The call for each of us to be humble
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
This morning we are going to be thinking about the call for each of us to be humble. In our passage this morning Peter tells us to clothe ourselves with humility toward one another and he tells us to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. Humility under God and humility toward each other should characterize us in this place more and more.
But before we get into the details of thinking through this call to humility we need first to get our bearings in 1 Peter and to see the logical structure of Peter’s thought.
Peter has been writing to encourage and prepare God’s people for suffering in this world as we wait for Jesus Christ to return.
Peter has reminded us of who we are as the people who have been the recipients of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. We are those who have been born again into God’s own family and will very soon receive the full benefits of the salvation of our souls – though now, for a short time we are being grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of our faith, which is more precious than gold, may result in praise, honor, and glory at the appearing of Jesus.
Suffering in our lives is designed by God. There is purpose behind all our suffering. One of those purposes of suffering is to test, refine, and purify the quality of our faith in Jesus Christ. Like gold is tested by fire so that the dross is removed and only the pure gold is left, so believers are experiencing this kind of testing. Indeed the suffering that believers experience is a kind of judgment intended to demonstrate that we are in fact born again, that we love the Lord Jesus Christ, that we believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. And so Peter writes to give us the contours of genuine Christianity and encourage and call us to that life through and in the mist of suffering.
The time is short. The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, preparing your minds for action and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. We are to live in this world just before our Lord appears as obedient children of God, holy as He is holy and in earnest love for the people of God – our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are a spiritual house in Christ Jesus, built upon the His blood and righteousness, a house designed to proclaim God’s praises in word and deed.
The unbelieving world should see a difference in us. We are not normal american citizens. We are not normal servants and employees. We are not normal wives or husbands. We are not normal people. We are to have unity, sympathy, brotherly love, tender hearts, and humble minds. Not repaying evil for evil. We are to behave as our Lord Jesus did in this world – even unto death. Yes, we who suffer according to God’s will are to entrust our souls to Him as our faithful Creator while doing what is good.
Last time Peter turned to exhort the leaders of God’s family on earth, the elders. The leaders are to shepherd the precious flock of God, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those they are commissioned to care for, but setting the believers an example. And again the elders were called to consider the great reward, the eternal crown of glory that all genuine sons and daughters of God will receive who persevere in the faith.
This morning we come to verse 5 where Peter turns to those who are younger and then to all of us together. So we will very briefly consider Peter’s exhortation to the young and then we will spend the rest of our time this morning considering his exhortation to us all.
So in verse 5 Peter turns and addresses those who are younger in the church. He says, “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.”
The first thing we need to do is make sure we know to whom Peter is speaking. He has just finished exhorting the elders and now turns to those who are younger. This has led some to think that Peter was addressing those who are older in the congregation in verses 1-4 because now he turns to the younger. But as we noticed last time, we know that Peter is clearly speaking to the leaders of the church in verse 1-4 because he exhorts them in the responsibilities unique to the leaders of the church, called ‘elders’ throughout the NT.
But this leaves us to wonder just who Peter has in mind now in verse 5. Is Peter speaking to those who are younger in the faith? Is he speaking to the rest of the congregation? Is he speaking to those who are younger in years? It is not immediately plain just who Peter is speaking to, but here are my thoughts on the question.
It would seem strange for Peter to address the rest of the congregation as “those who are younger.” This title is nowhere else used to describe those who are not elders in the church. It would also be strange for Peter to be addressing those who are younger in the faith since he does not make that qualification clear. Of the options it seems best to take Peter to be speaking to those who are younger in age in the congregation, perhaps because younger people tend to struggle most with submitting to leadership.
At any rate, Peter’s exhortation to the younger within the community of faith is to be subject to the elders. “Be subject to,” means to be willing to submit to the orders or wishes of someone else, in this case the leaders of the church. This does not mean submit to the elders regardless of what they tell you to do. If a leader or the entire group of leaders asks you to participate in or do something that you know to be contrary to God’s Word than you must obey God rather than men.
But, Peter is sending a signal here to those who might be disposed otherwise that the believing community should be inclined to submit the authority God has appointed for the care of the Body and not to be cantankerous or insubordinate. God has established leadership in His church and the Spirit has appointed particular men to hold the office of elder and He will call those men to give an account for how they shepherded God’s people. The Christian community ought not be characterized by disorder and rebellion but a willingness to submit ourselves to the leadership God has appointed.
