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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
A. Linquistic usage.—The word ‘example’ (or ‘ensample’) occurs 15 times in the AV and 17 times in the RV of the NT. In the two versions it stands 7 times (1 Corinthians 10:6, Philippians 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 1:7, 2 Thessalonians 3:9, 1 Timothy 4:12, Titus 2:7 RV, 1 Peter 5:3) for τύτος, once (1 Timothy 1:18 RV) for ὑποτύπωσις, once (1 Corinthians 10:11) in adverbial phrase for τυτικῶς, 5 times (John 13:15, Hebrews 4:11; Hebrews 8:5, James 5:10, 2 Peter 2:6) for ὑτοδειγμα, once (Acts 20:35) as partial rendering of ὑτοδείκνυμι, once (Judges 1:7) for δεῖγμα, once (Matthew 1:19) as partial rendering of δειγματιζω, and once (1 Peter 2:21) for ὑτογραμμὸς. For our present purpose Matthew 1:19 falls quite out of account. δεῖγμα (Judges 1:7) is a ‘specimen,’ ‘an (illustrative) exhibit’—in this instance set forth as a warning, though of itself this simple form hardly suggests either imitation or shunning, as ὑπόδειγμα does. The other passages all more or less illustrate the topic in hand. Besides these, there are, of course, many other passages which, though not employing the term ‘example,’ are no less relevant and significant than these.
Τύτος, whether tr. ‘example’ or ‘pattern,’ ‘type,’ has generally an important bearing upon our topic. Primarily the ‘mark,’ ‘impression’ of a stroke or blow (John 20:25 ‘print’), hence ‘figure,’ ‘image’ (Acts 7:43), τύτος is generally ‘pattern,’ ‘type,’ ‘example.’ Sometimes the example is by way of warning, as 1 Corinthians 10:6; 1 Corinthians 10:11. Generally, however, it is an example to be imitated. A corresponding sense is to be ascribed to ὑτοτύτωσις (1 Timothy 1:16, 2 Timothy 1:13). [In the latter passage Hofmann’s and Cremer’s interpretation ‘Abbild’ seems hardly warranted. Timothy is to hold fast the ‘type’ of doctrine which he had received from Paul, and this ‘type’ is not regarded as Timothy’s copy of Paul’s, but as something which had now become common to both].—ὑτοδειγμα is a concrete illustration or exhibition, designed for imitation or for warning—generally the former. In one instance in the NT ὑποδειγμα is used for after-representation (Ger. Abbild).—ὑτογραμμος is a ‘writing-copy’ (model), to be imitated by the pupil. Hence an example set before one for close imitation. This is perhaps the most vivid of the NT terms indicative of Christ’s exampleship. The term itself implies the strictest imitation; though both the context and the general teaching of the NT will save us from the error of conceiving Christ’s example as something formal and external.
Among the other terms which give expression to the idea of Christian example, the most prominent are μιμέομαι and μιμητῆς (AV ‘follow’ and ‘follower,’ RV ‘imitate’ and ‘imitator’). The verb occurs 4 times in the NT (2 Thessalonians 3:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9, Hebrews 13:7, 3 John 1:11), in one of these instances in connexion with τύτος. The noun occurs 6 times (1 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 5:1, 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:14, Hebrews 6:12—at 1 Peter 3:13 the reading μιμηταί is to be rejected), in every instance signifying ‘imitator’ in the ethico-religious sense. In Ephesians 5:1 we find μιμηταὶ τοῦ θεοῦ, in Hebrews 6:12 it is the exemplary saints who are to be imitated, in 1 Corinthians 4:16 St. Paul exhorts to the imitation of himself, rather than to turn away from him, inasmuch as he was their father in the faith. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 he bids his readers imitate him as he imitates Christ. In 1 Thessalonians 1:6 it is ‘imitators of us and of the Lord,’ while in 1 Thessalonians 2:14 it is ‘the churches of God in Judaea,’ of whom the Thessalonians had become imitators.
