Today’s selected reading continues in the first epistle of the apostle Paul written unto the Corinthian congregation found in the New Testament. More specifically, the passage is found in the first seven verses of the eleventh chapter. As the eleventh chapter of the first epistle of the apostle unto the Corinthian congregation opens it does so with an incredible invitation and statement written by the apostle Paul. The apostle Paul opens this particular passage of scripture with an invitation to be imitators if him as he himself was in Christ. Pause and stop for a moment and consider the tremendous weight and significance of this call and invitation, for it is not a light thing to invite others to follow you as you yourself are in and under Christ. It’s actually worth considering the second part of this invitation, for it is the second half of this verse that actually stands as the foundation for the apostles invitation. The apostle Paul didn’t merely invite his readers to be followers of him, but he would go on to declare that he was of Christ. It is no small thing to invite others to follow you, but it is something entirely different when you invite people to follow you even as you are in and of Christ. If you read and study the New Testament you will find this concept of following to be central to the gospels. In fact, in the opening few chapters of the gospels you will find Jesus Himself inviting brothers Peter and Andrew to follow him, as well as James and John. Within the New Testament you will find Jesus speaking to others whom he would encounter to follow Him, as He Himself was and would be led by God.
There is a particular truth and concept that is actually quite interesting when you consider this concept of following Jesus, for even though He was indeed the Son of God, when men followed Him, they could only do so as He was indeed and was in fact led by the Father. It is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand that the only way Jesus could invite others around Him to follow Him was as He Himself was led by the very Spirit of God. We know and understand that when Jesus came to this earth—even though He took on the form of human flesh—he was one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man. If you read the second chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation you will find him referencing Christ as being God and being one with God, Yet did not count Himself as being equal with God. Even though Jesus was one hundred percent God in the form of human flesh He surrendered and Himself to the life which He lived in the flesh, and as such, would rely solely on the guidance and direction of the Father. It wasn’t a small or light thing for Jesus to invite others to follow Him, for He could only do so according to the measure that He Himself was led by God. The apostle Paul speaks of how Jesus humbled Himself by dying upon the cross, and I would argue that this humbleness began when He agreed to lay aside divinity in order to take on the form of human flesh.
I am convinced that if we are to truly understand the true weight and magnitude of Jesus as laying aside divinity and taking on the form of human flesh we must not only consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippian congregation, but we must also consider the words which the author of the epistle to the Hebrews wrote. I am convinced that these two passages when joined together help create and form a single picture concerning Jesus’ laying aside His divinity and taking on the form of human flesh, and how as such it was from that place that He needed to trust upon and rely fully upon the person, the presence and the power of the Spirit. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippians in the second chapter of that epistle: “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem pother better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:1-13).
If you turn and direct your attention to the second chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrew congregation you will find additional commentary on the life of Jesus which He lived in the flesh. In fact, if you begin reading with the fifth verse of the second chapter of this particular epistle you will encounter a powerful connection between the life which Jesus lived in and according to the flesh, and the life which we ourselves are to live in and according to the flesh. Consider if you will the words which are found beginning with the fifth verse of the second chapter of this New Testament epistle: “For unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. FOr in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in Him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:5-18).
It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we consider both of these passages found within the New Testament, for although they are written by two different and distinct authors, they both say and reveal the same thing—namely, that Jesus who is both Christ and Lord humbled Himself by laying aside His divinity in order that He might take on the form of human flesh. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle John wrote in his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. If you begin reading with the first verse of the first chapter you will find the following words and language concerning Jesus who is both Christ and Lord: “IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on His name. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheled His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of Him, and cried, saying, This was He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for He was before me. And of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. NO man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” (John 1:1-18).