All of You
Peter now turns, in the middle of verse 5 to exhort all of us. And what he says to us all actually extends down through verse 11. This morning we will look at his instruction through verse 7. And everything he will say this morning really hangs on his quotation of Proverbs 3:34. The quotation Peter uses to ground his instruction is found at the end of verse 6, “…God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
This is the strong testimony of the Scriptures. So for example Luke 14:11 says, “…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” And God says in Isaiah 66:2, “this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. It is from this truth that Peter exhorts each of us to humble ourselves before God’s mighty hand and to clothe ourselves with humility toward one another so I want to unpack this truth first.
God Opposes the Proud
It is truly a fearful thing to have God against you. We are not talking about having a light breeze against us. We’re not talking about having a child against us. We are talking about the Triune God who kept the universe in order today and who kept your heart beating today and who has the power to cast your soul into hell. It is a truly significant thing to say that God opposes the proud. God hates pride in His creatures. Isaiah 2:11-12
The haughty looks of man shall be brought low,
and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled,
and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
For the Lord of hosts has a day
against all that is proud and lofty,
against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low.
God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.
God Gives Grace to the Humble
As terrible as it is it think about God almighty set against us it is equally as breathtaking to know that this same almighty God is for us and extending kindness to us, genuine good will. Again, we are not talking about having a light breeze on our side, and we are not even talking about having the most powerful military force in the world on your side. We are talking about having the one true God whose…
…dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34-5)
If God is for us who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
Yes, there is no greater thing than to have God extending His undeserved kindness to you and there is no more fearful thing than to have Him against you. So, let us not skim over these words, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Of the Humble
The question we need to ask ourselves this morning is this: am I one of ‘the humble’ or one of ‘the proud’? In other words, am I born of God or dead in trespasses and sins? Am I in Christ Jesus or far from Him?
Truly that is the question this morning. Peter turns to the assembly of God’s people and says, Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another and humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. If we are of that redeemed people than we must act like it.
As 1 John 2:5b-6 says, “…By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.”
Even as it is gloriously true that we do not gain or lose God’s favor based upon our performance today, but instead are declared righteous (justified) once and for all based completely upon Christ’s blood and righteousness received by faith, it is also true that this standing before God is not all we received when we were saved. We were born anew. God’s gift of salvation is not just forgiveness and imputed righteousness; it is also life abundant; it is Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).
This is indeed what Peter has been telling us in this letter. If you and I have been born again, born from above, we will not be normal people. Those who are genuine believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have been anointed by the Holy Spirit and He dwells in us so we will produce the fruit of the Spirit. Again, Peter has told is that trials and suffering are designed to prove that we are indeed that genuine new people. Our conduct in this world, under suffering matters because it demonstrates the genuineness of our faith.
So it is true that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble, therefore any of us who thinks we can say with our mouths Jesus is Lord and yet go one living in arrogance toward God and each other is a liar.
Hear me: I believe the Scriptures are clear that Christians do still struggle with the flesh (the sin nature inherited from Adam), but Christians do not live in an accord with those sinful inclinations. They do not live in harmony with sin. That is not who we are anymore. Christians put to death the sinful deeds of the body and live in harmony with the Spirit of Christ who dwells with in them. If we live in harmony with sin we are not Christ’s (Romans 8:3-14). 1 John 5:18 – “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep sinning…”
God does oppose the proud. If we live arrogantly embracing a life of pride we are proving we are not Christ’s and God is indeed against us. But if we live turning away from every ugly hint of pride that we see in ourselves and live pursuing humility we are proving that we are Christ’s and God is indeed even now for us. As Peter says it is those who humble themselves that, at the proper time, God will exalt (verse 6).
So Peter gives us two places humility must be evident. He says in verse 5, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another…” and in verse 6 he says, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you…”
I’d like to take the second instruction first.
Humble Yourself Under God’s Mighty Hand
I think this is the place we must start. Are we humbled under the mighty hand of God? What does it mean to be humble anyway?
