BibleTools

Topical Studies

 A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


Bible verses about Humility
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Being humble is a choice! Peter brings this out in I Peter 5:6: "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God." James 4:10 agrees: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord." Even as we can choose to fast, we can choose to allow our minds to change and submit to God to become one with Him. Hardening our hearts, or exercising our pride, is a choice too (see Hebrews 3:8, 15).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Separation and At-One-Ment


 

The Day of Atonement is a time of fasting in conjunction with searching out our sins and repenting of them so we might be one with God and fellow man. On this day, especially, we should pursue very few of our normal daily responsibilities. Thus, as we feel the hunger and thirst pangs rise within us, we should have the time to study God's Word and meditate upon our lives. God's Word, meditation, and our body's cries to be fed should work to focus our attention on our insufficiency when denied the generous and life-giving blessings of God.

Without what God supplies, we would have no life in the first place, and now that we have life, it cannot be sustained without His continued providence. Honestly facing our need should drive us to humility and humble submission in prayer. God is the only One who can supply what we truly desire and need in order to fulfill His purpose and our hope. Jesus' prayer was that we be one with the Father even as He was one with Him (John 17:20-23). Humility is a major route to that end.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Genesis 22:1

After what things had passed? What had passed was the whole, interesting story of his life up to this point. It has been said that to follow God Abraham gave up more than any other man. Now, at age 133, he is looking back on a lifetime of trials. Perhaps he thought that he had proved his faith and could relax a bit and enjoy his old age. God, however, had another test for him, the biggest yet. Though God does not tempt us (James 1:13), He does test us. Nevertheless, Abraham eagerly responds when God calls his name: "Here I am!" What tremendous humility this shows.

Mike Ford
Abraham's One God


 

Exodus 3:10-11

The time had come. Previously, Moses thought he was ready, and he impetuously promoted himself to do the job. He did it without waiting for God.

Look at the difference: Before, Moses promoted himself, but now he says, "God, who am I?" What a change took place in his thinking! He not only hesitated about going, but he almost seems petrified about the prospects of going. This is a true principle of those who have been humbled in their field of expertise.

The young foolishly think, in their vanity, that their strength will allow them to sail through any problem. They are deceived by their own ignorance. Like Moses, they foolishly rush in where angels fear to tread. When they come to understand, usually after years of experience, they realize how very little they know.

This principle is clearly shown in the way a student of science might be humbled. He may have graduated from high school, then from college, and may have even obtained a master's degree and now works on a doctorate. He has learned a great deal. However, after maybe twenty years of experience in the field of chemistry or biology, he realizes there is a great deal more that he does not know, more than his accumulation of schooling and experience. If he is a Christian, he begins to see God's creation and the Creator's mind in a much different light.

That is what has happened to Moses. In those forty years, his impetuous spirit had been dissolved, and he saw the power of Egypt in its true light. He may have feared execution, imprisonment, or embarrassment by the powerful Egyptians.

Does this not encumber and constrain us as well? We worry and fear that we will look foolish before friends and relatives if we obey God—if we keep the Sabbath or tithe. How many of our relatives have castigated us because of tithing? It seems awfully dumb to them, but how do we feel? Do we fear what they think?

Moses more fully recognizes his weaknesses in comparison to Egypt, and he quails at the thought. God has to overcome Moses' resistance. What a change! Moses was going to do it on his own before, but God now has to overcome his resistance. All of the testing God had put Moses through produces right faith and right conviction.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction, Moses and Us


 

Exodus 4:10-16

Moses instructs us regarding our feelings about ourselves. We often claim that we have no talents, just as Moses said, "I am not a man of words." He did not have the gift by nature, and he had not developed it since God began speaking to him. This is the same man about whom Stephen, while defending himself against the Jews, said “was mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22).

There is no contradiction here. Both Moses and Stephen were correct. Moses did not have the gift of speaking. The power in Moses' words was not in himself, but in what God added to his words. God made the impact on the hearer's mind.

It could be speculated that Moses never really overcame this, never becoming eloquent as men would count eloquence. Yet, what he said had awesome power because God was in what he said. Both men were correct. Moses said powerful things because God added to what he said.

This is instructive for us because we are similar. We tend to ask, "Who am I?" or "What can I do?" The answer is that God has called the weak of the world (I Corinthians 1:26-31), and all we have to offer Him is our lives and a willingness to be used. He adds where we lack. He does this so that no man can glory in His presence. God intends this to humble us. We have to recognize that God adds the increase and makes effective what we say and do.

Moses undoubtedly had learning from his upbringing in Egypt that was as good as a person could receive at that time. He had ideas about what a leader should be like, that a hero needed to be a blazing personality who commanded peoples' attention, who was good-looking and had everything going for him.

God does not call many mighty in that regard. God uses the weak, and He will glorify Himself in them. Moses did not yet recognize this principle. This would be God's work, the focus would be on God, and what God supplied would always be sufficient for the task. Learning and keeping our place in God's plan is a very hard lesson for us to learn.

In verse 14, God becomes angry at Moses' resistance and his underlying disbelief. God's promise to be with him did not mean that Moses would suddenly become eloquent and fluent. God knows how to use His creatures, and He will use them to His ends. If a man has great resources, his sufficiency makes God unnecessary, and he becomes puffed up. So through Paul, God makes clear that He purposely calls the weak for His purpose.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)


 

Leviticus 23:27-32

The focus in these verses is on the spirit or attitude in which we keep Atonement. Considering verse 29, doing things right on this day is a serious responsibility. For religious Jews, this is the most solemn day of the year.

Three times in this short span of verses God commands us to afflict our souls or be afflicted. Many think that "fast" is derived from the same word as "afflict," but such is not the case. They are not cognate; in the Hebrew they have no etymological connection. They are two different words with distinctly different roots. God probably uses these different words to emphasize the attitude one should have during a fast, rather than the act itself, because it is entirely possible for a person to fast for a day and not be in the right attitude. However, when done properly, fasting can very greatly enhance the lesson of this holy day.

"Fast" is derived from a word meaning "to cover the mouth," implying that no nourishment gets past it into the body.

"Afflict," anah, is an intriguing word, giving us great insight into how God intends us to use this day. According to The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, its primary meaning is "to force or try to force into submission," "to punish or inflict pain upon." When used in contexts involving attitude, it means "to find oneself in a stunted, humble, lowly position; cowed." It is used to describe what one does to an enemy (Numbers 24:24), what Sarah inflicted on Hagar (Genesis 16:6), and what the lawless do to the weak (Exodus 22:22). It is used of the pain inflicted on Joseph's ankles by his chains (Psalm 105:18). Moses describes Egypt's treatment of Israel with this word (Exodus 1:11-12), and in this case, it implies more than the emotional pain of slavery but something that hurt physically. Thus, in Strong's Concordance, the author uses such forceful and painful words as "browbeat," "deal hardly with," "defile," "force," "hurt," and "ravish" to describe it. Anah is a strong, forceful word.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Leviticus 26:40-42

We must turn our guilt into responsibility, first by acknowledging and admitting we have committed sin, and then by repenting, changing, and overcoming our wrong ways. The initial step to overcoming sin is to humble our hearts and accept our guilt. Overcoming, that is, our struggle after righteousness, is evidence of our admission of personal guilt; by striving to rid ourselves of sin and living in accordance with God's standards, we admit to God that we are guilty of sin. The apostle James writes:

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted [found guilty] by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:8-10)

Vine's Expository Dictionary defines the Greek word enochos, “guilty” in James 2:10, as “lit., 'held in, bound by, liable to a charge or action by law.'” When guilty of sin, we have bound ourselves by it, relinquishing our liberty.

Martin G. Collins
What Must We Do When We Recognize Our Guilt?


 

Numbers 16:3

To paraphrase, they said, "Look! Who are you, Moses? You've taken this authority to yourself, but it should be shared among all the people, because we have all been called out. We are all holy before God. Why then do you exalt yourself above the congregation of the LORD?"

Notice what they say. It is quite ironic. They say, "You are taking too much authority to yourself. Everybody should have this authority." And then they accuse Moses of exalting himself: "You put yourself in this position." But were they not attempting to do the very same thing? These words would come back to haunt them very shortly.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Countering Presumptuousness


 

Numbers 16:8-10

Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and all the other two hundred and fifty men were not content with what God had given them to do in the church of the wilderness. They did not want to be porters and bearers. They did not want to be the setup crew or the take-down crew. Instead, they wanted to be the mediators between God and men. They wanted the cushy job—the one they saw that had the most going for it, the one that had the most authority. They were not content with where God had placed them in the body at the time.

Seeing this, Moses tells the rest of the Israelites, "Clear out! Get away from Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. If you don't want to be caught in what they've just done, stay away!"

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Countering Presumptuousness


 

Numbers 27:1-11

Numbers 27 is the appeal of Zelophehad's five daughters to Moses in regard to their inheritance. Their father had died without any sons, and under the law of the time, his daughters were left without an inheritance. The commentators who go into this say that such an appeal was virtually unheard of because at that time a woman's station in society was only slightly higher than a child's. The child was always on the lowest social level, which is one reason why Jesus said we have to become as a child. All of society revolved around men.

Moses does three remarkable things. He not only hears the appeal of these ladies, he humbly admits that he did not know the answer. He takes it to God, and God not only hears it, He gives the ladies more than what they asked for, as all they had asked for was the land. God says, in effect, "Not only can you have the land, but you have the right to pass it on just as if you were Zelophehad's sons." It came under their power completely.

The point is that no leader under God can afford not to listen with fullest attention to the appeals of the lowly or to their counsel. He cannot afford to be in an attitude in which he will not listen to the people that he is supposed to be leading. It is a very important lesson and principle of law that comes out of Moses' humility, meekness, and willingness to hear, whereas other leaders of his day would likely have not even allowed those women to come into their presence.

There are only two cases in the life of Moses in which a woman came before him for either a judgment or in accusation. This was one of them, and the other one was his sister, Miriam. We know what happened to Miriam. It makes for an interesting contrast.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 6)


 

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Israel endured many discomforts during those forty years, and they sinned a great deal too. However, God reminds them that He was with them during both good and bad times. He also makes it very clear that He Himself inflicted a great deal of pain on them, and that He did this for three specific reasons: to humble them, to know what was in their hearts, and to teach them that man does not live by bread alone.

If He did these things to humble them, then the flip side is that He did it to knock the pride from them. Pride motivated many of their sins. As a recurring theme in Scripture, God's work to humble us is something to keep at the forefront of our minds. The author of Hebrews warns us, "Do not despise the chastening of the Lord" (Hebrews 12:5). He is deeply involved in our lives, and because He loves us dearly, He will correct us painfully when necessary (verse 6).

Deuteronomy 8 teaches that God humbles us to drive the pride of self-sufficiency far from us. When things go well, it is easy to forget God and ascribe success to natural abilities, learned skills, or even good luck. But when the body is not fed, it begins to weaken noticeably, and it soon begins to feel pain. The spirit, though, seems to weaken and "die" so slowly that it is almost imperceptible. As we spiritually deteriorate, we may even feel blessed and prospered by God! So He disciplines us with pain to warn us that all is not as well as our vanity is leading us to think.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 16 contains a vital lesson regarding humility, our relationship with God and our ultimate destiny. Here God explains why we have our experiences on our pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God. He specifically mentions humbling and testing three times. They are ultimately the means by which He will achieve our birth into His Kingdom. Humility is essential to our character and the out-working of His purpose because humility motivates us to bow before God's sovereignty. Those who submit to God's will have their prayers answered and receive additional blessings from Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Deuteronomy 17:14-20

God was planning that Israel would have a king, so He laid down these regulations to show how He expected the king to conduct himself within the office. These regulations are designed to ensure that the king does not overly elevate himself above the people and rule as an autocratic despot. Instead, he is to be thoroughly familiar with and guided by the attitudes and laws of God. He must comprehensively know that his own nature is just like those he serves and be humbled.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 7)


 

2 Chronicles 26:16-21

What is God's reaction to presumptuous sin? There is no mercy! He immediately struck Uzziah with leprosy, and the man was cut off. It sounds like he was cut off from just about everything for the rest of his life. He pretty much lost his crown—lost everything. He certainly lost his health, all because he sinned presumptuously.

Ambition is not a trait that impresses God—certainly not presumptuous ambition. He is looking for a humble man who will stay where God has put him and do what God tells him to do. Uzziah was king over God's people Israel. Was that enough? No! To Uzziah, he wanted to be a priest as well.

It was his strength (verse 16), his pride, that drove him to do this presumptuous act. His heart was lifted up within him to make him think that he was worthy of more than what God had given him. He became discontent with his place. He was dissatisfied with what God had given him (his position as king); and he took to himself a position that was somebody else's.

God would never give him the authority to be a priest: He was a Jew, and the law says that only a son of Aaron could be a priest—a Levite. Uzziah knew that! But in spite of all the warnings, all of what God says, and in spite of what the priests themselves told him—he did it anyway.

Is it not interesting that he was struck with leprosy in his forehead? That should tell us something. What does leprosy stand for? What is it a symbol of? Defilement! It is a symbol of uncleanness—of being impure. Remember in the Pentateuch, all those rules about if somebody had a spot then they were to remain outside the camp? And they were to wash and do all various things. What they were looking for was leprosy. All the things that they had to do—all the washings, all the inspections, and everything else—were to certify whether the person was clean or unclean.

God put this uncleanness—this mark of defilement—right on Uzziah's forehead, where he could not hide it. What is right behind the forehead? The mind is the seat of intellect, as well as the seat of our character. The mind is where it is all being stored. That is where we think. God put this mark on this man's forehead to show that his character had been defiled—by presumptuousness, by this overweening pride that he was greater than what God had made him.

This is why presumptuousness is such a terrible, damnable sin—because it defiles character that has been built. It ruins it, to the point that God cannot work with it any more. He says that person shall be cut off from His people. There is no sacrifice for this kind of sin. That is how serious presumptuousness is.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Presumptuousness


 

Job 9:32-35

As early as Job 9:32-35, Job complains that what he is enduring is completely and totally unfair and that God is wrong in permitting it to occur. The Revised English Bible clearly exposes at least an irritation against God, showing that Job, despite admitting that God is far greater, feels a measure of equality with Him!

God is not as I am, not someone I can challenge, and say, "Let us confront one another in court." If only there were one to arbitrate between us and impose his authority on us both, so that God might take his rod from my back, and terror of him might not come on me suddenly. I should then speak out without fear of him, for I know I am not what I am thought to be.

Despite being aware that a vast difference exists between God and man, Job is nonetheless unaware of how immeasurably different the reality is, shown in his willingness to stand with God before an umpire who would hear both sides of the case! He wants to be heard, not realizing he has no case to argue at all! He truly deserves nothing but death. At this point, Job is not yet overly concerned about God's right to do with him as He sees fit, but rather he is disturbed that God has not intervened and vindicated him before his accusing friends.

Job's complaint also reveals that he thought of sin merely in terms of an unrighteous act. He does not yet grasp that sin is more than a transgression of a code; it is a breaking of our covenant relationship with God that distorts life itself. Sin is the distortion, and whether it is an act visible on the outside or one of heart and motivation, the relationship with God is damaged because all sin is against Him. Jeremiah 17:9 reads, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"

To speak or act of sin as though it is of no account to God, as though He is indifferent to it, to disclaim responsibility, strikes at the very core of our relationship with Him. This is what Job was doing in claiming that God did not care about him. The reality is that God was putting Job through this rigorous trial because He did care and did not want to lose the relationship with him.

Job's trial thus becomes a witness to us of the vast difference between God and us. Besides God's being eternal spirit and our being flesh, the greatest difference between Him and us is in our hearts. Jesus points out in Matthew 15:18-20 that sin begins in the heart. It is man's heart that needs changing. For one thing, its pride needs to be wrung from it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Job, Self-Righteousness, and Humility


 

Job 17:1-4

Job has not yielded any ground, and now he asks God to put up bail for him to rescue him from his predicament. In addition, he is now not only accusing God for his plight, but he is also accusing Him of closing the minds of his friends so that they cannot judge fairly.

Something deep and wonderful is beginning to happen to Job. He does not yet "see" his sin, but he is vaguely realizing that he cannot justify himself before God or man by his works. He wants their former relationship restored—he wants to be reconciled to the One against whom he has sinned—so that he, in desperation or defiance, almost even as a challenge, asks the One he sinned against to set him free! This is exactly what God does through Christ. However, in Job's case, his condition continues to worsen before it gets better.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Job, Self-Righteousness, and Humility


 

Job 20:5

Carnal joy is temporary because it is based in self-centeredness. By the lifestyles of the average, unconverted person, we can easily see that they live their lives according to the saying, "Ignorance is bliss!" But God tells His people not to rejoice like the world. It is better to have sorrow in humility than joy in pride.

Martin G. Collins
Joy


 

Job 42:1-6

The images Job held both of God in His relationship with Job and of himself in his relationship with God and fellow man are shattered into an unrecognizable mass of pulp. Above all, Job now knows that God owes him only what He determines that He owes him. God is not beholden to mankind for anything.

Will we claim that God owes us anything because of our good works? God does not owe us a thing, even if we do obey Him perfectly! Our covenant with Him is not made on that basis. The covenant is made knowing that we owe Him everything. We have nothing to bargain with. Do we receive salvation because we trade keeping the Sabbath or paying tithes for it?

Job is truly humbled. Do we recognize humility when we see it? Do we know what it really is? Humility is an internal matter, one of the heart, not one of outside appearance. Moses was a humble man, but he also had a commanding presence. However, a person's humility greatly affects what those watching him see and hear emanate from him.

Godly humility is not a giant inferiority complex, as some believe it to be. Man by nature is not humble; by nature, we are well-pleased with ourselves and insane enough to think that we deserve something good from the hand of God. This describes almost exactly what Job thought of himself in his relationship with God. Men think that as long as God allows them to conduct their lives in a civil way, keeping themselves from the grosser sins, then everything is fine in their relationship with Him. The important reality of true humility is far from what men think, as Job certainly discovered.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Job, Self-Righteousness, and Humility


 

Psalm 35:13

This verse presents us with a clear example in which anah is not in the niphal stem (reflexive case), but clarity is achieved by explanation: "But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled [anah] myself with fasting." In this case, the self-imposed affliction or humbling is by means of fasting. Ezra 8:21 is another example: "Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble [anah] ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions." Again, anah is not in the niphal stem, but the rest of the verse explains that the humbling comes through fasting.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Psalm 51:18-19

Essentially, David is saying that the offering of an animal does not meet the price of forgiveness, but an acceptable sacrifice before God is a broken and contrite heart. An acceptable sacrifice is repentance, as it is giving up human nature, its own will, and obstinacy and pride. They have been suppressed and then replaced by humility. This is personally costly because it motivates one to submit his life to God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing to Be a Priest


 

Psalm 62:11-12

When David says in Psalm 62:11, "God has spoken once, twice . . .," He is using a Hebrew idiom that means, "I have heard this repeatedly." Practically, it means God's will always decides the outcome of whatever is in dispute, whatever hangs in the balance. Who can resist Him?

We need to look more closely at the word "power," or as some translations read, "strength." Power is defined in The Reader's Digest Oxford Complete Word Finder as "having the ability to act, influence" and "a particular faculty of body or mind, capability." This usage opens another exciting avenue, taking the meaning of power from mere brute, overwhelming force into such qualities as the powers of love, intellect, wisdom, understanding, vision, logic, energy, eloquence, wealth, authority, privilege, prerogative, control, mastery, persuasion, forgiveness, and so on into every area of activity.

Is there any kind of need in which God is not superior to any alternate source we could seek out to provide help? In Psalm 62, David suggests that, when we need help in time of trouble, why not just go right to the top? Is not our Father willing to provide these things for us?

Then in verse 12, David adds yet another quality of our powerful God that we need to consider. God not only renders to every one according to his deeds, implying punishment, but He is also merciful - in fact, the very pinnacle of love! Even His sometimes-painful correction is an act of love.

The entire psalm briefly and generally explains why we should trust God: To those who believe, no one is more qualified and trustworthy. Broadly, David is saying that God's power and willingness to act according to His purpose is the very foundation of a believer's practical application of his faith in Him.

There is far more to God being the Source of the powers that we need to serve Him and become prepared for His Kingdom. He has made available many powers, ones that we may take for granted yet have nevertheless been provided for our benefit.

Recall that the Israelites sang in Exodus 15:2, "The Lord is my strength." In a poetic way, they meant that we do not have strength, but God does, and He uses it for our benefit. God has not called the wise of this world (I Corinthians 1:26), but on the other hand, Jesus Christ lives in us, and He is the power of God and the wisdom of God (I Corinthians 1:24). He is our High Priest, who has the responsibility before God to lead us prepared into the Kingdom.

The concept of strength or power has many facets that we have not yet explored. Deuteronomy 8:11, 14, 16-18 says:

Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today . . . when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; . . . who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end - then you say in your heart, "My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth." And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

That wealth is power is an easily recognized concept. "Wealth" is used in this context to represent all evidences of prosperity and well-being. We tend to think of wealth in terms of material things like the size and location of our home, the cost of our automobile, or the fashionableness of our clothing. However, there is more to prosperity than material goods.

