Paul Followed Christ

THE APOSTLE PAUL admonished the Church to follow him even as he followed the Master. (I Cor. 11:1) Paul truly did walk according to the example of selflessness displayed by Jesus. At the beginning of his ministry Jesus was given a heavenly vision of the Divine will for him, and he expressed his delight in that will and his determination to carry out all that had been written of him “in the volume of the Book.” (Heb. 10:7) From the beginning, Jesus knew that this would finally lead him into death, but there was no holding back. The same was true with the Apostle Paul. He, too, received a heavenly vision and years afterward he explained to King Agrippa, “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.” (Acts 26:19) Paul was not disobedient to that vision, though he realized, even as Jesus did, that to be obedient would cost him his life.


The heavenly vision received by Paul doubtless revealed to him some of the glories that would follow his life of sacrifice and suffering. It also emphasized the fact that he had the privilege of laying down his life for the great Messianic cause. The Lord explained to Ananias that Paul was a chosen vessel to bear his name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. This was made plain to the apostle, as the Lord explained to Ananias, “I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15,16) This was part of the heavenly vision. He was shown what great things he must suffer. Paul was not coerced into following this path of suffering, but he gladly walked in it because it was God’s way for him.

Throughout the apostle’s entire ministry we find displayed his determination to be obedient to the heavenly vision no matter what the cost might be. Paul, like Jesus, was informed that in going up to Jerusalem bonds and imprisonment awaited him. Like Jesus, attempts were made to dissuade him from taking a course that would thus result in suffering. But Paul was following the example of Jesus and was glad of the privilege of laying down his life in the Master’s cause.

Thus, in response to those who advised against what to them seemed to be a reckless course to pursue, Paul said, “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13) Previous to this he had declared his position in the matter saying, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.”—Acts 20:24

Paul had been warned by the Holy Spirit what to expect. However, he did not interpret this warning as meaning that God did not want him to go to Jerusalem; rather, he looked upon it in the nature of a test that his Heavenly Father was placing upon him. It was furnishing the apostle an opportunity voluntarily to lay down his life. Thus did the apostle rejoice in the privilege of following the example of Jesus.


On his way to Jerusalem, Paul stopped at Troas where he remained for seven days with the brethren, the next stop being at Assos. For reasons not revealed in the account, Paul decided that it was God’s will for him to remain over in Troas for their regular Sunday evening meeting. He permitted the boat to go on, fully realizing that, in order to catch up with it the next day, it would be necessary to walk many miles.

Paul, on this occasion, preached to the Troas brethren until midnight. It must have been a wonderful message, one which Paul considered important to deliver to this ecclesia at this particular time. Nothing demanded that he remain over and put himself to this extra exertion and sacrifice. He did it because he realized it was a privilege to render further service; and no doubt he realized the next morning as he started on that long, wearisome journey to Assos, that it was truly more blessed to give than to receive.—Acts 20:35


Others in the Early Church caught the spirit of the wonderful example set by Jesus and Paul, when responding to the call to “come over into Macedonia, and help us.” (Acts 16:9-15) These brethren at Philippi had ever been very dear to Paul, and when he was in prison at Rome they sent him a gift—one of their own brethren, Epaphroditus, being the messenger. (Phil. 2:28; 4:18) Paul appreciated this manifestation of their love, and in writing to them doubtless had this partly in mind when he said, “I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment.”—Phil. 1:9

It was not so much the gift which Paul appreciated as the fact that the ecclesia at Philippi had caught the spirit of true Christianity to such an extent that they were willing to make this sacrifice on behalf of one of their brethren in Christ. It was a real sacrifice that Epaphroditus had made in order to deliver the gift to the apostle. Writing to the Philippians about it Paul said, “For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack [the remainder] of service toward me.”—Phil. 2:27-30

Here indeed is a wonderful example of the principle exemplified in the ministry of Jesus and Paul, and explained by Jesus when he said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it.” (Matt. 16:25) Epaphroditus did not regard his life when he had this opportunity to render a service to one of the Lord’s people. It is doing the things that we do not have to do that constitutes acceptable sacrifice, and results in the promised joy of giving.


