I fully realize I have not found the same rhythm and pace to be blogging on a weekly basis since my sabbatical. For this I request and value your prayers. Communication and the reinforcement of biblical truth are essential. It was the need for this humble confession that took me deeper into reflecting upon our recent teaching on humility as related to Ephesians 5. With deepest gratitude – Tony
The Humility of Mutual Submission
I myself, as much as any in our congregation, have been deeply challenged by the apostle Paul’s description of the fruit of a “Spirit-filled” church in Ephesians 5:18-21. Particularly, the 3rd and final mark in verse 21 – “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
As a brief reminder, we described what has been called “mutual submission” as embracing more than “those in subordinate positions respecting those in leadership roles.” While that is certainly true, verse 21 applies to the entire congregation and hence involves some aspect of subjection in both directions.
We defined it as: a joyful willingness to subject oneself to others in the fellowship of God’s people without undermining God-ordained authority structures. [The emphasis here being “without undermining.”]
The supreme example of this is our Lord Jesus Himself as seen in the 13th chapter of John. After taking the role of the lowliest servant in that culture by washing the feet of the disciples with water and a towel, Jesus stated:
“You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” (ESV)
Our Lord never abdicated His position or role of Lord and teacher while subjecting Himself, not to some presumed authority in the disciples, but to their needs. This kind of “kneeling love” (Tim Keller’s language) requires a profound sense of Spirit-filled humility.
In Philippians 2:3 Paul states that what stands in the way of humility and a willingness to “count others more significant than yourselves” is “selfish ambition or conceit.” How true, finding my greatest joy in the success and growth of others is resisted by deep-seeded desires to promote myself. This can happen in the most subtle ways.
As I’ve been reflecting on humility as the virtue that gives rise to this selflessness I have been helped by the words of others. In an effort to promote your own meditation I share some of them with you below. But be forewarned, as someone has said, “studying humility can be a very humbling experience.”
“It is not humility to underrate yourself. Humility is to think of yourself as God thinks of you. It is to feel that if we have talents God has given them to us. And let it be seen that, like freight in a vessel, they tend to sink us low. The more we have, the lower we ought to lie.” – Charles Spurgeon
“That man is truly humble who never claims any personal merit in the sight of God, nor proudly despises brethren, or aims at being thought superior to them, but reckons it enough that he is one of the members of Christ and desires nothing more than that the Head alone should be exalted.”– John Calvin
“Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him.” – C. J. Mahaney
“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.” – Augustine
“Humility may well be called the queen of the Christian graces. To know our own sinfulness and weakness, and to feel our need of Christ, is the very beginning of saving religion. It is a grace which has always been the distinguishing feature in the character of the holiest saints in every age… Above all, it is a grace within the reach of every true Christian. All have not money to give away. All have not time and opportunities for working directly for Christ. All have not gifts of speech, tact and knowledge, in order to do good in the world. But all converted people should labor to adorn the doctrine they profess by humility. If they can do nothing else, they can strive to be humble.” – J. C. Ryle
“There is only one thing I know of that crushes me to the ground and humiliates me to the dust, and that is to look at the Son of God, and especially contemplate the cross. … Nothing else can do it. When I see that I am a sinner… that nothing but the Son of God on the cross can save me, I’m humbled to the dust. … Nothing but the cross can give us this spirit of humility.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones