I always thought it was a bit prideful of Paul to write things like – “follow my example” (1 Cor 11:1) and “join with others in following my example” (Php 3:17). Anyway, he says things like this throughout Scripture and it always bothered me a little, but last night in our small group it came up again and I think I finally understood it. One of the guys explained that in those days they didn’t have the Bible (well, not as we know it) – most people couldn’t read the letters that they did have either. Jesus had already resurrected too, so there really was no way for someone to know how to live out their faith except in watching someone else do it. Paul was trying to live his life in such a way that others could look at him and know how to live as a Christian.
Just as a father tries to live as an example to his children, Paul was doing the same. The idea of following someone’s example was not a foreign concept for the Jews either – the whole rabbinical system was based upon “becoming” like the rabbi. Jesus Himself taught his followers to do as they had seen Him do. (John 13:15). Anyway, all this is to say that Paul wasn’t just a big headed guy, he was simply trying to teach others how to live out their faith, and he used the same technique as their culture had been accustomed to.