Beginning in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul explains to the Corinthian church the Biblical hierarchy which God has set up. I have heard people quote this passage out of context on more than one occasion. I’ve read commentaries which I don’t necessarily agree with either. I hope in the coming days to let you know what I understand this passage to convey.
First, Paul says something to set up what he will be writing about in the following verses. In other words, what he says in verse 1 is an introduction to what he is going to say in the following verses. So lets look at verse 1.
1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
At first glance, this is a pretty bold statement by Paul. When I first read this, I read it as saying “follow me and I will lead you to Christ.” But that is not quite what he’s saying. There’s a little two letter word in there that makes the Corinthians following him conditional. In other words, they are only to follow Paul if a certain condition is met. The word is “as”. He saying to the Corinthians, “Follow me as long as I follow Christ.” Another passage comes to mind where there is a condition stated. Remember this part of the Lord’s Prayer?
Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
Jesus was saying in this verse that we should ask God to forgive us as long as we forgive others who have wronged us.
Paul is asking the Corinthian church to follow him as long as he follows Christ.
In the verses which follow 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul lays out the hierarchy that God has established. This order is God’s perfect plan as long as we stay within His Will. It works perfectly as long as we keep ourselves free of sin and remain close to the Lord. Once any person in this chain falls into sin, the chain is destroyed and doesn’t work as God intended. Each person in this chain has certain expectations which God has for them, and responsibilities which God expects them to fulfill.
Let’s look at Paul for example. He says in verse 1 for the Corinthian church to follow him. What a great responsibility to fulfill! Being the person who has many people following him makes him responsible for their success or failure. Likewise, when God says in chapter 10 for us to be good examples of what Christians are, we have a great responsibility on us. We can, with our lives, either bring people to Christ or to lead them from Christ. We can either show the lost world what a true Christian is, or confirm the false impression what they’ve seen on television. Let’s live our lives where it will lead others closer to the Lord.