Note from the editor: This blog post by Jonathan Parnell originally appeared here at Desiring God December 2, 2010.


Paul gives a two-part command in Philippians 3:17—join in imitating me and keep your eyes on those who live like us. This idea of imitating Paul and leaders like him is not unique to this passage (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9; 1 Timothy 4:12; 2 Timothy 1:13; Hebrews 13:7). However, the Philippians 3:18 ground to the command carries a particular weightiness.

Paul tells us to imitate him and those who live like him, “for many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.”

Paul says that apostasy is the basis for why we should imitate him and those who live like him. Paul does not suggest the benefits of having a role model, he narrows the profile of who a role model should be and he declares its essential place in Christian discipleship. I think these two points from Philippians 3:17-18 make up a concise theology of role models.

The Profile of a Role Model in Christian Discipleship

At first Paul simply says “imitate me.” Now that is pretty specific, and maybe a little difficult for Christians who live a couple thousand years later. But Paul does not intend that our functional example only be the inscribed manner of his life in the New Testament. He says, “and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.” I have no doubt that Paul wrote that for you and me.

He expands the profile of a role model to being anyone who lives according to his theology and ethos. This is a command for us to seek after and follow men and women in the Church who are like the Apostle Paul. I think this means we keep our noses in Paul’s letters with an eye out for brothers and sisters who exemplify what we’re seeing there.

This is not the same thing as the “I follow ____” controversy in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). If we don’t have a distinction between role models and a dividing codependency on gifted leaders, then we need to get one. Let Paul give us one. The imitation that he calls for in Philippians 3:17 is a grateful, Christ-exalting recognition that God has put people in our lives, both by community or by podcast, that we should humbly aspire to emulate.

The Essential Place of a Role Model in Christian Discipleship

What is at stake for Paul in this command is that without a role model like him, we make ourselves vulnerable to becoming an enemy of the cross of Christ. There are many people who sadly come to Paul’s mind as those who have forsaken his example and become enemies of Jesus. They went a different route and it ended in destruction (Philippians 3:19).

Notice that Paul uses the same verb to describe them—they walk, too. I highlight this to say that if we’re not walking in Paul’s example, then we are surely walking in someone’s. Maybe we’re trying to blaze our own trail after the shadow of ego, or maybe we’re lining up behind a Pauline stranger, either way we are following and if its not in Paul’s example then it won’t turn out well.

A role model like Paul is not an optional Add-on to our Firefox browser. Following men and women like Paul is not like a scarf that accessorizes our Christian outfit. This is life or death. This is servant or enemy. Having a role model like Paul is indispensable to following Jesus. As Paul imitates Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1), so do we by following Paul’s example and keeping our eyes on those who walk like him.


Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their four children, and is the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary (Crossway, 2014).

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The Multiply App is now available, and it’s free! Get it here on iTunes.

This app is designed to be a helpful tool as you seek to make disciples. Get easy access to Multiply resources, post and respond to prayer requests related to making disciples, and stay updated on Multiply announcements.

We hope the Multiply app will be a useful for you and those you know. Tell a friend about this free resource.

0 Grams Trans FatRecently I saw a bag of potato chips with a bold declaration splashed across the front: “Zero grams of trans fat.” I was glad to know that I wouldn’t be consuming any trans fat, which research has shown is detrimental to my health. But then I flipped the bag over and read the ingredients list, which included things like “yellow #6″ and other artificial colors, and partially hydrogenated oil (which is trans fat, just a small enough amount that they can legally call it “0 grams”). I thought it was incredibly ironic that these chips were being advertised in a way that makes me think they are not harmful yet were really full of empty calories, weird chemicals, and, ironically, trans fat.

It struck me that many Christians flash around their “no trans fat” label, trying to convince everyone they are healthy and good. Yet they have no substantive or healthful elements to their faith. It’s like the Laodiceans, who thought they had everything until Christ told them they were poor and wretched. They were all about declaring, “Look, we have no trans fat. We are wealthy, or we have good families, or we go to church every week.” Obviously, it’s not what you advertise that counts; it’s what you are really made of.

But Paul writes that even if “I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2-3 ESV). Wow. Those are strong and unmistakable words. According to God, we are here to love. Not much else really matters.

From Crazy Love, pp. 93-94

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Sometimes preparation for our time of meeting together with someone to discuss the truths of God’s Word doesn’t go as we planned. Maybe you get sick, your wife gets sick, or you have to take care of a situation involving your kids. Now you’re left with almost no time to read through the material. Well fear not! All is not lost.

Did you know that each lesson from the Multiply material has an accompanying audio version read by Francis Chan?

Screen shot 2013-09-09 at 1.20.07 PMAs you can see above, by simply clicking on the “Listen To This Section” link, you can easily listen to the lesson in situations where you not be able to read it. Even if you have read the material, you might want to use this feature to review what you’ve read.

However you use it, we hope this feature will be another helpful tool as you seek to build up others in the faith.

Making disciples necessitates biblical truth. If the worship of God is our ultimate goal, then we must teach about God as he has revealed himself in Scripture. And taking it one step further, we must teach others how to learn from Scripture themselves. With the importance of this Bible study in mind, watch this video of David and Francis giving some helpful reminders, and be encouraged to lead well in this area.

This leader video corresponds to Part III, Section 3 of the Multiply material. As you go through the Multiply material, be sure to check out the other leader videos for more helpful hints and encouragement.

Have you struggled with putting your New Testament together? Or another way to ask it would be, “What is the overarching storyline of the New Testament?” What is the main story being communicated from Matthew to Revelation? We have prepared a series of videos to walk you through the New Testament storyline. The first video covers Jesus the messiah.

The Lord of Grace

multiply-emblem1.jpgSalvation is all about the grace of God. There is absolutely nothing that you can do to save yourself or earn God’s favor. Paul said, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9). No one can brag about his or her good deeds because our works cannot save us. Salvation comes through the grace of God as we place our faith in Jesus Christ. All salvation requires is faith: Do you believe that Jesus is who He says He is?

But keep in mind that while this is simple, it’s not easy. Faith in Jesus Christ means believing that He is Lord (according to Rom. 10:9). Have you ever thought about what that word Lord means? We sometimes think of it as another name for God, but it’s actually a title. It refers to a master, owner, or a person who is in a position of authority. So take a minute to think this through: Do you really believe that Jesus is your master? Do you believe that He is your owner—that you actually belong to Him?

Paul is so bold as to tell us: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19–20). The same Lord who by His grace set us free from sin and death now owns us. We belong to Him, and He calls us to live in obedience to His rule.

The problem is, many in the church want to “confess that Jesus is Lord,” yet they don’t believe that He is their master. Do you see the obvious contradiction in this? The call to be a disciple of Jesus Christ is open to everyone, but we don’t get to write our own job description. If Jesus is Lord, then He sets the agenda. If Jesus Christ is Lord, then your life belongs to Him. He has a plan, agenda, and calling for you. You don’t get to tell Him what you’ll be doing today or for the rest of your life.

It All Comes Down to Love

But don’t get the impression that following Jesus is all about joyless sacrifice. More than anything else, following Jesus boils down to two commands, which He said were the most important commandments in the Old Testament Law:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matt. 22:37–40)

It all comes down to love. Peter expressed it well for people like us, who didn’t see Jesus on earth but follow Him nonetheless: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Pet. 1:8).

Following Jesus is not about diligently keeping a set of rules or conjuring up the moral fortitude to lead good lives. It’s about loving God and enjoying Him.

But lest we think that we can love God and live any way we want to, Jesus told us very clearly, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The love for God in the first commandment is made practical in the love for our neighbors in the second commandment. John actually told us that if we don’t love the people that we can see around us, then we don’t love God, whom we can’t see (1 John 4:20).

True love is all about sacrifice for the sake of the ones you love: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). When we Multiplyunderstand love in this light, it’s not difficult to understand that love for God and obedience to Jesus Christ cannot be separated. God’s love changes us from the inside out and redefines every aspect of our lives.

This excerpt was taken from Part 1, Session 1 of the Multiply material. You can purchase it wherever books are sold, or you can download it from the Multiply website.

PrintHeads up, students.  We wanted to let you know about something that’s coming down the pike this winter. Over Christmas break, December 27-30, a brand new missions conference will take place in Louisville, KY. The purpose of the conference is mobilize students to “magnify the kingly majesty of Jesus” in this world where He is not currently magnified. This means reaching the unreached. And as they so keenly remind us, while everyone who believes in Jesus is saved from the wrath of God, “nobody believes without a messenger.”

There’s a good chance that if you are reading this blog, you are passionate about making disciples (or at least you want to be). This is where it would be good to remember the hugely important part of the Great Commission that talks about making disciples “of all nations.” This is not just a general encouragement to share the gospel wherever we go, but a specific command to intentionally go to all people groups.

Missions should, in some way, be an objective of yours.  Wherever you stand in regard to missions – all about it, totally against it, or not really sure – you should check out Cross.


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