Humility; Service. How to Humble Yourself–Part 1
1 Peter 5:5–7
1 Peter Lesson #153
November 15, 2018
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Our Father, it’s a great privilege we have to come together to enjoy our relationship with You as we learn what You have revealed to us and what You are teaching us. Father, we know that you have created all things and that You oversee all things in creation and in the historic timeline.
“And as we meditate upon that and unpack those concepts, it helps us to understand that everything that we see in life—even the disappointments, the difficulties, the testing that comes—all is under Your control and we can relax. We know that You are working out Your purposes and that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to Your purpose.
“Father, as we study tonight and we think about our spiritual life and the basic orientation of our thinking and truly humbling ourselves under Your power, or in orientation to Your authority, we pray that You would help us to see in our own lives how we are arrogant and self-absorbed, that You may reveal and expose to us areas where we need to let God the Holy Spirit do His work. We pray all these things in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to 1 Peter 5:5–7. We are looking at a topic that everyone is excited to study, and that is humility. When we get into this topic, it’s always a challenge because this is the polar opposite of the orientation of our sin nature. Our sin nature is oriented completely towards self and self-exaltation—which is pride—which is arrogance. And yet the spiritual value which God prizes, and which is fundamental to many of our spiritual assets, is humility. It’s related to grace orientation, to teachability, to spiritual growth, to being able to love one another, to forgive one another. All of these are grounded on humility.
Grace orientation is grounded on humility. Doctrinal orientation, in terms of learning and applying the Word to our innermost thoughts and attitudes—all of this is related to humility. So we need to understand what it means.
I always like to look at an English dictionary on these terms because this is how the Greek has been translated into English. I remember one professor, Dr. Allen P. Ross. In fact, if God is gracious, he will be speaking at the Chafer Conference this year. [Note: Dr. Ross was the keynote speaker at the 2020 Chafer Conference.] He’s a great wordsmith. I had him for a course on Hebrew word studies.
Dr. Ross did something that I’ve never heard anybody else do, but I think it was just outstanding. After you finished going through all of your Hebrew word studies in usage and everything like that—and you get five or six English words that the Greek or Hebrew word can translate into—you look each of those words up in several dictionaries. And he would accept nothing less than either the Oxford English Dictionary or Webster’s. At that time it was Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.
So, you had to use the best English dictionaries to see if the word that was used in English really reflected the meaning of the original Greek or Hebrew. And a lot of people never go that way.
Then, the next step that you can take –– because you find in a lot of Hebrew or Greek dictionaries maybe four or five different words, and those exact words are the words that are usually the way that word is translated, which is a problem in and of itself. For example, if you have a New American Standard, your New American Standard Old Testament translation from the Hebrew is based about 98% of the time (it changed a little bit with the NASB 95), but it was based about 98% of the time on whatever the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon said the meaning of the word was.
Now, the problem with that is that BDB—we refer to it by the initials of the editors—was done in 1917. That was over hundred years ago now. But even when I was in seminary, that was a good 60 years. And in that 60 years, a tremendous amount of lexical studies—lexicography—had developed because you found a number of languages and resources in libraries archaeologically that were used to enhance and develop and strengthen our understanding of word meaning. So that BDB, probably by 1960, was outdated.
Now we have newer lexicons. We have some extensive new Hebrew tools, things like that. But it’s always important to understand what a word means in the English. So, the word “humility,” as it’s defined in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary [COED], is “to have or show a low estimate of one’s own importance.” Now, that’s not bad.
Paul says in Romans 12 that we should not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think; we shouldn’t have a bloated view of who we are. Modern man wants to come along and psychologize everything with terms like “self-image.”
Someday I’ll do a study on the whole concept of self-image. It comes out of pure pagan relativistic thought and Freudian psychology. And never should those terms be used by Christians in any way, shape, or form because they have real, dangerous baggage associated with them.
But we should not think highly of ourselves beyond who we are, and we should understand who we are in light of what the Bible says.
