1 Peter 5:5-7 Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Peter’s readers, as you know, were experiencing a great deal of hardship in their lives, much of it directly owing to the fact that they were Christians. This letter, once again, is Peter’s explanation of how to live in a God-honoring way in the midst of their suffering. In this passage, Peter’s primary message to the suffering saints is that they honor God in their persecution by being humble.
This is our second week on this passage. Last week we considered: (1) What humility is: the disposition that comes from seeing oneself accurately. The biblical emphasis is on the lowliness that comes from seeing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness, but true humility also, always comes from understanding ourselves in light of our lofty position in Jesus. Next we considered (2) what humility is not. We saw that humility is not, therefore, thinking of oneself as worthless, primarily external, niceness, or agreeability. While each of these things are often mistaken for humility, they are not humility. Finally, then, we considered (3) where humility comes from. It comes from God. It is a work of his Holy Spirit in all his people. But God is pleased to bring humility to his people through his Spirit in a number of ways, including putting people and institutions over all of us, offering amazing rewards to the humble, and revealing himself in his mightiness.
This morning we’ll consider a fourth aspect of humility, and the primary emphasis of this passage: (4) what humility does. That is, my point this morning is simply this: the inward disposition that comes from seeing ourselves accurately (humility) always works its way outward. Inside two basic categories that Peter gives, we’ll see a number of things that humility does.
Before we pray, I want to say two things to anyone in the room who doesn’t already want to be humble for the glory of God. First, we’re glad you’re here. We hope to get to know you and help you to know the grace that is offered to you through Jesus Christ. And second, I want to say a quick word about why you should care about what the bible has to say about the importance of humility in suffering. The best reason I can give you begins with an illustration. Many years ago I was backpacking the Appalachian Trail with some friends. The stretch we were on was the most poorly marked trail I’ve ever hiked. There were times when we’d hike for more than an hour without knowing whether or not we were on the trail. On the other hand, the Superior Hiking Trail along the North Shore is the best marked trail I’ve ever hiked. Often the trail is actually lined with rocks, making it impossible to miss. On both trails our goal was to get to our destination safely. On the SHT, knowing how to do that was easy and clear. On the AT, it was nerve-wracking, there were lots of delays and backtracking, and we never quite felt safe.
Whether you know it or not, all of us (including you) want the same thing in life. All of us want to live lives of satisfaction and love. We understand those terms and the places their found differently, but God designed all of us for glory and love. What’s more, whether you know it or not, God has defined those terms for us and shared with us the path to find them. Most people don’t know that God has marked out the path for us or that the path truly leads to everlasting glory and love. Therefore, most people spend their lives seeking glory and love in places it cannot truly be found, lost and lonely. You should care about this sermon, because in essence it is simply a rock marking the path that God has designed you to walk. It might not seem like much (and it isn’t on its own), but as you begin to see the other rocks God has placed for you, the path will become clear.
With that, once again, let’s pray that God would make us humble.
WHAT HUMILITY DOES
Once again, humility is a heart condition that comes from God graciously granting us a right understanding of ourselves. It is, therefore, as we saw earlier, initially and primarily an internal disposition. And yet, once again, as is the case with every other aspect of godliness, humility always, eventually shows up on the outside. Therefore, the question of what humility does-or what it looks like once it reaches the outside-is an absolutely crucial question for us to answer.
In this passage Peter provides his readers with two primary categories for outworking humility. He charges his readers to be humble such that it effects their behavior toward one another (horizontal) and toward God (vertical).
Because humility-internal and external-always begins with God, let’s begin with the vertical applications.
Vertical Applications of Humility
Peter’s vertical charge is found in v.7, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God…casting your anxieties on him…”. For God’s people to heed this command-when humility works itself out in obedience to this command-two things will always happen: 1) God’s humble people will give themselves to further understanding the mightiness of God, and 2) God’s humble people will give themselves to increasingly relating to God in light of his mightiness.
God’s humble people will give themselves to further understanding the mightiness of God. I want you to see the cycle that this is. In order to become humble we must first get a taste of the mightiness of God’s hand. And then, once we begin to understand how mighty God’s hand truly is, in humility we’ll give ourselves to further understanding it. Obedience to this passage is both the source of humility and one of the most significant expressions of it.
It’s a lot like falling in love. In order to fall in love with someone you first need to get to know them. Getting to know them is what makes you fall in love with them. But falling in love with them is what makes you want to get to know them more. As you know them more, you love them more. And as you love them more, you want to get to know them more. And on and on.