The concept developed in this passage also includes qualities like good health, sound-mindedness, and the level and breadth of our education - elements common to prosperous cultures. It includes things such as understanding and having the opportunity to perceive what is happening in this world from a godly point of view. All of these and many more are powers available to us. In other words, "wealth" is not limited to material things. It includes our health, the disposition in which we live our lives, the liberties we enjoy, and the opportunities available to have those things whether or not we have actually taken advantage of them.

For example, Solomon said, "Of making many books there is no end" (Ecclesiastes 12:12). The tremendous volume of information available in books is beyond our comprehension. Of course, not all the power contained in this information is good, but God has made it available.

In addition, God can prosper us by giving us favor in the eyes of others. He opens doors to bring us goodwill because power belongs to Him, and He uses it as it pleases Him. No potential help is beyond His power!

In many cases, these things come to us as byproducts of His fulfillment of promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Are we using them, and if not, why not? God's fulfilling of His promises provides us with potentially valuable experiences, which are lavished on us simply because we live in an Israelitish nation. Each nation of modern Israel has its own peculiar wealth of beauty. Most of us have noticed and compared the barrenness of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq on television with the fruitfulness of our nations. This beauty, along with its productivity and liberties, are included in the concept of "wealth."

He provides these things and uses them to benefit us at all times because it pleases Him to do so. Powers are not always given because we please Him. Deuteronomy 8 is a warning against pride. We must humble ourselves, never forgetting that we are created and that we live by the gifts He provides. Remember, Jesus says, "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). This awesome statement is made by the One described by Paul as "upholding all things by the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus means, in reference to God's purpose, that we could do nothing spiritually without what He adds to our labors. Yet, these verses also tell us where to go to receive the help that we perceive we need.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part One)


 

Proverbs 8:13

The four examples of evil in Proverbs 8:13, which always end up doing harm, were manifested in Satan, and all of his children continue to exhibit them (see John 8:38, 41, 44). A progression is shown: Pride and arrogance are conditions of the heart, which is where it all starts. Where there is pride in the heart, it will come out in "the evil way," that is in action.

Evil also emerges in words, though it may not always be obvious. Jesus cautions in Matthew 12:34, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." When evil resides in the heart, it will be exposed in perverse speech, language contrary to the truth of God and to love. James 3:8 declares that "no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." He also says, "If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man" (James 3:2). We can only reach that perfection with God's intervention and help, which, thankfully, we have.

The apostle Paul essentially says that the foundation of good works—particularly within the church of God—is humility or lowliness:

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)

However, if works are done with pride or arrogance, or for the sake of appearance rather than truth and righteousness, they will cause harm. They may also produce some good, but the account of the Two Trees in the Garden of Eden teaches that, in the context of eternity, a mixture of good and evil is really only evil.

David C. Grabbe
Hating Evil, Fearing God


 

Proverbs 11:2

The proud hypocrite deceives himself into ignoring realities in the conduct of his life that the meek and humble person quickly recognizes and takes into account. The proud person's vanity pushes him into conduct that will end in shame. The humble person's attitude, on the other hand, is a vivid contrast, for his wisdom prevents him from pursuing the same conduct. This in turn produces even more wisdom when good fruit is produced because it reinforces his right decision.

This pride seen in Proverbs 11:2 literally means "boiling up," or we might say, "puffed up." It can mean "to overstep the boundaries." The proud person has an inflated opinion of himself and/or his possessions, abilities, powers, and accomplishments. This exists because pride has deceived him about his importance. He is the center of the world! The day is coming soon when everyone's proud ego will be deflated, and man's haughty self-regard will be stripped away.

This is exactly what happened to Satan. He got so full of himself that his pride tricked him into believing he could defeat His Creator in battle and take His place! He ignored the reality that he was the creation of God, and that God was thus superior to His creation in every way. His pride deceived him into underestimating the awesome power of God that he had seen demonstrated in the creation! It made him disregard the limited nature of his own power in comparison, making him think he was stronger than was true. It actually made him think he could be God!

This attitude is also at the foundation of Laodiceanism. Of what does God accuse the Laodiceans? "[Y]ou say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'" (Revelation 3:17). Their pride deceives them into believing they are self-sufficient. They have it all! They do not need anything! We should consider that in all probability the Laodicean does not say any such thing with his tongue. In fact, he is probably able to "talk the talk" very well and hypocritically put on a good show of righteousness. But God looks on the heart, seeing not only his public conduct but also his motivations and private conduct. The Laodicean is of the class that professes to know God but denies Him in works. God's judgment—the correct judgment—is that they are "wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Proverbs 13:10

Only through pride does contention last. We primarily see the effects of pride because pride is frequently difficult to detect. God has shown in His Word how to detect it: by looking at the fruits. How do we know false prophets? By their fruits, by what they produce.

A quarrel that could be easily settled if both parties were humble continues indefinitely when parties are arrogant. Why? Because pride plows the way for contempt for the others opinion. Pride inflames passion and wounds feelings. Because of competitiveness, also an aspect of pride, a person feels he has to fight back. And so the argument goes back and forth.

If we are ever involved in a quarrel that seemingly will not end, we should be well-advised from God's Word that the problem is pride. It is somewhere in the picture in one or both who are participating in the conflict. The quarrel will never end until one person makes up his mind to stop it by refusing to argue back, suppressing the feeling that he must win.

One of the greatest spiritual advances that I ever made in my life was when it suddenly dawned on me one day that I did not have to win. God is on His throne, and because He loves me and the other person, God will make available to both of us what the right decision is. If we ask patiently, persevering without anger, and if we continue to meditate and search and counsel with Him, the answer will come. So, arguments stop.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 6)


 

Proverbs 15:33

When one has a relationship with God, humility precedes honor, riches, and eternal life itself. Humility is a prerequisite to receiving the blessings only God can give, the kind that will prepare and equip us for His service now and in the Kingdom to come. If we are not humbled, we will not submit. No submission means no obedience; no obedience, no preparation; no preparation, no honor, exaltation, or glory. One would have lived life in vain.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Proverbs 16:19

In 1621, Robert Burton wrote in his The Anatomy of Melancholy, "They are proud in humility; proud in that they are not proud." How carnal men are to twist virtue into sin! It is enough to make us suspicious when we come across a "humble" person.

We have undoubtedly crossed paths with those who were so proud that they oozed with false humility. Many religious leaders in the world today openly appear this way, as they wax eloquent on their televised evangelical programs. Authors have written dozens of books and Hollywood has produced many movies to expose the hypocrisy of such individuals.

Uncountable numbers of both religious and secular leaders have risen to power on the banner of humility. Feigning an image of heartfelt concern for those who can help place them in the limelight, they glow with an air of counterfeit humility. Eventually, this hypocritical image always becomes apparent, just as our sins expose us in due time (Numbers 32:23). The sin of pride is no different.

Of the many things that people have written on humility, as much as one-third refers to false humility. For instance, the French moralist La Rochefoucald wrote in Maxims in 1665: "Humility is often only feigned submission which people use to render others submissive. It is a subterfuge of pride which lowers itself in order to rise."

Martin G. Collins
Before Honor Is Humility: The Story of Andrew


 

Proverbs 18:10-12

In this illustration the person of wealth takes confidence in, trusts in, relies upon, whatever he thinks is his strength. The New International Version renders this series of verses as:

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall. Before his downfall a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before [or precedes] honor.

Men may give the proud man honor, but real honor is preceded by humility, not by pride.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 7)


 

Proverbs 22:7

To be obsequious is to be perceived as excessively obedient, servile, or even groveling, as illustrated in Proverbs 22:7. The borrower has put himself or has been put into a position of dependence upon the whims or good graces of the lender, so he must bend his will to the one with the power. Liberties that he formerly had are lost. He cannot act as he pleases. He now feels obligated and constrained to a degree that he was not before.

As his outlook on life narrows, the borrower makes sure he treats the lender with deference. He certainly does not want to ruffle the lender's feathers, as he wants to be able to retain what he still has left of his former dignity. Thus, as his circumstance diminishes, the borrower almost automatically becomes beggarly to some degree, perhaps even fawning in his mannerisms. In most cases, there is a loss of enthusiasm and confidence about life. Being humbled changes the way a person approaches life.

Thus, the manner in which the Old Testament illustrates humility provides a mental picture of what the term means to a Christian's approach to life. This is good. However, we must understand that the Old Testament in no way considers humility as weakness or bad. It just does not emphasize or portray it as the New Testament does.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and Humility


 

Proverbs 26:16

Can a lazy person be proud? We have a saying: "Poor but humble." According to God's Word, all too frequently a reason that a person is poor is because he is proud. The truth is often just the opposite of the saying.

How do many wealthy people become so rich? It is because they are willing to take advice and apply it. They humbly listen to the counsel of those with experience, who are already successful, and in following that advice, they themselves become successful. Their humility leads them to seek counsel and follow the advice.

On the other hand, the poor are frequently poor because they either will not seek the advice, or if they do seek it, they find reasons not to apply it. God is referring to this inaction here. Laziness is a sign of pride.

We would not normally think a person who is out of a job and needs one desperately would do that. However, a lazy person thinks so much of himself that he believes that things should come to him without working. He thus justifies or excuses himself, saying:

  • "The conditions really are not quite right."

  • "If I am going to do that job, I first need a new car."

  • "That job is too far away."

  • "The pay is not enough for all that I would have to do."

  • "If I go there, I will have to move."

He is wiser in his own eyes than seven people who can render a sensible reason. At the root of his "wisdom" is pride.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 6)


 

Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

The counsel Solomon gives provides specific insight into the evils these people were committing. He says in verse 1, “Draw near to hear.” In verse 2, he advises, “Do not be rash with your mouth,” as well as, “let not your heart utter anything hastily before God” and “let your words be few.” In verse 3, he states, “A fool's voice is known by his many words.” Finally, back in verse 2, he counsels humility, “for God is in heaven, and you on earth.” Whatever they were doing was more serious than it appeared on the surface.

His initial counsel involves hearing. Jesus says in Matthew 13:8-9: “But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” He gives the same sobering admonition in Matthew 13:41-43:

The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

The first command to hear lies in the Parable of the Sower and the second in the Parable of the Wheat and Tares. Both have the same urgent sense and end with exclamation points, emphasizing urgent seriousness. The instruction on hearing in the Parable of the Sower is quite clear. Consider these factors in what Jesus said: The seed is the Word of God, so what the sower cast was good. In addition, the human soil the seed fell upon was also good.

However, one factor is still beyond the sower's power. The soil, that is, the person the seed fell on, has the power to allow or reject the seed's taking root by choosing to listen or not. That singular choice is of particular importance at this point in the parable. The same conclusion is true in verse 43 concerning the hearer choosing the Lake of Fire or the Kingdom of God. When Jesus uses the term “hear,” He means more than just hearing audible sound; we also “hear” as we read His Word. He is thus emphasizing that people have the power to shut off hearing completely even though the Word of God enters their ears or their eyes and He has opened their minds to grasp it. It is the individual's responsibility to hear, consider, and then accept or reject it.

Mark 4:23-25 contains the same urgent warning, but he adds an additional truth that is important to us, a second lesson:

“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

The lesson is that, not only must we first consciously turn on our hearing to be converted, but we must also selectively choose from among all we hear and thoughtfully accept or reject. In others words, we must discipline ourselves to be selective in order to grow, overcome, and glorify God.

Why are these elements of our conversion so important? Romans 10:16-17 provides a condensed foundational reason: “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, 'LORD, who has believed our report?' So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Hearing may well be our highest responsibility in our relationship with God because we must live by faith (Hebrews 11:38), and faith begins and is sustained by hearing. Hearing is serious business for the children of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Six): Listening


 

Ecclesiastes 7:15-22

Ecclesiastes 7:16-22 can help to solve the riddle of verse 15. To begin with, “Do not be overly righteousness” does not warn against aiming for excellence in obedience to God. Rather, it is a further caution not to find fault with God for allowing situations like those in verse 15 to exist, for such circumstances hold vital teaching for those directly involved.

Thus, this passage is first an appeal for humility, a caution against arrogant self-righteousness that guides a person to assert that he “knows it all,” that he fully grasps what is going on, and that his judgment is correct. The wisdom Solomon teaches here is that the goodness of the righteous must be accompanied by humility. Without the presence of humility, a person's goodness and righteousness run the risk of producing intellectual and moral pride.

This can be learned from the bad experiences of others whose examples are given in Scripture. The Pharisees became involved in such moral pride hundreds of years later. Jesus charged them with hypocrisy. In their self-righteousness, they were calling God into account because they believed His law was not enough. The Pharisees added their self-righteousness to God's written law by means of the spoken or oral law, a set of rules framed by the minds of men through the centuries. What a lack of humility! Their trashing of the written law was not wisdom, as Mark 7:6-9 shows.

Blinded by their proud self-righteousness, they could not see that, in their blind attempts to make up for what they perceived as God's deficiencies and the people's failures, they were adding despair to people's lives. Their judgment severely lacked a proper sense of proportion about what God requires.

An interesting sidelight is that the Bible shows that most Pharisees appear to have been well off. According to Jesus' judgment, they were far from righteous, so they actually fit the description of prosperous evil people given in Ecclesiastes 7:15.

But what the Pharisees were involved in is not the real lesson for a converted person, as the Pharisees were unconverted.

Psalm 73:1-17 vividly describes the emotional and spiritual involvement of a person caught in a paradoxical situation. This psalm depicts a righteous man for a time severely misjudging the reality of his situation until God reveals the truth. Any of us could be guilty of the same. The wicked appear to prosper only if we, in our judgment, consider only what appears on the surface.

What God reveals to the psalmist is that these people may appear to gain the whole world, but in reality, they are losing something of far greater value. The psalmist grasps this through prayer and meditation, and his emotional and spiritual state return to an even keel through God's revelation.

At one point, through a bad attitude toward God fueled by his envy of the worldly, the psalmist appears to have been rapidly sliding into despair and perhaps “right out of the church.” This presents a grave danger in such a paradoxical situation.

Assuming the psalmist was a converted man, what would have happened to him if he had not done the right thing and appealed to God, or if he appealed, but God did not respond as quickly as he expected? What if the trial had gone on and on without relief? From the psalmist's own testimony, as he went into the sanctuary, he was at the point that his feet had almost slipped. However, an answer on recognizing the issue appears within the psalm. Despite his envious attitude, the psalmist did not stop praying to God for understanding and relief. God has the answers.

When involved in such a scenario, we have in reality only three alternatives: One, we can continue as is, faithfully enduring with much prayer and steadfast submission to God's will. Two, we can give up in despair and leave the church. Three, we can strive all the harder to impress God by becoming super-righteous to attract His attention and receive blessings for our righteousness, relieving the stress. Solomon is addressing the third alternative in these eight verses.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Ten): Paradox


 

Isaiah 2:5-20

Isaiah 2:5-20 mentions a number of idolatries that are just as present in our society today as they were Isaiah's time. Enslaved by the superstition of astrology, they were more concerned about what the omens read than the judgment of God (verse 6). They craved the power of money and the recognition and influence it drew, and took enormous pride in their military, political, and economic sway in the world (verse 7). They worshipped "the work of their own hands" (verse 8).

The underlying motivation for these idolatries is exposed in verses 11: "The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down" (see verses 12, 17). Pride brings forth idolatry, and its destruction is idolatry's cure. Pride elevates its owner to find God and His ways as unnecessary, too restrictive, boring, or beneath his intelligence, station, or needs. It leads him to choose his own way, be his own man, and do his own thing according to his judgment. In short, even if a person of pride knows of God's way, he will not submit to worship God in the way He wants.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Isaiah 6:1-5

Isaiah is overwhelmed by God's sovereignty displayed by radiant purity and a feeling of terrifying but controlled power. It makes him feel dirty beyond anything but simple expression, helplessly weak and feeling that he is doomed. Like Job, he is thoroughly humbled (Job 42:1-6).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sovereignty and Its Fruit: Part Ten


 

Isaiah 53:4-9

Jesus shows us that meekness is not a mere contemplative virtue; it is maintaining peace and patience in the midst of pelting provocations. In II Corinthians Paul realizes that the meek and gentle approach can easily appear as weakness to those unfamiliar with Jesus' example, so he calls it "the meekness . . . of Christ." True meekness is always measured by Christ's meekness. His humility, patience, and total submission of His own will to the will of the Father exemplifies meekness.

Martin G. Collins
Meekness


 

Isaiah 58:3

Fasting puts us in a proper attitude to submit to God. When we deprive ourselves of the necessities of life, we see how dependent we are upon God's providence. This is why in a true, spiritual fast we neither eat nor drink anything for the whole 24 hours of the day (Deuteronomy 9:18; Esther 4:16). God desires such a humble spirit in us so that we can walk in harmony with Him (Micah 6:8; Isaiah 66:2).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Holy Days: Atonement


 

Isaiah 66:1-2

Humility is the key to oneness with God. Consequently, it is also the key to oneness with our brethren. God's way of achieving oneness is for each person to be so attuned to God that he is motivated to do everything possible to ensure that the relationship (with God or fellow man) is not only unbroken, but constantly becoming ever closer. We should do this because we are striving to become like Him, and that is how He is.

Each person is responsible for cleaning up his character and humbling himself before God. Each is not responsible for judging his brother so critically it drives a wedge between them and separates them. Such a person does not even see his own sin! In such a case, he could not be in God's Kingdom because that manner of thinking would continue right on into it, and God will not allow it there.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Isaiah 66:1-2

"On this one will I look" in Isaiah 66:2 means "I will pay attention to this person." It is another way of saying He will draw closer to such a man or woman. James 4:6-8, 10 reinforces the importance of humility in our relationship with God. Why is humility so important? It plays a major role in producing obedience and thus a good relationship with God. Put another way, humility manifests itself in obedience. It is the attitude of ready submission to God's will, as well as an expression of dependence upon Him. This quality of character is essential to growth, witnessing for God, glorifying God, receiving honor from God and salvation itself. The Bible reveals an order to these things: humility, submission, obedience, and honor (I Peter 5:5-6).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Isaiah 66:1-2

We could paraphrase this as, "Somebody who believes Me and somebody who does what I say—that impresses Me." Do we want to impress God? It may be hard to do. It is certainly not hard to understand. Humility impresses Him and humility, as I Peter 5:5-7 and James 4:7-10 clearly show, is a choice. We choose to submit to God. That is what Christ did: He humbly submitted to God even to death (Philippians 2:8).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Isaiah 66:1-2

If you want to impress God, it is humility that impresses Him. Pride gets between us and God, and without realizing it, we actually shut Him out of our lives.

The Bible clearly shows that our spiritual well-being is dependent upon acknowledging, with our lives, our reliance upon the revealed will of God—His Word. Pride results from arrogating to oneself something for which one is indebted and would not even have except for God's benevolence. Who gave Lucifer his beauty? his intelligence? his position of power from which he operated? Pride perverted Lucifer's thinking into rejecting his dependence, and he elevated himself above God.

Now what do we have that we did not receive? Did we create ourselves? Did we create the great goal in life to be in the Kingdom of God and to be born into His Family? Did we reveal God to ourselves? Did we die on the stake for the forgiveness of our sins? Did the gift of the Holy Spirit come to us through our own agency? Did we lead ourselves to repentance? Who gave us the power to believe in the true God and in His Son Jesus Christ?

It is interesting to reflect on Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Lucifer comes along and says to them, "You will be as God." What entered into Adam and Eve at that moment? The pride of life. The result? They rejected the revelation of God. They rejected His Word and sinned. Pride subtly elevates a man to the same level as God, which results in him rejecting the very gifts God would give him for his salvation.

So, consciously or subconsciously, the proud man—us (hopefully not as much as it used to be)—is saying that he already knows better, or has the power and ability within himself by nature, thereby subtly turning salvation into something God owes him. It becomes earned.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 7)


 

Isaiah 66:1-2

Perhaps humility stands above all character qualities He desires to be created in us. The humble submit to Him in love. Their submission is love expressed in their actions.

Maybe His desire for humility in us is a response to Satan's pride, which destroyed him and will destroy all who follow him. Ezekiel 28:17 says of Satan, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings that they might gaze at you.”

The arch-rebel does not choose to be humble and submit, but being humble is clearly a choice, as I Peter 5:5-7 admonishes:

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.

Those who are humble will deliberately and willingly submit to His gifts.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Nine)


 

Ezekiel 16:49

God pictures Sodom as proud. What led to the utter destruction of this city in a way that no other has ever been destroyed on earth is arrogance, a false sense of security, spiritual apathy, and disdain. This brings us to a daughter of Sodom—Lot's wife—lingering, dragging her heels along the way. Why did she look back? She had no faith in what the angels said. She had no need of God because she felt secure within herself. Her pride turned her into a pillar of salt because she did not have faith in God.

We badly need humility. Perhaps it is beyond our sense of appreciation to realize how much we need it. It means so much to God that we have a right perspective of ourselves in relation to Him because it establishes a right perspective of other people, of things, and of life itself. All the right values and standards spin off from humility.

We have such a need of humility that God will go to seemingly extreme ends to make sure that we feel our dependence on Him. He will humble us. He will sweep away our money. He will take away our jobs, our health, our possessions. He will do anything necessary in order to make us see our need—that every good gift flows from Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 7)


 

Obadiah 1:1-4

Edom lived in the area east of the Jordan in the mountainous areas south of the Dead Sea—a dry, barren, rocky place. Here, in this end-time prophecy, Edomites are still living in this inhospitable place.