A second meaning is, “of low rank.” That relates to its economic use. We may talk about somebody who is “of humble origins,” and we’re not just talking about that they might not have had a whole lot when they were growing up, or there wasn’t a lot of high expectations. But it relates to their socio-economic situation. Often you have these words that are used for “humble” and are also translated “low”; they have a certain economic significance in some context. So, it has that idea of being in a lower socioeconomic rank.
Then, the third meaning listed in the COED is, “of modest pretensions or dimensions.” As a verb it means, “to lower in dignity or importance.” So, that’s pretty close. We need to understand what the Scripture says, so we’re going to look at this key passage.
We’ve studied the first four verses. We get to verse 5. “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
We’re going to look at these three verses. They all are tied together by the concept of humility and how this should be central to our mental attitude, our thinking about ourselves, and our thinking about the world. The main thing that we get out of this is something I’ve stated in the past lessons, this emphasis in the Scripture that servant leadership is based on humility.
That is not how we look at leadership in many, many ways. That’s why in the Scriptures it talks about Gentile leadership as being characterized as some form of tyranny—lording your position, your authority, over others. So, humility is based on having a proper understanding of authority.
Maybe you have heard it said that in order to be a good leader you have to be a good follower, and that is a true statement. What that is emphasizing is that to be a good follower, you have to understand authority and you have to be oriented to authority and be able to submit to authority. A good leader is still under some other authority. He’s not at the top of the pyramid yet.
So, to be a good leader, you have to also be a good follower. You have to understand authority. You have to understand what it means to submit. And, in Scripture, that is based on obedience to those who are placed over you. It is not the idea of someone just walking on you, abusing you, just steamrolling over you. That is often what I will hear back from people, especially if you talk about submitting to so-and-so. They say, “Well, you just want me to be a doormat and be over run all the time!” No, that is an inappropriate and illogical statement of using the extreme opposite, and it violates basic logic by creating a false contrast.
When we submit, it’s a recognition that the other person may not be right, but they are the person who’s in charge. So we have to submit to them. Once you see authority breaking down, and you see a generation, starting with my generation, the baby boomers, and then it exacerbated in the subsequent generations, the generation Xers, and Yers, and now the Millennials—is that you go into just pure anarchy.
That’s what we’re seeing politically with the rise of the ANTIFA group and other groups, that they want it done their way without going through the proper and appropriate channels. We’re a nation of laws. That means that some of our laws, because we’re human, may not be righteous. They may not be fair; they may not be equitable. But there’s a framework within the Constitution for changing laws, and it is not to be handled through chaos, through anarchy, rioting, and all of these other things that are coming out today. It’s to be handled through the appropriate channels of Congress and of the various legislatures and other organizations.
Now, at the time of Peter’s writing, he’s talking to these leaders because they are about to face a serious time of persecution and opposition and hostility. We can say that the same kind of thing is very much true today in this generation. We never would have thought we would see some of the things going on in our culture that we see today.
We have people who are in all kinds of situations. There’s a young lady who made the news this week. She is Chinese. She is on the student senate counsel at the University of California at Berkeley, and she abstained from a vote. She did not vote against something; she just abstained from voting. But it had something to do with the recognition of transgenders and positive approval of the LGBTQ … XYZ …whatever community at Berkeley. But she said, paraphrasing, “I can’t vote in favor of this because I’m a Christian. And I recognize that I have to represent the Christian community as well, and I have to take my stand for biblical truth.”
There was a three-hour demonstration on the Berkeley campus where they were shouting all kinds of vile insults and profanity and called her all kinds of horrible names because she would not approve of their position. You know, we never would’ve seen anything like that, 10, 15, 20, 30 years ago, but that’s what is happening today.
That’s just the beginning. I think this is going to get a lot worse. And it’s happening in a lot of different environments because those who are opposed to us have become quite militant in their moral relativism. We’ve got to go back to the time of the judges in the Old Testament where twice, in the Book of Judges, the writer says that it was a time when there was no king in Israel—that is, no authority—but that everyone did what was right in their own eyes.
