PSALM 133

A Song of degrees of David.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
for brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious ointment upon the head,
that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard:
that went down to the skirts of his garments;
as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion:
for there the Lord commanded the blessing,
even life for evermore.

Ever wondered why this unity among God’s people is likened to the anointing oil used on Aaron?

John Gill is excellent on this:

David means the superior aperture of the garment, is to where the ointment ran down. This was typical of the grace of the Spirit, the unction from the Holy One; which has been poured on Christ, the head of the church, without measure; and with which he has been anointed above his fellows; and from him it is communicated to all his members; to every one of which is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ; and who from his fulness receive, and grace for grace: and particularly brotherly love is compared to this ointment; because of the preciousness of it, which is true of every grace; and because of the extensiveness of it, reaching to head and members, to Christ and all his saints, the meanest and lowest of them; and because of its fragrancy and sweet odor to all that are sensible of it; and because of its delightful, cheering, and refreshing nature; like ointment and perfume it rejoices the heart; yea, the worst things said, or reproofs given, in brotherly love, are like oil, pleasant and useful, ( Proverbs 27:9 ) ( Psalms 141:5 ) ; and is as necessary for the saints, who are all priests unto God, to offer up their spiritual sacrifices; particularly that of prayer, which should be “without wrath”, as well as without doubting; and to do all other duties of religion, which should spring from charity or love; as the anointing oil was to Aaron and his sons, in order to their officiating in the priest’s office.

Humility

Rev. Martyn McGeown (pastor-elect Providence PRC, USA).

From BRJ Issue 71 published Autumn 2020

Christian Humility

John Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion quotes two church fathers with approval: Chrysostom writes, “The foundation of our philosophy is humility;” while Augustine writes, “If you ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, first, second, third, and always I would answer, ‘humility’”[1]

Humility is an important subject for the Christian to study, and above all, to practise. The Bible is filled with warnings against pride and exhortations to humility.

In fact, there is nothing more odious and unbecoming for a Christian than to be proud and to behave proudly. Paul writes about Christian love: “Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” (I Cor. 13:4). Paul warns, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth” (I Cor. 8:1). In I Philippians 2:3, Paul writes, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves,” where “vainglory” is an empty pride and “lowliness of mind” is humility. In Romans 12:3 Paul writes, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think: but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” Not to think of oneself more highly than one ought to think is to be humble; it is not to be proud. 

Christian Humility: What It Is

Jonathan Edwards defines humility as “a sense of our own comparative meanness with a disposition to a behavior answerable thereto.”[2] John Calvin defines humility in these words: “an unfeigned submission of our heart, stricken down in earnest with an awareness of its own misery and want.”[3] The Greek scholar, Richard C. Trench in his book, Synonyms of the New Testament, explains humility in these words: “the esteeming of ourselves small, inasmuch as we are so; the thinking truly, and because truly, therefore lowlily, of ourselves.”[4] Joseph Thayer in his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament explains the word “humble” in these words: “not rising far from the ground.”[5]

If we combine those definitions, we see that humility is “to be low and to know oneself to be low.” It is to be low and to know oneself to be low with respect to God and with respect to other people.

Low Before God

No one can truly be humble who does not view himself as low with respect to God. The more greatly God is exalted in your thinking, the lower you will be in your own eyes. When you understand who God is, you will despise yourself in comparison to Him. Consider Psalm 113:4-6:

The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens. Who is like unto the LORD our God, who dwelleth on high, Who humbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven, and in the earth!

If we take those words seriously, we will not be surprised by verse 7: “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill.” If God is infinitely exalted above the creation, the only position we can occupy is the dust or the dunghill. Or consider Isaiah 57:15: “ For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” If God is “the high and lofty one,” then, of course, we must be of “a contrite and humble spirit.” How could a proud man dwell in the presence of the high and lofty one? Remember what Abraham said, “I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27); or remember the words of Job, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth” and “I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 40:4; 42:6).

Two truths cause us to be humble before God.