Jesus in gathering His disciples about Him generally bade men ‘follow’ Him (ἀκολουθεω; in one instance, Matthew 4:19, δεῦτε ὁτισω). Primarily the expression means no more than ‘to accompany’ as a disciple, and yet manifestly it became, in our Lord’s use of it, one of the most characteristic and intensely significant expressions of the idea of discipleship in all its deepest import. So where Christ bids the rich young ruler sell all that he has and ‘come, follow me,’ or in the words on ‘taking up the cross and following,’ and elsewhere (see esp. Matthew 19:21; Matthew 10:36; Matthew 16:24, John 12:26; John 21:22). The verb is not found in the Epistles, except at 1 Corinthians 10:4.
Christ is represented as the ‘image’—εἰκών—which Christians are to resemble (Romans 8:29, 1 Corinthians 15:49, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Colossians 3:10). But those passages also which represent Christ as the image of God must be taken no less into account; for Christ’s claim to an unconditional personal authority is expressly based upon the fact that He is the image—the apprehensible representation—of the invisible God (John 1:18; John 14:6 ff., 2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3—in the last passage the word is χαρακτηρ). In this connexion mention must be made also of the expressions ‘children of God,’ ‘of your Father,’ ‘of the Highest’ (Matthew 5:9; Matthew 5:45, Luke 6:35; Luke 20:36). Also in the Epistles the filial relation is made to imply the following of the example of God in Christ (e.g. Ephesians 5:1; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Peter 1:14, 1 John 5:21).
Besides the terms already considered, which give more or less formal expression to the Christian idea of exampleship, there are many more, which—some of them in the most elementary and untechnical terms—no less definitely express the same thought. The very idea of discipleship in our Lord’s teaching involved the idea of the personal exampleship of the Master (see esp. Matthew 10:24-25, Luke 14:26-27; Luke 14:33, John 13:35; John 15:8). The same thought is expressed in Ephesians 4:20 ‘Ye have not so learned Christ.’ In Hebrews 6:20 Jesus is called our ‘Forerunner.’ His temptations are typical (Hebrews 2:9-18; Hebrews 4:15), and He is our example in the enduring of temptation (Hebrews 3:1 ff; Hebrews 12:3 ff.). True believers have the ‘mind of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:16, Philippians 2:5, cf. Romans 8:6; Romans 8:27; Romans 12:2). Christ is the ‘life,’ and as such is the ‘light’ of men (John 1:4; John 1:9; John 1:14; John 1:18, cf. John 3:19; John 8:12; John 9:5; John 12:35-36; John 12:46, 1 John 1:1-3). He is Himself ‘the way,’ etc. (John 14:6). Believers are to ‘put on’ Christ (Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10). The Christian’s ‘walk’ is to be according to Christ (see esp. John 12:35, 1 John 1:7; 1 John 2:6, Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:8, Colossians 2:6). Finally,—for an exhaustive study of the linguistic usage is not intended,—many of the most characteristic expressions of the thought of exampleship in Christianity are effected without the use of any peculiar terms. The word ‘as,’ or something else equally simple and direct, often hest serves the purpose (e.g. Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15, Ephesians 4:32; Ephesians 5:2, 1 John 3:2; 1 John 4:7-21).
B. The Doctrine
i. The example of Christ.—1. In the teaching of Jesus no truth is more essential than that God the Father Himself is the original and absolute example for all personal life. The Law is holy, for it is the expression of the will of God. But the letter apart from God’s immediate personal will is dead. As Jesus expounds the Law, the disciples learn to look through the particular commandment to the personal will of the living God. It is not enough to keep the commandment in the most scrupulous fashion, as if it were something standing apart and complete in itself (Matthew 5:20). We have to do directly with God Himself. His will and personal nature are our sole and absolute standard (Matthew 5:44-48). In answer to the young ruler who asked what good thing he should do in order to have eternal life, Jesus refuses to be regarded as one who might propose some novel good—some good other than that which is already known from God. Apart from God there is no good (Matthew 19:16-17). To love God is the first commandment; and the coming of His kingdom and the doing of His will should be man’s first concern (Matthew 22:38; Matthew 6:10; Matthew 6:33).