It was a breakdown of all of the divine institutions, so society was fragmented. For a period of about 350 to 400 years they were just overrun and dominated by foreign powers in a regular cycle––all of which was an outworking of the divine discipline, the five cycles of discipline that we have described in Leviticus 26. It was everything but the fifth cycle of discipline. Leaders need to be prepared for this. Therefore, leaders need to learn humility, and God teaches that.
As we look at this section, I thought we’d break it down just to catch the thought flow. We have three commands that are mentioned here, and whenever there is a command in Scripture to do something, the flip side of that is that it involves the first divine institution of individual responsibility.
So every command involves a responsibility on our part. If we are commanded to “pray without ceasing,” then we are responsible to pray without ceasing. If we are to “give thanks for all things,” then we are responsible for giving thanks for all things. If we are to “walk by the Spirit,” then we are responsible for walking by the Spirit.
So, every command entails certain responsibilities on our part. What we have here are three commands that are stated. All three commands relate to that topic, which is submission and humility.
So, 1 Peter 5:5 reads, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves …” There we have an aorist passive imperative. The passive isn’t as significant here because that’s the nature of the verb, but the aorist imperative is stating it’s a priority.
It’s important to understand that––aorist really doesn’t involve time when it comes to the imperative mood. You can either have an aorist imperative or present imperative, sometimes a perfect. But an aorist imperative just emphasizes something as a priority. There can even be passages where you have a verb stated as an aorist imperative, and then, in the same context, as a present imperative.
Present imperative emphasizes that this is something that is to be characteristic; it’s the standard operating procedure for your life. So, if it’s put in a present imperative, it means, “make this the normal way in which you do things.” If it’s in an aorist imperative, it is, “Well, you’re probably not making it the normal thing in your life. You need to be given a direct order to make this a priority in your life and start focusing on this.”
That’s the idea with an aorist imperative. It’s the idea of, “make this a priority in your life!” So you have that stated as an imperative.
Then it’s like Peter sort of stops, backs up, and is saying, “not only you younger people, but all of you need to be submissive to one another.” If we can’t submit to one another and get along with one another and not get arrogant with one another, then we can never have genuine humility. “… all of you be submissive to one another,” and that is a participle; it’s an imperatival participle because it’s surrounded by imperatives, so it picks up that sense to it.
“… all of you be submissive to one another.” This is one of those things that we’re to do for one another. We’re to pray for one another. We’re to encourage one another. We are to help one another. We’re to teach one another. We’re to admonish one another. We’re to forgive one another. We’re to love one another. All of those fit together.
Those are the “one another” ministries in the church. So, it’s talking about believer to believer within the body of Christ because we are all members of the same body. We all know that there are some people who are believers and members of the family that we just have a hard time getting along with, and we don’t really want to act in humility in relation to them. So, this is related to a fruit of the Spirit and God the Holy Spirit working in our lives.
Peter says, “submit yourselves.” Then he says, “all of you be submissive to one another.” So, even though there are different rankings, some in authority over others, the general mentality is not asserting your privilege, your position, or your power, but it is working together in love, working together in mutual submission.
The second main command is then given in the next clause, “and be clothed with humility …” and this goes back to also being an aorist imperative. So, the two primary commands are to: submit and be clothed with humility. Submit to one another, submit yourselves, so that’s the main idea.
Then there’s a quote that is sort of a statement to support the importance of this statement because the opposite of humility and submission is arrogance. There’s a quote from Proverbs 3:34 that says, “ ‘God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ ” This sets up our contrasting categories of proud versus humility. If you’re humble you will be submissive. If you’re arrogant and prideful, then you will not be submissive; you will resist those who are in authority.