We have many outstanding examples of this principle of love in the church at this end of the age. Like Jesus and Paul, these also were given a vision of truth. The vision did not reach them in the same miraculous manner. It came through an understanding of the written Word, unfolding wondrous truths of the Divine plan, constituting ‘meat in due season’ for the household of faith during the harvest period.

Like Jesus and Paul, these were not disobedient to the heavenly vision. Gladly they accepted its responsibility and gave up all that they had, even life itself, in order that the truth might be passed on for the blessing of others. When the vision reached them some were busily engaged in laying up treasures upon earth. The treasures already accumulated were gladly transferred to the heavenly account and used to spread the glad tidings of great joy.

They gave up more than merely these treasures. They devoted life to the promotion of that glorious truth which had so thrilled them. Never did they hold back from giving their all to this glorious cause. It cost them not only wealth, time, and strength, but also reputation among men. Like Jesus and Paul, they were cast out as evil; misrepresented and maligned. By faithfulness they showed it was more blessed to give than to receive.


Throughout the entire period of the harvest work there were thousands who endeavored as best they could to follow the example of sacrifice they saw so beautifully displayed in these brethren. Some devoted their time and strength in the pilgrim service. Others—at one time as many as a thousand—wended their weary but happy way up and down the country colporteuring the “Studies in the Scriptures.” In most cases these gave up good positions and comfortable homes in order that they might share in the joy of giving the truth to others.

Those who could not devote all their time to this service did what they could along other lines. There was instituted what was known as the volunteer service. This consisted of the distribution of free literature—sometimes at church doors; at other times from house to house. This was done by brethren in their spare time. The ones who engaged mostly in this form of service were not in a position to give all of their time, but they gladly did what they could. Many times this service was rendered by brethren who, had they used human reasoning, would have concluded that the easier course would have been to remain home and rest.

Then there were the many opportunities of service in connection with the meetings of the Lord’s people. The elders and deacons had their opportunities, and all in the ecclesias felt the responsibility that devolved upon them of doing all they could to contribute toward the building up of the body of Christ. Financially also, during that period, the brethren made great sacrifices. Those poor in this world’s goods, nevertheless, found ways to devote their little all to the spread of the truth. Those more favorably situated gladly donated larger amounts. By the pooling of these earthly treasures so gladly sacrificed by those who were laying up treasures in heaven, finances were adequate, and the truth was promoted to the glory of God and the blessing of others.


The Spirit of the Lord which thus influenced Jesus, the apostles, the Early Church, and the brethren generally during the time of the harvest, is still working in the hearts and lives of God’s people. The spirit of unselfishness which urges on to self-sacrifice that others may know and experience the joys of the truth and of the Lord is still manifesting itself among the people of God today. God’s Spirit today, even as in times past, is finding expression in many, varied ways, depending upon the circumstances surrounding the lives of those in which it is working. Today, as in the past, the truest and fullest expression of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s people is manifested in their wanting to do things for God, for the truth, and for the brethren.

Like the faithful ones of old, and like our Lord Jesus and the Heavenly Father, they have found it really to be true that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Thus their continued toil is a joyful service to the Lord, and their reward a blessed realization of the fact that in keeping with the Divine spirit of unselfishness their voluntary efforts are helping others to know the God of their salvation.

It is this spirit which is pleasing to God. It is the spirit of wholehearted devotion to him irrespective of whether that devotion finds expression through the little that we are able to give, or through returning to God our larger assets which he entrusts to our keeping as his stewards. We can, if we wish, save our strength, our talents, our money, our all, and enjoy them as earthly treasures; but in so doing we will fail to prove the reality of the principle expressed in our text, that it is more blessed to give than to receive. For such was the example of the Apostle Paul as he followed Christ. May we emulate him, so that we too can hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”—Matt. 25:23

Dawn Bible Students Association
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