But Jesus does more than point to God as the absolute standard for personal life. He comes to make God known. It is not enough to know that God is the standard, so long as God’s nature is unknown. So Jesus was sent as the perfect revelation of the Father (John 14:9-10). Not that God was hitherto unknown: what the Jews worshipped they knew (John 4:22). Jesus came to complete the revelation of God. He gives a perfect interpretation of the mind and will of God, and in His own Person perfectly exemplifies that mind and will. He is conscious of perfect accord with the will of the Father (Matthew 12:50; Matthew 5:10-11, John 5:19; John 4:34; John 6:38; John 8:29; John 14:31). His words and acts He has learned from the Father, even from the Father’s example (John 8:38; John 5:17; John 5:19). This principle determines His whole treatment of the Mosaic Law. The inevitable limitations of mere statutes He overcomes by an appeal to the Divine example and order (as in the case of the law of the Sabbath and the law of marriage, John 5:17, Matthew 19:4-9, in the latter case appealing also to Scripture as well as to fact). And because He knows God as the Son knows the Father—immediately and perfectly (John 7:29; John 8:55; John 10:15, Matthew 11:27), and because He perfectly fulfils the will of God, Jesus demands an unconditional following, which shall consist, not in copying the outward form, but in the most inward appropriation of the ruling principle of His life (Matthew 7:21-27; Matthew 28:20; Matthew 10:32-39; Matthew 11:28-29; Matthew 20:24-28; Matthew 16:24-25; Matthew 20:22; Matthew 26:39; Matthew 8:19-22; Matthew 19:21, John 15:8-10; John 8:12; John 12:35-36; John 12:44-50; John 13:12-17; John 15:4-7; John 17:21-23; John 21:22). He does not set Himself forth as a substitute for the Father, but as the One who knows God and teaches us to know Him. He is the Light of Life, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the visible manifestation of God (John 8:12; John 14:6; John 14:9). Christ’s claim to absolute authority (which expressly included the judgment of the world, e.g. John 5:22) is based not upon His prophetic office alone, but upon that unity of word and deed which constituted the perfect revelation of the will of God. Jesus’ own Person was not left out of His gospel (cf. Harnack’s statement, Wesen des Christentums, p. 91: ‘Nicht der Sohn, sondern allein der Vater gehört in das Evangelium, wie es Jesus verkündigt hat, hinein’). Not, indeed, as one doctrine among many, nor as an addition to the doctrine of the Father, did Jesus present the truth concerning Himself. But He claimed to be the perfect and unique embodiment and exemplification of the Father’s will. Yet He is more than mere example. He does not merely show the way; He is the Way. At the same time He is the Truth and the Life. He gives not only the perfect example but also life-power. In this sense, therefore, Jesus, even according to His own teaching, is more than an element in the gospel: He is the very essence of the gospel.