Then that leads to a concluding challenge indicated by the first word in 1 Peter 5:6, “therefore.” “Therefore humble yourselves ...” This is the command here, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time …” Then you have the last phrase, “… casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
The word “casting,” as indicated by the “ing” ending, is a participle, and it’s a participle of means. The command is to “humble yourself.” How do you do that? You do that by casting or throwing all of your care upon God, for He cares for you. It’s submission to divine authority. You have a problem in some sphere of authority. You have a problem with a teacher. You have a problem with a parent. You have a problem with your boss. You have a problem with a superior officer in the military. You have a problem with the government. What’s the solution? To subordinate yourself to God by casting all your care upon Him and let Him take care of the situation.
These are the three primary commands that we have here in 1 Peter 5:5, and then the quotation for support.
The reason for doing this is given in the quote from Proverbs 3:34.
The concluding challenge is that we are to humble ourselves by casting all our care upon Him.
Let’s look at verse 5. “Likewise you younger people ...” This is an age-related term.
It’s the word NEOS that addresses the younger people in the congregation in contrast to the elders. The PRESBUTEROS are elders, and that’s not a term, necessarily, for age. But it is a term, as I pointed out, for maturity. But here, because it is usually associated not only with spiritual maturity but also physical maturity, Peter addresses the young ones who have a tendency to not want to follow the leadership. They may have a better idea. So, he says, “you younger people.”
Peter just says, “the NEOS.” So this would include men, women—whomever. That they are to “submit to your elders.” In context, the word “elders” refers to the leadership in the congregation. Coming under a time of pressure, a time of adversity, there might be a lot of people in a congregation who may want to be more active and rebellious towards the government or towards some authority if there was persecution.
I didn’t have a lot of positive things to say about the film that came out last spring on the Apostle Paul. But one of the themes that was developed within the film was that Paul is in prison; he is in the maritime dungeon in Rome. Luke is also present; I’m not sure that that was historically accurate, but it made for a nice story. There were those younger individuals who did not want to submit to Rome, and they wanted to engage in some sort of opposition and rebellion.
One of them went out on his own and did some things. It brought down the power of Rome against them, and the consequence was harsh on the Christian body. I thought that little theme that they developed is so true. In an environment where you’ve got government opposition to Christianity, if you want to try to take care of it on your own and the leaders of the church say, “Shut up and sit down,” if you don’t shut up and sit down, then you are part of the problem and not part of the solution.
The leaders of the church are in the position of authority, and they understand when it’s necessary to take certain courses of action. This fits that particular scenario that Peter was writing to. All of these different Jewish-background believers were dealing with leadership within their own community that would be against them because they had become Christians, as well as hostility from the Greco-Roman culture surrounding them. So, that is addressed to the younger people.
Then we have the command HUPOTASSO. As I pointed out earlier, it’s an aorist imperative, and it is a verb that indicates the importance of submission to authority. That means doing what the person in the legitimate position of authority says to do.For many of us, we understand that there is the position—and then there’s the person who is in the position. We are to respect the position. You may not like the president of the United States, but we are going to honor and respect him because he is the President of the United States.
The same thing applies to somebody who is a teacher. You may not like your teacher. You may think your teacher is completely wrong—and they may be—but you are to show them respect. You are to treat them with deference. You are not to oppose them to their face in class.
I had a professor; his name was Dr. Jones. He was a political science professor at Stephen F. Austin, and he made it a point to pick on those that he knew were in ROTC. Back in those days, if you were in ROTC in college, then one or two days a week you would wear your uniform all day on campus. If you had him on one of those days, you would be showing up in class in uniform, and he would be pretty sure who you were. He had a tendency to pick on them.
This was the era of the Vietnam War. It was the era when there was a lot of student unrest. He was extremely liberal, and he was against the Vietnam War, against the military, and a lot of other things. So he would pick on those who were pro-military.
There were several times when his behavior was reported back to the Commandant of the ROTC department, and he would contact the head––because that was also somewhat under the liberal arts department. He would call and lodge a formal complaint. That’s the way it needed to be handled—not by verbal retaliation or name-calling in class, which would just exacerbate the issue and make it make it personal. So, we’re to respect the office.
