Wednesday, April 12, 2023

2023.04.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Peter 5:5

Read 1 Peter 5:5

Questions from the Scripture text: Who are the counterparts to these elders (1 Peter 5:5)? How are they to relate to the elders? Whom else are they to treat as more important than one another? What clothing “outfits” them for this way of thinking and interacting? How does God treat those who do not have this clothing? What does He give those who do have it? 

Why, and how, is humility so important in the life of the church? 1 Peter 5:5 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that humility gives us a proper view of ourselves, proper incentive to follow God’s authority structure for the church, and a proper view of how we are interacting with God. 

This verse tells us to be clothed with humility before encouraging us that God gives grace to those who do so. In the following verse, this will become a direct command, “humble yourselves.” Humility, humility, humility. What a significant part of biblical church life this is! And we see why even in the wording of the instruction to submit to the elder.

The instruction to submit to our elders is so obvious that it ought not be necessary. After all, this is the way by which the Lord Jesus has opted to guide us: through elders who oversee us in the church. Case closed. And yet, the Lord urges submission to our elders in many places in the New Testament. That which should be obvious, we apparently need to hear over and over again. Doesn’t this call us to watchfulness against an independent, or even rebellious, spirit in the church? Once we see that we are so prone to resist God’s ordained authority structure, we begin to understand how urgently we need humility.

“Youngers” in 1 Peter 5:5 is actually “new ones.” “Newbies,” to use the vernacular. Part of the humility that the Spirit teaches us here is to consider ourselves as newbies before God, who are in need of shepherding and oversight. This was part of the wisdom of Solomon in 1 Kings 3:7 and the fitness of Jeremiah for ministry in Jeremiah 1:6–8. Either man might have had a high view of himself, but viewed himself instead as barely having made a beginning in the faith, hardly fit for their duties, like toddlers who do not know how to go out or come in or speak. A believer needs to be able to confess genuinely before God, “I am a toddler before You, not knowing how to go out or come in or speak.” Such a spirit will go a long way toward facilitating a healthy body-life in the church.

When 1 Peter 5:5 continues the chapter by saying “all be submissive to one another,” it is not erasing the authority structure that the Lord has put in place, but rather forbidding all self-superiority or self-serving. In order to reconcile this verse with what precedes it, we must maintain a recognition that the Lord gifts and graces particular men who are to be examples. 

When the Spirit says, “all of you be submissive to one another,” it is not a flattening of His work or denial that there is such a thing as a more mature believer. Rather, this verse makes plain that with maturity comes even more humility. Notice a couple things about the first instruction about humility. First, it’s a passive command: “be clothed.” It’s a command that we can’t even accomplish for ourselves. It has to be done to us. Second, it’s clothing that comes from another and is put upon us. It’s not something that we have the ability to produce from ourselves. How needy we are of grace, that even humility comes as clothing from Christ! 

Thankfully, in God’s wisdom, as He clothes us with more humility, He makes us more and more an object of His grace. “God gives grace to the humble.” We don’t become any less needy of grace as we grow, so He widens the channel of that grace as He “grows us down” in humility. 

This should be alarming to anyone who feels superior in himself. The one who is conceited in himself or looks down upon others should worry that he is not actually being clothed by Christ. Even worse (?!), he provokes God to enmity. For, “God resists the proud.” A proud shepherd in the church is a living contradiction! All proud sheep are ripe for destruction. Dear reader, may the Chief Shepherd give you His own mind to consider others as better than yourself and to look out for their interests as much as for your own.

How does your being a “newbie” before God come out in your prayers? How does it come out in your habits? How does it shape your thoughts toward others and your interactions with them? Where can you get humility? How do your habits show that you are trying to get it?

Sample prayer: Lord, we praise You for humbling Yourself to take the form of a bondslave, be found in appearance as a man, and offer Yourself up to death upon the cross for us. And, we thank You that by Your Spirit, You take Your own humility and clothe us with it. O, give us grace that we might grow in humility and be, more and more, objects of Your grace! Glorify Yourself in Your church, which we ask in Your own Name, Lord Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP131 “My Heart Is Not Exalted, LORD” or TPH488 “May the Mind of Christ, My Savior”

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