2. Christ’s demand of an unconditional personal following is reproduced in the Apostolic preaching. But after Christ’s passion, resurrection, and exaltation, the thought of His exampleship is expanded and heightened. The Christ who died for the sin of the world is the perfect revelation of God’s holy love (e.g. 1 John 4:9-10), while His exaltation, coupled with the gift of His Spirit, affords assurance that the coveted likeness to Christ and the promised sharing of His glory shall be realized (e.g. Romans 8:2-3; Romans 8:26-39). The thought of Christ as our example is so variously and abundantly applied by the NT writers, that it will suffice here to notice particularly only the more characteristic passages. The concreteness of the revelation in a personal life is most frequently and most strikingly set forth by St. John (John 1:4; John 1:14; John 1:18, 1 John 1:3; 1 John 4:2-3). Jesus is the perfect example of the life of faith, even its Author and Perfecter (Hebrews 12:2). He was tempted like as we are (John 2:9-18; John 4:15), and is the perfect pattern of patient endurance of all temptation, even unto death (John 3:1 ff., John 12:3 ff., 1 Peter 1:11; 1 Peter 2:21-23; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 4:1; cf. Gethsemane and Calvary in the Gospels). He is our example of mercy and forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13, 2 Corinthians 2:10); in self-denial and humble service (Philippians 2:5 ff., 2 Corinthians 8:9, Romans 15:2-3; Romans 15:7); in meekness, gentleness, and forbearance (2 Corinthians 10:1, Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:2; 1 Peter 2:23); in the love that suffers, labours, and dies for others (1 John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 4:10; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25, Galatians 6:2, Philippians 2:5 ff.); in holiness and purity (Ephesians 4:20 ff., 1 Peter 1:15, 1 John 3:1 ff; 1 John 4:17). And then, more broadly, believers are exhorted to ‘put on Christ,’ or ‘the new man,’ renewed after ‘Christ’s image (Romans 13:14, Ephesians 4:13-15; Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10-11, Galatians 3:27); and to ‘walk’ in, or according to, Christ (Ephesians 5:8, Colossians 2:6, 1 John 1:7; 1 John 2:6). The highest destiny of believers is to be made like Christ (Romans 8:29, 1 John 3:2). In this connexion the significance of those passages in which Christ is called the image of God (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3, cf. John 1:14) should not be overlooked; for God has given us this perfect revelation in a Person just in order that we might find in Him our true example and archetype.
In addition to these and all other specific expressions of the thought of Christ’s exampleship, there stands the great fact that the whole picture which the Evangelists drew of Jesus was made under the powerful influence of the twofold conviction that He was the image of the Father, so that by Him we know the ‘Christ-like God,’ and that He was the Ideal Man—not an ideal creation of human fancy, but the Ideal-Real come from God Himself.
3. It has already been briefly noted that Christ Himself as well as His disciples bore witness that He was to His own much more than mere example. The relation of His followers to Jesus is something more than that of those who are striving to copy a model. Christ is example in a deeper sense. He is not only ‘type,’ but also ‘archetype’ (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:20 ff., 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, Romans 8:29, Hebrews 2:11-12; Hebrews 2:17). An example for personal life must in any case be something better than a mould for the multiplication of its own form. Personality is interested in inward traits and principles, which are to be independently developed in the greatest variety of forms. But Jesus’ relation to us lies even deeper than this. He is the ‘archetype,’ the ‘original,’ of our personal life. Now an original is not passively there to be copied; it sustains some sort of active causal relation to the copy. So Christ is our example in this more vital sense: He is at once example and original (admirably expressed in Ger. Vorbild and Urbild). As our ‘original,’ Christ not only (as in the case of mere examples in personal life) mysteriously impresses us, but also imparts life and power through His Spirit (John 1:16-17; John 5:24-26, Romans 8:2, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 3:3-4, 1 John 5:11 ff., and many more passages). He who, having fulfilled the Law, is henceforth Himself the Law (Romans 10:4, Galatians 3:24, 1 Corinthians 9:21), has engaged to work likeness unto Himself in all who believe. So we may say with Augustine: ‘Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt.’ If Christ is to us mere example, without renewing power, we are, after all, ‘under law,’ and not ‘under grace.’ ‘But the Word became not only flesh, but also spirit’ (Kähler, Wissenseh. d. ehr. Lehre3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , p. 510. See John 20:21-22; John 6:63; John 7:39, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18). Yet the inward operation of the Spirit in producing likeness to Christ has constant and express reference to the historic Christ (John 16:14, 1 John 4:2-3).