The same thing applies in a marriage where you have a wife who is married to a husband. Unless there is a life-threatening situation where there is physical injury or something of that nature, or there are certain behaviors that are prohibited from Scripture that are legitimate grounds for divorce, then a wife is in the sometimes difficult position of submitting to that authority.
We see a good pattern here in Peter where we saw that a slave, even if he’s working for a harsh master, is still told to submit to the master and not to react or rebel against the master. This is such an important concept today for parents to teach their children. We’ve seen two or three generations, beginning with the baby-boom generation, brought up on Dr. Spock and a lot of the liberal views of child rearing that dominated that generation and is just passed on.
So, you have had a number of things happen. On the one hand, you do have a number of cases where there are parents who do not understand how to corporally discipline their children—how to physically discipline their children––so they become abusive. They do it out of anger. They do it out of hostility because the child has rebelled against them or disobeyed them in some overt way.
But a parent who is loving of their child knows that that child needs to learn respect for authority, and that begins at the very beginning. You don’t wait. I’ve heard parents say, “I’m going to wait until they are mature enough to understand what is going on.” You’re going to be a failure as a parent.
From the very beginning, when the child does something that is wrong (you’ve got a padded diaper there—you’re not hurting any kid) you just pop them one on the butt. They’re going to understand that that is a negative reinforcement. You’re not even hurting them, probably. It’s just that they know that the source of love and comfort has not been real loving and comforting at that moment, so they’ll react. But it builds a pattern. So by the time they begin to be able to talk about anything or learn anything verbally, those patterns of discipline and reproof have been established.
If you wait until they’re two or three years old––when you can explain things––you’ve just waited too long. You set the authority; you’re the parent. You’re the one in charge. You’re the one who tells them when they can and when they can’t do something; and when something is right, or something is wrong.
We have some states in the union that have passed laws that make it wrong to paddle children. We had a statement that came out from a pediatrician group this last week that does not recommend any kind of corporal punishment for children. All of this is just a way of destroying authority orientation and development of humility.
If we look back on the last 65 years, look at the pattern and look at what’s happened in each of these generations, has the application of this laid-back, non-corporal punishment view of family discipline improved the self-absorption and authority orientation of each generation? Not at all!
You see that each generation has become more self-absorbed. They don’t know how to handle it when somebody tells them, “No.” They have more pity parties and throw more tantrums.
What happens is, it destroys the moral strength and fiber of a generation. This has now been going on for three generations. We have a generation now … It’s not true for every single one of them, but it is true for a large part, a large percentage of them, that it becomes a characteristic of that particular generation.
The Scripture gives specifics. The Word of God trumps every empirical study of the psychiatrists and pediatricians and everybody else in the nation because God is the One Who created human beings. God has a more thorough understanding of your sin nature, and an infant’s sin nature, than any doctor or any psychiatrist or any counselor. He understands more completely—because He created us—what works and what doesn’t work.
You know, there’s a time for grace. There is a time for gentleness. There is also a time for discipline. Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who spares his rod …” That’s talking about the disciplinary action. “… hates his son …” That’s an extremely strong statement. If you, as a parent, are not willing to spank them from diaper-hood, then in God’s opinion you have hated your child because you’re not willing to prepare them for the ugly realities that they will face in adulthood where submission to authority and self-discipline and humility are going to be necessary to survive.
In contrast, the writer of Proverbs says, “But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” You don’t wait three or four hours, especially if they are young; by then they have forgotten about it. You promptly discipline them. You have to be very conscientious of what you’re doing as a parent as you go through the day because these teachable moments don’t occur at convenient times ––as far as I’ve observed, both personally as a child growing up and being corrected, and as an adult watching this and having to observe this. I’ve been a teacher. I’ve been a camp counselor, camp director, and lot of other things where you had to instill discipline into young kids who didn’t have any discipline and had to spend a lot of time learning these things.
Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child ...” What is meant by “foolishness” here is rebelliousness. It is the idea that they can flaunt authority without consequences. Scripture goes on to say, “The rod of correction will drive it far from him.” This doesn’t mean you’re beating the heck out of your kid! This means that you have a strong, stable, thoughtful, responsible view of corporal discipline.
So, you are going to take it in hand when the child is old enough to understand. You can explain what they’ve done and what the punishment is. But when they’re little, when they’re an infant, they just need a quick reminder that there are negative consequences, and that doesn’t mean doing harsh things to them.
Proverbs 29:15, “The rod and rebuke give wisdom ...” But this only happens when there’s humility. But humility has to be learned; it has to be enforced for some people. “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”
That’s an important principle there––because we live in a world today where, too often, parents are too busy with work and with personal things that they enjoy doing to take the time to really be with the child and to personally discipline the child. They don’t understand the parameters of it because they don’t have any doctrine in their soul.
They don’t understand the biblical principles. They have to understand humility. They have to understand the difference between mercy and justice. And they need to understand how to faithfully, evenly administer discipline.
Proverbs 23:13, “Do not withhold correction from a child …” See, we have a whole generation that if they hear an opposing viewpoint, if they hear a correction to their views, they just go through a meltdown. They have to have a “safe space”. This last week Ben Shapiro, a known conservative, was speaking at Ohio State. The University had to create a “safe space” for a number of students who just couldn’t handle the fact that there would be a conservative on campus who would be saying things that they didn’t agree with. So, they had to create this “safe space.”
This is what happens when you withhold correction from a child; they don’t know how to handle disagreement or any kind of rebuke. So, the first time they go to work for somebody, they get called in and are told that whatever they were working on was wrong and they need to do it all over again, they’re just going to have a meltdown!
The verse goes on to say, “For if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.” The rear end is a very soft spot to land the rod of correction. It was designed that way, and that will enable the child to learn the lessons. Some of us learned it quite difficult.
I remember a time. My mother was in a wheelchair. She was about this tall and had wheels, and if I got out of line, she would find a way to appropriately spank me. She wasn’t going to let being in a wheelchair stop her from doing what was necessary. So, we have to learn authority orientation. This is key.
“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders.” That means when you disagree with them, when they might even be wrong, when they suggest a course of action that you strongly disagree with, then you submit yourselves to them because they are the ones that are in authority.
“Yes, all of you be submissive to one another …” That is mutual grace orientation and love for one another. Then there’s the quote from the passage, “ ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.’ ”
The command to be submissive to one another is also stated by Paul over in Ephesians 5:21. He states almost the same thing. And Ephesians 5:21 is only three verses after 5:18. Ephesians 5:18 says, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit …”
Then, in the next verse, it uses participles through all these verses to express the results of God the Holy Spirit filling us. We are to give thanks and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Singing hymns is not something added to worship. It is central to worship. It’s foundational to worship! It’s not something that’s just added onto Sunday morning as some sort of unnecessary frill. It is at the very core! And so is submitting to one another. This is one of the results of being filled by means of the Spirit.
When you have a congregation like the congregation at Corinth, there’s a lot of rebellion. They were choosing up sides, and they were divided according to which teacher they wanted to listen to. They were making one teacher better than the other. They were not submitting to one another in the fear of God.
If you can’t submit to one another, and if you have trouble submitting to legitimate authorities in your life—whether it’s a teacher, or an officer, or an employer, or a parent—then you have trouble submitting to the authority of God. Many times God tells us to do things when we just don’t want to do it! “That’s not what my sin nature wants to do!” We want to rebel. All of us have to learn to submit to the authority of God.
Peter has emphasized this many times in 1 Peter, and he has used this same verb, HUPOTASSO, all the way through. In 1 Peter 2:13 he said, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme …” He’s writing this to those in the Roman Empire, probably during the latter part of Nero’s reign when Nero was beginning to go psychotic. Some of the laws that were coming down from Nero were hostile to Christians, and Peter is saying that you have to respect the office and the authority—even if the person in it is doing wrong things.