First, our smallness as creatures humbles us. What are we in comparison to God? What have we done in comparison to what God has done? What knowledge or wisdom do we possess? What power do we wield? We are nothing before Him, even less than nothing, empty vanity, a breath or a vapour, or dust and ashes. When we consider that, we ought to be humble—we ought, as Thayer puts it, “not rise far from the ground.”

Even the angels, who are much more glorious creatures than we are, exercise this humility before God. They cover their faces in the presence of the blazing glory of the LORD of hosts. If the angels are humble, how much more reason have we to be humble? If creatures of the light are humble because they live in much greater proximity to God, how much more must we creatures of the dust be humble? If the dwellers in heaven are humble, how much more must we dwellers of the earth be humble? If a proud angel is an odious thing to imagine, how much more odious is a proud man? Indeed, there was a proud angel—Lucifer through pride ruined himself and his followers and became Satan or the devil. Paul alludes to this in I Timothy 3:6 where he warns the novice, “lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.”

Second, our sinfulness as fallen creatures further humbles us. It is one thing to be a creature of the dust or a creature of the earth—that is humbling! It is even worse to be a sinner—that is even more humbling! To be sinners makes us worse than the loathsome creeping things of the earth—snakes, toads, and spiders have not rebelled against God! Snakes, toads, and spiders do not break God’s commandments or live in depravity! Snakes, toads, and spiders are not subject to the curse of the law or worthy of the fires of hell! But we are!

Sinners have no reason—and no right—to be proud. Humanity created in innocence and in the image of God forfeited God’s good gifts. Now we are not only guilty before God for the transgression of Adam and for our own sins, but we are also by nature totally depraved: our hearts, souls, minds, and wills are corrupted—totally corrupted. We are by nature wholly incapable of doing anything good and wholly inclined to all wickedness. Our hearts, if any man knew it, are veritable cesspools of iniquity, spewing forth all manner of filth, much of which finds manifestation in our words and actions. Job declares of mankind, “How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water!” (Job 15:16).

And then we ought to compare ourselves with God. God is holy, spotlessly pure light, and in Him is no darkness at all. He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity and cannot look upon sin. Even the angels are not pure in His sight—we are a stench in His nostrils, more disgusting than a vile toad is in our sight. When we appear before Him in our natural depravity, even attempting to clothe ourselves with some of our pathetic moral deeds, He sees us dressed in “filthy rags” and views us as “an unclean thing.”

And even when God saves us, as He does in His rich mercy, we are still sinners. Even the holiest member of the church is very unholy—depravity is still present in our hearts, depravity that is so vile that it shocks us, horrifies us, and shames us; depravity that is so vile that it would repulse your neighbor, your closest friend, and even the members of your family if they could see it. A sense of our sinfulness drives us again and again to seek cleansing in the blood of Jesus. A sense of our sinfulness makes us humble.

The Reformed Confessions speak of humility in several places. Such humility, says the Heidelberg Catechism is necessary for acceptable prayer: “that we rightly and thoroughly know our need and misery, that so we may deeply humble ourselves in the presence of His divine majesty” (Q&A 117). Such humility is the fruit of justification according to Belgic Confession Article 23: “And therefore we always hold fast this foundation, ascribing all the glory to God, humbling ourselves before Him, and acknowledging ourselves to be such as we really are.” The Canons of Dordt also derive humility from a sense of our depravity: “Hence spring daily sins of infirmity, and hence spots adhere to the best works of the saints, which furnish them with constant matter for humiliation before God” (V:2). The Reformed Form for the Administration of Baptism reminds us of this also: “This,” says the Form, “the dipping in or sprinkling with water teaches us, whereby the impurity of our souls is signified, and we admonished to loathe and humble ourselves before God and seek for our purification and salvation without ourselves.”[6] The Form for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper makes a similar point: “That everyone [should] consider by himself his sins and the curse due to him for them to the end that he may abhor and humble himself before God.”[7]

Humility is not merely, or even mainly, external. In fact, so perverse are we that we can put on an outward show of humility while our hearts are full of stinking pride. The Bible identifies humility as “humbleness of mind.” In Philippians 2:3 Paul exhorts us “in lowliness of mind [to] esteem other better than [ourselves].” In Colossians 3:12 he commands us to put on “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, [and] longsuffering.”