Again, then, the first vertical expression of humility-the first thing humble people do-is giving ourselves to further understanding the mightiness of God. To that end, I’d like to share with you three amazing passages describing the mightiness of God that you might reflect on this week.
Consider the mightiness of God in Psalm 77:14-19, a Psalm of Asaph. “You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples… 16 When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. 17 The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. 18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. 19 Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.
Similarly, in Habakkuk 3:3-16 we read Habakkuk’s prayer concerning the mighty hand of God, “His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. Selah 4 His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power. 5 Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heels. 6 He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low. His were the everlasting ways… You split the earth with rivers. 10 The mountains saw you and writhed; the raging waters swept on; the deep gave forth its voice; it lifted its hands on high. 11 The sun and moon stood still in their place at the light of your arrows as they sped, at the flash of your glittering spear. 12 You marched through the earth in fury; you threshed the nations in anger. 13 You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah 14 You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors, who came like a whirlwind to scatter me, rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret. 15 You trampled the sea with your horses, the surging of mighty waters.
Finally, in the most famous passage on God’s mightiness we read of Isaiah’s vision of the mighty hand of God (Isaiah 6:1-5), “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’ 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.”
Oh Grace, do not settle for a too-small God. Do not settle for a God you can tame and control. Our God is mighty. His power is without limit. His strength knows no end. All of the universe-every mountain, every ocean, every galaxy, every atom, every everything are under his reign. And our humility is directly proportional to our understanding and experience of this great reality. As we come to know the mightiness of God we are necessarily humbled and as we are humbled we will long to know more of the mightiness of God.
Again, humility always works its way out. And the first way it does is to drive us to seek out God’s mightiness.
A second way that humility always works itself out vertically is in the fact that God’s humble people will give themselves to increasingly relating to God in light of his mightiness. There is, of course, a great deal that could be said here. Let me begin by sharing with you the response of each of the people we saw above.
In recalling the mighty works of God, and in coming to see himself more accurately in light of them, Asaph’s response was to cry out to God, “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. 2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. 3 When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints” (Psalm 77:1-3).
And what was Habakkuk’s response? It was humility under this mighty hand of God, “I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me… 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (Habakkuk 3:16-19).
And once again, Isaiah, like the rest, humbled himself under God’s mightiness, “5 And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’… And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.'” (Isaiah 6:5, 8).
These three responses get straight to the heart of what it looks like for God’s people to live in relation to God in light of God’s might. There are four responses in particular that I want to draw your attention to.
First, God’s humble people cry out to God in prayer. Consider Asaph’s initial response to experiencing the might of God, “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God.” Peter charged his readers to humble themselves “under the mighty hand of God … 7 casting all your anxieties on him.” That’s exactly what Asaph did as his prayer continued. “I cry aloud to God… and he will hear me. 2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord…”. Humility always works itself out and one of the main ways it works itself out vertically (in relation to God) is in prayer. There is no genuine humility where there is no prayer. Prayer is the primary expression of humility.
Second, God’s humble people worship God. Habakkuk provides a tremendous example of this. “…my legs tremble beneath me… 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” When we see God for who he is, ourselves for who we are, and God’s promises of salvation and blessing in spite of the contrast, we cannot help but to worship God. The most obvious thing in the world to a truly humble person is that God alone is worthy of our praise. Humility always works itself out vertically in worship.
Third, God’s humble people repent. Isaiah’s response to experiencing the mighty holiness of God was to confess his sin and cry out for mercy. “I am lost…a man of unclean lips…and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Pride and repentance cannot coexist. Likewise, humility and unrepentant sin cannot coexist. Humble people see their sin for what it is and, therefore, hate sin and its assault on the glory of God. Humility always works itself out vertically in repentance.
And fourth, God’s humble people surrender themselves to God. We see this again in Isaiah. After acknowledging his sin and the need to turn from it, Isaiah heard the call of God to go call his people to repentance. Isaiah never wavered, “Here am I! Send me.” To be humble, to see ourselves as we truly are, is to see that we are all, always under the mighty hand of God. And to recognize that means that God’s will becomes our will, his desires become our desires, his commands become our obedience, his purposes become our purposes. Humility always works itself out vertically in surrender.
Humility is the internal disposition that results from seeing ourselves accurately, under the mighty hand of God. When we do so we will relate to God differently. We will seek to understand and experience greater and greater measures of his might and we will begin to order our entire lives in a manner consistent with that might (prayer, worship, repentance, and surrender). This is at the heart of understanding and obeying Peter’s command in verse 6, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God “.
All of that leads to Peter’s second category: horizontal humility; humility towards one another.