4. The actual validity of the picture of Christ as example implies the genuine humanness of the life and the adequate fulness and clearness of the picture. Furthermore, the example must be capable of universal application. As to the humanness of the life of Jesus, it is sufficient in this connexion to point out that the Biblical witness is without a trace of questioning as to its reality. Even the highest confessions of Jesus as the Son of God are never at the expense of the patent fact that He is truly man. As to the pictures of Christ in the Gospels, while these are not biographies, as that term is commonly understood, they do give a wonderfully luminous and vivid portrait of the personal life of our Lord. Using the historical material for the sake of its content of truth, they show us Jesus the Witness, in word and deed, of the holy love of God, and as the Bearer of love and truth and life to the world. Affirming love to God and man as the supreme law, He Himself fulfilled that law, gladly laying down His life that He might glorify the Father and bring salvation to the world. And this life of unimagined self-sacrifice He led to the end, in spite of manifold and tremendous temptations, without once deviating from the path appointed by the Father. And with it all there was no ascetical denial of the values that are primarily temporal: nor did He lose either joy or repose of soul through His sufferings and conflicts. A marvellous openness in word and deed was ever characteristic of Him who came a Light into the world. Besides all this, here is a life that manifestly reached its goal. The course of that life had been one continual renunciation of proffered worldly advantage and success; nevertheless its end was a unique triumph. For the real end was not Calvary, but the exaltation to the right hand of God. However hidden this end may be from the unbelieving world, Christian faith sees in the resurrection and exaltation of Christ the one supreme proof that righteousness cannot fail. This is the ‘conviction of righteousness,’ because Jesus has gone to the Father (John 16:10). Without such a revelation of the appointed end of faith and righteousness the example would be incomplete, and Christian ethics could not maintain its ideal.
This picture of Jesus is capable of universal application. It is true the vocation of Jesus was unique. And yet the principles which controlled that life—perfect trust in the Father, and perfect love to God and man—are manifestly applicable under all possible circumstances. Such love as Christ’s is the fulfilling of the Law. In one respect only is there a seeming limitation—for it is only seeming—to the universality of Christ’s example: He is without the struggle with inward sin—He can be no model for the transformation of a sinful life. Inasmuch, however, as the processes of renewal are not our affair—we need only to be joined to our Lord in faith and to follow Him—this is no lack. Although ‘a Jew of the first century,’ Jesus is the Son of Man, in everything essential to personality free from the limitations of His own time and people. He is not less the kinsman of all peoples; He is ‘the contemporary of every age.’
5. We have further to consider the practical relation of the disciple to the example of Christ. We are commanded to ‘follow,’ to ‘imitate,’ to ‘put on Christ,’ to ‘follow in his steps.’ But how are we to conceive the problem of discipleship? For, while the Church has never failed to hear the call of Jesus, ‘Follow me!’ the conception of discipleship has sometimes been much distorted. In the Middle Ages the dominant thought was asceticism. The ascetic imitation of Christ, of which St. Francis is the most noteworthy example, selects certain traits in His life, and by undue emphasis upon these, together with a neglect of others, produces a distorted image. Then there have been enthusiasts who thought to be able to follow Christ in sharing His redemptorial work—exaggerating and perverting such passages as Philippians 3:10, Galatians 6:2, 1 John 3:16. Again, rationalism has made of Christ simply a model of virtues to be copied. These three are perhaps the most important types of perversion of the NT idea of Christ’s exampleship; but the three appear in various modifications and combinations. The only safeguard against such errors seems to lie in a consistent emphasis upon the integrity of the Biblical picture of Christ.
Among evangelical theologians the term ‘imitation’ of Christ is very commonly objected to as implying merely a formal copying of the Lord’s example. The word, of course, can be so understood; but so also may the word ‘following.’ In any event it must be insisted upon that the words ‘imitate’ and ‘imitator’ in the NT ( Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885) have no such unevangelical meaning.