This teaches us something important about humility. Remember what the various authors that we quoted earlier wrote: “a sense of our own comparative meanness” (Edwards); “an unfeigned submission of the heart, stricken down  … with an awareness of its own misery” (Calvin). Humility is, therefore, a spiritual, heartfelt, sincere awareness of one’s own lowness.” It cannot be manufactured—it can only be felt. In fact, a manufactured humility is easily recognized and will disgust people. There are some who try to appear humble: they want to be recognized and even praised for their humility, but that is not humility.

The story is told of a woman who, in order to demonstrate her piety, told Charles Spurgeon that she was a very bad sinner. With deep sighs she insisted that she was the greatest of all sinners, worse than Paul and not worthy to be called a Christian. Quite bored with her whining, Spurgeon said, “You did not need to tell me all of that, Madam, because I knew it already. Other people have told me what a sinner you are.” Then the penitent sinner flared up, “How does anybody dare say such a thing about me! Who said it?”[8]

Some people are self-deprecating: they will openly criticize themselves, lamenting some fault that they have, but their real motive in so doing is to have others flatter them. Others compare themselves with others, saying that others are better than they are, but their real motive is envy, discontentment, and self-pity. “He is better educated than I am. He has a better job than I do. He has a happier life than I have.” A humble man recognizes the gifts and graces of others, praises God for them, and is content to take a lower position, if such is the will of God. A proud man envies the gifts and graces of others, is resentful, and is unhappy to be in a lower position. Although perhaps he cannot change his low position, he is not content to remain where God has placed him. That is not humility, but a subtle species of pride.

Humbling Doctrines

Christians are humble because of Christianity, for Christianity is designed to make us humble. The doctrines of the Word of God are an assault upon the pride of man because, as I Corinthians 1:29 expresses it, “no flesh should glory in [God’s] presence.” God detests pride; therefore, He seeks to humble His people.

First, the doctrine of God humbles us. In this connection, the absolute sovereignty of God humbles us, especially the truth of unconditional predestination. Unconditional election teaches us that God, without regard to any merit of ours, for we have none, chose us before the foundation of the world to be His children. We are, therefore, no better than anyone else. We cannot boast that God chose us for our piety or even our potential piety! If we understand this, should we not be humble? The Canons of Dordt insist that we are: “The sense and certainty of this election afford to the children of God additional matter for daily humiliation before Him” (I:13); “Hence they, to whom so great and so gracious a blessing is communicated, above their desert, or rather notwithstanding their demerits, are bound to acknowledge it with humble and grateful hearts, and with the apostle to adore, not curiously to pry into the severity and justice of God’s judgments displayed to others, to whom this grace is not given” (III/IV:7).

Matthew Barrett in his book, The Grace of Godliness, expresses it this way: “Biblical Calvinism is not a vehicle for pride and arrogance, but for humility and a Christ-like meekness.”[9] Later, he writes, “Election, if truly understood, does not leave the believer with a smug attitude of self-importance, but a humble, meek, and awe-stricken attitude of reverence before a sovereign God.”[10]

Second, the doctrine of Christ humbles us. No Christian, who considers what Jesus suffered on the cross and who understands that the cause of those sufferings was his sin, can be proud. Isaac Watts put it well in his hymn (although we do not sing manmade hymns), “When I survey the wondrous cross … I pour contempt on all my pride … forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God!” Shall we who are so guilty and sinful that only the death of the Son of God could save us be proud? 

Third, the doctrine of man humbles us. As we mentioned earlier, man is a creature and a sinner, two great truths that greatly humble us. If the doctrine of total depravity does not humble us, I do not know what else could.