Verse 1 contains a parenthetical statement that informs us that God has sent a messenger among the nations, urging them to "rise up against her." This is how things really work: God is the prime mover of world affairs. He determines His purpose and starts affairs rolling toward its fulfillment by inspiring an idea. Then the political and diplomatic mechanisms of nations take over to bring it to fruition, guided and pushed all the while by God (see Isaiah 46:9-11; Isaiah 55:11).

In this case, a national leader decides to send an ambassador to other nations to form a military alliance against Edom. The complaint, as explained in subsequent verses, is that Edom must be brought down to size, perhaps because she is not a team player, wanting all the glory and plunder for herself. That God is the ultimate author of this message means that it will happen as advertised.

Obadiah 1:2 adds emphasis to verse 1. The "I" is God Himself; it is His purpose to bring about Edom's national deflation. He wants Edom to recognize this! He thinks that the Edomites need to be brought into account for their actions and severely punished. Those among the nations who are scheming against Edom are merely agents God will use to fulfill His decree.

Verse 3 strikes at the root of Edom's problem: "The pride of your heart." It was easy for the Edomites to believe themselves to be invincible due to the nearly uninhabitable territory they dwelled in. To the west, where Israel lay, the geography made their territory nearly impregnable. Otherwise, they could feel secure because their fortresses were carved out of the rock, so they could either hunker down for long periods or engage in guerilla warfare. An attacking army could in no way pry them out, and they knew it. They felt invulnerable, and this filled them with pride.

"Pride" in verse 3 is the Hebrew word zadon, from the root, ziyd. This root is translated "cooked" in Genesis 25:29, where Jacob cooked a stew that the famished Esau desired. "Cooked" would be better translated "boiled" or "seethed." When heat is applied to water, it boils, and from this process, the Hebrews gained their understanding of pride.

Obadiah, it seems, specifically used this word to draw the reader's attention back to this incident, perhaps suggesting that Esau's selling of the birthright was rooted in his pride. Esau became heated and angry, and it manifested itself as haughtiness, arrogance, pride—the major trait he passed on to his descendants. Just as stew boils up under heat, so Edom puffs herself up thinking that she is self-reliant and invincible. God, however, is out to prove her wrong.

The Edomite challenge at the end of Obadiah 1:3 bears some scrutiny: "Who will bring me down to the ground?" This is remarkably similar to the words of Lucifer in Isaiah 14:13-14 and to those of the great harlot in Revelation 18:7. This same pride will lead Edom into trouble. The Bible declares that, in all three of these examples, God will have the last word: He will humble them all. In Obadiah 1:4, He decrees, no matter how high and mighty Edom considers herself to be, "from there I will bring you down."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part Three): Obadiah


 

Micah 1:6-8

These verses show the intent of God's law. Jesus virtually lifted this word-for-word from Micah and applied its principle in Matthew 23:23. He substituted the word "faithfulness" for "humility," because a person who is truly humble will show it by submitting to God's law, and he will thus prove himself to be faithful.

The essence of the instruction is not that God did not want the Old Covenant sacrifices in Micah's day. What He did not want was rigid, hollow conformity even to ceremonial obligations without a corresponding understanding of their intent and their application in their conduct and attitude in daily life. This is what Jesus was correcting in Matthew 23. The Pharisees had corrupted the intent of tithing, the intent of honoring parents (which He addressed in Mark 7), the intent of the Sabbath—and therefore had perverted the keeping of these commands.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 4)


 

Matthew 5:3

The word "poor" has a wide variety of meanings and applications in both testaments. The Old Testament uses five different words from the Hebrew language, while the New Testament uses two from Greek. However, these seven are translated into a large number of English words. Besides describing destitution, they appear in contexts indicating oppression, humility, being defenseless, afflicted, in want, needy, weak, thin, low, dependent, and socially inferior.

Of the two Greek words translated "poor" in the New Testament, penes designates the working poor who own little or no property. People in this state possess little in the way of material goods, but they earn what they have through their daily labor. A form of this word, penechros, describes a poor widow who may be receiving a small subsistence from a relative or social agency. Penes is used only once in the entire New Testament (II Corinthians 9:9), and its cognate, penechros, is used only to indicate the poor widow of Luke 21:2.

This, therefore, is not the word used in the beatitude in Matthew 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Here, "poor" is translated from ptochos, which literally means "to crouch or cower as one helpless." It signifies the beggar, the pauper, one in abject poverty, totally dependent on others for help and destitute of even the necessities of life. In Galatians 4:9, it is translated "beggarly."

At first "poor" simply indicated to be in material need, to be in poverty. Gradually, its usage spread to other areas besides economics to indicate people in weakness, frailty, feebleness, fragility, dependence, subservience, defenselessness, affliction, and distress. The poor were people who recognized their utter helplessness before what life had dealt them. They recognized that nothing within their power solved their weak state, thus they would eagerly reach out to others for assistance in rising out of their situation, as a beggar would.

Eventually, the word took on spiritual overtones because some began to perceive that these afflicted people often had no refuge but God. Thus David, a person we would not consider as defenseless, nonetheless says of himself in a situation where he felt only God could deliver him, "This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles" (Psalm 34:6).

To grasp how Jesus uses "poor" in this beatitude, we must contemplate the mind of a person who finds himself in poverty. One who recognizes his poverty takes the necessary steps to be poor no longer. He may seek advice on how to resolve his dilemma, get or change jobs, curtail spending to only necessary items, pay off his debts, and/or get rid of financially draining liabilities. In other words, he tries to change his circumstances. God wants His children to have this recognition of poverty regarding true spiritual things, and possess the drive to seek their enrichment from Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Two: Poor in Spirit


 

Matthew 5:3

The Old Testament supplies the background to Jesus' use of "poor." From statements like David's, we realize that when God prophesies regarding Jesus—

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound" (Isaiah 61:1)

—He is not speaking of the economically poor but those who are poor in spiritual qualities or poor in terms of a relationship with Him.

One can be spiritually poor regardless of how much money he possesses. He can be brokenhearted though living in grand houses, driving luxury automobiles, wearing the finest apparel, and circulating in the highest levels of society. Is being captive to sin and Satan or addicted to drugs, fashion, or the vain praise of men restricted by economic boundaries? Neither are godly attributes.

Jesus is not speaking to any clearly demarcated group. Though riches can motivate pride, the economically poor possess pride too. Jesus says the poor are blessed, but neither poverty nor wealth can confer spiritual blessings, though poverty may help to lead a person to humility. Both poverty and wealth can entail great spiritual peril. A poverty-stricken person can become very self-centered because of his desperate need, and a wealthy person can become equally self-centered through his profligacy. Jesus' words cover the whole span of mankind's circumstances because anyone without a right and true relationship with God can fall within His description. "Poor," as Jesus uses it, truly relates to a spiritual quality.

"Poor" does not stand alone; Jesus connects it with "spirit" to clarify His intention. Even as the economically poor are very aware of their need, so also are the poor in spirit. Yet a vast difference lies between this and being financially destitute. Poverty of spirit is a fruit not produced in the natural man, but a work of God's Holy Spirit in the minds of those He has called and is converting, explaining why being poor in spirit can span the whole economic spectrum. It is why an Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, or Joseph of Arimathea, all very wealthy men, can be simultaneously poor in spirit and materially blessed of God.

David referred to himself as a "poor" man, in need of what only God could supply. He perceived himself as destitute of the resources to improve his lot. He saw himself as beyond the help of men, afflicted, crushed, forsaken, desolate, miserable—as helpless spiritually as the poverty stricken are economically. Thus, recognizing his need, he cried out to God, and He heard him.

Another psalm by a thoroughly chastened and humbled David reveals in greater detail his recognition of the spiritual poverty in which he committed his sins. Notice the spiritual things David requested—things only God could supply—to fill his needs in Psalm 51:

Have mercy upon me . . . blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly . . . cleanse me from my sin. . . . Make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop. . . . Make me to hear joy and gladness. . . . Hide Your face from my sins. . . . Create in me a clean heart . . . renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your generous Spirit . . . . Deliver me from bloodguiltiness. . . . Open my lips and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. (verses 1-2, 6-12, 14-15)

To be poor in spirit is to acknowledge honestly and with understanding our spiritual poverty—indeed our spiritual bankruptcy—before God. We are sinners and on the strength of our lives deserve nothing but God's judgment. We have nothing to offer, nothing to plead, nothing with which to buy His favor. But upon profession of our faith coupled with repentance, He allows by His grace the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for the sins of the world, to cover our sins, justifying us and providing us with access into His presence.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Two: Poor in Spirit


 

Matthew 5:3

Those who possess poverty of spirit are pronounced "blessed." In one sense, they are blessed because they now have a disposition the very opposite of their natural one. This is perhaps a fundamental proof that God has begun working in them by His Spirit to create them in His own image. Poverty of spirit is part of the nature of our Creator, as Jesus affirms in Matthew 11:29.

God makes many promises to those of this disposition:

  • "But I am poor and needy; yet the LORD thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God" (Psalm 40:17). If God is thinking on someone, he has the attention of the One with greatest power, wisdom and love in all the universe!
  • "The humble shall see this and be glad; and you who seek God, your hearts shall live. For the LORD hears the poor, and does not despise His prisoners" (Psalm 69:32-33). One can be glad even in difficult circumstances because God hears the poor and He will deliver.
  • "For He will deliver the needy when he cries, the poor also, and him who has no helper. He will spare the poor and needy, and will save the souls of the needy" (Psalm 72:12-13). Beyond deliverance, these verses promise mercy in judgment and perhaps salvation to the poor in spirit. No wonder Jesus calls them blessed!
  • Psalm 107:41 is a psalm of thanksgiving: "Yet He sets the poor on high, far from affliction, and makes their families like a flock." God will make sure that in time the poor in spirit will receive exaltation. Their families, too, receive blessings.
  • Two psalms reveal the eternal destiny of the poor. Psalm 113:7-8 says, "He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the ash heap, that He may seat him with princes—with the princes of His people." Psalm 132:13-17 reads, "For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation: This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. There will I make the horn of David grow; I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed." In these psalms salvation and glory are definitely promised—the ultimate in blessing!

Truly blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God! This is an attitude we should fervently seek to pave the way in becoming a whole new man.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Two: Poor in Spirit


 

Matthew 5:3

"Poor in spirit" does not mean to conduct one's life without vitality, nor does it mean that a person is weak. Would we ever accuse Jesus of being weak? Jesus was the personification of humility. People think of humility as weakness because they are judging carnally by man's spirit, by sight. But the Spirit of God, the faith of God, judges according to things not seen—the Kingdom's standards.

Here is a definition of poor in spirit from a commentary by Emmet Fox on the Sermon on the Mount:

To be poor in spirit means to have emptied yourself of all desire to exercise personal self-will and what is just as important to have renounced all preconceived opinions [prejudices] in the wholehearted search for God. It means to be willing to set aside your present habits of thought, your present views and prejudices, your present way of life, if necessary, to jettison in fact anything and everything that can stand in the way of your finding God.

When Jesus counseled us in Matthew 18:4 that unless we became as little children, we would not even be in the Kingdom of Heaven, He was not holding up a child's innocence or purity as a model. He was not counseling us to become childish but to have a child's unconcern for social status, honor, or anything similar. When we are carnal, pride is such a master that we have little choice but to follow it. It is plowing the way before us. One who is truly poor in spirit, however, can ignore pride and follow God's lead.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 7)


 

Matthew 5:3

Being poor in spirit is a far cry from being strapped in one's financial circumstances. Poverty of spirit is a change in a person's heart made by the great God Almighty when He awakens the mind to His reality and begins revealing the greatness of His person and purpose. The individual begins to become aware of his own puny character defiled by vanity and to realize that he is in the presence of brilliant intellect, power, and holiness. What happens to Job, for example, in Job 38-42 is not an ordinary change of mind but on the order of a miraculous divine intervention.

Until God intervenes, Job argues vehemently that he is not a sinner; in fact, he contends that he is a man of purity and good works. What he sees revealed about himself in comparison to God causes him great disgust: Now he realizes that he is a loud-mouthed braggart with a sky-high opinion of himself. It causes him such revulsion that he comes to abhor himself as a fool. In his own eyes barely moments before, he thought of himself as a shining jewel representing God before men. Moments later, he is a burned-out, worthless hunk of junk.

As one who thought highly of himself, he had argued with everyone to defend himself. Now, deflated, he admits, "I uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know." A powerful change had taken place in his attitude toward God and fellow man. He thought he knew everything worthwhile and shouted it to the high heavens, but the reality is that he knows nothing of what is truly important. He is broken.

Poverty of spirit occurs when a person empties himself of all desire to exercise personal self-will, and just as important, renounces all preconceived opinions in a wholehearted search for God. A person who is poor in spirit is willing to set aside his present habits, views, prejudices, and way of life if necessary—to jettison anything and everything that might stand between himself and God. To the mind of one poor of spirit, God, above all, must be pleased.

To be poor in spirit is not to lack courage but to acknowledge spiritual bankruptcy. It is the mind of one who confesses his unworthiness before God and realizes that he is utterly dependent on Him in every facet of life. Job had been a wealthy man accustomed to ordering others about. He depended on no one. He now discovers that he is totally dependent on God for every breath of life, and God must be acknowledged, beginning with his personal relationship with Him and then extending out to the ways he perceived and dealt with other men.

For the first time in his life, Job fully understands that without God, he could do nothing of value toward an eternal relationship with Him (John 15:5). Poverty of spirit is foundational to everything that proceeds from a person's relationship with God from that point forward. It is indispensible to continuing and growing the relationship, otherwise the ego becomes a major hindrance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Job, Self-Righteousness, and Humility


 

Matthew 5:3

We can gauge how important the quality of humility is to our relationship with God by considering the setting of this statement. It appears in the Sermon on the Mount, three whole chapters in which Jesus lays out before His followers the foundational teaching that, if followed, will work to produce a good relationship with God. The foundation of the foundation, we might say, is the Beatitudes, and the very first quality He presents, implying its prime necessity, is poverty of spirit.

Poverty of spirit is the diametric opposite of the haughty, competitive, self-assertive, self-sufficient arrogance of pride that says, "This is the way I see it." Being poor in spirit has absolutely nothing to do with being hard up in one's circumstances—in fact, it has nothing to do with the physical realm. It is a fundamental part of the spiritual realm, of which God and the purity of His attitudes, character, and truths are the central elements.

"Poor in spirit" is poverty as compared to God's qualities. It is poverty in terms of Holy Spirit. It is to be destitute in regard to the fruit and power of God's Holy Spirit of which we all desperately need. This attitude is the product of self-evaluation in which a person, comparing his own spiritual qualities to God's, finds himself utterly impoverished of any virtue of value to eternal life. Not only that, he finds himself utterly unable, powerless, to help himself to become like God.

Thus, a person who is poor of spirit clearly sees and appreciates his dependence on God both physically and spiritually. Humility is a fruit of the realization of his complete dependence. He is nothing in his own eyes and knows that his proper place is face down in the dust before God.

The apostle John writes in I John 5:4-5, "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." The honest recognition of need, the desire to glorify God, and the practice of overcoming leads a called-out one to live by faith.

Jesus Christ is the One that God has assigned to oversee and empower us. He is the Helper and Advocate (I John 2:1) who goes alongside, enabling us to be created in His image. From Him, we draw spiritual strength, and He gives grace to the humble.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and Humility


 

Matthew 5:10-12

This beatitude presents us with yet another paradox. The other beatitudes show that a Christian can be filled with a joy that he cannot fully express, yet lament over things that the carnal consider as insignificant. He has a deep and abiding sense of satisfaction, yet groans daily and sincerely. His life-experiences are often painful, yet he would not part with them for the great wealth, acclaim, and ease that the world offers. Though the world exalts those filled with pride, self-esteem, and assertiveness, God exalts the humble and meek. The world displays its approval for war-makers by giving them ticker-tape parades, putting them into high office, and remembering their achievements by naming streets, cities, parks, and schools after them—yet God blesses peacemakers. In line with these other paradoxes, this last Beatitude also states a paradox: All we receive for well-doing is to earn the antipathy of our fellow men.

We need to understand the connection between righteousness and persecution because not every sufferer or even every sufferer of religious persecution suffers for righteousness' sake. Many suffer persecution for zealously holding fast to what is clearly a false religion. Often, a rival religious group or civil authority—just as ignorant of God's truth—are the persecutors. At any given time, persecutions of one form or another are taking place. In the recent past the Japanese persecuted the Koreans, the Chinese, and the Nepalese. In Africa, the Moslem Sudanese are persecuting nominal Christians, while in Europe, the Slavic Eastern Orthodox are persecuting Moslem Kosovars. In the history of man, this familiar beat of persecution continues endlessly with nary a connection to righteousness.

Some people become victims of their own character flaws and personality disorders. They foolishly take comfort in Matthew 5:10-12, claiming persecution when others merely retaliate against their displays of evil speaking, haughtiness, or self-centeredness. Such people are just reaping what they have sown.

Psalm 119:172 says, "My tongue shall speak of Your word; for all Your commandments are righteousness." This is a simple, straightforward definition of righteousness. It is rectitude, right doing. God's commands thus describe how to live correctly. They teach us how to conduct relationships with Him and fellow man. This beatitude is written about those who are truly doing this. They will receive persecution because they are living correctly—not because they have irritated or infuriated others through their sins or because they belong to another political party, religion, or ethnic group.

Does anything illustrate the perversity of human nature clearer than this? We might think that one could hardly be more pleased than to have neighbors who are absolutely trustworthy; who will not murder, commit adultery or fornication, steal, lie, or covet one's possessions; who rear respectful children; who are an asset to the neighborhood; who so respect God they will not even use His name in vain; who submit to the civil laws and do not even flaunt the codes and covenants of the neighborhood.

However, this description does not mention the relationship to God that really brings the persecution. These are things moral people of this world might do, yet they lack the true God in their lives and are not regenerated by His Spirit. An element of righteousness is still missing. Paul writes in Romans 8:14-17:

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

The source of true persecution is Satan, and his target is God. Satan not only hates God, but he also hates all who bear His holy image in them by means of His Spirit. Satan works in and through people just as God does, and he incites them to do all in their power to vilify, destroy the reputation of, put fear in, or discourage God's children to cause their disqualification. He will do anything to get us to retaliate as worldly people do, because then we would display Satan's image rather than Jesus Christ's. Satan knows those who have the Spirit of God, and just as he tempted Jesus, he will also single out His brothers and sisters for persecution.

The righteousness needed to resist these pressures and respond in a godly manner goes far beyond that of a merely moral person. This righteousness requires that one be living by faith minute by minute, day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year. It is a righteousness that is ingrained into a person's very character because he knows God. He is intimately acquainted with Him and His purpose rather than merely believing academically that He exists.

Following on the heels of this beatitude is another statement by Jesus on righteousness: "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20). He focuses on a righteousness that is not merely legal, resulting from God graciously justifying us by Christ's blood, but one inculcated within the heart and mind by constantly living God's way. Such a person's righteousness comes through sanctification. He is striving to keep all the commandments of God, not merely those having to do with public morality. He has made prayer and study a significant part of each day, along with occasional fasting to assist in keeping humble. He is well on his way toward the Kingdom of God.

These are not normally things that one does publicly; his neighbors may never know much of this person's life. Nonetheless, Satan knows, and this person's living faith will attract Satan's persecution, the Devil's attempts to derail him from making it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 8: Blessed Are the Persecuted


 

Matthew 5:16

A Christian's righteous life, pleasant attitude, and good works, including pure conversation and faithful obedience, should not be hidden but be seen and known. We can give no light until we have received the grace of God and the enlightenment that comes through the Holy Spirit. Our lives must produce the fruit of the Spirit, reflecting the shining example of Jesus Christ. Humbly, in all communities, in all business, at home and abroad, in prosperity and adversity, it should be clear that we adhere to God's way of life. Letting our examples shine requires that we resist the influence of the world. We cannot have a light that shines and at the same time live as the world does with its lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life (I John 2:16-17).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Light


 

Matthew 8:1-2

After relating the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew brings the reader back into the story flow by reiterating how great multitudes followed Jesus. Verse 2 begins, "And behold a leper came. . . ." This statement becomes significant when we consider that no man can come to Christ unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). That the leper came to Christ - amongst a great multitude, no less - was in itself an act of faith in response to what he heard (Romans 10:17). For him to come to Christ as he did, God had to have revealed to him that Christ was the only One who could truly cleanse him and provide him the fresh start he so desired (Matthew 16:15-17). Notice, too, the humility the leper portrays in expressing his understanding of Christ's abilities.

What makes this encounter so interesting is that, under Old Testament law, the leper was completely defiled in his uncleanness. He was to live alone and warn any who would venture near of possible contamination (Leviticus 13:44-46). Albert Barnes, commenting on Leviticus 13:45, notes, "The leper was to carry about with him the usual signs of mourning for the dead. . . . The leper was a living parable in the world of sin of which death was the wages."

In fact, all disease and degeneration are ultimately products of sin and neglect, but none is so gruesomely picturesque of the effect sin has on a person and a community as leprosy. The disease progresses slowly at first, deeply seated in the bones and joints, essentially undetectable until spots appear on the skin. Gradually, these spots grow to cover the entire body. They give the appearance of foul wounds, sore and festering as the body slowly wastes away in a ruinous heap. Parts of the body actually begin falling off, leading eventually to the individual's death.

