Many religious people take the Lord Jesus Christ as their pattern in life. They call Him “The Great Example”. When problems arise, they ask themselves: “What would Jesus do?” They seek salvation by “walking in His steps”.
While our Lord’s moral and spiritual virtues are indeed worthy of emulation, there were many details in His conduct which we should not imitate. For example, none of us would be in a position to pronounce upon the religious hypocrites of our day the bitter woes which our Lord pronounced upon the Pharisees of His day — simply because we all have so much of the Pharisee in us.
Certainly we cannot be saved by “following Christ,” or striving to live as He did. His perfect holiness would only emphasize our unrighteousness and condemn us. He came to save us, not by His life, but by His death. “CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS” (I Cor.15:3), and sinners are “reconciled to God by the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10).
But God has given us a pattern for salvation. It is none other than the Apostle Paul, the chief of sinners saved by grace. Hear what he says by divine inspiration:
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, THAT CHRIST JESUS CAME INTO THE WORLD TO SAVE SINNERS, of whom I am chief” (I Tim. 1:15).
Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, remember, had led his nation and the world in rebellion against God and His Christ. He was “exceedingly mad” against the disciples of Christ and “breathed threatening and slaughter” against them. Why then, did God save him? He goes on to tell us in the next verse:
“Howbeit [but] for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, FOR A PATTERN to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting” (1 Tim. 1:16).