Previous article in this series: January 15, 2011, p.181.
A virtue that the Holy Spirit nurtures in the believer by the doctrines of His sovereign, electing, and irresistible grace is the virtue of meekness. The Canons of Dordt, I, 13 teach that “the sense and certainty of this election afford to the children of God additional matter for daily humiliation before Him….” In the Canons of Dordt, V, 12, we confess that the doctrine of the preservation and perseverance of the saints does not produce in the believer a “spirit of pride,” but is “a source of humility,” among many other worthy virtues. By these statements, it is implied that humility, or meekness, is vital to the Christian life, and it is a fruit of the Spirit of Christ in us that He nurtures by means of the faithful preaching of God’s sovereign, electing grace in Christ Jesus alone.
Meekness was prominent in the lives of God’s saints in Scripture. For example, according toNumbers 12:3, “Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Although he was not sinless in this life, which became evident in his sin at Kadeshbarnea, yet the Lord worked in Moses the virtue of meekness to a very great extent. John the Baptist showed meekness when he confessed that he was not even worthy to unloose the buckles on the shoes of Jesus (John 1:27) and when he confessed to his disciples that he wanted himself to decrease and Jesus to increase (John 3:30). Paul showed the virtue of meekness when in I Timothy 1:15 he confessed that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
From these examples, we learn that this virtue must be present and prominent in our hearts. For example, in I Peter 3:4 wives are admonished to adorn themselves with the beauty of a meek and quiet spirit, and to value that jewel and beautiful adornment as God values it: of great price! Believers must exercise humility when restoring in mercy one in the church who has fallen into sin. This they must do in the spirit of meekness, considering themselves, lest they also be tempted and fall, from pride, into great sin (Gal. 6:1). We learn in Philippians 2:2-4 that meekness, or humility, is necessary for the continued enjoyment of the communion of saints in the church. As Christ was humble, and demonstrated that humility in His work of redemption, so must we be of the same mind, and in that lowliness of mind esteem others better than ourselves.
Opposite to that is selfishness. Thinking of me first and only about me is not humility. The Lord teaches us in Philippians 2:4, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Selfishness for one’s own name and glory is the enemy of humility, especially in cases where the honor of God’s name is at stake. The truly humble will stand up and face the heat of the battle against the dishonor of God’s name or become very vocal for the faith when it is attacked in pernicious ways by the devil and false teachers. Meek Moses did not stand by idly when the people worshiped the golden calf at Mt. Sinai. On the Lord’s side, meek Moses took swift action to put an end to such evil in the camp. However, the selfish will avoid such battles.
The opposite of humility is vainglory. One who falls into the trap of vainglory seeks the praise and honor of men in order to puff up his esteem of himself. He seeks to build his “self-esteem” on himself, his own works, and his own goodness. Vainglory and self-esteem are a deadly trap that draws us away from Christ, whose all-sufficient worth is imputed to us by faith alone.
The enemy of humility is pride. Pride can become a sin in church members when they behave with haughtiness towards others who have not been called and converted, as though they by their own abilities made themselves to differ. Pride was the sin of the Pharisee who prayed in thanksgiving to his god that he was so much better than others, especially the publican in that same parable that Jesus taught in Luke 18. Pride can also be manifest in a refusal to turn away from any false teaching, from a wicked walk of life, from an offense committed against others, or from a very unwise and potentially harmful direction or decision in life. Pride can become manifest in one who thinks that God has not given him enough gifts to serve in his particular station and calling in life. Such a conclusion is a manifestation of pride against the God of wisdom, who distributes His gifts to His people with perfect precision and then commands them to use those abilities in humble dependence upon Him in their specific station and calling.
Pride can easily become manifest in feeling sorry for ourselves when calamity in life strikes. When one feels sorry for himself, he has not humbled himself before the mighty hand of God, who gives us our calamities and afflictions in life, but also provides the grace sufficient each day to endure the trials of life with patience and godly fear (I Pet. 5:6-7). Pride becomes manifest when one becomes like Elijah, and thinks that he is the only one left who cares and stands for the truth of God’s Word, while everyone else is unregenerated, unconverted, or on the road to apostasy. Such forget that God does have His 7,000 preserved by His grace. Pride is manifest when we begin to think that we, of ourselves, are better and more worthy than others for whatever reason.
