Sermon for Sunday, June 5th, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Pro 18:1-12 ESV] 1 Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. 2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. 3 When wickedness comes, contempt comes also, and with dishonor comes disgrace. 4 The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook. 5 It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice. 6 A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. 7 A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul. 8 The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body. 9 Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. 10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. 11 A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination. 12 Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.
New Testament reading:
[1Pe 5:1-11 ESV] 1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
[Luk 14:7-11 ESV] 7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The text for today’s sermon is 1 Peter 5:5-7
5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
For some weeks I’ve been promising a sermon series on Christian Virtues. And so in 4 or 5 sermons, starting today, I hope to deliver such a series.
The Roman Catholic Church emphasizes four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude. And, no doubt, these are positive things. However, you might ask, “from which Scripture did they derive this list?” Why are these the four cardinal virtues, and not, some others? Why not five cardinal virtues? Or five hundred? Well, they in fact did not chose their four because the Bible especially emphasized them, but because the philosopher Plato had specified those four.
We need a better method for determining which virtues are to be most esteemed. Indeed which need a better method for determining which things are virtues at all.
Far larger than the list of the Cardinal virtues are those which a couple centuries ago were common first names in this region and in others. People used to name their children Charity, Prudence, Justice, Temperance, Verity, Constance, Harmony, Patience, Promise, Increase, and Fidelity among others.
While these sounds nice as names some of them seem more virtuous than others. Names like Increase and Prosperity sound more like blessings from God than virtues of one’s character.
Like all subjects, we must go to the Word of God for answers.
At the end of Paul’s chapter love — 1st Corinthians 13 — he says “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”
These then are three Christians virtues. Faith, hope, and love.
Then also, in Galatians 5, Paul lists “the fruit of the spirit” as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
That’s nine more virtues. Faith and love have been mentioned twice now, so our total is 10 virtues listed in the Scriptures in just these two verses.
The word “virtue” itself is not often used in the Scriptures. Just once in the ESV, seven times in the King James.
When it is used, in Greek, it is ἀρετή meaning “a virtuous course of thought, feeling and action” or “Any particular moral excellence, as modesty, purity.”
That is the definition then, from Strong’s concordance, that I will use. A virtue is “any particular moral excellence.” These are, in short, good moral qualities that we are to have.
And in the Scripture passages already quotes, the virtues are listed together; there is no “cardinal virtue” unless we single out “love” as the greatest as Paul has done.
Well, all of this has been my attempt to narrow down the discussion of virtues to a handful so that I could then preach on each of those, one at a time.
The Bible ultimate doesn’t limit virtue to a particular list, but Paul says in Philippians 4:8
[Phl 4:8 ESV] 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
So we are to pursue all good things, all excellent things.
Yet, it will be of value for us to dive deeper on particular virtues, to understand them better and, with the work of the Holy Spirit within us, to grow in such virtues as we seek to be sanctified; to be holy as He is holy.
So I’ve decided to focus on four virtues that are perhaps less commonly discussed, and which we could most benefit from delving deeper into:
1. Humility (In which we may have closely related the ideas of submission and meekness)
2. Charity (Closely related to Paul’s “greatest virtue” love.)
3. Prudence (In which we have the closely related ideas of patience, shrewdness, and frugality.
4. Verity (or truthfulness, and its closely related ideas of rationality, knowledge, and wisdom.)
This isn’t to establish some new set of cardinal virtues, but to limit us to just four in the hopes that we can learn much from a Biblical exposition of these virtues.
So today, we’ll look into Humility.
1. What is Humility?
In our text for today’s sermon we read that ALL are to “clothe yourself with humility toward one another.”
We are commanded to do this, but what is it that we are to do? What is it to be humble, to have humility.
Humility is the one that thing that if you say you have it, you don’t.
Definitions can be a tricky business, especially in trying to consider them from the Bible and giving justice to the Hebrew and Greek languages it was written in. But Hebrew especially is a concrete language, and so the Hebraicist might like the definition of humble as “being brought low.” And that is a pretty good definition. “Being brought low.” Others have said “lowliness of mind.”
My favorite definition of humility is “freedom from pride or arrogance.” [REPEAT: freedom from pride or arrogance]
We might understand humility better seeing how it is related to meekness. Meekness is a quality that a person displays towards others; of being quiet, gentle, righteous, and obedient. But Humility is a quality that one displays towards one’s self. It is the opposite of putting on airs of superiority. It is recognizing our rightful place.
And, from the Scriptures, our rightful place is first, that we are made in the image of God, but second, that we are fallen into sin, and only saved by Jesus Christ and not ourselves. So we have nothing to brag about, nothing to boast about but Christ himself.
This fact — our sinfulness and our salvation in Christ — is sufficient to humble us. To come before the Lord God in fear and submission and thanksgiving for what HE has done.
