God Loves Humility
Passage: 1 Peter 5:5-7
In March, Pastor Kris and I attended a pastors’ conference in the Phoenix area. Before we left we were talking about the speakers we would be hearing, and I was trying to describe for Pastor Kris the style of one of the speakers he had not heard. I said that when this man is preaching, he has such a kind manner that it feels like he is putting his arm around you compassionately while he is also punching you in the face with conviction. That’s how I have felt this week studying our text. Verse 7 is among the most comforting verses in the Bible as it paints a beautiful picture of God’s fatherly love. But while God puts his fatherly arm around you in this text, this passage also punches proud sinners in the nose as it challenges us to walk in humility. This tension is clear in the end of v. 5. It is very sobering to think that God stands opposed to the proud, but it is incredibly comforting to know that he gives grace to the humble. I trust that God’s Word will accomplish its perfect work in us today, that it will convict where we need conviction, and that it will give comfort where we need comfort. My outline consists of four commands. The first command is…
Submit to elders (v. 5a).
I’d like to answer three questions regarding this command. First…
Who are the elders?
There are two legitimate ways to understand “elders.” As a kid I heard this verse quoted often under the assumption that “elders” simply means “older people.” When I heard “obey your elders,” I understood that to mean obey your parents, teachers, or any adult who is telling you to do something. But the challenge with this view is that “elders” clearly refers to the office of pastor in vv. 1–4 and “likewise” seems to closely connect this command with what precedes. But the challenge with taking “elders” as a reference to pastors is that the command is specifically addressed to “younger people.” If “elders” means pastors, then why is the command only addressed to a segment of the congregation? It seems that by placing elder and younger next to each other, Peter must thinking of age. But I think it’s better to take elders as a reference to the pastoral office for a couple of reasons. First, that’s clearly what the term means in context, and it would be quite a shift for Peter to change meanings so drastically without any signal that he is doing so. Second, while the Scriptures are clear that we should honor and respect those who are older, they never teach that every older person is necessarily an authority. For example, suppose I’m at a donut shop inhaling donuts, and an older person tells me, “Stop eating those because they will kill you.” I ought to listen respectfully to what he is saying, and I probably should heed his advice, but I’m not actually obligated before God to obey him. However, as we saw last week, the Scriptures do teach that pastors have an authoritative role. This leads to my second question…
Why is the charge addressed to younger people?
The answer is that younger people tend to be arrogant and insubordinate. They don’t realize how little they know because life hasn’t humbled them yet. They haven’t fallen on their face enough to realize they aren’t that great and don’t have all the answers. When you are young, it’s not just that you don’t know all of the answers; you don’t even know all of the questions. I remember as a kid not understanding why my dad didn’t just buy nicer farm equipment. It can’t be that expensive. And I grew very arrogant for a time during Bible College. As I became knowledgeable enough to be dangerous, I became hypercritical of chapel speakers or Bible teachers. At times I thought I new better than people with Ph.Ds.’ Teenagers and young adults, one of the most valuable lessons you can learn is that you don’t know that much yet. When you think you know better than Mom and Dad, trust me that this is nothing more than youthful arrogance. Learning to humbly receive instruction is one of the most valuable lessons of wisdom you can learn. The third question is…
What does it mean to submit?
A pastor does not have the same kind of authority as a parent or the government because they have involuntary power. In other words, you can’t choose them; whereas, your submission to a church is voluntary. That does affect how a pastor leads. Pastoring like a drill sergeant won’t get me very far. However, the NT clearly teaches that the church and the leadership of the church is a God-ordained authority that he expects us to obey. Of course, there are limits to that authority. It’s not my place to tell you which car to buy. But a pastor is an authority in the church, and God commands believers to obey them as they obey the commands they are given in vv. 1–4. The second command is…
Walk humbly before all people (v. 5b).
With this challenge and the remaining two, Peter gives a command and then a powerful reason for obeying it. Let’s talk about the command to walk humbly before all people.
The KJV and NKJV make this a double command, but if you have any other version, the phrase “be submissive” is probably not included. This is because the phrase is not included in the best manuscripts and probably is not original, but the idea is not significantly different either way because submission and humility are closely related. Peter commands Christians to “clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” As we’ve said before, “one another” is primarily a reference to the church, though the command would apply to any human relationship. All of our relationships should be marked by humility. Last Sunday we read Matthew 20:24–28, where Jesus condemned an attitude that uses power to “lord it over” those under them. Pride uses power to get my way or to show off my glory. But Jesus says that a truly great leader uses his power to serve, and he notes that this is exactly what he did. Paul provides a powerful meditation on the humility of Christ in Philippians 2:3–8. Verses 3–4 condemn manifestations of pride, and they also provide a wonderful summary of the heart of humility. Humility is about putting others ahead of myself, and then Paul describes in powerful terms the way Christ demonstrated this kind of humility by leaving his glorious throne in heaven, to become a man. Not only that v. 8 says that he humbled himself to the point dying a humiliating death on the cross. Even though Jesus is eternal God and rightly deserves glory, he did not pursue glory in his earthly ministry. Instead he was humiliated for the sake of sinners. And God says that we are to “clothe ourselves” with this kind of humility. The term for “clothe” is a rare term that pictured a slave or a shepherd tying on an apron to protect their clothes while doing humble, dirty work. Peter is saying, tie on your towel, and get to work serving each other.
I don’t think we can ask ourselves too often, “Do I have a heart of humility.” Is my life about me and about pursuing what I want, or do I see myself as insignificant, and is my life about humbling serving others? I have been convicted many times by the idea that the greatest test of my humility is how I respond when I am treated like a servant. When your wife asks you to do something trivial or you are serving behind the scenes at church, do you embrace it or do you think, “This is below me.” Does it bother you if no one notices your hard work? Or if someone is critical, do you throw your hands in the air and quit? Oh how we need to work every day to adopt the attitude of Christ. We should pray, “Lord, give me a heart to serve. Make me content to support others in the shadows or even to endure misunderstanding if necessary for the good of my family, my church, and my community. Today is Mother’s Day, and I am so thankful for a mother and a wife who have exemplified this kind of spirit to me. Motherhood is rarely glorious but is it very significant. We ought to praise the Lord today for humble women who have profoundly impacted our lives because of their service. Peter then adds a powerful…
Basis for the Command:
This is a quotation from Proverbs 3:34, and it also appears in James 4:6. The first half of the statement is very sobering. It would be one thing if God said that he is indifferent to the proud, but he says that he “resists,” or is “opposed” to the proud. God actively and continually stands in opposition to them. How sobering is it that if you are arrogant and life is always about you, then God is opposed to you. Sometimes, we dismiss pride as pretty insignificant. You can be proud, and as long as you don’t say anything too outlandish, people don’t think a second thought, but God does. God hates pride, and we need to appreciate how wicked it is and drive it out. But while God has a strongly negative reaction to pride, he has an equally strong reaction to humility. “God gives grace to the humble.” The Scriptures talk over and over about God’s love for the humble. Think of all of the humble people God used in profound ways. God repeatedly chose the younger brother. He chose Jacob, Joseph, and David. He chose others from humble backgrounds such as Rahab, Ruth, Elijah, Amos, Mary, and most of the 12 disciples. And barren women have played a very significant role in God’s purpose. Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah were all miraculously blessed with sons whom God used greatly. God chose these people because he loves to bless humility. And God loves to save humble people. First Corinthians 1:26–29 says, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty…that no flesh should glory in His presence.”
If you are serving in humility, it may be that no one notices, but God does, and he smiles on your humility. In the words of Christ, you may be “last” on earth, but you will be “first” in heaven. And right now, he is giving you constant grace. Keep going. Don’t lose heart. Let’s all commit to walking humbly in our relationships. Don’t use them to pursue your glory but to serve, and rest in the fact that God sees even if no one else does, and God will give grace. The third command in this text is…
Walk humbly before God (v. 6).
Verse 5 focused on humility in relationships, but v. 6 shifts to an even more significant form of humility. Let’s talk about…
This command paints a rich picture of humility. “The mighty hand of God” is a common OT picture. In particular the story of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, talks frequently about God’s hand delivering Israel. God’s hand speaks of his infinite strength, his power to do whatever he desires. But the hand of God also pictures his compassionate care. Therefore, to humble ourselves under God’s hand means to submit to his wise purpose and to rest in his ability to accomplish it. It means that rather than thinking that I know best, I instead humbly admit that I don’t know everything but God does. And I trust his wisdom and good purpose. It means that rather than thinking that I am sufficient to solve all of my problems, I humbly admit that I can’t solve them all. I can’t fix the problem at work, I can’t fix our nation, I can’t fix the conflict in our family, I can’t fix the sinful heart of my child, and I can’t even fix the sin in my own heart. I am not sufficient for any of these things. But God is able to resolve all of these things. Therefore, I must humble myself before him. I must say, “Lord, I’m not sufficient for this, and I don’t know what is best, but you do.” And then I must go forward intentionally resting in his care and trusting his will. Peter then gives…
The Basis for the Command:
There is some debate over whether this promise is purely a reference to eternity or if it also holds out hope for exaltation in this life. God does sometimes bless humility in this life, but he never promises exaltation in this life. Therefore, it’s best to see this promise as looking to eternity. The idea of exaltation is especially significant in a context about humility. It would have been very meaningful to Peter’s persecuted readers. Many of them were living humble lives as outcastes from society. But even if no one in this world noticed or cared, God did. And someday he would exalt them. And God will do the same for us. If we bring ourselves low before God now, he will lift us high in eternity. This sounds very similar to Jesus promise that the humble, or the last will someday be made first. I believe that when we get to heaven someday, we are going to be surprised by who is seated highly. Some of the highest seats in heaven are going to belong to quiet missionaries who served in anonymity in hard places. They never saw thousands get saved or had books written about them, but they faithfully served in a hard place. The highest seats will belong to some quiet mothers who didn’t have any outstanding gifts or ever get much notice from others, but they modeled godliness for their children, and they raised them to love the Lord and serve his church. I think there will be high seats for some who were always limited by physical or mental handicaps or by illness. They were never able to do much, but they walked with the Lord, they prayed for his people, and they did everything they could to encourage others through notes of encouragement and kind words. If you are laboring for Christ with limited ability or in relative anonymity, stay encouraged. You may feel insignificant and even worthless. You may feel like you have very little to give, but that doesn’t matter to God because he owns everything and he doesn’t need any of us. Stay faithful, be a good steward of what you have, and in due time, God will exalt you. The fourth command is…
Humbly give your worries to God (v. 7).
Technically, there is no command in v. 7. “Casting” is a participle that is grammatically dependent on the command in v. 6 to “humble yourselves.” The relationship between the two verses is very important as we will see in a moment, but v. 7 is significant enough that it deserves its own discussion. Of course, this is a very familiar verse that has ministered grace to many of us in times of tremendous concern. Life is often filled with cares isn’t it? We face a multitude of relatively minor cares and some that are major. Probably all of us could write out a long list of them write now if we took the time. To cast a care on the Lord simply means to hand it over to him. There is a close parallel in Philippians 4:6–7, which state, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” We give our cares to the Lord by praying about them and by trusting in his “mighty hand” as v. 6 says. It doesn’t mean that we neglect our responsibility. We continue to do what God expects of us to resolve our problems. But we trust his will and rest in him. Again, we believe that he knows best and has the power to accomplish what is good. When you are faced with a care, rather than worrying or fretting, cast it on the Lord.
The Basis for the Command:
We should do so, not only because God is wise and powerful but also because he cares for you. Of course, this is a reference to his infinite love. This love is significant because it means that God notices. He sees our efforts to follow him and do what is right even if no one else does. This is significant in a context about humility. If you obey v. 5 and you humble yourself rather than exalting yourself, you may wonder if anyone notices or cares. But God sees and God cares for the humble. It might be that you are bearing a weight today that no one seems to notice. Mother’s Day is generally a joyful day, but maybe you are quietly missing a deceased mother or wife or child. Maybe you are fearful that you will never be a mother or be able to have another child. There are many other burdens represented in this room that no one or very few people see. But God sees because God cares. He empathizes with your pain. He is concerned for you. Finally, God’s love is comforting because it makes him even more trustworthy. What a blessing it is to know that God’s plan is not just the product of perfect wisdom but also perfect love. You may look at your circumstances today and be convinced that they are bad, and to some extent they may be. But what a blessing it is to know that a loving Father stands behind them all. And so rest today in the care of God. Hold onto your confidence in God’s love even as you endure darkness. Cast your anxieties on God because he cares for you.
Dependence on the Command:
But it’s not just because God cares that we are to cast our cares on him. Remember that I said earlier that “casting” is dependent on the command in v. 6 to “humble yourselves.” The idea is that we humble ourselves by casting our cares on God. But maybe that sounds strange to you. How is giving my concerns to God an act of humility? Thomas Schreiner nails it when he says, “Worry is a form of pride because when believers are filled with anxiety, they are convinced that they must solve all the problems in their lives in their own strength. The only god they trust is themselves. When believers throw their worries upon God, they express their trust in his mighty hand, acknowledging that he is Lord and Sovereign over all of life.” What a convicting statement. Being humble before God means recognizing that I don’t have all of the answers. My way is not always the best way. It means recognizing that I can’t fix all of my problems. I am not sufficient. It means saying, “God, you alone are all-knowing and all-powerful.” It means that anything else is pride.
In sum, the theme of this passage is that believers must walk humbly before God and men because God blesses humility. I think you can see how God puts his arm around us in this passage. We have seen very clearly that we can rest humbly in him. But this passage has probably also knocked a couple of teeth out. Let’s be challenged to pursue humility through submission to authority, through deference to others and through submitting to God.
Before we close, there may be someone here who needs to take the first step of humility before God by acknowledging your need for salvation. This is a very important step because the height of human pride is thinking that I am good enough to earn the favor of God. But the Scriptures are clear that we can never be good enough and that salvation is entirely of grace so that we have no room to boast. And Jesus provided that grace by taking our judgment on himself in the cross. If you have never been saved, I pray that you will humble yourself before God at the cross. Recognize that you are a sinner, and you cannot save yourself. Recognize that your only hope is in what Christ accomplished. And believe on him for salvation.