Christ our supreme example
“Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
He suffered an atoning death upon the cross, without which there could be no example. The question of sin must be settled, a righteous relationship with God must be established first. Then the example comes in.
As to our practical lives as Christians, Scripture appeals to the very highest example possible, even that of our Lord Jesus Christ. To examine one or two striking instances of this in Scripture will suffice.
Take the matter of Christian generosity. The Apostle Paul writing to the Christians in the wealthy city of Corinth refers to the generosity of the believers in the Macedonian assemblies. Their giving was magnificent. “Their deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality” (2 Cor 8:2). We read the secret of it all. They “first gave their own selves to the Lord.”
They gave THEMSELVES. These poverty-stricken Macedonian believers put into the shade their rich Corinthian brethren. First giving themselves, all else fell into line. When the appeal came for help it was given with rich liberality; not grudgingly, but with much entreaty they prayed that their amazingly generous contribution should be received. It was not a question of a tithe, however handsome ten percent might be, as obtained under the law. The Lord gave Himself for them. What an Example! They would give themselves.
But Paul, whilst seeking to stimulate the rich Corinthian believers by the example of the Macedonians, does not stop there. He rises to the height of supreme example, than which there could be none higher. He says, “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” (2 Cor 8:9).
Who can estimate what the riches of the Lord Jesus were? His position in the heaven of heavens, the eternal Son, dwelling in the Father’s bosom, the place of supreme and divine love, receiving the homage of myriad angelic hosts—who can, indeed, estimate what those riches were? See Him a Babe in humble circumstances! See the stable of the inn where the Prince of glory was born! See the rough manger where the holy Infant lay! Go to Nazareth! See the carpenter’s workshop, and behold Him at his daily toil, subject to His parents! See Him step into witness for God!
Mark Him on the lonely hillside, His only companions, the stars overhead and the birds in their nests, and the wild beasts in their lairs. His hair wet with the bounteous dew of those eastern lands! He had no home, no sleeping place! But further; see Him in the garden of Gethsemane! See Him in His agony! He shrinks from the terrible cup of God’s judgment on sin. “His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” There comes the band of miscreants with swords and torches to take Him. He submits.
See Him on the cross of shame! Bitter indeed was the cup He had to drink. The ingratitude of His earthly people. He had served them, healed their sicknesses, fed their hungry, raised their dead. The hatred of the chief priests, the physical agonies of being done to death on a cross were His. Terrible as this was, the highest point of poverty was yet to be reached. Oh! listen to the cry of anguish, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46) Can we ever realise, even faintly, what poverty was His at that moment? When He said that, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has not where to lay His head,” it was true there was no earthly spot, but He had the joy of pillowing His head on His Father’s breast. But here is absolute abandonment to all the weight of God’s wrath against sin. “Why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
With such an example before us, what shall be the kind and style of our Christian giving? Something like this must have been in the mind of the person who designed a collection plate, and fashioned it in the shape of a hand pierced with a nail. The rich man could scarcely have the effrontery to drop a sixpence on such a collection plate. He gave Himself. The widow’s mites were prized above all the gold and silver of the rich. She gave her all.
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