18th Sunday after Pentecost September 23, 2018
1 Peter 5:5-7
442, WS 768 (TLH alt. 411:4-7), LSB 857 (TLH alt. 424), 652
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Prayer of the Day (Collect): O God, whose strength is made perfect in weakness,grant us humility and childlike faith that all our thoughts, words, and actions may be pleasing to You. We pray this through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord,ho lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to yourelders. 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 youn due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Someone once said that humility is the one virtue that once you think you’ve got it, you’ve lost it. Think about how true that statement is: Once you think, “I’m humble,” you’re not! This gives us an indication of just how rare and difficult true humility is to attain—by nature it’s impossible. This should also give us an indication of just how valuable this virtue is in the Christian life and how much God desires this virtue in us, His children. A virtue as difficult to obtain and maintain as humility must be of great value since Satan has obviously been working overtime since the world began to replace this great virtue humility with his favorite, most destructive vice: pride.
Now, we probably don’t hear too many sermons preached on these two opposing subjects—at least I haven’t. Admittedly, I haven’t done much preaching on them either—but that doesn’t mean they aren’t very important. When we examine what the Bible says about humility and pride we’ll begin to understand just how important they are. The fact that humility and pride don’t seem to be talked about too often today shows me that the devil has been very successful at concealing the importance of the virtue of humility and the deadly destructiveness of the vice of pride. The late Christian author, C.S. Lewis, once wrote on this subject, “The vice I am talking about is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility…Well, now we have come to the centre… the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea-bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil [1 Tim. 3:6]. Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” At the same time, humility is so important because a truly humble heart is the source of every other virtue. Our text sums up these two thoughts for us in v.5 as Peter quotes Proverbs, “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (v.5; Proverbs 3:34).
This is why the Apostle Peter encourages us to BE CLOTHED WITH HUMILITY. He doesn’t just want us to be “a little more humble” or “have a taste of humility,” but rather the inspired writer urges us to be clothed with it; be completely covered in it! This doesn’t mean walking around with a t-shirt on that says, “I’m Humble!” No, the “clothing” of humility can only be (1) PROVIDED BY GOD. What does that mean?
The true “clothing” of humility comes to us as a gift of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. True humility is created in the human heart when God’s Word tells us the truth about what we were by nature and who we are now because of God’s grace in our Savior, Jesus. By nature—when we were conceived into this world—we were sinful, we were lost, condemned, and we had nothing. But, through faith in Christ, we have been forgiven and saved eternally. We have been given everything, and we are everything to God.
With this knowledge as our starting point, what room is there for pride or boasting in our hearts? We came in dead; God made us alive! We didn’t do anything to earn that great gift, or deserve it. God gave it to us freely! We must humbly acknowledge, with the Apostle Paul, that everything—everything we are and everything we have—has been given to us a gift from God. Paul writes, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14) and “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).
Peter, in our text, gives us a one-word command to follow that is one of the keys to true humility, but without a heart changed by the love of Christ, it is an impossible command for us to obey. That word is “submit” (v.5). Kind of makes you cringe just hearing that word, doesn’t it? The word means, literally, “to willingly put yourself under someone, or something, else.” By nature we don’t want to do that! We don’t want to “submit:” not to our parents, not to our bosses, not to our government…not even to our pastors or teachers. Why not? Again, one word: pride. Pride is the opposite of submission…literally! The word that is used here in our text for “the proud” is a word in the Greek that means literally, “to show above.” Pride puts itself under no one! Pride is what causes us to have that, “Why should I listen to you?” attitude.
For you young students who started school recently, Peter speaks to you in our text and says, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders” (v.5). You will not learn much from your teachers if you do not “submit” to their authority, humble yourselves, and trust that they know better and that Jesus Himself has placed your teachers and pastor over you to help you learn and grow (especially in God’s Word).
Just in case the rest of us thought we were off the hook, Peter also speaks to all Christians when he says, “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another” (v.5). That means willingly putting others—their needs, their interests — above ourselves. It means putting others first. It, of course, also includes “submitting” to those whom God has placed over us. He wants us to humble ourselves, to accept their advice, their instruction, and correction. Above all, Peter reminds us to, “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God” (v.6).
