Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. - 1 Corinthians 11:1Paul the Apostle gives this commendation for believers to follow him as he followed Christ. To some modern ears that sounds strange as we would think why doesn't he just encourage everyone to follow Christ himself and not a man. The early believers had a concept of the invisible Christ that there was a benefit to practical examples of Christ likeness that brought a form or pattern to follow. The Scriptures are full of the examples of godly believers whether its the patience of Job (James 5:11) or the fervent prayer of Elijah (James 5:17-18). The examples of godly saints where used to exemplify Christ-like living and for us to follow them in this way. Even early martyrs where esteemed and venerated where believers would set aside the specific day they were martyred to consider their steadfastness and faith. Believers like Job, Elijah, the Apostles, or early Martyrs such as Stephen were thought of as "sure saints" that were with the Lord and their example was worthy of emulation. "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith" (Hebrews 13:7). The phrase "faith" means their practical entire life as lived as Christians, believing in the Lord. Later on we read in the same chapter in Hebrews: "Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account" (Hebrews 13:17). So the Church leaders life was to speak of Christ to the people and for them to be a safe example to follow as they should be living like Jesus Christ did on the earth (1 John 2:6).Ignatius of Antioch said, "Be subject to the bishop and to one another as Jesus Christ was subject to the Father, and the apostles were subject to Christ and to the Father; so that there may be unity in both body and spirit." The early believes looked to the examples of the Apostles as the earthly example of Christ and they submitted to them as such. Now 2000 years later can we still have the same confidence that God calls leaders to a place of godliness that we can follow them as they follow the Lord? The answer has to be yes, for Jesus said that He is building his Church and this Church is with people. Ignatius was a student of John the Apostle and he carried on the Apostle teaching and example of how believers were following the Lord. Ignatius says, "Submit to the bishop as you would to Jesus Christ." It is interesting to read Ephesians 5 in light of that Paul was speaking of the mystery of the Church on the earth, this can help us to see light on submission in the Church. If you cannot find a spiritual Overseer to submit to in your local Church then go to another Church were you can. This is the will of God for you to find this authority otherwise you will be your own authority and follow your own ways and potentially be able to be led astray by the enemy. The Church has always functioned in a community of believers with those who rule (1 Timothy 5:17) and labor (1 Thessalonians 5:12 ) amongst the flock of God as examples (1 Peter 5:3).
_________________SI Moderator - Greg Gordon