C.J. Mahaney has written a helpful book called Humility: true greatness. In it he helpful defines humility this way: humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.
We have not attained true humility until we have a right view of ourselves. Truly it is only when we understand the depths of our sinfulness and the heights of God’s greatness that we will rightly assess ourselves. There is no such thing as a truly humble person who does not acknowledge God for who He is and also acknowledge themselves as an utterly unworthy sinful creature before Him. Peter is telling us that we are to be the people who acknowledge God’s mighty sovereign hand and view ourselves accurately under Him.
And all of us must pursue this humility everyday because everyday we are prone, in our sinful nature, to belittle and ignore God and to esteem and inflate ourselves. Everyday we must pursue humility.
But how? How do we grow more and more humble everyday? Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote,
There is only one I know that crushes me to the ground and humiliates me to the dust, and that is to look at the Son of God, and especially contemplate the cross.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My riches gain I count but lose
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Nothing else can do it. When I see that I am a sinner…that nothing but the Son of God on the cross can save me, I’m humbled to the dust…Nothing but the cross can give us this spirit of humility.
John Stott wrote,
Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to be saying to us, “I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.” Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.
Far from offering us flattery, the cross undermines our self-righteousness, and we can stand before it only with a bowed heart and a broken spirit.
John Owen wrote,
Fill your affections with the cross of Christ that there may be no room for sin.
Carl Henry said,
How can anyone be arrogant when he stands beside the cross?
Indeed, it is as we learn of Christ in all His glorious splendor, holiness, grace, and love that we will more and more be humbled.
Casting All Your Anxieties On Him Because He Cares For You
Interestingly, Peter applies this humility under God’s mighty hand in a way that we might not expect. He says in verse 6, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you…” and then in verse 7 he applies this humility by saying, “casting all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.”
An important expression of humility is that we take our anxieties and hand them over to God. We are not truly humble until we rightly assess God’s promises and character and trust Him at His word. That is to say, if we are walking around racked with anxiety, fear, and worry, and we have not entrusted those things to God, what are we saying about God? We are either saying He does not care about us or we are saying He is not strong enough or wise enough to handle our problems and bring them to a good end.
This verse makes it quite plain that we are to cast all our anxieties on Him, not just some. Remember that Peter is speaking into the lives of believers who were facing pain and persecution and Peter is telling them to trust God. He has not lost the reigns. It is in fact an expression of humility to trust God like a child and cast all our anxieties in Him, knowing that He does indeed care for us.
Clothe Yourselves With Humility Toward One Another.
But Peter does not only tell us to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, he also tells us to clothe ourselves with humility toward one another. Our interactions with one another ought always to take place in the dust at the foot of the cross. Our offenses against one another are nothing compared to the offenses we have been forgiven by God.
You will recall Jesus’ parable of the king who wished to settle his accounts, we read in Matthew 18:23-35.
Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents(an astronomical amount, something like 10,000 years of wages for an average laborer). And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything. ’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii(about 100 days wages), and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe. ’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you. ’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? ’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.
Understanding who I am before God must effect how I understand my fellow servants. You and I have been forgive infinite debt, clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another. Peter said in chapter 2 and verse 1 there should be no malice or deceit or hypocrisy or envy or slander in the family of God. Each of us must be clothed with humility.
There is some much more we could meditate on together, but here are just a few applications of what humility means in our interactions with each other:
- Humility means recognizing we are all slaves of Christ and so we are to be more concerned with the glory of Christ that with our own praise and glory.
- Humility means recognizing that anything we have (ability, knowledge, money, faith, etc) was given as a gift we do not deserve. “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
- Humility will mean being able to receive criticism with thankfulness (the greatest criticism has already been made at the cross and resolved at the cross. We do not stand approved by our own merits or gifts or efforts and we all know that we have not yet be glorified. Criticism should not crush us if we are humble).
- Humility means we will expect no better treatment than our Lord and Master received while on earth.
Growing in Humility
I’d like to end thing morning by asking, how do we grow to be more and more humble, under God and toward one another? I just have four biblical strategies we all need to be practicing:
- Place yourself at the foot of the cross every morning – preach the gospel to yourself
- Daily read the Scriptures
- Pray for God’s help
- Encourage one another everyday