Horizontal Applications of Humility
His horizontal charge is found in v.5. There he wrote, “clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another.” In other words, humility always begins internally and vertically, but it always works itself outward into our relationships as well (horizontally); especially our relationships with other Christians.
Peter isn’t specific about what this ought to look like in the immediate context, but he certainly is throughout the letter. Consider again the things we’ve already seen, in this light. Ask yourself, is there any way you can love doing these things continuously among God’s people apart from genuine, God-given humility.
“Love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1:22) “since love covers a multitude of sins” (4:8). Wanting what’s best for other people requires humility because it often comes in conflict with the things we want for ourselves. And to care about covering the sins of others through our love requires humility because their sins are often against us. Proud people can’t love from a pure heart and don’t care about covering the sins of others.
“Put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander” (2:2). Where do these things live? In the hearts of all of us. Where do they thrive? Where pride is dominant and humility is lacking. We will continue to be malicious, deceptive, hypocritical, envious, and slanderous toward one another until we become humble. But when we become humble we’ll relate to one another in benevolence, truthfulness, integrity, gladness, and encouragement. That’s the essence of 3:8-9, “All of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless…”.
“Honor everyone” (2:17). Pride seeks its own honor. Humility seeks to give honor. When we are humble we will work hard to show off the praiseworthy qualities of others.
“Be subject to your masters” (2:18), “Wives, be subject to your own husbands,” even if they are disobedient (3:1), and “Be subject to the elders” (5:1). Prideful people always feel like others should be subject to them; not as if they should be subject to others. They believe they’d make better governors, bosses, pastors, coaches, teachers, parents, and husbands. But true humility always works itself out in our relationships in such a way that makes us eager to come under those God has placed over us, knowing that this is an expression of placing ourselves under God.
Women, “don’t let your adornment be external” (3:3). It seems to me that in our culture we take this primarily as a personal command where each woman individually works this out. And yet, for Peter it is primarily a command whose fruit is a public presentation. Pride says, “Who are you to care about how I dress, I’ll dress how I want.” Humility says, “My dress always represents Christ and has an impact on others, so I’ll gladly sacrifice personal preference and style for the sake of God and his people.”
“Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel” 3:7). Prideful husbands demand that their wives conform to their way of thinking and talking and acting; usually assuming that it’s better. Only humble husbands understand that although their wives may not be as logical or strong or efficient, they are that way by God’s good design.
Stop “doing what the Gentiles want to do…they are surprised when you do not join them” (4:3, 4). Prideful people care a great deal about what others think, even (and sometimes especially) non-Christians. Prideful people don’t like to surprise unbelievers with their beliefs or lifestyles; they want non-Christians to believe Christianity is cool. Only humble people, therefore, can obey this verse. Humility loves holiness and rejoices in the fact that by living holy lives we might share in the scorn of Jesus.
“Show hospitality to one another…” (4:9) and “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies- in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (4:10-11). Again, only truly humble people truly care about the needs of others. Only the truly humble truly care when others are lonely, how their words land on others, and about the needs of others.
Doing any of these things in joy requires God’s grace. And all of them require grace in the form of humility. Humility means understanding that we are loved even though we don’t deserve to be, so the humble love. Humility means understanding that although we are beneath God in every way he serves us, and so the humble serve. Humility means understanding that God loved us in our ugliness in order to make us beautiful, and so the humble are freed from the need to impress others with our appearance. Humility means understanding that we deserve hell, but God gives us love and life and so the humble have sympathy, tenderness, and forgiveness. Humility means understanding that we were spiritual orphans until God adopted us into his family and gave us a seat at his table, and so the humble are hospitable to all. And humility means understanding that while we were helpless and alone God used his power to rescue us and build us up and so the humble bless and build up.
There is, of course, much more that humility does on a horizontal level-it makes us seek out correction, it makes us quick to give compliments, it grounds everything good in God’s grace, etc.—and yet I hope to have given you enough such that understanding and applying verse 5 (“Clothe yourselves…with humility toward one another”) is another clear rock on the path of God.
What does humility do? Vertically it seeks to know God’s mightiness and live in light of it in relation to God. And horizontally, it looks to others as God looks at us and, therefore, treats others as God treats us.
The fact is, however, as we all know well, none of us have obeyed Peter perfectly. None of us are truly humble. Therefore, let’s thank God for Jesus Christ, who died to pay for the sins (especially the sin of pride) of all who would hope in him. Hope in him today, Grace, and therein find forgiveness, glory, satisfaction, and humility.