This meditation deals with the second part of a verse. The first part of the verse is addressed to a specific element in the church: “Ye younger, submit yourselves to the elder.” Although there are differing opinions as to the meaning of these words, they are most likely directed to the younger element of the congregation in their relationship to those who hold the office of elder. The younger with their enthusiasm, inexperience, and new ideas sometimes struggle to submit to those who by reason of their experience and wisdom hold the office of elder in the church. And so, there is the instruction to the younger to submit to the wise rule of the elders.
But now, there is a word addressed to the entire church. “Yea, all of you be subject one to another.”
There is a mutual submission we are to have to one another in the church.
This will be possible only as we are clothed with humility.
And the incentive is very clear: “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”
Yea, all of you be subject one to another.
To be subject to someone is to be willing to place yourself under that person. It is to subordinate yourself to another so that you take the role of a servant. It is to serve rather than to be served.
The tendency of our sinful human nature is to subject others to ourselves so that that we have power and control over them and are able to have them do our bidding. We see that in the political arena. Some seek political office to serve their country. But many aspire to public office in order to subject others under them—to have power and control over others. We see the same thing in the business world—men and women climbing the corporate ladder to gain power and control over others.
It exists in the family and in marriage. Many marriage and family problems involve control issues. Who will serve and who will be served? This is found also in the school, where students vie for power and control over the class and even over the teacher. We also see this in the life of the church, where one person or group seeks to subject the entire church to their own will.
Rather than seeking to subject others to us, we must subject ourselves to one another. Consciously and willingly, we are to place ourselves under each other, subordinating ourselves to each other so that we serve one another. Rather than trying to get others to serve us, we must see how we can serve others around us.
The “one another” of this passage is our fellow saints in the church. This includes the Christian family with believing parents and their covenant children. It includes the Christian school where believing parents have their children instructed according to the demands of the covenant. It includes the members of your local church, your denomination and, ultimately, all who belong to the household of faith. We are willing to place ourselves under our fellow members so that we view ourselves as the servants of one another. This is true even of those whom God has clothed with authority in the church, home, or school. Officebearers in the church, husbands in marriage, parents in the home, as well as teachers in the Christian school must use their positions of authority to serve those whom they rule.
The Bible gives us examples of such subjection. Jesus subjected Himself to His disciples by washing their feet at the last Passover (John 13). The apostle Paul subjected himself to those to whom he brought the gospel: “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more” (I Cor. 9:19). Paul commended Phebe to the church of Rome, “which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea” (Rom. 16:1).
Interestingly, Jesus cites such subjection to others as the measure of true greatness in the kingdom (Matt. 20:25-28).
And be clothed with humility.
A contrast is made in the passage between humility and pride.
Pride is the vice of having a high and inflated opinion of self. By nature fallen man is lifted up with pride. Ironically, he has lost all his good spiritual gifts and is bound for hell. He can do nothing good or worthwhile in the cause of God. Yet, he imagines himself to be something great, boasting of his accomplishments. This is the sad result of the Fall and the depravity that results. And it is the nature of pride to put others in subjection to oneself. Pride leads to self-seeking and self-promotion. With that spirit, the proud also seek to subject others to themselves so that they are served.
Humility is the virtue of having a modest opinion of self.
There is a natural humility that is rooted in insecurity and low self-esteem, fed often by failures of the past.
The humility that this Word of God speaks of is the gift of grace in Jesus Christ.
By grace one sees himself as a mere creature whose station is to be a servant of the Lord.
By grace he sees his sins and worthiness to be damned. He is an unprofitable servant. Yet, he has come to know the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. In Christ he has been freely reconciled to God in the blood of the cross. In Christ he has been transformed into the very image of God and given an important place of service in the kingdom. For this he is eternally grateful. In the process of it all he has been humbled. And his humility leads him to subject himself to others as a servant.
That we may so subject ourselves to one another, we are called to clothe ourselves with humility.
The Bible often calls us to clothe ourselves with some virtue and to discard as filthy rags various vices. The figure expresses the idea of making virtue so prominent in our lives that it is as visible as a fine garment you put on. The word translated here “to clothe” is derived from a word that describes a slave or servant putting on an apron so that he may serve his master. The idea, therefore, is that we are to put on humility, just as a servant puts on his apron, so that you are ready to serve.
And we must repeatedly be called to do this. As God’s children, we have the gift of true humility. But the pride of our sinful nature often asserts itself and is sometimes so prominent that it becomes the spiritual clothing we wear.
And in this pride we seek to subjugate others to ourselves in a spirit of self-seeking. And so we are called to put off these filthy rags of pride and self-promotion to put on a humility that leads us to submit ourselves to others.
We are able to do this only in the power of the Word and prayer.
For God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
God resists the proud. The basic meaning of “resist” is to “arrange in battle.” It suggests that the Lord views the proud as His enemies and battles to destroy them. The proud do not submit themselves to others; but neither do they submit themselves to God. They stand ultimately with the devil to build their own empires, to establish themselves without God, and ultimately to overthrow the living God. But God resists them. He arranges Himself in battle against them. From a human point of view, it sometimes appears as though the proud self-seekers prosper and will even succeed in their self-promotion. But, ultimately, they will fail and fall into the hands of an angry God.
But God gives grace to the humble. True humility is the fruit of saving grace. And as God has given grace to be humble, He continues to shower His grace on the believer who walks in humility. The humble believer knows close friendship and fellowship with God and the saints. He experiences the joy of giving which is greater than receiving. And God lifts up the humble ultimately to the glory of eternal life, which is a share of Christ’s reward.
This fact is set forth as the reason for us to clothe ourselves with humility.
How we are inclined in pride to subject others to ourselves to serve our selfish ends! It sometimes appears as though this pays handsome rewards. But consider God’s resistance.
Let us rather clothe ourselves with humility and submit ourselves to one another. From an earthly point of view, there are many sacrifices that this requires. But consider God’s grace to the humble, a grace that one day will exalt them with Christ.