As we go through life, there are any number of people that we look up to as our examples, starting with our parents, then teachers and coaches, to pastors and so on.
And hopefully, all of them are good mentors to us. But Paul reminds us here to be very careful about who we choose to follow.
There are many people, even in the Christian world, who sound good. But as Paul says,
The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. (20)
And so Paul said when came to Corinth,
I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. (19)
That’s the question we need to ask ourselves. What power is behind the people we are following? Is it God? Or is it something else? Natural charisma? Money? Position? Or is there even an evil spiritual power behind them?
How do we tell what kind of power is behind them? By the fruit that they bear. Jesus tells us,
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:15-16)
What kind of fruit do we look for? The fruit of their teaching and the fruit of their lives. Paul himself points that out when talking of Timothy and himself.
For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. (17)
When we find such people in our lives, we should follow their example. As Paul said,
Therefore I urge you to imitate me. (16)
But when their fruit is rotten, we need to run as quickly and far away as possible.
How about you? Who are you following?