Instead of those evil virtues, the child of God must desire to have and exercise the fruit of meekness. Philippians 2:3 describes meekness clearly: lowliness of mind. Meekness is a matter of how lowly we value ourselves—before God chiefly, but also in comparison with others. In meekness one concludes that before God he is only an undeserving servant, and in comparison with others he is the least of the least of all God’s saints. That conclusion is not a putting down of oneself before others with false motives, but a genuine understanding that he is the least of the least of God’s saints because he is the chief of the chief of sinners. When we understand how huge and extensive our sin and misery are, we will understand how low we really are. Then we will understand how great God and Christ are, and that we are as nothing before God, and in comparison to others, far below the lowest. Then the Spirit makes us to see that the worth we do have is of, in, by, and because of Christ alone. He is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption entirely.
As is true of all the other aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, we do not possess true meekness naturally. That fact does not take long to appear in us as we grow up. In early childhood already, one expresses effortlessly and naturally selfishness and pride as he rips away a toy from another child or refuses to obey his parent and “come.” True humility before God and in relationship to God is truly a gift of God’s grace, worked in us by the Holy Spirit alone. God must crush our rock-hard hearts by His grace and give us new hearts, which are pliable and soft. He must infuse in us the life and mind of Christ, who said, “For I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29). In fact, Christ was so lowly and meek that He came into our flesh in the way of His lowly birth, to walk a lowly way of humiliation, to the lowliest depths of hell, for the lowliest of all, His own sheep, who also by nature hate, reject, and would crucify Him again.
It is humbling, is it not, that Christ humbled Himself so low for us in order that we, who deserve to be cast down, might inhabit the heights of undeserved glory in His heavenly kingdom? What Christ by His death and resurrection earned for us, a life of His humility, He is pleased to work in us by His Spirit through the preaching of the Word. By the preaching of the gospel of God’s sovereign, electing grace in Christ, the Spirit is pleased to call us out of the darkness and death of pride into the light and life of genuine humility.
That virtue we need for a faithful life in our respective churches, homes, and places in daily life. For example, the meek wife will be faithful to her husband in her lifelong marriage, will guide her house with wisdom and discretion, and also, as time and opportunity permit, bear the burdens of others within the household of faith.
With this virtue, the Christian young person can attain the proper estimation of himself before God and in comparison to others. He will see his nothingness apart from Christ and will resist the death-trap of seeking value for himself in his own report card grades, in his diplomas, in his successful school or work projects, and in his friends. He will see that his all is in Christ alone, and, in thanksgiving for that, faithfully go to school, find employment, seek a like-minded life mate, make confession of faith, and mature in the obligations of church membership.
With this virtue, lasting spiritual friendships at various levels in life are maintained. The friendship of Jonathan and David is an example of how the blessing of humility is vital to the happy friendships of fellow believers, even in extremely difficult circumstances.
In such relationships in life, the meek look out for the spiritual welfare of the others. The meek will not behave independently and individualistically. They will not say, “I am not my brother’s keeper.” They will not even build their home independently from the homes of fellow believers and their seed. They will not say that the children of other believers are not their concern. This does not mean that the meek will fall into the opposite error of being busybodies, intermeddling in the affairs of others in which they have no place, and at the same time leaving their own calling and duties unfinished. Rather, the meek will be ready to serve others as time and opportunity permit because of a deep spiritual concern and interest for the spiritual health of other believers and their seed.
As the meek fulfill their callings in the church, home, and other areas of life, they put others first. The husband will think of his wife first, and so the wife towards her husband. The meek parents will not put themselves, their vacation, their hobbies, or other earthly desires first, but put the needs and spiritual welfare of their children and their children’s children first. Bearing the burdens of fellow saints becomes a priority for the meek. Interceding for others in the church in prayer before God’s throne of grace is a daily element of the prayers of the meek. Just as the Father in heaven so esteemed those others in the church that He gave His only begotten Son for them, so surely must we esteem our fellow saints.
This virtue would not be present in us except there also be in us the love of Christ. Like all the other aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, meekness also flows out of the first part of the fruit of the Spirit: love. Love is that bond of perfectness, the bond of covenant communion with God in which we seek Him first only because He has sought us first. When Christ pours into us His love by His Spirit, we love Him. When there is that love of Christ in us, we will hate the world and the evils of pride, and delight ourselves in His life of meekness. With the love of Christ in our hearts, we will learn to live in humility before God and in relationship with other people. By the love of Christ, we will be longsuffering, kind, good, and faithful towards others.
What is the result of that meekness? In this life there is, according to Psalm 37:11, something wonderful that the meek may enjoy. David wrote that the meek “shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” The result of true humility is the enjoyment of an abundance of peace, which surpasses our understanding, with our fellow saints and, above all, with our God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
According to Psalm 37:11, the meek may also expect to inherit the earth. Jesus repeated that in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). The blessed hope and expectation for the meek, though they are persecuted and oppressed in this life, is that they shall one day soon be highly exalted into their place in the everlasting and heavenly kingdom of Christ.