1 Corinthians 4:16-17
I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.
Paul urges them, “be imitators of me.” Later on he tells them the same thing in 11:1 “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” It was fitting for him to urge them to ‘imitate’ him for two reasons:
First, Paul had personally set them an example of hard work in the ministry. They were the products of his labour among them. He had set them an example of humility and dependence upon God. Paul was indeed a trophy of God’s grace (15:10) and an example of hard work.
Secondly, Paul’s ministry had fruit of good example in Timothy. Timothy who had occupied the same position as the Corinthians of being called Paul’s ‘beloved’ (compare v. 14 and v.17). Timothy had shown himself faithful child in the Lord. For this reason he was going to send Timothy to remind them of his ways in Christ that were worth of emulation. In sending Timothy Paul was proving to them that he teaches the same things in every church everywhere. Timothy like the Corinthians was one of his spiritual children and, therefore, well equipped to remind them of the example of their spiritual father.
Ministers ought to live in such a manner that attract people not only to follow them, but consequently follow Christ. They are the teaching and learning aids that Christ has given the world for their education in the spiritual things. Pastors, we have a responsibility to guide the flock of God by our lips and our lives.
Writing to the pastors, apostle Peter says,
… shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. (1Peter 5:2-3)
Therefore, like Timothy (4:12, 15-16) we have to set those who learn from us an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. We are to practice these things, immersing ourselves in them, so that all may see our spiritual and ministerial progress. This way, we may save ourselves and our hearers (as the God-appointed means of the salvation of men).
And like Titus, we are to show ourselves in all respects to be a model of good works. In our teaching, we are to show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing to say about or against us (2:7). They should follow us as far as they are satisfied that we follow Christ in faith and practice.