The freedom of Christians is found in their submission to Christ. Mutual submission is the key to the pattern of life for Christians. Mutual submission is only possible in a church where all the church members wear a uniform that is of a garment called humility. Where this garment is lacking or torn, there can never be godly and faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Therefore, humility is to be cultivated and grown in large scale in any Christian church. It is then manifested in their willingness to submit to other believers for the sake of the Lord.
What are you expected to do by God to put on the mind of Christ? It is clothe yourselves with humility. Everyone who is a believer in Christ is expected to wear a particular garment – the garment of humility. Peter uses a metaphor of fastening on garments to speak of a humble attitude. Peter employs a wonderful figure of speech by saying that what clothing is to a person is what humility is to a believer – as basic as clothing.
There is no one who in his right mind who would walk without clothes. No healthy Christian should think of living proud, conceited and arrogant life. The Christian life is of a humble and a contrite spirit – something that the Lord will by no means cast out. Therefore this attitude is expected of every believer toward another – young to old and old to young, men to women and women to men – ‘all of you’. This clothing is not to be worn by a few or by many – it is by all of you. Whether mature Christians or those who have just come to the faith. Whether pastors to the members or members to their pastors or deacons – this is the attitude expected of every believer.
What is humility? Wayne Grudem in his commentary on 1Peter provides a very helpful description of what it is: The term speaks of an attitude which puts others first, which thinks of the desires, needs and ideas of others as more worthy of attention than our own. All people are self-oriented in nature, naturally proud and given to lift themselves up above others – sometimes even above God. Therefore this is a passage to sober up believers to have humility toward one another so as to be able to cultivate a Christianity community mind that loves one another, bears with one another, and lives with another.
John Stott on the other hand explains that humility is not merely the absence of pride or the awareness of limitations. Christian humility is realism that recognizes grace because his humility springs from his total dependence on the grace of God.
Paul in Philippians 2:3-4 very well defines it, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Php 2:3-4) ESV translation gives a better rendering of how in humility we are to count others – not better than yourselves but more important or significant than yourselves. This means we are to seek to look after the interests of others not our own interests. You notice that the passage goes on to explain that Christ is our great example and encouragement in this area. It means that in clothing yourselves with humility, you are having a mind which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Php 2:5-7)
Notice that no one will come to clothe you with this humility – you are to do it yourself. Just like no healthy grown is worn clothes – so does God expects all believers to put on this wonderful garment of humility. Christ will clothe you with the garment of righteousness – but you are to clothe yourself with the garment of humility like an apron, tightly tied, in readiness to service to others for the sake of Christ. In suffering, God’s people are to give themselves to Him, submitting to His wise ordering of their lives.
Why are we to wear this particular garment? What are the reasons given as to why we are to humble ourselves? The reasons for putting on humility are given here as three:
1. God opposes the proud
This is a quotation from Proverbs 3:34. James also has a parallel to this passage in James 4:6-10, where he also quotes the same proverb. James like Peter speaks of the care that God shows to those who humbly cast themselves on His mercy. He then describes the repentant mourning that casts away all pride to draw closer to God in order to obtain His mercy. Both are possibly drawing from the parable that Jesus gave about the prayer of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The former lifted himself before the Lord showcasing his piety but the latter came with humility and was repentant and sought the mercy of God. The conclusion of the Lord was astounding one, heavily drawn from this same Proverb, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:14). God will have nothing to do with a person of proud and conceited sprit – He will humble such a person. This is what He did with the nation of Israel and any other that exalted itself above Him. This is what He did with king Nebuchadnezzar.
The humility that Peter is speaking of is like that of the tax collector – it is a penitent humility, despairing of self-confidence, completely relying on God. Those who are haughty and arrogant think of themselves as more important than everyone else, trust in themselves. They bask in their own glory and do not give glory to the Lord, yet all glory belongs to the Lord and He will never share with another.
God singles out the proud as his great enemy, and sets himself in battle against them. The declarations of Scripture on this subject are very explicit, "Pride and arrogance I hate (Prov. 8:13). The Lord knows the proud afar off. The lofty looks of men shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down; and the Lord alone shall be exalted. For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up, and he shall be brought low. Who wants to go to the battle with the almighty? Would you want the mighty hand of God to fall on you?
When we remember that mighty hand of God – the same He routed the Egyptians, we are to be moved to humility. God’s mighty hand humbled the Israelites – purging out the rebels like Korah and bringing people to repentance. It is this same hand that silenced Miriam and Aaron when they rose against Moses.
God opposes the proud … and are we to be in opposition with the Living God? When we are opinionated to think that we are better than the others, say in preaching Peter knew of pride at some point he had boasted that he will not deny the Lord though everyone else did and he was humbled from the apex of pride to the abyss of denial. Peter had been humbled chastised and restored. Let us be careful not to be proud because God will oppose us.