A leper can live up to fifty years in indescribable misery, as he watches himself die bit by bit, falling to pieces as a hideous spectacle. For the leper of Matthew 8, it was a hopeless predicament; nothing could be done, apart from God's miraculous intervention (Isaiah 1:4-6; Jeremiah 13:23).

Staff
The Gift of a Leper


 

Matthew 8:5-13

Only Matthew and Luke record the miracle of the healing of a centurion's servant (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10). Both accounts indicate that the afflicted servant who needed Jesus Christ's help was young. Luke uses the Greek word doulos, meaning bond slave, someone born into slavery (Luke 7:2). Matthew, however, uses pias, meaning a child or young person (Matthew 8:6). The context indicates that this servant was not a little boy but a young man still in his teens.

The servant's master was a centurion, a Roman soldier in charge of one hundred soldiers of the Roman garrison in Capernaum. Several centurions recognized Christ's special purpose and honored Him (Mark 15:39; Acts 10:1; 22:25-26; 27:1, 43; 28:16). This miracle reveals that faith is sometimes found where we least expect it.

Although Matthew and Luke generally agree in their accounts of this incident, some differences occur. Matthew, a Jew, seems to have Israel in mind as he records Christ's somber warning to the nation not to neglect personal responsibility and to put their faith and hope in God instead of civil and religious institutions of man. They were in serious need of humility (Romans 12:16).

On the other hand, Luke, a Greek, had fellow Gentiles in mind, so excluding the warning to Israel, he instead encourages the proud Gentiles to ask for the help they needed for their problems. He does this by showing that a centurion was able to persuade the Jewish elders to help in pleading to Jesus for his servant. Humility is necessary for happiness in life (Psalm 69:32).

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Centurion's Servant (Part One)


 

Matthew 9:27-30

With an attitude of humility (Proverbs 15:33), the blind men seek Jesus' mercy in healing, giving Him praise and honor. We have no merits for any blessing from God. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, these things are given by grace, not because of anything we are or have done.

The blind men not only honor Christ in their request, but also humble themselves. They do not ask Him to be just to them, for all have sinned and deserve death (Romans 3:23), but in their humility they ask for mercy. Had they asked for justice, they would have been asking for their "rights." Demanding rights is an arrogant approach, the opposite of humility. In emphasizing rights, a person ignores his responsibilities.

Another positive characteristic the blind men exemplify is that they continue to follow Christ until they receive an answer to their request—they persevere. In spite of the crowds, they keep following Him along the road, and when He stops and enters a house, they do not give up but go into the house after Him. When we do not receive an answer to a prayer the first few times we ask, we often quit praying and sometimes indirectly accuse God of failing to act on our behalf. However, delay in answering prayer is not necessarily denial. It may be to test our faith and strengthen it.

If we desire blessings from God, we have to persevere in pursuing them. God does not usually give special blessings to those who seek them half-heartedly. As parents, we use the same method with our own children. We sometimes delay our response until we know whether they are truly sincere in their request, and until we determine how important it is to them and how hard they are willing to work for it.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing Two Blind Men (Part One)


 

Matthew 11:29

In Matthew 11:29, Jesus links meekness with lowliness: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle [meek, KJV] and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Ephesians 4:1-3 states:

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness [meekness, KJV], with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The King James version is correct, as the Greek text uses prautes. "Gentle" and "gentleness" are incorrect because in this context they are only an aspect of the meekness we should express in our dealings with others.

In Matthew 11:29, Jesus is explaining why we should embrace His way of life. As our Lord and Master, He is not harsh, overbearing, and oppressive, but gentle in His government. His laws are also reasonable and easy to obey; neither He nor they enslave. He emphasizes the gentle aspect of meekness toward others. From this, we begin to see why meekness must be a virtue of those who will receive the Kingdom and govern. Because God governs in meekness, His children must also.

Ephesians 4 teaches how to build and maintain unity within a more social context, and here, prautes appears with humility, patience, forbearance, and love. Paul demands that, for unity to be built and maintained, we should receive offenses without retaliation, bearing them patiently without a desire for revenge. We are, in short, to have a forgiving spirit. Without it, we will surely promote divisiveness.

The association of humility and meekness is natural, and is yet another facet of meekness. Whereas humility deals with a correct assessment of his merits, meekness covers a correct assessment of personal rights. This does not in any way mean a lowering of the standards of justice or of right and wrong. Meekness can be accompanied by a war to the death against evil, but the meek Christian directs this warfare first against the evil in his own heart. He is a repentant sinner, and his recognition of this state radically alters his relations with fellow man. A sinner forgiven must have a forgiving attitude.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Meekness


 

Matthew 16:6-12

In addition to representing sin, leaven represent false doctrine as well. Jesus points out the error of the Pharisees' doctrines, and Paul advises the Corinthians to partake of the bread of sincerity and truth. False doctrine causes us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. True doctrine promotes sincerity, humility, and obedience to the Sovereign of the Universe, the overall lesson of the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Staff
Holy Days: Unleavened Bread


 

Matthew 18:1

The disciples ask Jesus, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Thinking that He was about to set up a great temporal kingdom, they want to know who would hold the primary offices and posts of honor and profit. Mark informs us that they had disputed this subject while traveling (Mark 9:34). Jesus asks them what they had been arguing about. Luke adds that Jesus perceives their thoughts (Luke 9:47). The disciples, conscious that Jesus is aware of their dispute, are at first embarrassed into silence, but they eventually ask Him to decide it for them. Jesus' reply are the parables found in Matthew 18:2-14.

Martin G. Collins
Parables of the Millstone and the Lost Sheep


 

Matthew 18:2-5

The word "converted" means to change or turn. Specifically, it means to change from one way of life or set of beliefs to another. Sometimes it means "regeneration"—beginning to live a new spiritual life (Psalm 51:10-13, 17). Jesus tells the disciples that their attitudes of ambition are wrong, and they must change or have no part in His Kingdom. To do this, they must be like small children, who, for the most part, lack arrogance and pride. Children are characteristically humble and teachable (I Corinthians 14:20).

According to Mark, Jesus teaches them that, "if anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all" (Mark 9:35). The most humble Christian will be the most distinguished, and he who is willing to be esteemed last and least will be esteemed first. To regard oneself as God regards us is humility. One who receives and loves someone with an innocent child's humble attitude, who may be weak in the faith, displays true Christian character and loves Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:35-40). "Receive" in verse 5 means to approve, love, or treat with kindness; to aid in time of need.

Martin G. Collins
Parables of the Millstone and the Lost Sheep


 

Matthew 19:16-23

This event took place in the life of a wealthy man, a person we might think had no poverty of spirit due to his wealth. Surely, none of us would fit into that category! But is that so? Could we, too, be rejecting the Kingdom of God because we have great possessions—possessions in terms of preconceived ideas, confidence in our own judgment, and familiar and traditional beliefs? Do we always seek God's counsel first when these come into question?

How about intellectual pride born of academic distinction in school? Knowledge puffs up (I Corinthians 8:1). How about habits of life that we have no desire to give up and never consider that they may not glorify God? What about the fear of public ridicule because we are too interested in worldly honor and distinction? Are any of these less important barriers to full access to God than the rich young man's trust in his wealth?

The rich young man is a tragic figure not because he was rich. Wealth is neither good nor evil of itself. However, his barrier was that he was enslaved to his wealth. He was not free to give himself to God unreservedly. He had an unrealistic appraisal of himself and his money; both were too important to his sense of well-being. He could have been a multibillionaire in silver and gold, as long as his heart was not set on them. In this attitude, he would have been just as free as the poorest beggar to enter God's Kingdom. Yet, when the opportunity arose, he could not bring himself to submit to God in the flesh.

Godly humility is based on a true appraisal of ourselves in relation to God, and this must be combined with willing submission to Him, the self being a secondary consideration. Before he abhorred himself, Job was not this way, arguing with God and His laws.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Job, Self-Righteousness, and Humility


 

Matthew 20:24

Matthew 20:20-26 records the occasion when the mother of James and John asked Jesus for special consideration for her sons. When the other disciples heard of the mother of James and John asking Jesus for special consideration for her sons, they were indignant, angry. Why? From Jesus' reply we can infer that their vanity was pricked—they had been "beaten to the punch"! They had been thinking of the same request because in their vanity they thought they deserved special consideration too.

Their proud minds had pictured themselves as worthy of being served, and they were offended because they thought that chance might be slipping away. Jesus reminded them that, even to be in the Kingdom, one has to have a humble attitude of a servant.

Unlike love, pride is "touchy and fretful." When pride feels threatened, it broods against what it perceives to be hurting it or lessening its chances of "being on top," "coming out ahead" of another, "looking good," or "getting even." And so it competes against others. It looks for ways to elevate itself or put another down. It counts all the offenses, real or imagined, and puts them into a mental account book to justify its position until it finds an opportune moment to break out in "vindication" of itself.

Love does not do any of those things. I Corinthians 13:5 says it as simply as it can possibly be put. Love does not insist on its own way—it will not even become provoked in the first place. And it makes no accounting of the evil done against it! We all have a long way to go in this regard!

When love dominates a person's life, becoming offended either through hurt feelings or a strong temptation to sin is remote. When pride dominates, hurt feelings or strong temptations to sin seem to lie behind every bush.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Defense Against Offense


 

Matthew 20:25-28

Meekness, a tolerant, yielding spirit, represents having the right of way but not insisting on it. Jesus Christ sets the tone of this approach in His discussion with the sons of Zebedee and the other disciples. Many have looked upon meekness, lowliness of spirit, or the willingness to yield, with suspicion and perhaps even loathing. Meekness—or its common perception—may seem too much like weakness, wimpiness, or timidity.

Some have taken Matthew 7:29 out of context to sanction a pompous, brittle, authoritarian approach, stating Jesus "taught . . . as one who had authority, and not as the scribes." Such people assume that this gives license to higher decibels and dogmatic manhandling of the audience, but they seriously misunderstand its intended meaning. Jesus could speak with authority because He possessed an unlimited reservoir of experience. He personified the Word of God, while the scribes and Pharisees could only quibble about the bits and pieces they had studied. Even though Jesus spoke with authority, the Gospels show His manner to be peaceable and yielding in most situations.

David F. Maas
Servant Leadership: Practical Meekness


 

Matthew 23:12

Our nature seeks to exalt itself above others, to esteem itself "holier than thou" (Isaiah 65:5). We see this in those who esteem themselves as Philadelphian, while deeming all those around and not part of their group as "beneath" them and Laodicean. God will abase those who seek to exalt themselves (Daniel 4:37), for He does not pay attention to the spiritually proud but to the contrite and humble (Isaiah 66:2).

Staff
Overcoming (Part 1): Self-Deception


 

Matthew 24:21

Failure to be careful in our obedience has unique consequences as we approach the end of this age. It will be a time of tribulation whose severity the world has never seen or ever will see again. Christ warns us of that in Matthew 24:21, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.”

God promises protection for some during this time:

Because you have patiently obeyed me despite the persecution, therefore I will protect you from the time of Great Tribulation and temptation, which will come upon the world to test everyone alive. (Revelation 3:10, The Living Bible)

Seek the LORD [inquire for Him, inquire of Him, and require Him as the foremost necessity of your life], all you humble of the land who have acted in compliance with His revealed will and have kept His commandments; seek righteousness, seek humility [inquire for them, require them as vital]. It may be you will be hidden in the day of the LORD's anger. (Zephaniah 2:3, The Amplified Bible)

Who receives this offer of protection? It is those who “have patiently obeyed” Christ and “have acted in compliance with His revealed will and have kept His commandments.” It could not be more clear.

In conjunction with obedience, Zephaniah also instructs us to “seek humility.” Why is humility vital? It takes humility to submit carefully to all that God commands compared to the Laodicean arrogance in deciding for oneself what is important to obey and what is of too little consequence to obey completely.

Many call this place of protection where God hides the obedient at the time of the Great Tribulation the “Place of Safety.” They consider it a refuge provided by God for three and a half years of final training. People in God's church have debated the where, the why, and the how of this subject for decades.

If there is a Place of Safety, who would God want there? It would be a time of intense training. Would He not want people who have already proven they are completely in sync with Him, believing and living by His every word, willing to follow without question wherever He leads? Why would He take on at that crucial time the task of herding cats, people who have proven they prefer to do their own thing? He has already demonstrated the futility of such an undertaking in His dealings with ancient Israel.

At this unique time in history, being careful could be the difference between being protected from what is to come and being left squarely in the middle of it. It could be a choice between life or death, escape or tribulation. Are we making our choice now by how we respond to God's many admonitions to be careful to observe His commands?

We can be careless about our obedience and lie to ourselves about the quality of that obedience. After all, it is what Laodiceans do:

Because you say, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing”—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:17)

God sees the truth. Time seems short as we see the world around us rapidly disintegrating daily. So, at this critical time, we need to consider soberly, honestly, and carefully, and obey all that Christ means when He says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:4).

Carefully obeying every word matters.

Pat Higgins
Every Word?


 

Luke 7:36-47

This woman perceived and appreciated a greatness in Jesus that motivated her to so abase herself as to weep, cleanse His feet with her tears, kiss, and anoint them! Notice her emotion, courage, devotion (oblivious of public opinion), and humility (in performing the task of a slave). We can safely guess that Jesus had turned this woman from a life of sin. She may have been among the crowds who were convicted by His messages. When she heard He was nearby, she rushed to Simon's home, ignoring the scorn of others to express her gratitude to the One who had set her aright.

Her deed expressed her love and gratitude, springing from her recognition of or faith in His greatness as contrasted to her unworthiness. She felt obligated to respond in a way so memorable that God recorded it for all humanity for all time to witness. Note that the Bible shows human lips touching Jesus only twice: here and Judas' kiss of betrayal.

In contrast, Simon the Pharisee, evidently a man of some substance and ambition, was moved to invite the popular Jesus to his home. Self-concerned and inhospitable, he did not offer Jesus even the customary services a host normally provided visitors to his home.

From the context we can assume that he felt himself to be at least Jesus' equal. His conclusion that Jesus was no prophet probably suggests he felt superior to Him, that He was no more than an interesting celebrity. This biased self-evaluation in relation to Jesus produced in him no sense of obligation and thus no corresponding gratitude, humility, or act of love—let alone common courtesies.

Had he a heart at all? The scene unfolding at his respectable table scandalized him, but God thought it so inspiring, He recorded it for our benefit. Simon judged, "She is a sinner." "No, Simon," Jesus replied, "she was a sinner." In this lies a major clue to the difference between the two people.

Simon and the woman had something in common, according to the parable: Both were debtors to the same creditor, and neither could meet His obligation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover, Obligation, and Love


 

Luke 7:41-50

The woman perceived a greatness in Jesus that motivated her to so abase herself. A proper sense of obligation works to produce a valuable Christian virtue—humility.

Notice her emotion, devotion, and seeming unconcern for public opinion in going far beyond the normal task of a slave. We can safely guess that Jesus had played a huge part in turning this woman from her bondage to sin. She may have first simply been among the crowds who were convicted by His messages. However, she thought deeply and personally on the difference between her life and His words. When she heard He was nearby, she rushed to Simon's home, ignoring the scorn of others to express her gratitude to the One who had set her aright.

Her deed expresses her love and gratitude springing from recognition of His greatness as compared to her unworthiness. She felt obligated to respond in a way so memorable that God recorded it for all humanity for all time to witness. Note that the Bible shows human lips touching Jesus only twice: Here and Judas' kiss of betrayal.

Now notice the contrast with Simon the Pharisee, who was evidently a man of some substance and a measure of aggression that resulted in him inviting the celebrated Jesus to his home. He was a man so self-concerned and inhospitable that he failed to offer Jesus even the customary services a host provided visitors to his home. Simon probably felt himself at least Jesus' equal, and his conclusion that He was no prophet perhaps indicates that he styled himself as Jesus' superior. He likely considered Jesus nothing but an interesting celebrity who could gain him recognition in the community for having Him as his guest.

His evaluation of himself in relation to Jesus produced in him no sense of obligation, and thus no gratitude, humility, or act of love, let alone common courtesy. Had he a heart at all? He was scandalized by this dramatic and arresting scene taking place at his respectable table.

While God considered her act of love to be so awesome that He had it memorialized as an eternal witness, Simon's perception of it only concluded, "She is a sinner." No, Simon, she was a sinner, and therein is a major clue to the reason for their differing reactions to Jesus. In Jesus' parable, Simon and the woman held something in common—something Simon did not grasp, but the woman did. Both were debtors to the same Creditor, and neither could meet their obligations, but Simon did not even see his indebtedness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
An Unpayable Debt and Obligation


 

Luke 11:6

Ask means requesting something of another, often a superior. Seek means to endeavor to find a thing, to try to gain it, to strive after it with earnestness and zeal. Knock is a request for admission when the way is closed.

Jesus is telling us here that, when we are searching for an answer or a solution to a problem, we should actively expend effort to resolve the difficulty. He presents three different forms of seeking things, and each pictures different intensities of effort:

  1. Asking for what is wanted. This often requires humility.
  2. Seeking diligently for it. Sincerity and drive are key here.
  3. Knocking on doors to gain entrance. This means being persistent, persevering and occasionally ingenious.

This process signifies that if we want answers, we must seek them with earnestness, diligence, and perseverance, or put another way, that we seek them with a proper attitude of humility, sincerity, and persistence. It also implies that we ask for things that are consistent with God's will to give us. Such things would be those He has promised to give, that are good for us, and that bring honor and glory to Him.

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Ask, Seek, Knock


 

Luke 14:15-24

In analyzing the Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:15-24), we must consider the two parables that precede it: the Parables of the Ambitious Guest (verses 7-11) and the Feast (verses 12-14). Although all three are spoken at the same time in the same house, Jesus describes three different occasions: a wedding, a feast, and a great supper. It is evident that His entire conversation contains a single, main theme.

First, Jesus tells the Parable of the Ambitious Guest, which is about a wedding and the right and wrong ways of inviting people. He adds to what He had said about the Pharisees loving the best seats in the synagogue (Luke 11:43), making it clear that humility comes before true exaltation. Those not seeking promotion are to have the important places in social life. Those who exalt themselves will be abased, and the humble will be exalted (James 4:10; I Peter 5:6).

Then, Jesus tells the Parable of the Feast, giving his host a lesson on whom to invite to a meal. The key to the parable is, "Lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid." If the host invited only his rich friends, of course, he would expect them to offer him like hospitality, but when people act on this basis, they derail true hospitality. Godly hospitality occurs when one serves others while expecting nothing in return (I Peter 4:9).

The Parable of the Great Supper is Jesus' response to a fellow dinner guest exclaiming, "Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!" All three parables deal with the general theme of hospitality, but the last adds humility and self-examination.

Jesus pictures God's choice in the kind of guests He desires at His table. The parable shows a progression of urgency as time grows short. The first invitation is conveyed to the Israelites simply as "come." The second, "bring in," is directed at the spiritually poor, injured, crippled, and blind, symbolizing the Gentiles without previous access to the truth. The third, "compel," affects an even lower class of people representing the spiritual fringes of this world.

None of the three invitees has any desire to fellowship, expressing the same willing captivation by the cares of this world. Many fail to realize that the invitation is from God the Father to His children, and failure to respond constitutes willful disobedience. None who so decidedly reject the offer of the Kingdom will be saved (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31). It is dangerous to reject the truth of God. The invitation is full and free, but when people turn willfully away from it, God leaves them to their chosen way of destruction. How important it is to cherish God's offer of the blessings of His way of life and eternal life in His Kingdom and to examine our own dedication.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Great Supper


 

Luke 17:9

The only limit to the servant's duty is his master's will. There is no point at which we can claim that we have done enough and are entitled to ease. The servant is always a debtor of service; the master is never a debtor of reward. One who idolizes his duty may be satisfied when his duty is accomplished and expect the praise of others, but servants should not expect even thanks.

God promises us rewards, but we do not work for the Master simply to receive compensation. As servants, we serve Him because we are His to command as He wills and because we love Him. He has every right to our service and is under no obligation to thank us for our obedience. The servant does not serve for nothing, but receives consideration for the gift of salvation because of his dedicated obedience and humble service. Nevertheless, it is good for His servants to seek His praises and rewards with the right attitude because God does praise and reward the faithful (Colossians 3:23-24).

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Unprofitable Servants


 

Luke 17:10

The lowly attitude of the servant is seen clearly in the word translated "servant" in verse 7. It is the Greek word doulos meaning "bondservant." During Christ's time, such a servant-slave was under the complete authority of his master. We must take this lowly position if we are going to serve our Master well. Our service will always fall short of the suffering and sacrifice Jesus received while in the flesh on earth. Therefore, there is no such thing as an excess of earned credit in us; even after serving our best at what the Master requires, we are still unprofitable servants in comparison to Christ. After performing our duty perfectly, we are still short of earned credit before God. We cannot build anything on our own effort. If we expect thanks and reward for fulfilling the minimum requirement of work, our thoughts are not on the duty but on what we may gain.

Christ expects every church member to do his duty in a mind and will unified with His. His emphasis on humility is a hard lesson for those who will not serve unless given recognition, honor, and position. In reality, much of the service we perform for Him is humbling and obscure by the world's standard. Christian works must be done in faith (James 2:20). The only way to obtain increased faith is for the working servant to manifest steadfast, persevering obedience, grounded in humility with the help of the Holy Spirit. Faith is produced as a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). A humble, obedient, serving attitude goes a long way to increasing faith and practicing true forgiveness.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Unprofitable Servants


 

Luke 18:9-14

Notice Jesus' teaching in verse 9: "Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others." This specific problem is religious egotism; the Pharisee despised others. Despised means "to count as nothing" or "to be contemptuous of." Can one have a good relationship with someone he despises? Pride finds fertile ground in our process of evaluation and begins to produce corrupt fruit.

This parable reveals the Pharisee to possess a misguided confidence that caused him to magnify himself by comparing himself against someone he felt to be inferior. It fed his own opinion of himself, causing separation from his fellow man. While that was happening, it also brought him into war with God! The Pharisee became separated from God because, as the parable says, he was not justified.

We need to take warning because, if we begin to feel contaminated in the presence of a brother—if we begin to withdraw from him or are constantly finding fault with him and being offended by almost everything he does—we may well be in very great trouble! The sin of pride may be producing its evil fruit, and the division is strong evidence of it.

This parable features a self-applauding lawkeeper and an abased publican. One is not simply good and the other evil; both are equally sinners but in different areas. Both had sinned, but the outward form of their sins differed. Paul taught Timothy that some men's sins precede them and others follow later (I Timothy 5:24). The publican's sins were obvious, the Pharisee's generally better hidden.

The Pharisee's pride deluded him into thinking he had a righteousness he did not really possess. His prayer is full of self-congratulation, and like a circle, it keeps him firmly at its center (notice all the I's in Luke 18:11-12). He makes no lowly expression of obligation to God; he voices no thanksgiving for what God had given him; he gives no praise to God's glory. He asks for nothing, confesses nothing, and receives nothing! But very pronouncedly, he compares himself with others. He is filled with conceit and is totally unaware of it because his pride has deceived him into concentrating his judgment on the publicans—sinners who were contaminating his world!

The humble publican did not delude himself into thinking he was righteous. What made the difference? It was a true evaluation and recognition of the self in relation to God, not other men. The basis of their evaluations—pride or humility—made a startling difference in their conclusions, revealing each man's attitudes about himself and his motivations.

The one finds himself only good, the other only lacking. One flatters himself, full of self-commendation. The other seeks mercy, full of self-condemnation. Their approach and attitude toward God and self are poles apart! One stands apart because he is not the kind of man to mingle with inferiors. The other stands apart because he considers himself unworthy to associate himself with others. One haughtily lifts his eyes to heaven; the other will not even look up! How different their spirits! Anyone who, like the Pharisee, thinks he can supply anything of great worth to the salvation process is deluding himself!

Against whom do we evaluate ourselves? Pride usually chooses to evaluate the self against those considered inferior. It must do this so as not to lose its sense of worth. To preserve itself, it will search until it finds a flaw.

If it chooses to evaluate the self against a superior, its own quality diminishes because the result of the evaluation changes markedly. In such a case, pride will often drive the person to compete against—and attempt to defeat—the superior one to preserve his status (Proverbs 13:10). Pride's power is in deceit, and the ground it plows to produce evil is in faulty evaluation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Luke 18:9-14

The publican's is the language of the poor in spirit. We do not belong anywhere except alongside the publican, crying out with downcast eyes, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" John Calvin, the sixteenth-century theologian whose teachings form the basis of Reformed Protestantism, wrote, "He only who is reduced to nothing in himself, and relies on the mercy of God is poor in spirit" (Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke, p. 261).

Notice how Jesus brought out that the underlying attitude of the Pharisee was reliance in self. He boasted before God of all his "excellent" qualities and works, things he evidently thought would earn him God's respect. His vanity about these things then motivated him to regard others as less than himself. So we see that self-exaltation is the opposite of poor in spirit.

Poor in spirit is contrary to that haughty, self-assertive, and self-sufficient disposition that the world so much admires and praises. It is the reverse of an independent and defiant attitude that refuses to bow to God—that determines to brave things out against His will like Pharaoh, who said, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice . . .?" (Exodus 5:2). A person who is poor in spirit realizes that he is nothing, has nothing, can do nothing—and needs everything, as Jesus said in John 15:5, "Without Me you can do nothing."

In his commentary, The Sermon on the Mount, Emmett Fox provides a practical description of what "poor in spirit" means:

To be poor in spirit means to have emptied yourself of all desire to exercise personal self-will, and, what is just as important, to have renounced all preconceived opinions in the whole-hearted search for God. It means to be willing to set aside your present habits of thought, your present views and prejudices, your present way of life if necessary; to jettison, in fact, anything and everything that can stand in the way of your finding God. (p. 22)

Poverty of spirit blooms as God reveals Himself to us and we become aware of His incredible holiness and towering mercy in even calling us to be forgiven and invited to be in His Family—to be like Him! This understanding awakens us to the painful discovery that all our righteousness truly is like filthy rags by comparison (Isaiah 64:6); our best performances are unacceptable. It brings us down to the dust before God. This realization corresponds to the Prodigal Son's experience in Luke 15:14 when "he began to be in want." Soon thereafter, Jesus says, he "came to himself" (verse 17), beginning the humbling journey back to his father, repentance, and acceptance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Two: Poor in Spirit


 

Luke 18:9-14

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14) contrasts two different attitudes: self-righteousness and humility. The two men who go to the Temple to pray contrast in character, belief, and self-examination, representing opposite sides of the law. The Pharisee corresponds to the self-righteous, merciless worshipper of the law, and the tax collector exemplifies the humiliated lawbreaker. Both are sinners, although the outward form of their sins differs. Both men allow the judgment that they had already formed about themselves to determine the form and wording of their prayers.

As Luke comments, the parable's purpose is to expose those "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others." Despised, which literally means "to count as nothing," describes the religious egotism the Pharisees repulsively personified. Jesus' intention is to rebuke this self-righteous trust in the self, as well as self-righteous loathing of others. Not only do the self-righteous think they are safe from God's judgment, but they also habitually disdain others as not being as righteous as they are and therefore deserving of God's judgment. Although it involves prayer, this parable is not one about how to pray as much as it is on how to be justified before God.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector


 

Luke 18:9-12

The Pharisee's prayer manifests his mindset (II Peter 2:3). People like him trust in their own works to gain salvation and eternal life, not trusting in Jesus Christ for them. They do not really think they need His sacrifice or help because they think they are good enough in themselves. So, they toot their own horns, making sure God knows how righteous they are. While kneeling before Him, they tell Him all the good things they are always doing, and believe that He is impressed. They act as if God owes them salvation because of their good works.

This attitude shows how little they understand of the true holiness of God and the lowliness of our spiritual state. While on earth, Jesus worked more easily with tax collectors and sinners than with the Pharisees, though the latter were more dedicated to adhering strictly to the letter of the law. The Pharisees, knowing they were more righteous, made sure others knew it. In their self-delusion and self-righteousness, they could learn little from Christ.

The Pharisee, considering others as nothing, treats them accordingly. It is typical of human nature to elevate itself while putting down others, and some believe that this is the only way to elevate themselves above their peers. Isaiah writes about such people: ". . . who say, 'Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!' These are smoke in [God's] nostrils, a fire that burns all the day" (Isaiah 65:5).

The Pharisee compares his own flaws, not with God's infinite perfections, but with the imagined greater flaws of others. His pride has made him bankrupt of genuine compassion and concern (James 2:13). He presumptuously errs in his prayer in that it is neither his duty nor his right as a sinner to point out another's sins. In trusting in Christ for righteousness, our inadequacies and guilt are revealed, and we become willing to admit that others may be much better than we are.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector


 

Luke 18:14

God the Father is lowly. Christ says, "If you've seen Me, you've seen the Father," and the Son of Man is Himself lowly. He humbled Himself before man and before God in obedience, and now He is exalted to the very highest rank under the Father. This is the promise: Those who humble themselves before God, the Father will exalt. In what way? We will be granted entrance into His Kingdom. There can be no greater exaltation than to inherit the Kingdom of God. We will be like Him, humble, lowly, as He is. We will be in harmony with His nature.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 7)


 

John 1:6-9

To appreciate this self-subordination of John, we must relate what is said here to the cultural environment in which these books were written. We must consider what the apostles wrote from the perspective of first-century Jews who witnessed John the Baptist's ministry.

In the twentieth century, we tend to think that John's ministry was little more than a blip on a radar screen. However, in terms of impact and importance, there was no true ministry greater than his except Jesus'. Thinking that John's ministry was insignificant flirts with diminishing what Jesus says about none born of a woman being greater than John.

In God's own estimation, recorded in Luke 1:15—the very first thing said about him by the angel speaking for God—John would be great! He was the prophesied messenger who fulfilled Isaiah 40:3, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God'" (see Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 1:76; 3:4; John 1:23). He also fulfilled Malachi 3:1, "Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me" (see Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 1:76; 7:27).

His greatness lay:

1. in the office he filled;

2. in the subject he dealt with (repentance and true knowledge of the Messiah);

3. in his humility in calling no attention to himself and voluntarily receding into the background when the Messiah appeared (John 3:30), as well as his great zeal in performing his function;

4. in his personal attributes of character, above reproach in terms of sin;

5. in his self-denial in terms of his manner of life;

6. in his courage in the face of opposition;

7. in his lifelong service to God.

John was the crown of a long line of Old Testament prophets.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist


 

John 2:4

When Jesus reprimands Mary, calling her "woman" (gunai) rather than "mother" (meter), He implies that He is not conforming to her authority but acting under His Heavenly Father's authority. This statement establishes that Mary, even as His physical mother, has no authority over Jesus, destroying any belief that urges us to pray to Mary to intercede for us. On the two occasions in which Mary is seen intruding in His ministry—here and in Matthew 12:46-50—Jesus verbally moves her aside. His rebuke censures her assumption of authority she does not have. She also seems to lack the humility with which we must go to God with our requests.

Since the Father had already predetermined Jesus' agenda, Mary's request is inappropriate because she tries to determine what He should do. The Father would not have let Mary change His plan, so He had probably already inspired Christ to perform this miracle. Obviously, Jesus does not deny Mary a solution, but He does mildly rebuke her for her attitude toward Him and His purpose.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Water Into Wine (Part One)


 

John 3:26-27

John had come to grips with this concept. He understood that his role in the vast scope of God's purpose was limited by the overruling wisdom of the Creator as He carried out His purpose. This is a reason why salvation is spoken of as "free"—because God is not bound to show mercy to anybody since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All too often, we forget that the invisible God is working things out according to His purpose, not ours. God is free to do as He pleases. He owes no one anything.

I Corinthians 4:6-7 adds:

Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

Do we have grounds for being puffed up or jealous? John the Baptist did not think so, and what he declared is truth. I Corinthians 12 makes clear that God places people in the church as it pleases Him, and He gives gifts to them so they can be responsible for a function. The gifts do not make them "better," just prepared by the Creator to serve in a specialized way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Two)


 

John 13:1-5

While His disciples ate the Passover meal, Jesus arose and washed the disciples' feet. Considered a very lowly responsibility in that culture, footwashing was performed by servants when visitors entered a house. By performing this act of humility, Jesus shows us how we should serve each other. He commands Christians everywhere and throughout all ages to follow His example.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Holy Days: Passover


 

John 13:12-16

Because of their incessant bickering about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom (Luke 22:24-27), Jesus gave the disciples an object lesson designed to show them what their real position was under Him. He tells them, "He who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves" (verse 26). He shows them that they must be willing to do whatever task—even the most menial—that is necessary for the good of their brothers. This should have put them in the proper attitude for the Passover's greater purpose, Christ's sacrifice for our forgiveness and redemption.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Footwashing


 

John 13:12-15

The footwashing a commanded ceremony for Christians. It is an object lesson whose meaning we are to inculcate into our lives and practice at every opportunity! As Christ served us, so should we serve others. The apostle John writes in I John 2:6, "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Footwashing


 

John 14:8-10

Commentators believe Phillip is requesting a theophany, a literal vision of the Father. Jesus refuses with a gentle rebuke, confirming once again His oneness with the Father, and that if one has seen the Son, he has seen spiritual character exactly as if he had seen the Father. His humility again comes to the fore in His claim that He does not speak on His own authority and that His Father does the works. As a human being, Jesus had absolutely no evil pride coursing through Him or interfering with His thoughts.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and Humility


 

John 17:20-22

Salvation can easily and accurately be described as "being at one with God." As long as we are separated from God, we do not have salvation. When we are "at one" with God, it means that we are becoming like Him, that we are walking along the same path with Him and will be saved.

Jesus Christ's death bridges this impossible situation for us. We can then begin to contribute to being at one with God. What remains yet undone, despite the gap being bridged, is a change in character and in attitude that must be worked in us in order for us to become like God. It takes living God's way for us to become like God. This is why humility is necessary.

We can see from Jesus' prayer and from our own experience (and from the history of man) that mankind is not at one with God, yet that is God's aim. Satan motivated Adam and Eve, and subsequently all the rest of mankind, to separate themselves from God. As long as Satan can keep us separated from Him, salvation is impossible. Satan's thinking, which was passed on to Adam and Eve and then to us, is that we all have the right to set our own standards or codes of right and wrong. He has convinced mankind that they have the same prerogatives and that these Satan-inspired, man-made standards can produce abundant prosperity, good health, peace, and a sense of well-being in our lives.

But they do not, and that is the problem! Humbling oneself means giving up that devilish notion and submitting to what God says. He has given us free moral agency to choose whether to obey His standards and codes, not the freedom to set our own.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

Romans 1:22-23

God wants us to worship Him directly—not through an idol. When we set up an idol, we are in fact sacrificing to one or more demons! God wants us to worship Him humbly rather than the way the world worships idols. It is degrading to worship an idol. Conversely, God calls us into His own spiritual presence to worship Him directly. Whenever we stop short of our face-to-face relationship and worship of our sovereign God by placing a visible entity before Him, we break the second commandment. God looks to those who worship Him in humility and respectful fear and despises those who choose their own ways.

Martin G. Collins
The Second Commandment


 

Romans 3:18

The fear needed is not a servile, cringing, and enslaving terror, but a mixture of love, admiration, and respect for what He is. He is a Father who pities His children; a Ruler who looks on the one who is poor and of a contrite heart; a Physician who heals the body, cleanses the spirit, mercifully forgives, and gives sound counsel so that His children can work out their salvation with fear and trembling.

When the fear of God enters a man's evil heart, godly knowledge, understanding, and wisdom can begin to grow. Why? Because in making better choices, the person begins to break his enslavement to his own evil heart, from which comes all the defiling corruption that leads to death, as Jesus shows in Matthew 15:18-20:

But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.

By nature, man is focused on his sense of self-importance, so pride dominates his attitudes and therefore his choices. The corrective is something that will humble, and it begins with him being able to compare himself appropriately with the greatness of God. Man will live either to serve himself or to seek to serve and please God. It will be one or the other because no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).

When Moses goes before Pharaoh in Exodus 5:2, he says, "Let my people go." What is Pharaoh's defiant response? "Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go." That was his problem, and it remains a major hurdle for us too. We must come to know the Lord. From this, a simple truth arises: Not knowing God promotes irreverence of God, as Pharaoh clearly shows. Thus, not knowing God promotes disobedience. Knowing God, on the other hand, promotes the fear of God and humility before Him and thus obedience.

Knowing God in His sovereignty works to remove every ground for man to rely on himself and boast. Salvation is of the Lord; it is by His grace through faith. Man wants to think that he is contributing greatly to his redemption and salvation, but John tells us we are born, not of the will of the flesh, but of God (John 1:13). If we understand God's sovereignty, it leads us to praise Him for the glory of what He is: He is our salvation! In addition, we desire salvation for the very purpose of humbling ourselves before Him that we might glorify Him. This means that we can wisely turn only one way: We must choose to submit to His will.

The exercise, the actual use, of humility in daily life is a choice. Each time we submit to God's instruction, we are humbling ourselves before Him. Once we know what God's will is, we must still deal with choosing to use humility by submitting to it. Is that not what God says in Deuteronomy 30:19, that we must choose life rather than death? "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live." Fully accepting God's sovereignty provides us the proper comparisons so that we can wisely make right choices.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty, Part Three: The Fruits


 

Romans 8:7-9

How does God's Spirit help us to overcome? Back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Because of their disobedience, an attitude, a spirit, of sin and rebellion entered into them and separated them from God. That spirit is enmity against God (Romans 8:7-9). It is a poison, a spiritual disease, that contaminates each individual as he adjusts to a sin-filled world and makes the same poor choices that Adam and Eve made.

However, once God calls a person, if he allows God to humble him, then upon repentance, he is prepared for the indwelling of God's Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the antidote for the noxious, evil spirit of sin that humanity has followed since the Garden of Eden. Our carnal spirit, mimicking the attitudes of Satan, is prideful and self-serving, but God's pure and powerful Spirit can heal us and make it possible for us to keep God's laws by dissolving our proud, selfish nature. Once this process has begun, we can then begin to bear the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Yet, we cannot take the indwelling of God's Spirit for granted. When David sinned with Bathsheba and conspired in the death of Uriah the Hittite, he drifted from God for several months at least, for it was not until around the time that the baby was born that the prophet Nathan shocked the king into awareness of what he had done (II Samuel 12:14-15). In his psalm of repentance, he cries, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:10-11; emphasis ours throughout). He realized that by his neglect of seeking God daily, he had been dangerously close to losing all contact with God. Thus, he asks God to renew His Spirit within him and not take it away.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul also speaks of renewing God's Spirit in us. He writes in II Corinthians 4:16, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day." Speaking of the "new man" again in Ephesians 4, he instructs the brethren, ". . . put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and . . . put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness" (verses 22-24).

Clearly, God wants us to be in contact with Him every day by His Spirit.

Staff
Ask and It Will Be Given


 

Romans 12:3-8

These six verses are all tied together by humility—that one should not think of himself more highly than he ought. God has put us each in the body as it pleases Him, so we should not think that we, as, say, the toe are better than the knee because the toe cannot do the knee's job. God thinks of the toe just as highly as He does of the knee, but if He has put us as a toe, why not in faith do the job of a toe because that is what God wants us to be? If He had wanted us to be a knee, He would have put you in the body as a knee, but He made us to be a toe, so be happy as a toe! Do a toe's work in faith!

Paul tells us to think soberly, logically, seriously, that as God has dealt to each a measure of faith, that we in faith can consider our place in the church and deal with it. So, whatever we are to do, do it! Do it with all the gifts and skills that God has given—but do not try to do another's job. It is his job to do diligently, not ours. God put us in the body to do a specific job, our job not his, otherwise He would have given us his job!

If we have been given the job to exhort, then we should exhort. If it is our job to minister and serve others, serve—but do not take another's job to prophesy. Paul is saying, "In lowliness of mind, be content where you are, because obviously God has put you there for a reason. If you do the job that God has given to you, you are fulfilling His will." The church, then, can be united because the members are not competing over each other's responsibilities.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

Romans 12:3

Paul admonishes us not to esteem ourselves too much, an attitude that leads to vanity and arrogance.

Yet, is that not what is being pushed in our society today? A central premise in education and childrearing is instilling self-esteem in our youth, supposedly to give them confidence and motivation to succeed in life. There is no surer method to produce competition and strife! The Word of God, on the other hand, teaches us:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself (Philippians 2:3).

This latter attitude produces peace, cooperation, and unity.

Martin G. Collins
Celebrating Birthdays


 

Romans 12:10

We are to prefer others over ourselves. We, in humility, ought to abase ourselves and let him do his job, because in the scheme of things, we are to consider him as over us. Say, he is the knee, and we are the toe. The knee has a function, and when the knee needs to perform its function, the toe must follow. However, when the toe must do its job, the knee should take orders from the toe. We each have our areas of responsibility, and if we leave each other alone to do our jobs and give the other precedence in doing his job, then maybe we will all get the work done. We will not be stepping on his job, and he will not stepping on ours. When we need his cooperation, he follows us, and when he needs our cooperation, we follow him. There is no need to fight. Everyone just does his job. When we must follow, follow, and when we must lead, lead. That is how it works. We have no need to worry about other people's jobs. They will get done. If they are doing theirs well, and we are doing ours well, then the whole body, the church, moves forward.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

Romans 13:7

According to the thesaurus, honor has these synonyms: "esteem, respect, pay homage to, assign value to." The Greek word translated "honor" in our English Bibles, timao, means "to prize, i.e. fix a valuation upon; by implication, to revere" (Strong's Concordance). Showing honor, then, means treating another respectfully because we value them highly.

So is honor due anyone? Should we put value on any man or woman, or should we honor God alone? What does the Bible say? A study with a concordance reveals just how much God has to say about honoring others. He does not limit it to honoring our parents.

This verse tells us clearly honor is due certain ones, but it begs the questions: To whom is honor due besides God? And how do we honor others?

The truth is that we will never sincerely respect, prize, value, or honor anyone until and unless we start with an attitude of meekness. Honoring and respecting others will not happen when a superior or holier-than-thou attitude is present. Paul tells us to "esteem others better than" ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

When we truly repent of what we are, and how we regularly fall short of God's holiness, we cannot remain in a pompous mood. Perhaps we can learn from some of those who have lived God's way before us. John the Baptist says of himself: "He [Christ] must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). Paul considers himself "the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle" (I Corinthians 15:9). He also writes that he is "less than the least of all the saints" (Ephesians 3:8). History will conclude otherwise, but it opens a window into Paul's thinking. When we dishonor others, it is a sure sign we are thinking of ourselves or others wrongly. We are to love others as ourselves, honoring them.

Honoring from a pure motive is possible only when we have a proper perspective of who God is, what we are, and who others are in relation to us and God. It begins with deep honor and respect for God—and thus for all He says. The first four commandments lay the foundation for doing this.

Staff
A Matter of Honor


 

1 Corinthians 1:19-21

God has purposely chosen this means to put proud and stiff-necked man totally in debt to Him for the most important achievement in all of life. Men have accomplished much and will continue to do many great things. However, verses 19-21 expose why the wise of this world will not submit to God. The reason becomes clear in the phrase, "the foolishness of preaching" (verse 21, King James Version [KJV]). This translation is somewhat misleading in the King James; it should read "the foolishness of the message preached," as in the New King James Version (NKJV). Paul is not saying that the wise of this world reject the act of preaching but that they consider the content of the message preached to be foolish. In other words, the wise will not believe the gospel, most specifically that God in the flesh has died for the sins of the world.

It cannot be overestimated how important humility expressed by faith before God is to the overall spiritual purpose of God for each individual! Each person must know as fully as possible that Christ died for him, that his own works do not provide forgiveness, and that he has not created himself in Christ Jesus. Nobody evolves into a godly person on the strength of his own will. It is God who works in us both to will and to do (Philippians 2:13). No new creation creates itself. So, by and large, God calls the undignified, base, weak, and foolish of this world, people whom the unbelieving wise consider to be insignificant and of no account. He does this so that no human will glory in His presence. On this, a German commentator, Johann Albrecht Bengel, clarifies, "We have permission to glory, not before God, but in God."

The term "in Christ Jesus" (I Corinthians 1:30) indicates that we are in an intimate relationship with Him. Paul then details—through the terms "wisdom," "righteousness," "sanctification," and "redemption"—that God, using our believing, humble, submissive cooperation, will be responsible for all things accomplished in and through us. Some modern commentators believe that, because "wise" and "wisdom" appear so many times earlier in this chapter, the terms "righteousness," "sanctification," and "redemption" should be in parentheses because Paul intends them to define what he means by true wisdom in this context.

God, then, is pleased to save those who believe and to do a mighty work in them. This set Abel apart from, as far as we know, every other person living on earth at that time. What he did by faith pictures what everyone who receives salvation must also do to begin his walk toward the Kingdom of God. Everyone must be called of God; believe enough of His Word to know that he is a sinner who needs the blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sins; repent, that is, undergo a change of mind toward God; and be justified, made legally righteous by having Jesus Christ's righteousness imputed to him. This enables a relationship with God to begin, and sanctification unto glorification can proceed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Nobody will ever come before God and say, "I did it by the strength of my own hands." Though this person may have faith and a strong will, he is certainly not perfect. Many times, when the Israelites' faith broke down, God had to intervene in some way to save them. Whether it is Israel at the Red Sea or Israel out in the wilderness, time and again He had to intervene and spare them, even in times when they showed a measure of faith.

Since man's creation, humans have been exalting themselves against God by choosing to do things their own way. However, there is only one way that works eternally, and every human being will be led to see his weaknesses and know that it is by grace that we are saved. This realization does wonders to a person's feelings about himself, making humility possible. This, in turn, makes it possible for him to yield to God, which makes it possible for him to deal with other human beings, not with a high hand or as a master to a slave, but as a friend—as an understanding brother or sister who has gone through similar experiences and seen their own failures, and who can commiserate, sympathize, show compassion and mercy, encourage, and inspire the one who has failed.

God will work in each person and will do it in such a way that he will come to realize that merely knowing the truth—and even believing the truth and acting on it—are not enough. God must save them by grace.

This is not to say that works are unimportant. They are vital to maintaining and developing a relationship with God. They are important in building character, and in this sense, without works we will have a difficult time being saved. If nothing else, doing good works shows that a relationship exists between a person and God. So works are important to earning rewards, to building character, to providing a witness for God, but they still will not save us of and by themselves because, since we are imperfect, they are also terribly flawed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 1:26

Grace eliminates for us the possibility of any boasting or any self-glory. Regardless of our material accomplishments—no matter how many doctorate degrees we may have, how much money we may have accumulated, or how many good deeds we may have done—no one can boast before God because, as verse 30 says, we are "of Him." Here is the key to understanding this. In spiritual terms, all that we have accomplished has been done only because of what He gave.

If we want to go back that far, it all began when He gave us life. In terms of spiritual life, we have to go back only as far as His calling. We would not have accomplished anything that we have accomplished spiritually—for instance, kept the Sabbath and the holy days—except that God called us and made us understand His truth. He led us to repentance. He impressed the importance of doing what He revealed on our minds so that we would do them, and so forth. The unilateral acts of God begin to pile up—grace upon grace. God is with us in this entire process.

What we have spiritually is only possible because we are "of Him," that is, because of what we have been given. This particular phrase—we are "of Him"—is describing a personal attachment. It is as if we are part of a living body, which we are, since the church is a living, spiritual organism. The picture that is in the apostle Paul's mind is that we are directly connected to Him, even as the toe is attached to the foot, which is in turn connected to the ankle and then to the leg. All of this is connected, and it receives its strength, life, existence, growth, repair, etc. because it is part of the body. So are we connected to God and receive all these things.

What does the toe have to boast for playing its role in the body? Even so, nobody can boast before God because of grace. We have what we have spiritually only because He has given it.

Further, if our spiritual lives and growth are going to continue, we can do this only within this same environment. If the toe is cut from the body, it begins to die immediately. A degeneration begins to occur immediately. We can apply the same analogy to our spiritual life.

So, there is no bragging, no boasting, before God for anything that we have spiritually. We have it because of our personal attachment to the living Jesus Christ.

Why is this important? Because it puts the relationship with God and fellow man into its proper perspective. Many theologians insist that what they derive from the Bible and from their own experiences in life, is that carnally, the underlying drive or motivation in all relationships is self-assertion, that is, the desire for recognition, pride. We want to be known for what we have done. "I have accomplished this." "I built that." "This is my place." "This is my spouse." The self basks in the glow of the fact that he exists and has and does things. It is a drive to be recognized, noticed, praised, rewarded, and even submitted to, because of who one is and what he feels he has done.

This has horrible ramifications for the relationship with God. Jesus' own counsel to His apostles—and His advice extends to us—is to go in the exact opposite direction and make ourselves of no reputation (as He did; Philippians 2:5-8). He says, "Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:4). A child is of no value to society because he produces nothing, cannot do anything of value, and in a way, is nothing more than a parasite, as some cultures see children.

Notice, though, that Jesus says that becoming like a little child is the way to real power—in the Kingdom of God. It is the way to gain the right kind of recognition and promotion—the kind that God would give us by grace, not what we have earned on our own.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Paul inserts this truth to help the proud Corinthians—and us—to understand with humility who and what we are. Where could we possibly acquire the spiritual power to live a righteous life that would be pleasing to and glorifying of God? It most certainly is not in us as a natural result of being born human.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and God's Grace


 

1 Corinthians 4:6-7

This reaches right down to all of us. What room is there for either boasting or envy? There is room for nothing but to face humbly what the Bible tells us. In Romans 12:3, Paul makes a similar statement and adds a warning: "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith." Who among us clay vessels can rightfully ask God who has made us, "Why have you made me thus?" or look with disregard or envy at another, knowing God is also measuring out to him the gifts that please Him?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Two


 

1 Corinthians 4:6-7

We have no basis for feeling greater, better, or more rewarded than either an unconverted person or a brother in the church. God's calling is strictly His choice and not based on a person's accomplishments, personality, or character. He tenders His many gifts, further aspects of His grace, according to what He wants us to fulfill within His church. We truly have no grounds for being puffed up, but instead, we should be humbled by the blessings of God's generosity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 

1 Corinthians 5:1-2

Pride takes sin lightly. It produces complacency because, in the proud person's eyes, his perverse sense of comparison makes the self better than others. In the same situation, the humble would be filled with shame, remorse, and grief, yet in the proud it hardly stirs an emotional chord. It does not seem to affect them at all. Paul says the Corinthians were yet carnal, and in their pride, they took this grievous sin lightly, not letting it affect them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 6)


 

1 Corinthians 6:6-8

They were failing to behave like God. They should have swallowed their pride and suffered loss. Christ gave up His glory and suffered the greatest loss in the history of creation!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Seven): The Sin and Trespass Offerings


 

1 Corinthians 8:1

It is almost axiomatic that the one with the least reservoir of experience will appear as the most cocky and unyielding, while the one with a vast reservoir of experience - who has concluded that there are even vaster funds of knowledge yet to be learned - will appear as the more provisional and tolerant. In Speech 101, my professor referred to this process as "small pot soon hot." A reason why peer-group instruction sometimes fizzles is the cocky attitude displayed by the person who first "catches on" to some elementary step, lording it over the later bloomers. In the beginning stages of learning, knowledge has the tendency to "puff up", but as one continues to grow in it, a quality of meekness replaces intolerant rigidity.

David F. Maas
Servant Leadership: Practical Meekness


 

2 Corinthians 5:9-10

These verses state a reality we all face: We are accountable to the Creator for our conduct. We know that standing between us and God is an internally generated pride that, if allowed, will greatly hinder our desire to please Him by submitting.

We must understand that God's calling of us, His granting of repentance to us, and His providing us with His Spirit have given us a valuable power, an "edge." He has not given us an impossible challenge. Receiving the Holy Spirit has given us the wherewithal, the powers, to meet our responsibility to submit voluntarily to Him. What is the solution? In short, it is to exercise humility before the Holy One of Israel. Humility can defuse pride's power.

There is a major difference between pride and humility. Because of exposure to Satan and the world, pride is within us almost from birth. Humility, though, is not part of us from birth. Spiritual humility is most definitely a developed characteristic, derived because of contact with God and our choosing to be humble before Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and Human Pride


 

2 Corinthians 10:1-3

Now I am going to appeal to you personally, by the gentleness and kindness of Christ Himself. Yes, I, Paul, the one who is "humble enough in our presence, but outspoken when away from us," am begging you to make it unnecessary for me to be outspoken and stern in your presence. For I am afraid otherwise that I shall have to do some plain speaking to those of you who will persist in reckoning that our activities are on the purely human level. (Phillips)

John W. Ritenbaugh
Endure as a Good Soldier


 

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Paul turned what could have sent him into deep bitterness and passivity (an affliction God decided not to heal when Paul felt he needed it) into a strength (humility and a deeper reliance on God). As painful, frustrating or hindering as it was, his circumstance never deterred him from being an apostle who by the grace of God labored more abundantly than all others (I Corinthians 15:10).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Two


 

2 Corinthians 12:7

Paul twice says, ". . . lest I should be exalted above measure." God gave him this "thorn in the flesh" so that the apostle would not get too big for his britches, as it were, because God had given him some revelations. That sort of communication from God could swell a person's head. Thus, the apostle says God allowed Satan to afflict him so that Paul would not venture beyond what he had been given.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Countering Presumptuousness


 

2 Corinthians 13:5

Do you not know yourselves? - We have all learned many things through trial and suffering over the years, but it has not been all pain and agony. At various times, we have abounded with joy, contentment, peace, and growth as well, and we should thank God who has engineered and authored these blessings. However, beyond honestly identifying how far we have come, we also need to recognize and acknowledge the stony parts that are still in us, repenting before God with our whole hearts.

As Paul says in I Corinthians 6:19-20, "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." To paraphrase, do we not realize the magnitude of our relationship with God and the obligation this puts us under to live every second as an example of God's way of life? God's people are not ordinary in any sense!

Solomon writes in Proverbs 4:23, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." The heart, the mind, is the storehouse of our character. We must spend time in meditation and in prayer asking for insight from God to reveal to us exactly who we are - inside - where normally only God can see. We must implore Him for understanding about who we really are right now in His eyes. We need this information to understand properly our relationship with Him.

This is a solemn and sobering process, but it should not be something we fear. Still, we must come to God in this process with humility and a heart ready to repent immediately of flaws that He shows us. This process is not superficial by any means, but one designed to reach to the very heart of our being.

Remember, God may be a consuming fire to His enemies (Hebrews 12:29), but to His own children, He is a boundless provider and loving Father (Ephesians 3:14-21). He is quick to forgive if we freely confess our sins to Him (I John 1:9).

Staff
What Does 'Examine Yourselves' Mean?


 

Galatians 5:22

The Greek and Hebrew definitions of the words translated as "joy" and its synonyms are virtually the same as their English counterparts, except for one whose specific definition is not "joy" but "blessed." This word, the Greek makarios, reveals much about some of the major sources of biblical joy. It frequently appears as the first word in the well-known Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, as in Matthew 5:3: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Strong's defines this word as "supremely blessed; by extension fortunate, well off, blessed, happy." The King James version translates it as "happy" five times. In a marginal reference, E.W. Bullinger in the Companion Bible says the word means "happy," and J.B. Phillips translates it as such in his New Testament in Modern English.

Spiros Zodhiates' Complete Word Study Dictionary (p. 937) gives a more comprehensive definition:

Blessed, possessing the favor of God, that state of being marked by fullness from God. It indicates the state of the believer in Christ, . . . said of one who becomes a partaker of God's nature through faith in Christ. The believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit because of Christ and as a result should be fully satisfied no matter the circumstances. Makarios differs from the word "happy" in that the person is happy who has good luck (from the root hap meaning luck as a favorable circumstance). To be makarios, blessed, is equivalent to having God's kingdom within one's heart. Aristotle contrasts makarios to endees, the needy one. Makarios is the one who is in the world yet independent of the world. His satisfaction comes from God and not from favorable circumstances.

The Amplified Bible translates Matthew 5:3 as:

Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Verse 5 reads, "Blessed (happy, blithesome, joyous, spiritually prosperous) . . ." and verse 9, "Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous). . . ."

It appears that for us to experience biblical joy, the fruit of God's Spirit, we need godly inner qualities that we do not possess by nature. As with love—the love that springs from us by nature that is but a pale reflection of God's love—so also is it with joy. Until we come to the point where by faith we are supremely confident of God's presence in our life—of His providence toward us in the past, present, and future—we will not experience the enduring fullness of satisfaction God wants us to have.

A Christian's joy can be just as short-lived as anyone's in the world if we are seeking it for itself as the world does. Biblical joy is a fruit, a byproduct, an additional blessing, not the end in itself. It flows into and grows within the person whose life and energies are not focused merely on being "joyful." The lives of those in this world who are so zealously chasing after it prove this point. If they are still chasing it, they must not yet have it. God's Word also substantiates this.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Joy


 

Galatians 5:23

Contrary to popular belief, the meek (gentle, NKJV) do not take everything "lying down." Notice Moses, who was the meekest man of his time. He did not hesitate to order the execution of about three thousand of the idolaters who worshipped the Golden Calf while he was with God on the mountain (Exodus 32:25-28). Against evil this meek man was as stern as steel. How a meek man reacts depends upon what he discerns God's will is for him within the circumstance. Because the meek man sets his mind on God's purpose and not his own comfort, ambition, or reputation, he will offer implacable resistance to evil in defense of God yet react with patience, kindness, and gentleness when others attack him.

Jesus set a clear example of this pattern of reaction too. He made a whip of rope, and with stern and vehement energy, overturned the tables and drove the livestock, their sellers, and moneychangers from the Temple compound because they had turned God's house into a common bazaar by their sacrilege. With simple, forthright, firm, instructive answers and incisive questions, He met the twisted, intellectual, carnal reasoning of the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees. Yet as Matthew 12:19-20 reads, "He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench." Peter adds:

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth"; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. (I Peter 2:21-23)

A meek person will feel the wrong done against him and feel it bitterly. But because he is not thinking of himself, his meekness does not allow his spirit to give vent to a hateful, savage, and vindictive anger that seeks to "get even." He will instead be full of pity for the damaged character, attitudes, and blindness of the perpetrator. From the stake Jesus uttered, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). This virtue is a strong bulwark against self-righteousness and intolerant and critical judgment of others. Yet neither does it excuse or condone sin. Rather, a meek person understands it more clearly, thus his judgment is tempered, avoiding reacting more harshly than is necessary.

Paul writes in Titus 3:1-2, "Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility [meekness, KJV] to all men." The possibility of conflict is inherent where the subject includes our relationship with governments; it is quite easy to have conflict with those in authority over us. Some in positions of authority take pleasure in wielding their power, as Jesus notes in Matthew 20:25: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them."

On the flip side are those under authority, and this is where Paul's main emphasis is in Titus 3. Humans, by nature, tend to be very sensitive, critical, and harsh in their judgments of those over them. It frequently results in slanderous attacks and quarrels against those in authority—sometimes even in revolutions. Paul advises us to be non-belligerent, considerate, unassertive, and meek. If the fruit of meekness has been produced in either or both parties, peace and unity are more possible because a major tool is in place to allow both to perform their responsibilities within the relationship correctly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Meekness


 

Galatians 5:23

Meekness (gentleness, NKJV) is the by-product of a number of elements, not the least of which are deep, thorough humility and an awareness of the seriousness of what our past conduct produced, especially toward Jesus Christ. These things have tamed the beast, broken our self-will, and made our minds receptive to the pure influences of God's Spirit. This is not natural but supernatural, the product of God's grace toward us and His Spirit working and growing in us. It very deeply, sometimes radically, alters our perspective of God, His purpose, the trials of life, the self, and other people.

This is very important regarding trials because meekness is the opposite of self-will toward God and of ill-will toward men. In his commentary on Matthew 5:5, Matthew Henry writes, "The meek are those who quietly submit themselves to God, to his word and to his rod, who follow His directions, and comply with His designs, and are gentle towards all men" (p. 1629).

Meekness is the fruit of God by His Spirit working in us. Godly sorrow softens our stiff-necked rebellion and our hearts so that we are made receptive to the workings of the Creator to produce His image in us. Therefore meekness, along with the qualities already mentioned, also includes our becoming pliable, malleable, submissive, and teachable. A New Testament term for this condition might be "childlike."

God disciplines every son He loves (Hebrews 12:6), and sometimes His disciplines are very difficult to bear. We have passionate drives within us to flee from them, or at the very least, to grumble and murmur under their burden. But the meek will not do this. They will endure the privation, embarrassment, pain, loss, ignorance, or persecution with quiet patience because they know that God is sovereign over all and He is working in their lives.

Aaron's response to God's execution of his two sons is an example:

Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.'" So Aaron held his peace. (Leviticus 10:1-3)

This was a shocking, bitter pill to swallow, but Aaron took it properly, meekly. He was growing. In Psalm 39:9, David refers to a difficult situation he was experiencing, leaving us this example: "I was mute, I did not open my mouth, because it was You who did it."

The supreme example of this is Jesus Christ, who endured horrific trials though He was the Son of God's love. John 18:11 says, "Then Jesus said to Peter, 'Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?'" Acts 8:32 contains more insight on Christ's meek reaction: "He was led [not dragged] as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so He opened not His mouth." He was the very King of meekness.

Meekness enables a person to bear patiently those insults and injuries he receives at the hand of others. It makes him ready to accept instruction from the least of the saints. It allows him to endure provocation without being inflamed by it. He remains cool when others become heated. Meek people seek no private revenge; they leave that to God's sense of justice while they seek to remain true in their calling and meet God's standards.

The spirit of meekness enables its possessor to squeeze great enjoyment from his earthly portion, be it small or great. Delivered from a greedy and grasping disposition, he is satisfied with what he has. Contentment of mind is one of the fruits of meekness. The haughty and covetous do not inherit the earth. As Psalm 37:16 says, "A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Meekness


 

Galatians 6:1

We should have a meek attitude to all others regardless of our relationship with them. Even when someone is antagonistic, meek correction and teaching will assist God in leading them to repentance. For prautes, the NKJV uses "gentleness" in Galatians and "humility" in II Timothy and Titus. Both of these are qualities of meekness. Meekness is the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest. It is evenness of mind—neither elated nor cast down—because a truly meek person is not occupied with self at all.

Martin G. Collins
Meekness


 

Galatians 6:1

From the Phillip's translation:

Even if a man should be detected in some sin, my brothers, the spiritual ones among you should quietly set him back on the right path, not with any feeling of superiority but being yourself on guard against temptation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 8): Ephesians 4 (E)


 

Galatians 6:1

Paul writes this to people who were probably spiritually stronger than the Corinthians were. He instructs the stronger ones within the congregation how to react to another who has not come quite up to their level of Christ-like behavior.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Is God in All Our Thoughts?


 

Ephesians 4:1-6

The part we have to play is to walk worthy of our calling, and as the apostle goes on to say, our calling is to be one: one body, one spirit, one faith, one baptism, one hope, just as we have one Lord and one Father. We are to be one bride of Christ. He is not a polygamist; He will not marry many brides but one united bride.

We in the church can be disunified if we fail to practice verses 2 and 3: Without lowliness (humility), without gentleness (meekness), without longsuffering (forebearance or patient endurance), without love and peace, we will never have unity. As long as we are proud, easily angered and offended, jump on every little thing, lack patience, and treat each other hatefully—as long as we cause strife—there will never be unity. Even with all that God does (I Corinthians 1:4-9), it will not happen. He will not force unity upon us if we show that we do not want it. The natural order of things is that we will disunify further if we fail to show Him that we are working toward it. So, without these virtues, even with God deluging us with His Spirit, we will not have unity.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 133


 

Ephesians 4:1-3

Notice carefully what Paul names as the reason for making unity and peace: the value we place on our calling. If, in our heart of hearts, we consider it of small value, our conduct, especially toward our brethren, will reveal it and work to produce contention and disunity. Thus John writes, "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" (I John 4:20).

Paul next counsels us to choose to conduct ourselves humbly. Humility is pride's opposite. If pride only produces contention, it follows that humility will work to soothe, calm, heal, and unify. He advises us to cultivate meekness or gentleness, the opposite of the self-assertiveness that our contemporary culture promotes so strongly. Self-assertiveness is competitive determination to press one's will at all costs. This approach may indeed "win" battles over other brethren, but it might be helpful to remember God's counsel in Proverbs 15:1, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." James declares that godly wisdom is "gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy" (James 3:17).

Then Paul counsels that we be patient; likewise, James counsels us to "let patience have its perfect work" (James 1:4). We often want quick resolutions to the irritations between us, which is certainly understandable since we want to get rid of the burden those differences impose. But we must understand that speedy solutions are not always possible. Interestingly, in Paul's letter to the Philippians, he does not use his apostolic authority to drive the two feuding women into a forced solution (Philippians 4:1). Some problems are deeply buried within both sides of the contention, so finally Paul admonishes us to forbear with each other in love. Essentially, he says to "put up with it" or endure it, doing nothing to bring the other party down in the eyes of others and vainly elevate the self. This is peacemaking through living by godly character.

Yet another aspect to the Christian duty of peacemaking is our privilege by prayer to invoke God's mercy upon the world, the church, and individuals we know are having difficulties or whom we perceive God may be punishing. This is one of the sacrifices of righteousness mentioned in relation to Psalm 4:5. The Bible provides many examples of godly people doing this. Abraham prayed for Sodom, Gomorrah, and probably Lot too, when the division between them and God was so great that He had to destroy the cities (Genesis 18:16-33). Moses interceded for Israel before God following the Golden Calf incident (Exodus 33:11-14). Aaron ran through the camp of Israel with a smoking censer (a symbol of the prayers of the saints) following another of Israel's rebellions that greatly disturbed the peace between them and God (Numbers 16:44-50). In each case, God relented to some degree. We will probably never know in this life how much our prayers affect the course of division or how much others—even the wicked—gained as a result of our intercession, but we should find comfort knowing that we have done at least this much toward making peace.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 7: Blessed Are the Peacemakers


 

Ephesians 4:2-3

With admonitions like these, we step into the intimate personal relationships within a congregation or family. They show that unity depends more upon the exercise of the members' moral qualities than the structure of the institution. Paul shows in Ephesians that the life we are called to live is characterized by five qualities: humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, and love, the last of which embraces the preceding four and is the crown of all virtues. Each of these qualities enables us to act in mercy and live at peace. God's Spirit empowers us to use these qualities to overcome the ill will and the bitter, passionate rages that lead to clamorous slander, destroying reputations.

Such ill will and rage hardly promote kindness, compassion, and acting in grace toward each other. "Acting in grace" is an acceptable translation of the Greek word, charizomai, rendered "forgiving" in Ephesians 4:32. Acting in grace catches the essence of how God has acted toward us and our sin against Him. And because He has forgiven us, we are commanded to forgive each other (Colossians 3:13).

Mercy begins with the way we feel about or toward each other and moves toward merciful acts. God loves us and has an outgoing concern for us. If God so loves us, then we ought to love each other (I John 4:11). Thus, we are bound to forbear with one another and act kindly, in mercy. Anybody focused on himself as the center of the universe will have a difficult time thinking kindly of others, and unity will be difficult, if not impossible. It is no wonder, then, why so much divorce occurs, as well as division in other areas of life. A focus on the self does not allow much room for humble, kind, and compassionate thoughts of service for others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 5: Blessed Are the Merciful


 

Ephesians 4:2

With all means "with every possible lowliness," "with every kind of lowliness," or "in all situations," or "at all times." In other words, always wear the apron of humility wherever one is, whatever one is doing, whoever one is dealing with, whatever the time happens to be. We should never be without it because it will serve us and God and unity well. It will never divide; it will always cement and hold the group, the family, the community together.

This is to be a fundamental element of our character. We may feel we have something to be proud of. For some, it might be money or ancestry or family. It might be brains, looks, athletic ability, or in the church, our understanding of doctrine. We have to be careful because human nature is always looking for a way to assert what it is proud of and to display it, and this causes division.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 7): Ephesians 4 (D)


 

Ephesians 4:2

Forbearance is a vital part of agape love. Paul's immediate change of subject in verse 3 indicates that by bearing with one another in love, unity of the Spirit is produced. Very interesting and helpful for us today.

Forbearance in love produces unity. When we see disunity and scattering, we can be sure that someone has thrown out forbearance, love, and humility, which the apostle had mentioned earlier. When these virtues are absent, the church goes to the four winds because the members cannot put up with each other. They find reasons to be offended, and they scatter.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

Ephesians 4:17-32

Most of us realize that the unity of the church of God courses through the book of Ephesians as a general theme. Paul illustrates the church as a complete body of which Jesus, though in heaven, is the Head, and the elect here on earth comprise the rest of it. Early on, Paul declares how God has planned the organization of His purpose from the very beginning, determining whom He would call, give His Spirit to, and perfect as His children.

In Ephesians 4, the apostle begins to clarify our Christian responsibilities regarding works. He appeals to us in verse 1 to make every effort to live a manner of life that measures up to the magnificence of our high calling. He then makes sure we understand that we must carry out our responsibilities in humility, kindness, and forbearance as we strive to maintain doctrinal accord in purity.

He explains that Christ has given each of us gifts to meet our responsibilities in maintaining the unity of God's church. Foremost among these gifts are teachers who will work to equip us for service in the church and eventually in the Kingdom. This same process will enable us to grow to completion, to mature, no longer wavering in our loyalties, certain in the direction of our lives, and not deceived by the craftiness of men.

With that foundation, the "therefore" in verse 17 draws our focus to the practical applications necessary to meet the standards of the preceding spiritual concepts. We must not conduct our lives as the unconverted do. They are blinded to these spiritual realities and so conduct life in ignorance, following the lusts of darkened minds.

Because we are being educated by God, the standards of conduct are established by His truths and are therefore exceedingly higher. We must make every effort to throw off the works of carnality and strive to acquire a renewed mind through diligent, continuous effort so that we can be created in the image of God in true righteousness and holiness (verse 24).

In verses 25-29, Paul moves even further from generalities to clear, specific works that we must do. We must speak truth so that we do not injure another through lies, as well as to maintain unity. Because deceit produces distrust, unity cannot be maintained if lying occurs. We must not allow our tempers to flare out of control, for they serve as an open door for Satan to create havoc.

We must be honest, earning our way so that we are prepared to give to others who are in need. We must be careful that what we speak is not only true but also edifying, imparting encouragement, empathy, sympathy, exhortation, and even gentle correction when needed.

In verse 30 is a brief and kind reminder that, in doing our works we must never forget that we owe everything to our indwelling Lord and Master. We must make every effort to be thankful, acknowledging Him as the Source of all gifts and strengths, enabling us to glorify Him through our works.

In the final two verses of the chapter, Paul delineates specific responsibilities concerning our attitudes toward fellow Christians within personal relationships.

This brief overview of just one chapter shows clearly how much works enter into a Christian's life as practical requirements that cannot be passed off as unnecessary. How else will a Christian glorify God? How else will he grow to reflect the image of God? How else will he fulfill God's command to choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19) except by faithfully doing those works that lead to life?

Through the whole process of sanctification, the Christian will make constant use of two additional works: daily prayer and Bible study, which must be combined with his efforts to obey God. No one who is careless about performing these works can expect to make progress growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ during sanctification.

Why? Without them, he will have no relationship with either the Father or the Son, and thus will not be enabled to achieve the required works. They are the Source of the powers that make it possible for us to do the works God has ordained. If we do not follow through on these two works, we will surely hear ourselves called "wicked and lazy" and be cast into "outer darkness" where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 25:24-30).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Four)


 

Philippians 2:3-7

The attitude Jesus showed in washing His disciples' feet is the same attitude that enabled Him to give up the power and glory of being like God and become a man. Here we see that our Creator, the Almighty God, is first and foremost a servant. He is willing to serve His own servants! When we come to the point that we are able to do everything in an attitude of service and humility, we are truly following Jesus Christ.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Footwashing


 

Philippians 2:5-6

These verses provide the background for Christ's incarnation. The first word we need to consider is form in verse 6. It is the Greek morphe, for which English has no exact equivalent. Unlike "form" in English, morphe does not mean "shape." It is a philosophical term that means "the outward expression of an inner essence." We can derive an illustration of this definition from figure skating. One might say, "I went to the Winter Olympics, and the figure skater's form was outstanding." What is meant is that skater's swift, rhythmic grace, and coordinated movements were an outward expression of his inward ability to skate expertly.

Jesus was in the form (morphe) of God. The word being indicates a condition that began in the past and continues into the present. Therefore, while on earth, the outward expression of His inmost being was the expression of the divine essence, deity. Paul means that when the One who became Jesus, the Word, came to earth to assume the form of a man, He did not cease being God.

Also in verse 6 is the word consider, meaning "to make a judgment based on facts." Paul desires us to weigh the difference between Christ's original state with what He became as a man. He implies that the difference—and thus His humility in making such a sacrifice—is awesome.

The word robbery has two applications: "to seize unlawfully" or "a treasure to be clutched and retained at all hazards." Since the subject of this section is Christ's humility, the second meaning must be the proper application. Christ humbly did not assert His right to consider the expression of His divine essence such a treasure that He should hold on to it at all hazards. He waived that right. This is the very essence of humility.

Finally, God in verse 6 does not refer to a Personage, or it would say "the God" in the Greek. Since it does not, it must refer to deity in general, that is, the expression of the divine essence.

Verse 6, then, declares that, before His incarnation, the Word outwardly expressed His essential nature—Deity—and He judged that being equal with Deity in the expression of the divine essence was not a treasure to be clung to and held at all hazards. Thus, He gave it up to take on another outward expression.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Man and Fully God?


 

Philippians 2:5-11

God commends the humble, not those who consort with the rich and famous, and He promises to exalt the humble at the appointed time (Proverbs 16:18-19). Jesus Christ's example of humility helps us to realize the meek stature of true Christians. In Him we see the zenith of virtue from which the apostles drew illustrations and admonitions for us. He gave up inexpressible glory to take upon Himself the humble form of humanity and perform the lowliest of services to us. He consented to be without distinction or honor and was willing to be despised and disregarded. When He laid aside his former rank and dignity, He became as nothing, yet now He is exalted above everything and everyone. He set this example for us that we might overcome self-exaltation and develop the true and ultimately exalting trait of humility.

Martin G. Collins
Overcoming (Part 9): Self-Exaltation


 

Philippians 2:7

The clause, "He made Himself of no reputation," more literally reads, "He emptied Himself." Instead of asserting His rights to the expression of the essence of Deity, He waived His rights and relinquished them. Compared to the fullness of God, He must indeed have felt empty once He gave up "the form of God"!

The word form in verse 7 is the same Greek word as in verse 6. The grammatical structure of the sentence demands that the "taking the form of a servant" preceded and caused His "making Himself of no reputation." Remember, form is the outward expression of inner nature. The sentence, though, indicates an exchange of such expression. Therefore, being a servant was not something of His inner nature that had been previously expressed. It was not His usual mode of outward expression. Before, He conveyed glory and sovereignty over all things, but afterward, He manifested servanthood.

An event in the life of Jesus may help explain this exchange of expressions. What happened in His incarnation was the exact opposite of what occurred at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-5; Mark 9:2-7). Luke writes that His "appearance . . . was altered" (Luke 9:29), and Peter, James, and John "saw His glory" (verse 32). On the Mount of Transfiguration, He was changed from His normal, human outward expression as a servant to the outward expression of Deity.

Of what did He empty Himself? He did not empty Himself of His Deity, but rather the outward expression of His Deity and all it implies. As one author puts it, "He emptied Himself of His existence-in-a-manner-equal-to-God." He set aside His legitimate and natural desires and prerogatives as Deity so that He might express Himself as a servant.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Man and Fully God?


 

Philippians 4:11-13

Paul demonstrates the proper attitude to have: He was content whether poor or prosperous, whether weak or strong, whether people loved him or hated him. It is not easy to do sometimes, but he says, "Whatever state I'm in, I'm going to be content because, when I have Christ in me, I can do anything that He wants me to do. So I can't think about those other things. I have to be content with what God has given."

A person's condition or his position does not need to matter a whit as long as Christ is working through him.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Countering Presumptuousness


 

Colossians 3:12-13

As the elect of God, we must put on or clothe ourselves with longsuffering. By doing this in unity as a church, we rid ourselves of, or at least dramatically reduce, friction. To be loving and effective, a minister must correct, rebuke, and encourage with longsuffering.

Martin G. Collins
Longsuffering


 

Colossians 3:12

Unlike pride, humility does not come naturally; it must, in the Bible's terminology, be "put on." It must be added to our character by means of God's Spirit and consistent, conscious decisions to submit to God because we love Him, because we are sincerely seeking to be like Him, and because we greatly desire to glorify Him. In this manner, by God's power and our cooperation, humility is created as part of our character, enabling us to grow stronger toward overcoming pride's evil influences.

Because of exposure to Satan and this world, pride is within us almost from birth. Humility is most definitely not that way but is a created attribute of character. A carnal humility can be created within a child living under the supervision of loving parents who are making the effort to train their children in good character qualities. In like manner, spiritual humility is most definitely a developed characteristic because of contact with God and our willing cooperation. James 4:6-10 asserts:

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Once we understand some of the Bible's instruction regarding spiritual humility, this clear series of commands becomes important. They must be commanded because these actions are not natural to human nature and because the pride dwelling within us is so strong and influential.

Humbling ourselves is commanded just as surely as resisting the Devil, cleansing our hands, purifying our hearts, lamenting, mourning, and weeping. This means that humbling ourselves in submission to God is a choice that can—indeed, must—be exercised. Humility is important enough that God repeats this command briefly in Proverbs 3:34 and in I Peter 5:5-6.

Humility is dealt with somewhat differently in each testament, but at the same time, there is a tight similarity between the two treatments. In the Old Testament, it is shown less as a good quality of an honorable person's character than as a condition or situation an individual finds himself in because of poverty, affliction, or persecution. In this approach, a humble person is one in a humble circumstance.

In other words, the humble person has been brought low in a social sense. This perspective provides an understandable illustration that visibly portrays the more important spiritual attitude of the heart. People in a humble circumstance project degrees of attitude and conduct that may even approach obsequiousness, portrayed to an extreme in the movie Lord of the Rings, when the conniving counselor, Wormtongue, is confronted and embarrassingly corrected by Gandalf.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and Humility


 

Colossians 3:12

How does the New Testament present humility? According to commentator William Barclay, the classical Greek language did not even have a word for humility that included no sense of shame. The root of the word the apostles used literally means "to depress," a very expressive word. To the Greeks, humility indicated servility and slavishness. This may have been because Greeks looked down upon anyone who acted in humility as not being an upstanding person of good character. Culturally, it was evil, shameful behavior, as to them it exhibited someone untrustworthy. At best, they would consider the person to be a wimp because they admired people who aggressively took charge, commanding others about.

The Christian approach is entirely different. We will consider a few scriptures that give a description of the way humility enhances one's character.

Psalm 113:4-7: "For He is high above the nations; His glory is far greater than the heavens. Who can be compared with God enthroned on high? Far below Him are heavens and the earth; He stoops to look, and lifts the poor from the dirt" (The Living Bible).

Psalm 138:6: "Yet though He is so great, He respects the humble, but proud men must keep their distance" (The Living Bible).

Both of these psalms picture God as being of awesome power, but He holds His power in check to achieve a greater good. Rather than destroy through imperious self-centeredness, He pities and builds with gentle, understanding kindness.

Matthew 20:25-28 shows New Covenant leadership: "But Jesus called them to Himself and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.'"

Matthew 11:29 makes Jesus' insistence on humility exceedingly clear: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Matthew 11:29 is a direct command from the same God described in Psalms, though here He is acting as a Man. His example and commands regarding this continues to be the way Christians are to follow.

Humility is not a weak, cringing approach to life. It is not a denial of power but the deliberate controlling of power to accomplish a greater good. It comes into proper use when a converted person deliberately utilizes a servant approach rather than a natural, proud, and carnal human-ruler approach. It is the attitude that best promotes good relationships because it neutralizes pride and the damage it can wreak. At the very least, it indicates modesty that grows from a genuine self-evaluation that concludes in the person deeming himself worthless in relation to God and His truth.

It is important that we understand self-evaluation better. In the Christian sense of humility, the person is not deeming himself worthless because he sees himself as a vile creature full of sin—though to some degree this is true in comparison to God—but because he is merely a creature, absolutely dependent upon God even for every breath of air. Further, he views himself as possessing nothing intrinsically good, having to receive all good, spiritual things from God as well. Even Jesus had this attitude, and He is our model.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and Humility


 

2 Timothy 2:11-12

The concept of self-denial is at the heart of Paul's teaching on submission to God: We have died with Christ and must sacrifice our lives for Him. In Titus 2:12, Paul writes of the grace of God training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, that is, to deny what the self desires. Self-denial requires genuine humility in submission, or it is merely a counterfeit.

Martin G. Collins
Overcoming (Part 5): Self-Denial


 

2 Timothy 3:1-5

The reason we have such a lack of courtesy in today's world can be found in II Timothy 3:1-2, where the apostle Paul writes: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves. . . .” He goes on to list about eighteen more traits people will exhibit in the end time, but he leads the list with “lovers of themselves.” If we are first and foremost in our lives a lover of ourselves, then we are never wrong. We are always first, and, we think, deservedly so! The left lane is ours! We are the direct opposite of “humble.” We could not be courteous if we tried.

Consider verses 2-5 from the Contemporary English Version. Remember that Paul is speaking of the last days, and note how each of these traits relate to courtesy:

People will love only themselves and money. They will be proud, stuck-up, rude, and disobedient to their parents. They will also be ungrateful, godless, heartless and hateful. Their words will be cruel, and they will have no self-control or pity. These people will hate everything that is good. They will be sneaky, reckless, and puffed up with pride. Instead of loving God, they will love pleasure. Even though they will make a show of being religious, their religion won't be real. Don't have anything to do with such people.

Powerful words, indeed. Perhaps the reader thinks that I am making too much of the lack of courtesy around us. Maybe so. But it is something foundational, something basic, to a Christian life. A humble and God-fearing person will naturally be courteous. If we esteem others greater than ourselves, we will be courteous. If we are striving to live in accordance with God's laws, we will be courteous.

So, does this mean that by simply saying “please” and “thank you,” we will be in God's Kingdom? No, it is not quite that easy, but it is a start! Conversely, it is probably safe to say that those who are impolite and rude will not like their reward at all. As the sign says, “Keep Right.”

Mike Ford
Courtesy


 

Titus 3:1-2

The ISV renders the Greek word praiotes as “courtesy,” while other versions translate it as “meekness,” “gentleness” or “humility.” The ISV has taken some liberties, but it gives a sense, in today's English, of what Paul is saying. A humble attitude is necessary to show courtesy to others.

So, if the English “courtesy” is not literally in Titus 3:2, is it elsewhere? The Greek word philophron, which translates directly to the English “courtesy,” is used only once in the Bible. It comes from two other Greek words, philos, meaning “friend,” and phren, meaning “understanding,” “perceiving,” and “judging.” These two words indicating “understanding a friend” are put together to suggest the idea of courtesy.

Philophron appears in I Peter 3:8: “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one for another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous” (King James Version). Many translations interpret philophron as “kind” or “humble,” and this is correct as well. Both Thayer's Greek Lexicon and Strong's Concordance define philophron as “friendly” and “kind,” but Strong's goes a little further, saying it can be summed up as the English word “courteous.”

Mike Ford
Courtesy


 

Hebrews 11:33-34

"Out of weakness" - They were just like us when God began to work with them, and it is probably a good thing that He did not show us their entire lives. They were a mixed bag, but they grew, trying to rely on God more and more. They allowed their faith to be tested and stretched. They failed a great deal, but God patiently worked with them, and they did not give up.

II Corinthians 12:9 tells us, "My strength is made perfect in weakness." His strength is our salvation through our weaknesses, and that suits God just fine because it does wonders for our attitude about ourselves and others. Paul asked God three times to heal him, and God said, "No, no, no." He learned humility because God said no. He also learned to be patient, and that, despite his weaknesses, God continued to supply his strength and his daily needs. Paul realized that, though he was weak and perhaps in pain or somewhat disabled, God continued to do His work through him. God's strength was made perfect through Paul's weaknesses.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 1)


 

Hebrews 12:14

Of what does holiness consist? Is it the accumulation of religious knowledge? Many people have labored long to research material for commentaries and other tomes on religious subjects, but does that accumulated knowledge translate into holiness? After three and a half years with Jesus, Judas had undoubtedly accumulated much knowledge, but it did not stop him from betraying his Master. Would Jesus, the Holy One, have betrayed Judas?