In our country the ultimate authority is the law—at least it should be. We’re losing a sense of that—that what sets us apart uniquely in history is that we are a nation of laws. In Romans 13:1 Paul echoes that thought and says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities …” There is not an asterisk there (even in corrupt manuscripts) listing exceptions.
He says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” Again, he’s writing to those who are under the rule of Nero. Now, Paul wrote earlier than Peter, during the better part of Nero’s reign. But the principle is that even when the person in authority is wrong, unless they are telling you or forcing you to do something that violates Scripture, we need to submit to that authority. It may be foolish to do some things. It may be unwise. It may be economically dangerous, but that doesn’t mean it violates the direct mandates of God.
In 1 Peter 2:18 Peter said, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear …” What he means by “fear” is really respect—to respect and honor the position that the master is in. He says, “… not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.” In other words, the behavior—the failures—of the person in authority do not exempt us from obeying them. They are still in that position, and they still have that role of authority.
In 1 Peter 3:1 he says, “Wives, likewise …” And that “likewise” takes us back to the command related to governing authorities. “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word …” If they are spiritually rebellious, if they are unbelievers, that doesn’t affect the need to be submissive. “… they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives...” It doesn’t say that they will be won by the conduct of their wives—that they might be; it’s potential.
Ephesians 5:24 says, “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” So, wives, what this is saying is that you, as a believer, in your relationship to the authority of your husband, are mirroring your submission to the authority of Christ, and you are giving a visual representation of how Christians should submit to Christ. That’s a tough comparison to live up to, but that’s what Paul is saying in Ephesians 5:24.
In Romans 12:10 he says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love …” The word there is PHILOSTORGOS. STORGOS comes from the word we use for a stork, and a stork’s love for her eggs. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love …” So, just as a stork is very close to—and very protective of her young—so we are to be protective with that kind of affection that seems to be indicated there by the stork.
“… in honor giving preference to one another …” Not “to one another whom you like,” not “to one another whom you agree with,” not “to one another who you think everybody should follow,” but “to one another”—even those who you disagree with—even those who may seem foolish. We are not to arrogantly put ourselves out there as a judge for another person.
Of course, the ultimate example of this kind of humility comes from the Lord Jesus Christ as demonstrated in Philippians 2:8. That whole section, from Philippians 2:6–12, focuses on Christ as the example of humility. “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself …”
Now, who did He humble Himself to? He humbled Himself to the point of death. He submitted Himself to the authority of Pontius Pilate. He submitted Himself to the authority of the unrighteous Jewish leaders, to the Herodians, to the Sadducees, to the Pharisees, to the Sanhedrin, and to all of the Roman soldiers.
He willingly submitted Himself and humbled Himself under the unrighteous command and the unrighteous legal decision to execute Him. That was not a righteous law. They were violating the very law of both Jews and Romans in the way they executed Him, and yet He submitted Himself. He humbled Himself.
What often happens with us is that in arrogance we say, “I’m not going to submit to that person. I’m not going to do what that person wants me to do,” and we elevate ourselves. The reality is that if Jesus had asserted His right behavior to not submit to unjust authority, we would not have salvation! Now, that’s a lot to think about because one thing we don’t like in our sin nature is to be forced to obey somebody who’s not doing it right and somebody who is unfair and unjust.
After first commanding the young to submit to their elders, second, he said that they should be submissive to one another. Third, he says, “… be clothed with humility, for …” Now, this is an interesting phrase. The verb is one that is only used here in the New Testament; it’s EGKOMBOOMAI. It means, “to put something on,” like an article of clothing. But it also has the idea of “tying something on.”
In the ancient world, if you were a servant and you were working for your master, then you wore an article of clothing, an apron, that indicated that you were a slave, that you were enslaved to this master. That apron would be fastened to either your belt or to a vest that you wore, and it was significant for distinguishing slaves from freemen.
