The Apostle Paul was always deeply conscious of the immeasurable debt he owed to the amazing grace of God. That he was an Apostle and had received his high calling in a unique way from the ascended Christ never encouraged him to give way to pride. Writing in the first of his letters to the Corinthians in chapter 15 he says, ‘For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am.’
Such is Biblical humility. A rare grace in these sad days. In fact it has been a rare grace since the devil persuaded Eve that on eating the forbidden fruit she and Adam would ‘be as gods’. The long sad history at man’s inhumanity to man has pride at its root and, what is worse, the long sad history of man’s rebellion against his Maker is the ultimate expression of this gross evil. For the sin-ruined mind of fallen men to dispute with the Almighty is surely the ultimate expression of our depravity and a demonstration of how effectively Satan has blinded those minds.
We live in days of self-promotion. Most of those who now apply for jobs have to present a C.V.; an outline of human ability and achievement presented in the most impressive way in which it is possible for such limited attainments to be described. Humility is hardly likely to be seen as any kind of recommendation for any job on earth these days. The psychology of the present age is insistent on the patient regaining a sense of self-worth with conviction of sin suspected as one of the evidences of serious mental illness.
Paul’s humility was no false humility nor the product of a diseased mind. He did know what he was but he also knew that what he was he was by the grace of God and not by his own struggle towards self-worth. He did describe himself as a ‘wretched man’, Romans 7.24, yet in the chapter referred to above he also says, ‘and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly that they all’, then immediately added, lest he should give the least suspicion of boasting, ‘yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me’.
One essential evidence of real Christianity is Biblical humility. How could it be otherwise? To be brought to realise and feel our complete and utter ruin through sin is one of the first steps to true repentance. To have the first real glimpse by faith of the holy, pure, and righteous God must surely bring down a man’s pride. Even the holy apostle John after his long experience of God’s presence and blessing in his life tells us of seeing his Lord, ‘And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead’. To be
taught the true meaning of salvation cannot leave us with any false illusions about our own abilities. The lost sinner, like the lost sheep, needs a Shepherd who is good and gracious enough to come to ‘seek and to save that which is lost’.
Such humility will affect the way we view ourselves and the way we speak of ourselves. The proud self-confident Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, eventually described his experience in striking language, ‘But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness’, (Philippians 3.7,8).
Pride of position is more than objectionable in the Christian church. Deacons are, by Biblical definition, servants of the church. Pastors need to remember that they are not called ‘lords over God’s heritage’, 1 Peter 5.3, ‘but . . . ensamples to the flock’ and the church’s ‘servants for Jesus’ sake’, 2 Cor. 4.5. The only way to peace and harmony in any church on earth is to esteem others more highly than ourselves and to be ‘clothed with humility’.
How can a true disciple of the meek and lowly One be boastful, proud, and full of self-exaltation? How could we say we have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and still believe in our own self-made righteousness? It cannot be if we know the One who, ‘made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross’ (Philippians 2.7,8).