The apostle John, the apostle Paul, and the author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews all pointed to the same reality and declared the very same thing—namely, that Jesus who is both Christ and Lord laid aside divinity and equality with God, and took upon Himself the nature of human flesh. The author of the epistle of the Hebrews used and mentioned the words which David wrote in the eighth chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms, for by referencing flesh as being made a little lower than the angels, they were emphatically pointing to that nature which Jesus took upon Himself. It’s absolutely amazing that when Jesus came to the earth to dwell among men, He didn’t come down to the earth as one hundred percent God and God alone. When Jesus came down to the earth, He did come as being one hundred percent God, but He also came taking on the form of human flesh, and the seed of Abraham as He would be one hundred percent man. It is this concept and reality of Jesus being one hundred percent flesh and one hundred percent man, for it was in and from that place that He Himself had to rely fully and completely on the person and presence of the Spirit. What’s more, is that His being one hundred percent flesh and taking on the form of the seed of Abraham, He was subject unto the Father even as we ourselves are. In fact, I am convinced that one of the main reasons why Jesus took on the form of human flesh—not only because it could only be while in the flesh that He could destroy the works of the devil and the one who had the power of death—was to demonstrate and reveal the absolute necessity to submit ourselves unto the Father in our flesh. If there is one thing we must learn and understand concerning Jesus, it’s that He could do absolutely nothing apart from that which He saw the Father do. It is absolutely amazing to consider the fact that Jesus took upon Himself the form of human flesh, and by taking on the form of human flesh He not only subjected Himself to the limitations of the flesh, but He also subject Himself to the divine purposes and will of the Father.
If you turn and direct your attention to the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John, you will find Jesus speaking unto the Jews who sought to persecute and slay Him. Consider if you will the scene and how it unfolds in John’s gospel beginning with the sixteenth verse: “And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth: and He will shew HIM greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them: even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. Fo rthe Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him. Verily, verily, I say not you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himnse;f and hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which He witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and He bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in His light. But I have a greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works what I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father Himself, which hath sent me, hath born witness of me. Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape. And ye have not His word abiding in you: for whom He hath sent, Him ye believe not. Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that use have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in His own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only. Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words” (John 5:16-47).
The words which we find and read within this passage of Scripture must be carefully considered, for they reveal the tremendous reality that when Jesus took on the form of human flesh, He subjected Himself—both to the limitations of human flesh, but He also subjected Himself to being able to do only what He saw and heard the Father doing. I find this to be absolutely incredible, for it provides us with a powerful example of the life we are to live in our own flesh. If not even Jesus could operate outside of and apart from the realm of that which He saw and heard the Father do and say, what makes us think that we ourselves are any different. If the servant is not above their master, what would cause us to think and even believe that we are somehow immune and exempt from such a similar lifestyle. The life we have been given to live in the flesh is not to be lived outside of and apart from subjection to the divine counsel, the divine wisdom, the divine plan, and the divine will of the Father. Jesus taking on the form of human flesh was a powerful example of how we ourselves should move and operate within our own flesh, which we have been given to live in. So long as we live within this earthly tent and this earthen vessel we are given to surrender and subject ourselves fully and completely to never seeking to move and operate outside of the divine will of the Father. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul declared, which are recorded for us in the New Testament book of Acts, for he spoke of the Lord our God and how it is in Him we live, and we move, and we have our being. In the eighth chapter of this same gospel according to John we find Jesus speaking unto those to who were before and around Him, saying, “When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am He, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak of these things” (John 8:28). Also in the eighth chapter we find Jesus speaking the following words unto those who were before and around Him: “I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father” (John 8:38). Later on in this same gospel of John we find Jesus expounding upon this reality even further when He made the following emphatic statement: “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10). In the twelfth chapter of this same New Testament gospel account of Jesus’ life and ministry we find the following words spoken by the Word which was made flesh: “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49).
Why is all of this necessary? Why must we examine the reality and concept of Jesus having taken on the form of human flesh? Why must we recognize and understand that by taking on the form of human flesh, Jesus could neither say nor do anything which He had not seen or heard the Father do. This is absolutely necessary for us to understand, for when Jesus invited those whom He encountered to follow Him, what He was essentially inviting them to do was not merely to follow Him as Lord and Master, but follow Him as He followed both the Spirit and His Father. When we consider the life of Jesus it is absolutely imperative that we understand that Jesus fully and completely gave Himself to the empowering of the Spirit of God, for there would be a place in the gospels when He would speak of driving out demons and devils by the finger of God, which we know to be the divine and Holy Spirit of of God. It’s necessary that we recognize and understand that not only did Jesus subject Himself to the work of the Spirit upon the earth, but He also subjected Himself to the divine will of His Father which was in heaven. In all reality, I am convinced that this was why the Father could say—even before He had spoken a single word, performed a single miracle, or had done a single thing upon the earth—that this was His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased. The Father could emphatically and boldly declare from heaven that He was pleased with Jesus who is both Christ and Lord because Jesus had subjected Himself to the divine will of the Father, and subjected Himself to the empowerment of the Spirit which would be given unto Him without measure. Within the person of Jesus the Christ we not only see the divine will of the Father at work, but we also see the divine will of the Father in harmony and unison with the work of the Spirit. Only in Jesus do we see perfectly the union and harmony of the divine will of the Father, as well as the working of the Holy Spirit within His life and ministry. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this, for when Jesus invited the disciples to follow Him, and when He invited those whom He encountered to follow Him, He was inviting them to subject themselves to the will of the Father, and to the work of the Spirit even as He Himself had done.
There is an Old Testament passage regarding the lives of Elijah and Elisha which perfectly describe this concept of an invitation to follow in the life, in the ministry and in the footsteps of another. If you begin reading with and from the fifteenth verse of the nineteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Kings you will find the account of Elijah atop the mountain in the wilderness, and how there upon the mountain the Lord provided him with very specific instructions upon his departure from the mountain. Consider if you will the text as it unfolds beginning with the fifteenth verse of this chapter: “And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: and Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and ELisah the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. So he departed thence, and found ELisah the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said, Go back again: for what have I done to thee? And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him” (1 Kings 19:15-21). The reality that is expressed within this passage of Scripture is further manifested in the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Second Kings when the Lord was preparing to take Elijah from the earth. Elijah on three separate occasions gave Elisha an out and the opportunity to turn back and no longer walk with or follow him, yet Elisha could not do such a thing. If you begin reading with the first verse of the second chapter of the book of Second Kings you will find the following account:
“And it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with ELisah from Gilgal. And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Beth-el. And ELijsah said unto him, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Beth-el. And the sons of the prophets that were at Beth-el came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take way thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho. And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take way thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan. And Elijah took his mantel, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground. And it came to pass, when they were gone over, the Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; and he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? And when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and tighter: and Elijah went over” (2 Kings 2:1-14).
The account of Elisha and Elijah bring us face to face with a powerful invitation given by the prophet Elijah to Elisha to follow. Him as he himself not only followed but also served the Lord of hosts. There is within this passage of Scripture a powerful revelation concerning that which the apostle Paul would write unto the Corinthian congregation to be followers of him as he himself was in and of Christ. There are specific occasions within the New Testament gospels where Jesus invited those whom He encountered to follow Him. The first is found in the nineteenth verse of the fourth chapter when He spoke unto the two brothers—Peter and Andrew—as they were casting a net into the sea: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). If you turn and direct your attention to the eighth chapter of the same New Testament gospel you will find a certain man scribe coming unto Jesus and declaring unto Him, saying, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. Jesus would go on to declare unto this scribe, saying, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head. On this same day and occasion another of His disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. To this Jesus responded by declaring unto him, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead” (Matthew 8:21). In the very next chapter we find Jesus coming unto a certain man, named Matthew, who was sitting at the receipt of custom. In other words, Matthew was a tax collector employed by the Romans to exact taxes on his own people. When Jesus saw Matthew sitting at the customer He emphatically and boldly declared unto him, saying, “Follow me.” Scripture records how Matthew immediately arose and proceeded to follow Jesus. Later on in this same gospel we find Jesus declaring the following words which must be understood concerning our following Jesus: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). In the eighteenth chapter of Luke’s gospel we find the account of the rich young man, and Jesus speaking the following words unto him: “Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, and follow me” (Luke 18:22).
I would close this writing by including the words which Jesus spoke unto the twelve disciples before He sent them out, given them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Beginning with the thirty-fourth verse of this chapter we find the following words spoken by Jesus unto His twelve disciples just prior to sending the twelve out into ministry: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loveth his life for my sake shall find it” (matthew 10:34-39). I would also close and conclude this passage of Scripture with the words which the beloved physician Luke records for us in the fourteenth chapter of his carefully researched gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus. Beginning with the twenty-sixth verse of the fourteenth chapter we find the following words: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear His cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. OR what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, He senders an ambassage , and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savourt, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:26-34).