Growing up, I remember wearing a wrist bracelet with the letters “WWJD”. If I were to ask you what those letters stood for, chances are you would correctly answer “What would Jesus do?” This phrase encourages the Christian to follow the example of Jesus by asking what Christ would do. While there is nothing inherently wrong with asking this question, I believe we need to ask a question prior to this. Before we consider what would Jesus do, we need to believe in what Jesus did. In other words, prior to following Jesus as our example, we need to trust in Him as Lord and Savior.
Jesus, Our Example
Because there is a false notion of Jesus as our example, a corrective is needed. There are some circles of belief, even with those who profess to be Christians, which see Jesus primarily as an example to follow. As a result, we are left to ask: “What does Scripture say about this?” While a number of passages may shed light on the discussion, 1 Peter 2:21–25 lays out a succinct answer. In the context of Christian suffering, we read, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (2:21). Clearly stated, as Christians, we are to follow the example of Christ, particularly in suffering. He is our example. But that does not answer our question completely. The matter is not whether Jesus is our example to follow but whether His role as our example is primary. I would contend with you it is not. He is our example to follow only after we understand His saving person and work.
Jesus, Our Savior and Lord
The Apostle Peter continues by laying the example of Christ, showing He committed no sin (2:22) and He entrusted Himself to God the Father in His own suffering (2:23). Yet, the suffering Christ faced and the death He endured is not portrayed merely in terms of serving as an example. 1 Peter 2:24–25 make this clear: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” The suffering and death of Jesus Christ was for the salvation of sinners. As those who have sinned against God, we deserve the judgment of God. The way of salvation, then, is not to try better or to follow the example of Jesus. The only way of salvation is trusting in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ lived the perfect life we failed to and He died the sinner’s death. As our substitute, He died on the cross for our sins, so that we may be forgiven. The person and work of Jesus Christ is the basis of how we can die to sin and live to righteousness. We trust in His saving work and we acknowledge His authority as Lord. Only when we place our faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord can we then follow Him as our example.
- Why is it crucial to understand Jesus is our Lord and Savior before we see Him as our example?
- What are the implications of seeing Jesus as primarily our example to the neglect of Him as our Lord and Savior?
This post was written by EBG Lead Writer and Founder Theron St. John. His joy is serving God and His people, both in the church and the academy. He is the associate pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana and an adjunct professor at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis.