You have probably heard someone say something along the lines of the following: “I am not a follower of any man; I am a follower of Jesus.” Is this what God expects every believer to think and do?
A remarkable passage in 2 Chronicles 21 instructs us that this pious sounding sentiment is actually a seriously erroneous approach to the Christian life. This passage does so by revealing a profound truth of what God expects from people concerning their following the examples of other people.
A Profound Truth from God’s Rebuke of King Jehoram
King Jehoram was the son of godly king Jehoshaphat of Judah (2 Chron. 21:1). Jehoram was a very wicked king who sinned greatly against the Lord (2 Chron. 21:4-11).
Through a writing from the prophet Elijah to Jehoram, God declared to him,
2Ch 21:12 Thus saith the LORD God of David thy father, Because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah,
13 But hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, like to the whoredoms of the house of Ahab, and also hast slain thy brethren of thy father’s house, which were better than thyself:
14 Behold, with a great plague will the LORD smite thy people, and thy children, and thy wives, and all thy goods:
15 And thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day.
God rebuked Jehoram for not walking in the ways of his father Jehoshaphat and in the ways of his grandfather Asa (2 Chron. 21:12). Yet both of these men were imperfect men who sinned in the sight of God (Asa [2 Chron. 16:7-10; 12]; Jehoshaphat [2 Chron. 19:2; 20:35-37]).
God thus rebuked Jehoram for not walking in the ways of two imperfect men! We might have expected God to rebuke him by having Elijah write to him about how he had sinned by not walking in the ways of the Lord, but that is not what God did!
New Testament Confirmation of This Profound Truth
From 2 Chronicles 21:12, we have seen that God required that Jehoram would walk in the righteous ways of two of his godly but imperfect predecessors. The New Testament confirms the teaching that God demands that His people follow in the righteous ways of imperfect men.
Paul repeatedly commands believers to be followers of him:
1Co 4:16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.
1Co 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
Phi 3:17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.
He also commends them when they have been faithful to do so (1 Thess. 1:6; 2:14; 2 Thess. 3:7, 9). These same statements also reveal that Paul repeatedly spoke of believers following not just him but also others who were godly:
1Th 1:6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:
1Th 2:14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:
2Th 3:7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;
9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.
The writer of Hebrews similarly commends and commands believers to be followers of other believers:
Heb 6:12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Heb 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
Because Paul and all the others whom these New Testament statements commend to believers as people whom we are to follow were imperfect men, it is clear that God wants us to follow in the righteous ways of imperfect men!
Passages in both Testaments (2 Chron. 21:12; 2 Thess. 3:7) teach us that God does expect us to walk in the righteous ways of imperfect men whom He has allowed us to have the privilege of observing, knowing, and being influenced by. If we fail to do so, God will hold us responsible for not walking in their ways.
We must not say that we are followers only of Jesus. God has called us also to be followers of the righteous ways of the good but imperfect people in our lives who as followers of Christ themselves have walked in His righteous ways.
 Many other verses in the Old Testament point to the same truth: 1 Sam. 8:3; 1 Ki. 8:25; 9:4; 11:33; 14:8; 2 Ki. 22:2; 2 Chr. 6:16; 7:17; 11:17; 17:3; 20:32; 34:2