The apostle Paul wrote in the book of 1 Corinthians 4:16 calling the Corinthian believers to be followers or imitator of him. Again Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:1 saying, “imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” The Greek word used here is “mimetes and means to imitate and comes from the root word “mimeomai” meaning to mimic. The apostle Paul calls every believer to imitate and follow his example in everything he did both in word and action. Believers were and are to imitate and reproduce the life of Christ in them by the power of the Holy Spirit or through the indwelling Christ. Believer’s are to be conformed into the image and likeness of Christ in the smallest details of their lives. Believers are to seek to imitate Christ, just as the apostle Paul sought to imitate, follow, and reproduce Jesus Christ in his life.
The apostle Paul is not referring to or describing “the traditions” as some religious ritual tradition we have today by just going through the motions. The Greek word used here for traditions or ordinances is “paradosis” which signifies the apostolic teachings or instructions hand down to the believers concerning their meetings or gatherings. What the apostle Paul is speaking of in 1 Corinthians 11:2 are the apostolic doctrinal teachings or instructions he had personally delivered to the believers both in word and epistle.
The same Greek word is also used for the word traditions in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:6 concerning the apostolic doctrines, teachings, or instructions handed down or given to the believers. The same teachings and instruction that both the Corinthian believers and Thessalonians’ received is what the apostle Paul taught everywhere and in every church. It is also why Paul could send Timothy to a church to remind the church of Paul’s ways in Christ because he had taught the same things everywhere in every church (1 Cor. 4:17). It is also the reason why the apostle Paul could counsel Timothy concerning the things he had heard from the apostle Paul and was to commit these same teaching to faithful men who would be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).
We learn from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians’ that they had become followers of us and of the Lord (1 Thess. 1:6). The Greek word “mimetes” is the same word used in 1 Cor. 11:1, and means to be a follower or imitator. The word is also used again in 1 Thess. 2:14 saying, “For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus.” The Thessalonians’ not only began to imitate Paul and the Lord, but also imitated the churches or the believers in Judea as they followed the Lord. The reason they could be followers and imitators is because the apostle Paul taught the same things in every place and in every church.
The same apostolic doctrinal teachings and instruction was given both in word and by epistle and was demonstrated among the believers everywhere in every assembly of believers (1 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 4:9). Teaching the same thing everywhere and in every church made it possible to duplicate in the lives of believers and be imitated, followed, and reproduced in the lives of all believers everywhere.
When the apostle Paul wrote his letter to all the believers in Philippi he told them, “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” The believers were to imitate the apostle Paul and follow his example in everything Paul said and did by word, epistle, and his personal example. Paul also wrote to the Thessalonians’ using the Greek word “mimeomai” coming from the mimic like a mime, meaning to imitate or follow. Paul called the believers Thessalonians to follow and or imitate them because they had set the example for the believers to follow (2 Thess. 3:7, 9).
The apostolic traditions handed down to believers are still the same as he taught everywhere and in every church or assembly of believers (1 Cor. 4:17). Most churches have failed to put the original apostolic traditions into practice.
For example look at what the apostles taught in the book of 1 Corinthians which was written to the believers or the church not to a bishop, elder, pastor, building, or a board (1 Cor. 1:2). They were to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and judgment, there was to be no division among them (1 Cor. 1:10-13; 3:3-4). Yet there are over 133,000 denominations in the body of Christ all with different beliefs and practices not including independent churches.
Paul calls the Corinthians believers to intimate him and told them that Timothy would remind them of his ways in Christ as he taught everywhere in every church (1 Cor. 4:16-17). Paul then says to the believers “when you are gathered together,” putting the responsibility in the hands of believers, not a bishop, overseer, elder, priest, pastor, or a board (1 Cor. 5:4-5). Paul calls the believers to follow or imitate him, just as he imitated Christ and to remember him in all things and to keep the traditions has he had given them (1 Cor. 11:1-2).
Paul then speaks to the Corinthian believers concerning the diversities of gifts, differences of ministries, and the diversities of activities, but that it is the same God who works all in all (1 Cor. 12: 4-6). Paul goes on to reveal the body is made up of many members who are one body, so also is Christ. Paul says that there should be no schism or division in the body, but that all members should have the same care for one another (1 Cor. 12: 12-26). Now, notice when the whole church came together according to verse 23, that each one of the believers was to have a psalm, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation, or an interpretation for the edification, profit or benefit of all the believers. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged (1 Cor. 14:23-33). All believers were allowed to participate and function by ministering to one another. Paul goes on to say to the believers, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, by steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58). This was written to the believers not to a bishop, elder, or a pastor, there was no one man leading the meeting, and the priesthood of all believers was allowed to participate and function ministering to one another.
Many believers have never noticed that the writer of the book of Hebrews confirms the “Priesthood of all Believers” with every believer participating and functioning in ministry to one another. Hebrews 6:10 says, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” The writer of the book of Hebrews further reveals every believers participating and functioning in ministering to one another.
In Hebrews 10:19-25 the writer of Hebrews is speaking to the brethren, or to every believer in verse 19. In verse 22, 23, 24 it says, “let us” referring to the brethren. In verse 24 the “let us” referring to the brethren or every believer who were to “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.” It was the brethren or the believers ministering to one another in order to stir up love and good works. This is the Priesthood of all believers” in action ministering to one another, not a bishop, overseer, elder, priest, or a pastor. No single man was leading the meeting, but every believer was to minister to one another. Now we come to the one of the most misused verses in the Bible taken out of biblical context according to our religious institutional business model of doing church. Most use this of going to church or attending a church service or meeting. Verse 25 says, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another.” In the biblical context the believers or the brethren were not forsake the assembling of themselves together during a time of persecution in order to be able to exhort one another. It was every believer’s responsibility to consider one another in order to stir up love and good works and to exhort one another. It was not a bishop, elder, overseer, priest, or pastor’s job, duty or responsibility to lead, stir up, or to exhort the believers.
Let us return to the original biblical apostolic tradition of every believer participating and functioning in the body of Christ.