The believer’s practical attitude to the example of Christ may be profitably studied in the light of a few characteristic passages: (a) Answering to the frequent declaration of the absoluteness of Christ’s authority (e.g. Matthew 23:8; Matthew 23:10, Ephesians 1:22, Philippians 2:9-11), there are many passages which emphasize the obligation of exclusive loyalty to Him (e.g., 2 Corinthians 10:5; 2 Corinthians 11:3, Colossians 3:17, Ephesians 4:5). (b) We are to have the mind of Christ, and to set the mind on the things above, where Christ is (Colossians 3:1 ff., Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23). (c) We shall be transformed into the image of Christ by beholding Him, though the energy that produces the result comes from ‘the Lord the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:18—see also Drummond, The Changed Life). (d) Complementing the thought of meditation as a means to Christ-likeness, there are various passages which set forth the more strenuous elements in the following of Christ (e.g. Philippians 3:10-16). (e) Several passages bid us ‘put on Christ’ or the ‘new man’ (Romans 13:14, Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10 ff.). This relates to the formation of a Christian character. (f) Jesus left us an example, that we should ‘follow in his steps’ (1 Peter 2:21). Just as ‘the mind of Christ’ means inward renewal, and ‘putting on Christ’ means character-building, so ‘to walk in his steps’ may fairly serve as a motto for the exercise of Christian love in all social relations. (g) The example of Christ in His personal consummation is the believer’s most glorious hope (Romans 8:29, 1 John 3:2-3, cf. Ephesians 3:19). And the hope set within us is guaranteed by the earnest of the Spirit. We already have a measure of Christ-likeness—we are now sons of God, and His power is working in us to finish the work begun (Romans 8:23, 1 John 3:1-2; 1 John 4:17, Ephesians 3:14-20, Colossians 3:10, Philippians 1:6).
But all these various aspects of our relation to our Example presuppose the vital fellowship of a personal faith. No ‘imitation’ of Christ is according to the gospel if it is anything else than an essential aspect of the life of faith. With all its rare beauty and power, the Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis (?) is hardly conceived in the plane of the perfect law of liberty. And yet, over against the widespread questioning of the universal applicability of Christ’s example, as well as the ethical shallowness and indefiniteness of a religion of mere feeling, too much stress cannot be laid upon the vocation of the Christian to take up the cross daily and follow the Lord. ‘This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments’ (1 John 5:3). The full gospel principle of the freedom of the Spirit being presupposed, the question, ‘What would Jesus do?’ (see Sheldon, In His Steps), is not unwarranted. But to walk in the Spirit implies that we are not seeking merit or virtue for our own satisfaction, but are seeking to glorify God. To do all ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus’—no more comprehensive or profound expression of the fundamental law of Christian living could be conceived; and just this, after all, is what is meant by following Christ. Our task is not in the narrower sense to copy Him, but to receive His Spirit, to understand His mind, to let Him be formed within us. So we shall also ‘walk’ in Him.
ii. The example of the followers of Christ.—‘One is your Teacher—one is your Master, even the Christ’ (Matthew 23:8; Matthew 23:10). ‘Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 3:11). This relation of our Lord to us is unique and exclusive. He is our life. We have been renewed after His image. But just because this is so—just because He does beget in His followers a likeness to Himself—those who bear His image are fitted to be examples; only, of course, their exampleship is relative and mediate. He who said concerning Himself, ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8:12; John 9:5), said also to His disciples, ‘Ye are the salt of the earth, ye are the light of the world’ (Matthew 5:13-16). But they are this just because they are His followers, and in virtue of what they have from Him. In various ways our Lord recognizes the value of good example; for instance, where He warns against the bad example of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:1-3). He prays for His disciples: ‘As thou didst send me into the world even so sent I them into the world’ (John 17:18). They were to be His witnesses; they were to do nothing in their own name. And yet, in order that they might be true witnesses, they must be sanctified in the truth. Their ministry for Christ must be, like Christ’s own ministry, an intensely personal one. And when the Lord gives to His disciples that ‘example’ of humble service in washing their feet (John 13:5 ff.), and elsewhere (John 17:21, John 13:35) shows that they shall preach Him through a life of love as well as by word, it cannot be doubted that He places a very high value on the example of His followers.