Fourth, the doctrine of salvation humbles us, for we believe in salvation by grace alone. Grace, when it comes to us, is God’s unmerited, even forfeited, favour. To be proud of grace is not only absurd; it is wicked and abominable. It is the man who teaches and believes in salvation by works who is proud. The man who teaches and believes that salvation is by grace alone without his own works is profoundly humble and profoundly thankful. He expresses his thanks by his humility. Thus Paul reminds the church in Ephesus, “[It is] not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:9). Thus Paul explains the example of Abraham: “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God” (Rom. 4:2). And thus Paul exhorts the Corinthians: “For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (I Cor. 4:7).

In other words, if the doctrines of the gospel do not make you a humble person, you have not understood them. Listen to Matthew Barrett again:

The doctrines of total depravity and sovereign grace do not produce pride, but humility. Those who have had their eyes opened to the omnipotence of regenerating grace see the King high and lifted up. Witnessing the majesty of a sovereign God does not lead one to be puffed up in himself, but cast down to the ground, to his knees, in gratitude and self-effacement.[11]

Consider this exhortation from Jonathan Edwards in his Charity And Its Fruits:

Seek for a deep and abiding sense of your comparative meanness before God and men. Know God. Confess your nothingness and ill desert before Him. Distrust yourself. Rely only on God. Renounce all glory except from Him. Yield yourself heartily to His will and service. Avoid an aspiring, ambitious, ostentatious, assuming, arrogant, scornful, wilful, levelling, self-justifying behaviour; and strive for more and more of the humble spirit that Christ manifested while he was on the earth.[12]

How Humility Manifests Itself

If we are humble, we will have a low opinion of ourselves. This is not because we are lacking in self-esteem, but because we understand who we are in light of the truth that we are both creatures and sinners. This humility will produce a certain kind of behaviour with respect to both God and men.

Peter describes this humility in I Peter 5:5-6: “All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”

A humble person is content to be under God’s hand. God’s hand refers to His power exercised in providence, especially when His hand afflicts us and brings us low. The calling is to “humble yourself:” God has brought you low, but are you humbled in your heart? Sometimes we are in a humble position, but we are not humbled: we resent our low position; we squirm under God’s hand; we struggle to be content because we are proud.

A truly humble man will have a low estimation of himself in light of the glory, majesty, power, and goodness of God. He will say, “Who am I, that I would question God’s ways with me? I am only a creature of the dust. If God wants to make His hand heavy upon me, He must have a reason, and since He is God, it must be a good reason, a very good reason. Besides that, I am a sinner. Whatever affliction I endure is much less than I deserve. And if God desires to correct me, who am I to squirm under His hand? More than that, do I not have the promises of God? Has He not promised never to forsake me, to provide for me and to love me? Do not all things work for my good? And is the hand under which I find myself humbled not the hand of my Father? Therefore, I make myself low.”

A humble person does not complain about God’s ways; he is content to trust God and to rely upon Him for all things. A proud heart complains about God’s ways. Such a heart needs to be humbled, often through affliction.

Humility Before Men

A humble person is also humble with respect to others. Peter says that we are clothed with humility in order to submit to and serve others. That expression, “clothed with” refers to apron strings, which someone ties around his waist in order to do some lowly, menial task. Jesus did this when he girded himself with a towel in John 13:4 in order to wash the disciples’ feet. Paul writes in Philippians 2:3, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”

A humble person has and exhibits a certain attitude toward unbelievers. It is a very sad fact that many Christians come across to unbelievers as proud, arrogant, and self-righteous. Some of this might be the fault of the unbeliever, but the Christian must be very careful in his tone, mannerisms, and speech not to come across as proud. And he must guard his heart from pride. The Canons of Dordt warn against this: “And to others, who have not yet been called, it is our duty to pray for them to God, who calls the things that are not as if they were. But we are in no wise to conduct ourselves towards them with haughtiness, as if we had made ourselves to differ” (III/IV:15).

If I asked your unbelieving colleagues at work, your fellow students at school, your unbelieving family members, and the people of your neighborhood, would they describe you as humble or haughty? What attitude do your words online, on Facebook, for example, communicate—humility or haughtiness? How do you behave at home, at school, or at work—with humility or haughtiness?