We should be humble because we know that we have received blessings we do not deserve.
II. Why be Humble?
Peter continues explaining why we are to clothe ourselves with humility: for, he say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
We are called to be humble so that the Lord will raise us up.
It is never good to exalt oneself, but we should praise God and let him exalt us in His time.
That is aligned with Jesus’ parable in Luke’s Gospel.
8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus is not just talking about meal times, but is speaking of our very salvation. For God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Similarly we read in the Proverbs:
10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. 11 A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination. 12 Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.
The humble man relies on the Lord and so is honored. But the haughty man overestimates his ability and position; and this becomes his downfall, leading to destruction.
Remember this when you hear of a “Pride” parade. They couldn’t have given it a better — a more Biblical — name for what they are doing. Without Fear of the Lord, they even glory in their sin. There is no humility. They are prideful.
I know of no other sin which has a parade. You don’t have a parade of drunks. That would be pretty dangerous to attend! Parade floats swerving down the road. There is no gossip parade. Nor vanity parade. Nor parade to display one’s wealth. But those who are prideful in their sin have their own parade. It certainly is not going to be difficult for God to tell who is humble and who is haughty!
Against all vices, we are to flee to the Lord, who is our strong tower who keeps us safe.
Humility opposes all vice and sin. It certainly does not take pride in it.
Humility causes us to realize that our salvation is outside of ourselves. It is in the Lord.
While some do glory in riches, we hear in our hymn that “the humble poor believe.”
Humility is a great blessing from the Lord, because with it comes belief. The humble poor believe. Where else would we turn to? Lord, you have the words of eternal life? To whom should we go?
Ultimately, we must be humble, because we need the Lord.
III. The Humility of Christ.
And Christ provided the example of humility in his life.
While he had a reason to boast — he was sinless after all — he lived with humility. The Son of Man had no place to lay his head. He didn’t own a home. He had little or no money. He was not great by worldly standards. But because he was the most humble, he also is the greatest.
The theological term here is “the humiliation of Christ.”
Jesus humbled himself
in being born into this world, there even being “no place in the inn” for him.
and then living in this world
and especially in his death, on a cross like a criminal
The author of the Hebrews summarizes Christ’s humiliation saying this:
[Heb 2:9 ESV] 9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Christ, the very second person of the Triune God, became lower than the angels, to suffer in our place upon the cross.
He did not force his way about the world, becoming a king, but spoke of His eternal kingdom as the prince of peace. It would not be a stretch to call him the prince of humility.
Christ then is our greatest example of humility.
1. Clothe Yourself with Humility.
It is interesting that Peter says “clothe ourselves with humility.” The rich clothes themselves with expensive garments. But the garment does not make the person. Those who obsess about appearance are vain. Let us obsess about Christ, and let us be humble, clothing ourselves not with signs of wealth but with humility. Cover yourself with humility. Let it seep in to every area of your life!
Be humble with family, friends, church members, and strangers. Don’t be so quick in conversation to talk about yourself and your victories, but ask questions of others, thinking your own accomplishments as great only on account of the Lord’s blessings upon you. Give Him the credit.
2. Growing in Humility.
How then do we grow in humility?
Humility, like other virtues, is not something we do of our strength, but depends on the Holy Spirit working in us.
To grow in humility, we should pray for the Lord to work in us. That is why virtues are called Fruit of the Spirit. It is not something we attain, but is worked in us by God, so that He gets the glory.
So we should pray. And we should cultivate the virtue of humility, establishing that mindset and having awareness when opportunities arise that we may be humble and not haughty.
Humility, for example, is not thinking you are too good for some task.
I came upon a story in one of these books of illustrations for pastors to use, and I almost never use these, but this was a good story.
It is of Booker T. Washington shortly after he took over the presidency of Tuskegee Institute. There he was walking in an exclusive section of town when he was stopped by a wealthy white woman. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Because he had no pressing business at the moment, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he carried the logs into the house and stacked them by the fireplace. A little girl recognized him and later revealed his identity to the lady. The next morning the embarrassed woman went to see Mr. Washington in his office at the Institute and apologized profusely. “It’s perfectly all right, Madam,” he replied. “Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it’s always a delight to do something for a friend.”
3. God Gives Grace to the Humble
We should first note that God gives humility to his elect, and his giving of humility is grace in itself.
But then, as the Scriptures say, God gives grace to the humble.
He gives grace to those who depend on Him and accept His word.
We come to Christ with nothing.
Like the hymn says:
Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling.
And then, not only do have the grace of being made humble, but we have the grace of God in His giving us salvation. All the joys of the Lord are our eternally solely for the grace of God.
You can see how Christianity is a system of thought. Not haphazard pieces of information, disjointed. But it all fits together. Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, demand our boasting only in the Lord, and they demand our humility.
Let us pray for the virtue of humility in greater measure.