When Paul uses this particular verb, that is what he is alluding to—putting on the apparel of a slave—submitting yourself to authority. As such, this imagery comes across as, “Put on humility and show your submission to one another.” It’s a picture of one who is totally submitted to someone in authority. We’re to be clothed with humility.
Here we get to a couple of words that we’ll go back and forth on. The first word for humility is this word here, TAPEINOPHROSUNE, which refers to the basic characteristic of humility. Now, if you study humility in Greek thought, humility was really a bad thing. You did not want to be humble because if you were going to be somebody, you had to assert yourself! You had to be out there making sure everybody knew all of your accomplishments and pushing yourself forward all of the time. That is just the opposite of what TAPEINOPHROSUNE indicated.
TAPEINOS is the noun, “to be humble.” So we have both of these words here. “To be clothed with humility” is submission to authority because God resists the proud, and He gives grace to the humble. Now, when we get to these two words, it should bring to mind something that we studied on Sunday morning in our study in Matthew.
This takes us to Matthew 18. Just to remind you a little bit of the context, as Jesus was coming towards the end of His ministry, there were a couple of times when you had a situation where the disciples were arguing among themselves about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom. Matthew 18 is one of those particular chapters.
We read in verse 4, “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” This is the same word that we find here that we’re looking at, TAPEINOO, which is the verb form of this term. “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” As I pointed out when we studied this, this is one of those passages that is poorly understood because we don’t understand the cultural context very well.
If we go back to the beginning of Matthew 18:1, the disciples come to Jesus and they said, “Who is going to be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” And earlier, remember, the mother of James and John came to Jesus and said, “Are You going to let my sons sit on Your right hand and left when You come into the Kingdom?” They were always vying for who’s going to be the best? Who’s going to be the greatest? Who’s going to get the positions of honor in the Kingdom?
So, Jesus gives them an object lesson here. He calls a little child to Him and sets this child down in front of them. He says, in verse 3, “ ‘…Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted …’ ” That’s a very bad translation because that indicates conversion from being an unbeliever to being a believer, and they are already believers! The actual Greek word is simply the word STREPHO, which means “to turn.”
In other words, “You’ve got to turn away from your self-absorbed arrogance and become humble.” That’s the significance of this little child. In their culture, a little child had no rights. A little child had no privileges. A little child was a nobody socially and economically. A little child was best neither seen nor heard. And James and John want to be seen and heard—they want to be somebody—and Jesus says, “You have to be a nobody like this little child. And if you don’t understand how to think properly about yourself, rather than elevating yourself, then you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Now, “enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” as we have studied, isn’t a phrase for getting into Heaven when you die. “Entering the Kingdom of Heaven” has to do with your entry as someone who would rule and reign with Jesus Christ in the Kingdom. It has a lot more to do with entering the Kingdom and enjoying the Kingdom blessings and privileges than just getting saved. Getting saved is a different concept.
What Jesus is saying here is, “If you want to have a position in the Kingdom, then you need to learn to be humble. You need to learn to submit to authority.”
This is where Peter first began to learn the importance of humility in leadership. And then, as he does this, he is going to support it. It’s a quote from Proverbs 3:34.
It starts off, “God resists the proud …” Here we have our opposing concepts: pride, or arrogance, versus humility. We’ll come back and pick this up next time to get into the Old Testament imagery here—what’s going on in Proverbs 3:34 and understanding a little bit more about the dangers of self-exultation in the sin nature.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things and to be reminded that we’re all arrogant. That’s the orientation of our basic sin nature. We’re arrogant in all kinds of sneaky ways and all kinds of ways that we like to cover up and create our own little pseudo-humility.
“We just pray that as we are honest with ourselves before the mirror of Your Word, that You will expose to us the areas where we are arrogant, where we’re self-absorbed, and where we’re self-assertive instead of trusting in You and relaxing under Your mighty hand, meaning Your power and Your authority.
“Father, we pray that You would help us to learn what it means to submit to You, that You might be exalted. In Christ’s name. Amen.”