Remember what Paul writes about Christian love, “Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” (I Cor. 13:4). To be “puffed up” is to have an over-inflated sense of your own importance. To “vaunt oneself” is to show by your speech and behaviour that you have an over-inflated sense of your own importance. A Christian must have a sense, as Edwards put it, of “his own comparative meanness,” both of his littleness and his vileness, with “a disposition to a behavior answerable thereto.” A humble heart produces humble behaviour; a proud heart produces proud behaviour. In Philippians 2:3 Paul calls it “vainglory,” or empty pride, which is a desire for self-promotion and a desire to outdo others around you so that you, and not they—and not God—are praised. Such vainglory leads to “strife,” because when two or more over-inflated egos collide, the result is conflict.

If you have a humble opinion of yourself, you will not view certain tasks to be “beneath you” or “beneath your dignity.” A Christian husband will not think it beneath his dignity to work in a menial job in order to support his family and to be able to support the church. A Christian wife and mother will not think it beneath her dignity to cook, clean, and look after the children, which is not a job with much glamour. A Christian young person will not think it beneath his dignity to help around the home and garden, to do his schoolwork, or to get a part-time job to learn how to work. A Christian pastor will not think it beneath his dignity to visit the sick and elderly or to be a pastor to a small, less prominent church. A proud man will refuse to wash the disciples’ feet because it is beneath his dignity, while a humble man will serve the church because he esteems the other members better than himself.

A similar idea is expressed in the word “meekness.” Meekness is similar to humility, although it is not an exact synonym of it. Meekness is submissiveness under provocation; it is a willingness to suffer injury patiently rather than to inflict injury. A meek person will yield to the needs of others, rather than insist on his own prerogatives. When a meek person is crossed, he will not lash out in anger, but he will submit. A proud person cannot be meek, for a proud person will be offended, will seek to justify himself, and will seek to assert his rights and authority, when someone opposes him. He will react in this way because he believes himself to be important. In II Corinthians 10:1 Paul beseeches the church “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” In Galatians 6:1 Paul urges the saints to restore erring members “in the spirit of meekness.” In Ephesians 4:2 Paul beseeches the believers to walk “with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.” In Colossians 3:12 Paul calls Christians to put on “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, [and] longsuffering.” In II Timothy 2:25 Paul exhorts Christian pastors to instruct those who “oppose themselves” in contradicting the truth “in meekness.” And finally in Titus 3:2 Paul writes, “Speak evil of no man, be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men.”

If, therefore, you are humble, you will not think others to be beneath you, so that you act haughtily toward them and refuse to serve them. Instead, you will think yourself to be beneath others, so that you will act in lowliness of mind and will gladly serve them.

The Pattern for Our Humility

Jesus taught us what true humility is. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus calls out, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” What an astounding statement—the Son of God is lowly and meek! The Son of God is highly exalted; He sits on the throne; and He dwells in the bosom of the Father. Yet He is lowly in heart.

Paul explains this in Philippians 2:5-6: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation.” Jesus is God, but He did not seek to hold on to His equality with God. He did not say, as He could have said, “It is beneath my dignity as the Son of God to become a man. It is beneath my dignity as the Son of God to be born to poor and sinful parents. It is beneath my dignity as the Son of God to be born in a stable and be laid in a manger.” Instead, he made himself of no reputation.

And his humbling was not finished in Bethlehem’s stable. He humbled himself even further: “he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (v. 8). He did not say, as He could have said, “It is beneath my dignity as the Son of God to die. It is beneath my dignity as the Son of God to be crucified. It is beneath my dignity as the Son of God to bear the wrath and curse of God against sin.”

The Son of God consented to become low, very low, the lowest of the low. He did that so that we, who are very low, low in our littleness and low in our sinfulness, could be exalted. He tells us in John 13:13-14: “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well: for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet: ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

Our Lord and Master humbled Himself. Shall we, His servants, be proud? Shall we have a high opinion of ourselves and shall we carry ourselves as if we had a high opinion of ourselves? Shall we who are creatures of the dust, sinners, and debtors to the grace of God be proud?

