masterful way. However, this can only be achieved by those seriously committed to the act of replication. Mimicking, replicating, and acting like another person are the results of true discipleship.
When you put all these words together, Second Thessalonians 3:7 could be translated:
“It would behoove you to follow our example — to imitate and mimic us with the goal of replicating what you observe in our lives….”
Paul was committed to sharing not only the Word, but his life with those to whom he ministered. He told the elders from Ephesus, “And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house” (Acts 20:20). From his testimony in this verse, we know that Paul publicly taught the Word; however, he also showed the people he taught how to live the Word! He gave them the entire package, which was the Word and his life combined together!
When the Word is packaged with a personal, living example, it is powerful! Nothing is more powerful than a message backed up by a person who applies that message to his daily life.
There is an unfortunate alarm among Christian leaders that if their followers become too familiar with them, the people will lose respect for them and their anointing. However, Jesus’ disciples were very familiar with His lifestyle, and it didn’t hurt their respect or honor for Him at all. Quite the contrary, Jesus’ life became the greatest message He ever preached to His disciples!
Paul also wasn’t fearful that the Thessalonians would lose respect by knowing him too well. Quite the contrary, he urged them to follow him and his lifestyle so closely that they would be able to duplicate his life themselves. The personal example of his own life showed them that they could walk in the power of the Word just as he was doing. Watching the Word work in Paul’s life only made the message that much more powerful to the Thessalonians.
As you work with new believers or people who are under your spiritual influence, be sure to let them get close enough to see that the Word you preach really works. It’s great to give them Bible lessons, but they need an example they can follow. If you are concerned that allowing people to get close to you will affect their respect for you, then you need to be honest about those areas of your life that you fear may discredit you in their eyes!
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you walk in the reality of what you preach and teach. Ask Him to give you the boldness, confidence, and grace to let the key leaders under your authority get close enough to see how the Word works in your own life. If you’re really walking in the reality of what you preach, allowing people to get close to you will only demonstrate that you are the real thing — and that will increase their level of respect for you!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I thank You for placing me under people who helped me grow when I was a young Christian. Their influence was important in my spiritual development, so I thank You for them right now — for their patience, their love, their kindness, and their willingness to let me get close enough to really learn how to walk with You. Now it’s time for me to do this for someone else, so please lead me to a young disciple whom I can begin to show how to walk in the power and authority of Your Word.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am a good example to other believers. Because I walk in the truth of what I preach, my life makes the message even stronger. People need a good example they can follow, and that means they need me! The Holy Spirit empowers me to preach, to teach, and to boldly model my life before others with confidence and grace!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. When you first came to the Lord, who had the greatest personal impact on your spiritual development? What kind of access did you have to these individuals, and why was their influence so important to your growth?
2. Is there anyone you are helping by giving him or her this kind of access to your life right now? Since it was so effective for you, don’t you think you ought to return the favor by letting God use you this same way in someone else’s life?
3. Be honest! Is there any area of your life that you are afraid for people to know about? Does that out-of-order area cause you to keep people from getting too close to you?