Churches of Christ have been notoriously interested in Paul. I think a lot of this has to do with Paul’s dealing with church matters and we often found ourselves in conversations with other groups on how to do church right. Jesus didn’t really seem as interested in that in his ministry, the church hadn’t been born yet.
If you read Paul you cannot escape the need to follow Jesus. You cannot escape the idea that we need to be studying Jesus’ teachings (in the Gospels) as much as anything. Paul points us to Christ.
“11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”1 Cor 1:11-13
Ten chapters later Paul writes this,
“1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”1 Cor 11:1
Paul continuously points us to Jesus. Paul is following Jesus. We follow Jesus.
This doesn’t make Paul any less important. It doesn’t mean he is uninspired. It doesn’t mean his teachings lack authority. Of course they do. When it comes to discipleship, we follow Jesus. We can follow Paul to the extent that he helps us follow Jesus.
Who is the “someone else?” I am talking about other people in your life. You don’t really follow them either except to the degree they help you follow Jesus because they aren’t the ones who are doing the discipling. Jesus is. They help. Jesus is the one who disciples us. We can help each other follow Jesus better in the same way that we can follow Paul to the degree that he helps us follow Christ. People are facilitators not really disciplers. I believe Jesus is the discipler and we assist in the process.
This takes out the hierarchy and the poor power dynamics that often plague discipling processes. This also reminds us that we don’t have to be super Christians to work on discipling. Jesus is the expert. We aren’t.
Last, this means we need to be reading the Gospels daily to learn Jesus’ teachings. That is how Jesus defined making disciples in the Great Commission – baptizing them and teaching them the teachings of Jesus. That means as disciples we need to be constantly in the teachings of Jesus and we need to be teaching others these things as well