The NT writers generally, especially St. Paul and St. Peter, lay great stress upon the salutary effect of Christian example (1 Peter 2:11 ff; 1 Peter 3:1-2; 1 Peter 3:15-16, Philippians 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8, 1 Corinthians 7:16, 1 Timothy 6:1), with special emphasis upon the example of those who are in authority in the Church (1 Timothy 4:12, Titus 2:7-8, Hebrews 13:7; 1 Peter 5:3). On the other hand, the danger of an example not positively evil but only doubtful is clearly set forth (e.g. 1 Corinthians 8:7 ff., Romans 14:13 ff.). St. Paul shows the peculiarity of repeated reference to his own example. Reckoning the passage Acts 20:35 as an authentic report, and including all the Epistles that bear his name, there are not fewer than eight passages (Acts 20:35, 1 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 7:7-8; 1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17; Philippians 4:9, 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10, 2 Timothy 1:13) which distinctly commend to the Churches his own example, and a ninth (1 Timothy 1:16) in which the element of specific commendation is lacking. This fact is all the more striking because St. Paul is pre-eminent in the energy with which he repudiates all human merit. ‘Christ is all in all.’ It is St. Paul, moreover, who declares: ‘We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake’ (2 Corinthians 4:5). There is, however, no real incongruity here. An examination of the passages in question will show that St. Paul nowise assumes authority in his own person. ‘Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 11:1). This is thoroughly characteristic. It is but another way of affirming that his sole purpose is to lead them to purest, simplest devotion to Christ. ‘What then is Apollos? and what is Paul? Ministers through whom ye believed; and each as the Lord gave to him’ (1 Corinthians 3:5). St. Paul does not refuse to be judged as a minister of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4:1). He is but a servant and a witness. And if there is anything exemplary in him, it is only the faithfulness and sincerity of his own discipleship and service. ‘By the grace of God I am what I am’ (1 Corinthians 15:10). Glorying is excluded. And neither St. Paul nor any other NT writer ever makes the virtuous life of believers a principal proof of the doctrine; it is, however, powerfully confirmatory. The Apostolic doctrine thus outlined is of such simplicity, that its universal acceptance in the Church is hindered only by the same carnal mind that caused many even in St. Paul’s day to ‘walk according to man’ (1 Corinthians 3:3).
Literature.—The leading recent treatises on Christian ethics, especially Martensen, Frank, Smyth, Kahler (Wissenschaft der christlichen Lehre3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , 3 Teil, 1905), Herrmann3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , 1904, and Haring, 1902; Luthardt, Gesch. der christl. Ethik, 1888, 1893 (English translation of vol. i. 1889); Bosse, Prolegomena zu einer Gesch. des Begriffs ‘Nachfolge Christi,’ 1895; Kahler, Der sogenannte historische Jesus,2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] etc., 1896, and Dogmatische Zeitfragen, 1898 (2 Heft, pp. 75–155); Herrmann, Der Verkehr des Christen mit Gott4 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , 1903 (English translation of an earlier ed.); J. Weiss, Die Nachfolge Christi, etc., 1894; Schlatter, Der Glaube im NT3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] ; Lutgert, Die Liebe im NT, 1905; Feine, Jesus Christus und Paulus, 1902; Scholz, ‘Das personliche Verhaltnis zu Christus und die religiose Unterweisung’ in ZThK [Note: ThK Zeitschrift f. Theologie u. Kirche.] , 1893; Ullmann, The Sinlessness of Jesus; Fairbairn, Philosophy of the Chr. Religion, 1902, and The Place of Christ in Modern Theology, 1893; Laidlaw, art. ‘Image’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. ii.; J. R. Seeley, Ecce Homo, 1865; Hughes, The Manliness of Christ, 1879; Stalker, Imago Christi, 1889; Drummond, Natural Law in the Spiritual World, and The Changed Life; Sheldon, In His Steps, 1897: F. G. Peabody, Jesus Christ and the Christian Character, 1905; Thomas à Kempis (?), The Imitation of Christ.
J. R. van Pelt.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Example'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/e/example.html. 1906-1918.