The Bible shows that many had long contact with truly godly people, yet never became holy. Joab had an almost lifelong association with David, but he remained a scoundrel to his dying day (I Kings 2:5-6, 28-34). For years, Gehazi served Elisha, but he ended up cursed because of greed (II Kings 5:20-27). Paul reports that Demas had forsaken him because he loved the world (II Timothy 4:10). The rich young ruler, who appears to have been moral and respectable in conduct, asked Jesus what he should do to have eternal life, yet his rejection of His counsel proves that he was not holy at the time (Matthew 19:16-22).

Were the Jews made holy due to their claim that the Temple of the Lord was in the capital of their nation and God dwelled there (see Jeremiah 7)? Does this equate to some taking comfort because they are "in the church" and are therefore holy? Later Jews claimed that Abraham was their father, and that they had "never been in bondage to anyone" (John 8:33). They were indeed "related" to someone of renown who was holy, but this did not stop Jesus from telling them that their spiritual father was Satan the Devil!

Demographic categories may play their parts in one's sanctification, but none of them guarantees or makes one holy on its own merits. Holiness is not transferred via a group. Each must work with God on achieving it himself.

John Charles Ryle gives the following definition in his book, Holiness:

Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God's judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. He who most entirely agrees with God, he is the most holy man. (p. 34)

We must understand more to appreciate more fully what he wrote. Ryle's is only an overall definition because he reveals as he continues that it defines only the overall mindset, foundation, and trigger of the holy person's conduct. Holiness includes both one's mindset and conduct. What good is a mindset without the conduct to give evidence of it?

To paraphrase Ryle's conclusion, a holy person will strive to shun every sin known to him and to keep every known commandment whether required physically or in spirit. He will have an enthusiastic desire to perform God's will combined with a greater fear of displeasing God than displeasing the world. Paul writes in Romans 7:22, "I delight in the law of God according to the inward man." David, too, says, "Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way" (Psalm 119:128).

Why will this combination of attitude and action exist? Because the holy person will be striving to be like Christ. He will labor to have Christ's mind in him, as Paul admonishes in Philippians 2:5. He will deeply desire to be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29). Thus, the holy person will bear with others and forgive them, even as Christ bears with and forgives us. He will make every effort to be unselfish, just as Christ did not please Himself, sacrificing Himself for our sakes.

The holy person will endeavor to humble himself and walk in love, as Christ served and made Himself of no reputation. The holy person will remember that Christ was a faithful witness for the truth, that He came not to do His own will but His Father's. He will deny himself in order to minister to others and will be meek and patient when receiving undeserved insults. On the other hand, Jesus was bold and uncompromising when denouncing sin, yet full of compassion toward the weak.

The holy person will separate himself from the world and be instant in prayer. Christ would not even allow His closest relatives to stand in the way of doing the work He had been given to accomplish. In sum, the holy person will shape his life to walk in the footsteps of His Savior, as the apostle John advises in I John 2:6, "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Six)


 

James 4:5-6

Taken together, James 4:5-6, Proverbs 23:6-7, and Romans 12:3 indicate that what a person thinks of himself is clearly important to God. We all have an image of ourselves that we carry about in our heart. We tend to think of ourselves in a certain way, a persona that we want to project to others. This is not wrong of and by itself. Because we love God, we should greatly desire to project to others an image of Him that is pleasing to Him. What is wrong, though, is that too often the image we project has its basis in some area of pride.

Most of us do not really understand exactly what image we project to others. In other words, we often do not succeed in projecting the impression we want others to have of us. For instance, it is easy for a person to think he is projecting an image of one who is serious, quiet, and contemplative, when the reality is that others consider him to be stern and condemning. A wide divergence of conclusions about an individual is actually quite common. While those who know us may see the same person, they take away different impressions, which results in different assessments.

The image that we try to project is what we think we ought to project for someone in our position. As mentioned earlier, the problem in most of this image-projection is that it is driven by pride, and "God resists the proud."

Since so many commentators believe that pride is the father of all sins, it is surprising that "pride" appears only 49 times in Scripture and only three times in the New Testament. The Hebrew term ga'on in a good sense indicates "majesty" or "excellence." However, most of its usages are negative, as the antonym of "humility." It is associated with arrogance, insolence, evil behavior, and perverse speech.

The Greek word translated pride is tuphoo. Its literal meaning is "to envelop in smoke," but metaphorically, it indicates "conceit," "lifted up," and "high-mindedness." The word pictures a person using smoke as a screen to conceal the image he does not want the public to see.

Pride includes a degree of haughtiness, a measure of contempt for others. It is a matter of the heart that is buried under the surface. However, though the one who suffers from it may appear to walk in downcast humility, all the while in his heart he has vast contempt for God and fellow man, which is revealed in his lack of the fear of God and general, overall disobedience.

Why is God so against pride? A person infected by this deadly quality so admires himself that he is unaware of his paucity of vastly more important qualities. A proud person cherishes independence so that he will not be beholden to others. He is so preoccupied with his self-proclaimed goodness that he never realizes that he has any sin from which he needs to be saved, and thus he will not be corrected. He believes that he is above it all.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Job, Self-Righteousness, and Humility


 

1 Peter 1:18

Before repentance, our "love" for God was like what the uncalled in the world have for Him to this day. We loved a concept of God given us by tradition. We even had some part in devising it because we really did not know Him. If we acknowledge this reality, we will discover it was an idol! In principle, it was tantamount to bowing before a statue as the ancient pagans did. Those in the world cannot enter His Kingdom until they worship the true God, which is why the second resurrection is necessary. It is also why God says in such verses as Ezekiel 37:6, "I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord."

The God of the Bible says in His Word that not a single person has ever known Him until He chose to reveal himself because before this happens no one knows what to look for in God. Both testaments say, "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God" (Romans 3:10-11; Psalm 14:1-3).

Human nature likes to think of itself as possessing certain virtues—that we were generous, kind, good-tempered, sincere, etc.—and that God saw these in us and chose us for His side. How can this be in light of these scriptures? Who is telling the truth? Though some do have virtuous qualities, God does not call such people because of them. Besides, these qualities fall far short of the image into which God is shaping us.

Some people like to say they have always believed God, yet what they believed was an idol, a syncretistic god devised by combining biblical truth and paganism. If what they say were true, Acts 18:27 could not also be true. We believe because faith is God's gift. We have what we have only because we are the objects of His choice. He chose the ones He did simply because He chose them. We can go no further. We have no claim to any praise in this regard. Instead, it should humble us, stun us, into overflowing praise, gratitude, obedience, and zeal that He has given so much to those so undeserving to receive it.

Humility begins when we properly recognize who and what we are in relation to the sovereign Creator and to fellow man, called and uncalled alike. We show humility by the choices we make, and these will largely be determined by our willing recognition of the immense value of God's loving revelation of Himself to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Seven


 

1 Peter 2:5

Between AD 63-67, the apostle Peter was inspired to write to the "elect" who were dispersed throughout Asia Minor—and to us today—that Christians are to offer up spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the praises of God. We are in training now, learning how to be priests of God for His spiritual priesthood, and a primary reason is to offer up spiritual sacrifices. A spiritual sacrifice is an act of giving up and offering to God our time and effort in a way that is pleasing to Him.

What makes a spiritual sacrifice acceptable to God? Is it merely the sacrificing of our time and effort? No, it is more than that. Comparing the sacrifice of Noah to the hypocritical sacrifices of the children of Israel shows that the attitude and righteousness of the offerer is important to God (Genesis 8:20-21; Amos 5:21-27). A spiritual sacrifice must be offered in an attitude of obedience, humility, and reverence.

Martin G. Collins
The Sacrifice of Praise


 

1 Peter 3:8

A short definition of courtesy would be “polite behavior that shows respect for other people.” Does God have anything to say about courtesy? Remember the “Golden Rule”? Jesus exhorts His disciples in Matthew 7:12: “Treat others as you want them to treat you. This is what the law and the prophets are all about” (Contemporary English Version).

If we truly lived by this, we would always treat others with courtesy. Chivalry would not be dead. For those younger folks who may not know, chivalry was an ancient, knightly code emphasizing the virtues of service to others, honor, love, and courtesy.

Consider, for instance, how we treat the “hoary head(s)” among us. Leviticus 19:32 commands us: “Show respect for old people and honor them. Reverently obey Me; I am the Lord” (Good News Bible). There have been times when I have come up on the rear of a slow-moving car and muttered, “Come on, grandpa, let's go!” only to remember that I, too, am a grandpa!

In all seriousness, though, do we revere the older folks as we should? Do we encourage our children to go last in line at a potluck? Do we take the time to do the simple things like teach our kids to look an adult in the eye when he or she speaks to them? Do we insist that they say, “Yes, sir [or ma'am],” not interrupt an adult conversation, hold doors for them, and generally, as God urges, “Show respect for old people and honor them”?

Why would we be impolite to the elderly—or anyone, for that matter? Why not move over on the road and let others going faster drive by? Why be rude to sales clerks and wait staffs? Why not use the simplest of courtesies like “please” and “thank you”?

The apostle Paul gives the answer in Philippians 2:3: “Don't be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves” (Contemporary English Version). Now that is truly a hard thing to do. I can hear it now: “Treat others more important than moi? How can that be? The left lane was built for me! All others must go around. Why, if I were to move over and let you by, then I would lose face. I would be admitting defeat. I would be a loser in life's rat race.” Most people fail to consider that, even if they win the rat race, they are still a rat!

Mike Ford
Courtesy


 

1 Peter 5:5-7

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders - Peter adresses presumption by starting with the young people. Just as young people are supposed to submit to their elders, so are we to submit in whatever positions we are in.

Yes, all of you be submissive to one another - Peter broadens the instructions. It is not just whether you are younger than another person, or that you are in a lesser position than another person is. It says all of you be submissive to all of you. One another—whatever your rank, whatever your position. Whether you are a toenail on the body or the left elbow. All of you submit to the other.

And be clothed with humility - Not only are we to submit, but we are to do it in humility. And have it clothed—fully draped over us—because that is the attitude that will keep presumption at bay.

"God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" - This is where the favor will come—to those who are humble. "God resists the proud"—that is an understatement! God backhands the proud. God will not give even the time of day to the proud. That is how much He "resists" the proud.

This passage gives the antidote to presumptuous sin: 1) submitting, 2) being humble, and 3) waiting for God to exalt—not taking it upon ourselves to do it ourselves.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Presumptuousness


 

1 Peter 5:5-6

Those with humility submit. Their dealings with other people are very restrained.

It is interesting that Peter says "be clothed with humility," which in Greek literally means "put on the apron of humility." An apron is a symbol of service. He is likely thinking back to the last Passover with Jesus, where He "took a towel and girded Himself." Then what did He do? He served. This leads to what humility produces next: The humble choose to serve. They do not fight—they serve. They do not judge—they serve.

The Bible shows quite a number of men who did not look humble on the outside but were in reality—in the eyes of God—humble! Moses and David were both warriors and powerful political figures. In what way were they humble? Regardless of what they were—judge, king, prophet—they submitted to God. Regardless of what it cost them, they submitted to God, and sometimes they had to give orders or do things that we would consider to be quite difficult to do, like going to war or executing transgressors.

For a person to be humble in the biblical sense, he must know what is true and right, have a good grasp of reality, and submit to it. Ephesians 5:21 and Philippians 2:3 both show in broad principle what humility tends to do to a person. He is restrained, but at the same time, he is constrained to serve and to submit. Conversely, those who destroy unity are those who exalt themselves against God, men, doctrines, and right traditions (II Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 7): Ephesians 4 (D)


 

1 Peter 5:5

Humility has its basis in an honest and realistic comparison of us with God. To compare ourselves with other people always allows us a great deal of wiggle room because we can always find flaws in other people's character. But these rationalizations are not really honest because our goal is not to be in the image of other people or them to be in our image. Our goal is to be in the image of God, and therefore the comparison must be with Him.

When we do that—and we do it honestly—we always come out on the short end of the stick. We are woefully poor (poor of spirit) of any value, any quality or characteristic one might even begin to imagine. We fall so far short of His holiness that it knocks the props right out from under any idea we might have to take pride in what we are.

If we are striving to be like Him, to walk in His steps, to be in His image, this comparison gives us a much more realistic foundation to work from in relating both to Him and to fellow man. It is a wonderful attitude adjuster and regulator of relationships.

Humility tends to be the flipside of faith, because where the confident—the faithful, the trusting—will push themselves forward, the humble has a tendency to hesitate. It is a matter of restraint.

In the humble, there is a consciousness of emptiness, of potential weakness, of helplessness, of worthlessness. However, we should never get the idea that the humble are weak. Paradoxically, they are among the strongest of all people on earth! It all depends on one's perspective. In God's perspective, these people are strong, while from a human perspective, it depends on whom they want to impress.

Humility is so important that God gave Paul some help to make sure that he would stay humble (II Corinthians 12:6-10). Yet, if we would evaluate that, from the time of Jesus on, no one was more spiritually powerful than Paul. It all depends on one's perspective. Who is the humble person being compared with? In comparison with other men, Paul did not appear very strong, but when God looked at him, He liked what He saw—a powerful, effective servant of God.

This is so important because humility's dominant thrust is its willingness to submit to God and to what is right and true. Some, of course, would submit willingly to death if it would glorify God. Our level of humility, therefore, pretty much sets the tone of our relationship with Him and with others. In both cases, that is, with God and man, the humble esteem the other better than themselves. This quality will guard the unity of the spirit (Ephesians 4:3).

Humility or lowliness goes hand-in-glove with meekness. Meekness is a rather complex subject requiring many items to describe it accurately. However, it contains an evident element of restraint. The meek are kind, gentle, and sensitive to others needs. They are thoughtful, agreeable people. They are not aggressive, assertive, insistent, or argumentative. They are easily approached and easy to get along with. Again, we should not be mistaken: The meek are not weak. Certainly, we would not classify Jesus and Moses as being weak, but meek they were. They were firm and uncompromising regarding following truth, but they did not feel constrained to overwhelm those who were aligned against them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 8): Ephesians 4 (E)


 

1 Peter 5:5-6

The most important thing that we can take from these verses is the understanding and the knowledge, the belief and the conviction, that humility is a choice. Peter says, "Humble yourself!" We can choose to go the right way, and when we do, we have humbled ourselves. Humility is not a feeling but a state of mind wherein a person sets his course to submit to God—regardless of his feelings. This is a terribly hard thing to do.

Along these lines, fasting makes us think about where our life-sustaining provisions come from. They are not inherent but have to come from outside of us—even the physical food, water, or air. We do not have self-sustaining life. Spiritual provision is from exactly the same source. The necessities that sustain spiritual life and produce the kind of strength that we want to have—the sense of well-being that we desire, along with a clear conscience—all of these vital "nutrients" come from God. They are directly tied to our submission to Him because "God resists the proud, but gives grace [favor, gifts] to the humble."

If we are waiting for a "feeling" to come along before we submit to God, we will be waiting a long time. It may come; it may not. However, we may use feeling in the sense of a decision that is reached. When we say that we "felt" we had to go in a certain direction, we may not be speaking of an emotion at all. In that case, our "feeling" is correct and would be a right understanding of I Peter 5:5-6.

Nevertheless, our part in settling the disagreement with God is to be humble before Him. The separation will not be bridged until we do what Adam and Eve did not: humbly submit!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

1 Peter 5:6

In most cases, we are prepared to make this choice. If we are not prepared to make it, God in His mercy will continue to prepare us to make right choices.

One of the most tragic figures in the Bible is the rich young ruler of Matthew 19, who turned aside due to his great attachment to his possessions. Everywhere we look in the Bible, pride has its roots in a sense of security because of wealth. Christ's message was not received by the Pharisees, the scribes, the Sadducees, or the young man because they had great possessions of not just wealth but rabbinical tradition, public honor, offices, and so forth that they would have had to sacrifice in order to accept Christ's teaching.

We, too, have great possessions that need to be brought under scrutiny, things like confidence in our own judgment and ideas; familiar concepts learned while growing up; material attachments to institutions, organizations, or things; skills or academic achievements; prestige in the community; distinction of having been born into a certain family, race, or class; attending a certain school or serving in a particular branch of the military, etc. The list of things that can puff up our pride is potentially endless.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 7)


 

Jude 1:1

Jude wastes no time getting into his subject. The first thing he does is call himself a servant of Jesus Christ, not His brother. Most commentators note that this shows his humility. He was not coming to them with authority because of his blood relationship with Jesus but with the authority of Christ's servant, who had been specifically commissioned to do this job. Yes, there is humility but also a great deal of authority.

He underpins his authority by calling himself the brother of James. James, in the New Testament church, was a bedrock figure. Remember, Paul likens him, with Peter and John, to a pillar, pointing to his high reputation in the church as a person of great authority. James summed up matters in the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, and he was generally known as righteous. A tradition has come down to us that James had knees like a camel's because he spent so much time in prayer. So, Jude establishes his credibility in his humility and his authority in that he is Christ's servant and has a direct link to James, who had a sterling reputation in the church.

He goes on to describe true Christians. He makes sure his salutation includes this description in it because he is beginning to separate the wheat from the tares. "True Christians are like this," he says. "They are called, sanctified by the Father, and preserved by Christ."

First, he says true Christians are specifically invited into the family (John 6:44). God the Father sends out the call, and He brings them to His Son, Jesus Christ.

Second, true Christians are set apart by the Father's calling, His mercy in forgiving them, His bringing of them to repentance, and His acceptance of them when He gives them His Holy Spirit. Romans 8 says that, if we have the Spirit of God, we are the sons of God. Jude, then, makes a distinction here. True Christians are "the called" and "the sanctified," people who have been made holy.

Third, he says we are guarded, kept, made secure, preserved, by Christ's work on our behalf. Without Him, we would have fallen away years ago. Without Christ's intervention on our behalf before the Father, we would be long gone. His strength has kept us here, not our own, so it shows a relationship with our Protector. We have a calling, we have a relationship with the Father, and we have a relationship with the Son. These distinctions are significant in the midst of apostasy, because they separate the sheep from the goats.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Revelation 3:15-17

They did not even see their need because, in their pride, they were far from poor in spirit. They felt secure in what they were. They were not asking God to fill them with love, goodness, generosity, kindness, wisdom, and faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Fervency


 

Revelation 11:3

"Clothed in sackcloth." II Kings 1:8 is the response of some people who reported what they had seen to the king, Ahaziah: "So they answered him, 'A hairy man wearing a leather belt around his waist.' And he said, 'It is Elijah the Tishbite." Matthew 3:4 describes John the Baptist: "Now John himself was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locust and wild honey." So Elijah and John the Baptist both wore sackcloth. In a way, they are types of these Two Witnesses.

Being clothed in sackcloth has several meanings in the Bible. They are all somewhat similar, but they have nuances that we need to consider.

Sackcloth was worn by those who were in mourning. Recall in Ezekiel 9 that the angel was supposed to mark all those who sighed and cried for all the troubles of Jerusalem. That is a sign of woe, of mourning, or of being sorry for the fall of this once great nation or for their sins.

Sackcloth also can mean repentance, as an outward sign of the inner repentance of a person. Therefore it also has another meaning of being humble. A repentant person should be a humble person. He has seen his sins and turned from them.

Another meaning is austerity. This is one that the world often sees in John the Baptist and Elijah, that they were "poor" men. However, that is not necessarily the case. Austerity does not necessarily mean that one is poor. It can mean though that a person leads a simple lifestyle, and that he has removed the frills that complicate his life. Wearing sackcloth, then, could mean a person has stripped down to the simplest essentials of his physical life.

Of course, the one that goes with this would then be poverty, yet not necessarily physical poverty (a lack of money) but spiritual poverty (poor in spirit). This is a fine way of looking at the wearing of sackcloth in the case of the Two Witnesses—and frankly, of Elijah and John the Baptist. They were ready to be filled and given the riches of God because they had considered themselves lowly and needy. They knew they needed what only God could give. They were poor in spirit.

However, all of these meanings could apply to the Two Witnesses: They mourn for the troubles this world is going through; they are repentant and humble; they are austere, not having any of the frills and complications that clutter other people's lives—they have stripped themselves of the things that would weigh them down so that they can run (Hebrews 12:1); and they are certainly poor in spirit.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 3)


 

Find more Bible verses about Humility:
Humility {Nave's}
Humility {Torrey's}
 




The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

Sign up for the Berean: Daily Verse and Comment, and have Biblical truth delivered to your inbox. This daily newsletter provides a starting point for personal study, and gives valuable insight into the verses that make up the Word of God. See what over 140,000 subscribers are already receiving each day.

Email Address:

   
Leave this field empty

We respect your privacy. Your email address will not be sold, distributed, rented, or in any way given out to a third party. We have nothing to sell. You may easily unsubscribe at any time.
 A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
©Copyright 1992-2019 Church of the Great God.   Contact C.G.G. if you have questions or comments.
Share this on FacebookEmailPrinter version
Close
E-mail This Page