2. God gives grace to the humble
The humility that serves others is found at the throne of God’s grace. Grace is God’s undeserved favour toward sinners (who deserve His wrath). Grace is what we need not only to escape judgment and condemnation but also in order to live a godly Christian life. Pride rebels against God and so dishonors Him because it sets a person against God. The manifestation of this is a deficiency in humility and so despising our fellow Christians. May we know that the Lord has called us to live a life of humility and self-sacrifice for the sake of the Lord in order to show that we have received grace without measure?
“While God resists the proud, "He gives grace" – that is, he shows favour “to the humble." Humility is the object of his praise, and he shows this by his conduct to those who are characterized by it. A humble state of mind in accordance with truth, is calculated to promote true happiness both of the individual who cherishes it and his neighbors. The more deeply a man realizes his insignificance as a creature, his lack of merit as a sinner, his guilt and depravity, his utter helplessness, the more readily does he embrace the gospel of God's grace. In this gospel he obtains possession of all heavenly and spiritual blessings. It is the man who knows and believes that he is a fool, that is made wise; the man who has no hope in himself, that obtains good hope through grace; the man who sees and feels that he is nothing but sin, who is made the righteousness of God in Christ; the man who loathes himself, that is sanctified wholly in the whole man's soul, body, and spirit.” John Brown, 1Peter, Vol. 2, p.507, BOT.
If you want the grace of God, you have to go before Him in humility like the tax collector, accusing yourself of being a sinner who has done nothing to deserve any of God’s grace. But you should not just accuse yourself of being a sinner, but you must also, with the same breath, ask for God to be merciful to you. Humility is the willingness to accuse youself of wrongdoing instead of accusing others. You need grace upon grace if you will be a faithful disciple of Jesus. If you will be able to fight sin and resist the devil and the world, then all you need is grace. You need a lot of grace to live a godly life, which is well pleasing to the Lord.
Thankfully God gives this grace… the simple condition to receive this condition is to be humble. The passage says that God gives grace. If you will be able to disciple others then you need grace without measure. If you will be a faithful disciple who will profit the church of Christ then you need grace – and the way to receive this grace is to clothe yourself with humble. Humility is not simply being able to say, “may I” or “thank you” or “I am sorry”. It is the attitude of the heart, springing from a heart to please the Lord. This is an attitude to serve others in order to express the love of Christ – it is the love of Christ that constrains us. Therefore humility is a heart for service to Christ by serving His people. This is what the Lord demonstrated by washing His disciples’ feet. This is what He demonstrated by dying on the cross.
3. God exalts the humble at the proper time
The humility that we are talking about is both before others as in verse 5 and before God in verses 6. We are to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. This verse compared with the manner in which verse 5 ends, shows that you will be wise to humble yourself before Him so that the promise contained here may be true of you. The promise in this text for those who humble themselves is that “at the proper time God will exalt you”. This is a good reason to cultivate humility – and if you will, God promises to exalt you.
What is required of us here is among other things to accept the will of God in our lives. We are to be those who submit to God’s authority in His Word. We are also to bow in His providences in our lives so that whether we live or die we submit. Submitting to God’s will and purposes in your lives, sometimes means putting yourself in some ‘disadvantages’. This is why verse 7 explains that you are to humble ourselves by “casting ALL your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you”. Humility before God means that God is your overall; God is the sovereign over your life – whatever happens, you know that God ordained it for your good. If you fail in you exams (as long as you did you part) it is for your good; if your dad dies and you have no way of paying fees – it is for your good. If you are able to pray sincerely, “May your will be done” in all situations without a reservation, then you are submissive to the will of God.
I know of so many women who have refused to submit to the will of God that God does not permit a woman to preach in all the churches of Christ and yet they think that they are serving the Lord. I know of men who are not playing their God-given role in their families and yet think that they are submissive to the will of the Lord. there are many who are not faithful in their jobs and expect God to promote them… it does not work like that. There are many even now who the Lord is giving them some specific guidance for their lives and are still waiting for more of God’s confirmation! We are to be willing to submit to the Lord’s mighty hand through what He gave us some specific gifts and talents. Let us bow to the Lord and He is the one to lift us up.
Carefully, consider your God-given role to exaltation – humble yourself. Then rejoice in the promise of the Lord when you play your role - at the proper time he may exalt you. You notice that He cares for you. He has your welfare at heart. However, the time of exaltation is not specified – again it is when He deems it fit to lift you up – not when you tell Him. It is when it will be the best for Him.
Imagine what the Lord Jesus had to pay in order to secure your salvation – He had to die, even death on the cross. And so we are told to clothe ourselves with the same mind. And God will exalt us just as He exalted Jesus. Listen to this in Philippians 2:8-11:
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.