God’s Word for You
1 Corinthians 11:1-2 Write them on the tablet of your heart
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, April 13, 2023
11 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 2 I commend you, brothers, because you remember me in all things and you maintain the teachings as I have delivered them to you.
Paul doesn’t tell us to imitate him because he is a perfect example. No one is. No one should follow the pattern of another person simply based on that person’s human traits. This will only and inevitably lead to disappointment on account of the sinful human nature. What we thought was an important character trait in someone could easily turn out to be a moment when the one we were following was doing a good job of following someone else.
No, Paul urges us to imitate him only because he imitates Christ. This is how we can be a great help to one another. If I imitate Christ and struggle with that, then I can help someone else who struggles, even if our struggles are very different. If someone looks to me for guidance but struggles with sexual temptations like the son of Solomon (Rehoboam?) in Proverbs 5, perhaps my struggles with some other temptation can still be encouraging. Paul says he wouldn’t have known what coveting really was except that the law showed him what coveting really is. “Sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire” (Romans 7:8). No matter what sins or temptations we’re talking about, Paul’s advice is best: “Flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14) the way Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:12). So advice about one sin (idolatry) benefits a brother with temptations from another sin (adultery). So I hope we all can see that we can benefit one another as we all imitate Christ, and encourage each other to do the same. As Professor Lenski says so aptly: “Those who imitate Christ have a right to call upon others to imitate them” (1 Corinthians p. 428).
What a good example Paul sets by saying, “I commend you, brothers.” It is a hard and cruel man who finds nothing good to say about people. But Paul sees that the Corinthians truly want to know what he says about this and that matter, and even now when there was evidently no question that they asked, he will take up a touchy subject: the coverings women wear on their heads (hats, scarves, wraps, and other things).
Before he takes this up fully, he lets them know that it’s good that they “maintain the teachings” he has given to them. Some translations opt for “traditions” rather than “teachings” here. A paradosis (παράδoσις) is a “handing over” of things. It can be handing over someone for arrest (Jeremiah 39:4, Greek), for destruction (Jeremiah 34:2 ) or a tradition handed down (Mark 7:13; Colossians 2:8). Some writers use this of Christian teachings in general. “Keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching your received from us” (2 Thessalonians 3:6). Jesus commanded: “Make disciples by… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). That part of the Great Commission is the proclamation of the Word of God and its explanation, which is all of our preaching and teaching. If we summarize it (as we do in the creeds and Catechism) to make it easier to remember, we do not do it any disservice. If we categorize it and bring many passages together that all discuss or proclaim the same teaching (as we do in dogmatics), we also do it no damage or disservice. And if we present the Bible’s teachings with good illustrations and appropriate stories, do we not follow in the methods of Jesus and the prophets? These methods are tools for Christian learning. They benefit the people of God, and not only the children (although we most often have the children in mind).
“Guard my teachings as the apple of your eye,” Solomon said (Proverbs 7:2). “Write them on the tablet of your heart” (7:3). Whatever we can do to remember God’s holy word is a good thing. Read his holy word. Turn it over and over in your mind. Paraphrase it with your own words and ask, does that make it more clear, or less? Whichever answer is right, you will only be the better for having done it, so that “the commandments and teachings of the Lord are written on the tablets of your hearts.”
Pastor Timothy Smith