Once again our pride can get in the way. Our pride makes us question God’s holy, wise, and gracious will for our lives. Pride causes us to ask “Why, God?” or “Where are you, God?” instead of trusting His wisdom, power, and goodness and humbling ourselves under His mighty hand. Pride makes us respond to God’s Holy Word with thoughts of “That’s not reasonable,” or “That’s outdated,” or simply, “That doesn’t apply to me!” instead of humbling ourselves under His mighty hand and trusting in His infallible, saving Word to be the ultimate truth, the ultimate guide, and the absolute authority in our lives.
Pride and a lack of humility will do more than just prevent us from learning valuable lessons from our Christian teachers, or from God’s Word itself. God’s Word clearly points out that if we are not humble we will miss out on God’s blessings, and if we are prideful we will only gain God’s wrath.
You may not have heard many sermons on the topics of humility and pride, but God certainly has a lot to say about both of these topics in His word—not just in our text from 1 Peter. I’d like to direct your attention to a few of these passages. First of all, we’ll look at two passages from Isaiah. Hear what the Lord says about those who are truly humble:
• ISAIAH 57:15—For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
• ISAIAH 66:2 (NIV-84)—“Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”
Did you catch the key word in these verses? A truly humble heart is one that is “contrite.” That means it is a heart that is sorry for its sins, completely despairs of having any righteousness on its own, and trusts the righteousness and perfect sacrifice of Jesus alone for it’s righteousness and salvation. In other words, a humble heart trusts God to provide the clothing of humility, for with the clothing of godly humility comes the clothing of Christ’s righteousness.
Now, in contrast, look at what the Scriptures say about pride. Listen to these two passages from the book of Proverbs:
• PROVERBS 16:5—Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished.
• PROVERBS 16:18—Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.
It is one of the greatest paradoxes of the Bible—and one of the greatest paradoxes of life itself—that humility brings glory, and honor, while pride brings shame and destruction. Listen to two more passages from Proverbs and hear how God explains this “paradox”:
• PROVERBS 11:2—When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom.
• PROVERBS 29:23—A man’s pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor.
We don’t need to go searching for glory or honor. We need to “be clothed with humility” (v.5) and trust that (2) GOD WILL DO THE EXALTING. How can we be sure of this? Just look at the example of God’s own Son Jesus, who lived in perfect humility and submission to God’s Word. Jesus “clothed Himself with humility.” He clothed Himself with a towel on Maundy Thursday, the night Judas betrayed Him, and humbly washed His disciples’ feet. He was clothed with the purple robe, the crown of thorns, as He suffering under the hands of the Roman soldiers. He clothed Himself with our sins and our punishment on the cross. Listen to how beautifully the Apostle Paul describes this for us in his letter to the Philippians:
• PHILIPPIANS 2:3-8 (NIV-84)—“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
He did all this to save us. For Him, it was all worth it. Jesus also knew that when it was all said and done He would be exalted and clothed in glory when He rose from the dead and ascended back to His throne in heaven. Because He was exalted, He has promised us that we too will be exalted. We too will be raised from our graves on the Last Day. We too will ascend with all believers to our mansions in God’s heavenly kingdom. Our struggle here on earth, our struggle against our pride and our sinful flesh—the same struggles experienced by the Christians to whom Peter first wrote this text—they will all be worth it!
Until then, God has promised to give us His divine help and care in this life. Peter gives us some of the most comforting words in the Bible in v.7 “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” And, finally, He has promised to exalt us with an eternal crown of glory in heaven. Hear Jesus’ words from the book of Revelation, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
With God’s help, what will being “clothed with humility” look like in your life? It could mean swallowing our pride and humbling ourselves before God and realizing that we don’t always know best. For young people, it could mean doing a better job of listening to our teachers or our parents when they are instructing and correcting us. For all of us, it could mean humbling ourselves by taking the time to reach out a hand to help someone who needs it. Being attentive to the needs of others—our friends, our family members, our spouse—taking the time to really listen to them and “being submissive to one another” (v.5)—willingly putting ourselves and our needs “under” theirs. It could mean swallowing our pride and saying, “I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry. Please forgive me,” to someone that we’ve wronged. That is not weakness. It is strength! That is not shameful. It is grace-full (see v.5). It is the type of attitude and heart that God exalts (v.7)! May God so clothe each one of us! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked “NIV-84” are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.