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"Be clothed with humility"

This is an extract from chapter 4 of the book A Pilgrim's Manual, by Herman Hanko, pages 299-301, published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association. The passage commented is 1 Peter 5:5.

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        And be clothed with humility (5:5)

The Greek word translated as “be clothed” is a picturesque word that literally refers to two pieces of clothing tied in a knot to hold them together. The word was used to designate the apron a slave wore to prepare himself for the service of his master. Along with the word “humility,” Peter’s injunction forms a dramatic picture. In our relationships with our fellow saints, we are to put on humility as a slave’s garment.

Christ himself was the perfect example of humility. He became our slave to serve us in a way we never can serve him or one another. He humbled himself and took on the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7). He donned a slave’s garment when he washed his disciples’ feet. He told them that he did that because he was their slave. The point of the foot-washing was to show his disciples that he was their slave by going to the cross for them and dying for them, so that he could cleanse them from their sin.

We belong to Christ by faith, so Christ’s command to us is “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15). The example Christ gave us is to be slaves to one another. In order to do that we must put on a slave’s apron. This is humility.

Humility in Christians is a gift of God rooted in regeneration that comes to expression in their lives. Humility is expressed when we recognize that we are unworthy sinners saved through the great work of Christ. It is also expressed when we joyfully acknowledge the truth that God has saved with us a multitude of saints with whom we live in fellowship. Finally, belonging to Christ by grace alone, humbly we become slaves to one another.

Pride lies at the heart of our sin, for pride makes us totally self-seeking. We seek our own welfare, pleasure, and personal advancement. Such self-seeking is always at the expense of others: spouses, children, fellow saints, and the cause of the kingdom of Christ. The calling, repeatedly laid down in Scripture, is just the opposite: forget self and seek to be a slave of those who are one with you in the household of faith. This is difficult and a constant battle. We must repeatedly put down our pride, deny ourselves, and seek the spiritual welfare of our fellow saints.

This then is how God’s people are subject one to another.

 

        For God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble (5:5)

These clauses are a quotation from the Septuagint and is taken in part from Proverbs 3:34: “Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.” It is quoted also in James 4:6. Peter gives this verse as the reason we must cloth ourselves with humility. It is a powerful reason. God resists the proud. The wicked and unregenerate are without the life of Christ and are, therefore, proud in an absolute sense. God resists them, that is, “the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked” (Prov. 3:33). God’s resistance is the opposite of his grace to the humble. There is no grace toward the wicked in any sense. In their pride they set themselves against God and his word. God pours out on them his anger and expresses his displeasure with them. He resists them in their purposes, even though it may seem to us as if they gain their goals and prosper in their way. God frustrates them and makes all their endeavors end in failure, until finally he punishes them in hell.

But God’s people have their sinful natures with which to contend, and pride gains the upper hand in their lives as well. When pride raises its ugly head in the lives of God’s people, God resists them as well. He causes them to experience his anger, brings their purposes to nothing, and uses his anger and resistance to bring them to see their sin and repent. They humble themselves before the throne of God’s grace.

When God’s people walk in humility (something an unregenerate person is never able to do), God gives such people his grace. He bestows on them all the blessings of his favor and love. He causes them to know his divine approval. He prospers them in their spiritual way. And he gives the humble the power of grace to walk in obedience to him, so that they grow in grace and in the knowledge of him as their God.

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