Let us learn humility. Let us have a sense of our own comparative meanness and vileness with the disposition to a behaviour answerable thereto.  


[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, ed. John T. McNeill, 2.2.11 (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1960), vol. 1, pp. 268-269.

[2] Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), p. 140.

[3] John Calvin, Institutes, 3.12.6, p. 760.

[4] Richard C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, repr. 1969), p. 150.

[5] Joseph H. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), 614.

[6] The Form for the Administration of Baptism in The Confessions and Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches (Grandville, MI: RFPA, 2005), p. 258.

[7] The Form for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper in The Confessions and Church Order, p. 268.

[8] Andrew Kuyenhoven, Comfort and Joy: A Study of the Heidelberg Catechism (Grand Rapids MI: CRC Publications, 1988), p. 303.

[9] Matthew Barrett, The Grace of Godliness: An Introduction to Doctrine and Piety in the Canons of Dort (Kitchener, ON, Canada: Joshua Press, 2013), p. 4.

[10] Matthew Barrett, The Grace of Godliness, p. 26.

[11] Matthew Barrett, The Grace of Godliness, p. 95.

[12] Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits, p. 159.

Forgiveness

“Father forgive them for they know not what they do” Luke 23:34. Jesus prayed for the elect among his persecutors and killers and as a result they were forgiven and saved (many on Pentecost). Acts 5:31 “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

Who are we to forgive? Are there conditions to forgiveness? Often we hear testimonies of people whose loved ones have been butchered, murdered by Islamists who testify they have forgiven those evil men. But are they commanded to do so? There is no doubt that every believer is to forgive a brother or sister who sins against them and repents. Luke 17:4 “And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” Clear examples are the incestuous Corinthian who repented: 2 Corinthians 2:7 “So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.” Paul’s teaching is clear: Ephesians 4:32 “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” But remember God’s forgiveness of us is,  and was conditional: 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

What about enemies and unbelievers? Unconditional forgiveness? I say no! Scripture says no! Peter preached to Christ’s killers at Pentecost: Acts 2:38 “ Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Here is another clear example, the hypocrite Simon Magus: Acts 8:22 “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” Repentance and confession of sin is mandatory for God’s forgiveness and for human forgiveness, whether it be for a fellow believer or rank enemy and unbeliever. Correct me if I am wrong!

.

Love is kind

 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

 1 Cor.13:4-7

There are 15 virtues subsumed under love (charity). Patience is a restraint of oneself when liable to get frustrated or angry with others. Kindness is exercised with those who test us, it is gentleness in action, serving others, giving to others, greeting others and listening to others.

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32 

Love never fails.

Have you ever wondered why the Apostle Paul wrote this?

Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:8-10

 “8Charity (love) never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”

Love never fails because as AGAPE, the unconditional and eternal love of God (his foreknowledge) it always achieves its objective. It saves all God’s elect because it had no beginning and has no ending being from eternity past to eternity future it achieves everything in between, centred on the cross of Christ and our salvation. Our love, inspired by his, causes us, out of thankfulness, to adore and serve him (see pic) and though usually only a pale reflection of God’s love, we show it to others amongst our brethren who are assured of God’s love as he reveals it through us (1 John 4:12).

The love of God is inter-trinitarian being eternally the bond between the persons of the Godhead. This covenant love he shares with us and brings us to enjoy as adopted sons in the same covenant, promising to be our God for ever. Romans 8:38,39 proves that God’s love in Christ supersedes time and creation and will be manifested supremely and reciprocally in the new creation when all the other necessary, but lesser, spiritual gifts are no longer extant. Truly love is eternal and never fails whether it is primarily his, or ours because of him, it always has eternal lasting effects. Love in practice humbly serves others.

“All our love for one another flows out of love for God. That is the basic principle of the ten commandments. We love one another, therefore, when, for God’s sake, we seek the spiritual welfare of our fellow saints, rebuking them for sin, urging them to confess their iniquities at the foot of the cross and encouraging and helping them in the difficult pathway of this life. We love one another when we bear one another’s burdens and help them on their way to heaven, for this is the fulfilment of the law of Christ “(Gal. 5:14-156:1-2). Prof. Herman Hanko

 

Nebuchadnezzar humbled!

Nebuchadnezzar humbled!

Love is not proud

1 Corinthians 13:4, “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up”

King Nebuchadnezzar was a selfish, proud, careless monarch according to Daniel 4:27 and 30.

Boasting, puffing up yourself, exaggerating your self-importance and thinking yourself superior to others are not love but hate because exalting yourself naturally leads to others being put down. Practically speaking this is saying “look at me”, always wanting to be the centre of attention, using social media for that purpose, being always anxious to impress others and getting depressed if failing to do so. All this comes from a proud heart. Paul shows that pride and love are mutually exclusive. Our old man is the epitome of pride and our new man by the Spirit of Christ loves others in humility. If we want to glory (boast) we boast in the Lord we know and love.

Jesus Christ, the epitome of humility and love, sought the good of all his sheep and placed himself below us in the first instance dying an accursed death in our place and secondly washing our feet daily from our filthy sins. We love by serving one another practically as needs are known, sharing spiritual truth and praying for them.

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble”, James 4:6

Liberated by the Spirit

“There is a new law in us—no longer the law of sin and death, but the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. The Spirit never works apart from Christ, as we said before. It is the law of Christ Jesus. The law that caused Christ Jesus to walk in love and devotion to His God, even when that obedience led Him to the cross. It was the law that said in Him: “I come to do thy will, O God.” Therefore we also have Christ’s life in Scripture as a pattern for us (and a power in us!-JK). We are called to be imitators of God, as beloved children. We must walk in love to God and to the neighbour, even as Christ gave Himself as an offering and a sacrifice to God for us as a sweet smelling savour (Eph. 5:1-2).”(And we have the ability by the Spirit of Christ!-JK)

From “Liberated by the Spirit” by Rev. Cornelius Hanko  Standard Bearer 10 September, 1980.

Full article 

Rev. Cornelius Hanko

Christ’s Words Abiding in Us.

 

John 15

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

We are ingrafted into Christ. We rely upon him, draw from him, depend upon him for all things, remain in conscious communion with him. Faith is to have Christ’s words in our hearts where they regulate our behaviour and make our thoughts Biblical rather than worldly. We abide by the means of grace. The promise if we abide is the promise of answered prayer. Prayer seeks the sap of the vine to bear the fruit of faith whereas unbelievers fruits are plastic mimics.

 

Noted from sermon by Rev.Martyn McGeown of Limerick Reformed fellowship.

The Christian’s Spiritual Wardrobe (2)

The Christian’s Spiritual Wardrobe (2)

by Rev. Martyn McGeown

This post was written by Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary-pastor of the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Northern Ireland stationed in Limerick, Republic of Ireland. If you have any questions or comments for Rev. McGeown, please post them in the comment section on the blog.

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The Christian’s Activity

As I indicated earlier these items of spiritual clothing—compassion (two items), humility (two items), patience (one item), and love (one item)—are graces (or gifts to us) and virtues (for we are called to exercise them and become active in them). In a similar way Paul writes about the armor of God in Ephesians 6: God supplies the armor, but we are commanded to put it on. These virtues are the work of the Spirit, but we are commanded to wear them or put them on.

As Christians, who have been regenerated and renewed, we choose to wear certain things and we choose not to wear other things. The unbeliever, who is dead in sin and is not renewed after the image of God, cannot choose to put on these virtues, but we can—and we do.

We choose to put on bowels of mercies and kindness. We make a conscious daily effort to exercise compassion. We choose to put on humbleness of mind and meekness. We make a conscious daily effort to be humble in the sight of God and to avoid haughtiness with respect to others. We choose to put on longsuffering. We make a conscious daily effort not to be easily provoked to anger. We choose how we will react to others. We are not responsible for the reaction of others, but we are responsible for our own reaction. And above all we choose to put on charity (love). We make a conscious daily effort to seek the welfare of others, to show affection to others, and (where possible) to maintain a bond of fellowship with others. Every day, we pray, “Lord, give me grace to put on these spiritual virtues.”

But what—precisely—does it mean to “put on”? We know that Paul writes figuratively—but what does he mean?

First, this “putting on” is a spiritual renewal of the soul (heart) that has happened already, but only in principle. “Ye have,” says Paul, “put off the old man” (Col. 3:9). And he adds, “[ye] have put on the new man” (v. 10). That happened in principle when you were regenerated, when you received the life of Jesus Christ. But as with many things in the Christian life, the putting off/putting on in principle must develop and grow. One who has put off the old man continues to put off the vices associated with the sinful nature: he puts off anger, wrath, malice, etc. One who has put on the new man continues to put on the virtues (graces) associated with the new nature: he puts on bowels of mercies, kindness, etc.

Second, we put on these virtues because we are given power to live a new, holy life. Our putting them on is our activity in sanctification. Be careful. We do not sanctify ourselves. God does. But we are active and we become active in sanctification, and the fruit of our sanctification is to put on these virtues (graces).

Third, to put on this “spiritual wardrobe” is to put on Christ himself. It is to receive him not only for justification, but also for sanctification. It is to be adorned with his beauty, which is the beauty of holiness, so that we glorify him in our attitude and behavior.

Something else happens—and must happen—while we are putting on these virtues. Another activity of the Christian is intimately connected to these spiritual adornments. In fact, it is not possible to wear these “spiritual clothes” while refusing to do the activity described in verses 12–13. Notice the structure of the sentences: “Put on… forbearing.” “Put on… forgiving.” Do you see the connection? The verbs are synchronous or “in synch”; they happen at the same time.

Observe a Christian standing beside the wardrobe. He pulls out “bowels and mercies”: what is he doing while he slips it on? Forbearing and forgiving! He takes out “kindness”: what is he doing while he puts it on? Forbearing and forgiving! He adds “humbleness of mind”: what is he doing while he adds it to his outfit? Forbearing and forgiving! He brings out “meekness”: observe him as he puts it on—he is forbearing and forgiving! He adds “longsuffering”: what is he doing when he adds it to his ensemble? Forbearing and forgiving! One who is not forbearing and forgiving cannot wear these other virtues. He holds on to anger, resentment, and bitterness. Those things clash with the items in the Christian’s wardrobe. He must put anger, resentment, and bitterness away, while he puts on these graces (virtues).

In verse 13 we have two verbs used to describe the activity of the Christian. First, we forbear; second, we forgive.

To forbear is to put up with something or someone that we cannot change. To forbear is to restrain yourself so that you do not respond to others in anger, with irritation, or with another sinful passion. To forbear is to hold back from a sinful response. Forbearance, therefore, requires self-discipline and it presupposes something or someone unpleasant, annoying, irritating, or provocative about that thing or person that you forbear. Marriage requires a lot of forbearance: married people discover annoying habits and character traits in their spouse. Some things can be changed, but other things are ingrained in the spouse’s personality. We must for the sake of love and harmony in the marriage put up with such irritations. The same thing applies in the church:

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1–3)

To forgive is greater than to forbear. Forgiveness concerns a quarrel, where the word “quarrel” is an “occasion of fault” in another person. Sometimes a quarrel is not serious, while at other times a quarrel happens because of a serious sin that one person has committed against another. Forgiveness requires several steps. First, the sin must be acknowledged and repentance must be sought. Both parties must see that the sin for which forgiveness is sought and given is worthy of the wrath of God, for sin is the transgression of God’s law. Forgiveness is never the minimizing of sin. Second, there must be a clear declaration: “I forgive you; I put your sin away.” If a sin requires confession and repentance, it is not enough to say, “It’s OK; it was nothing.” Third, forgiveness is a promise: “I will not think about this sin again. I will not bring this sin up again to use it against you in the future. I will not talk to others about this sin. And I will not allow this sin to stand between us or to hinder our relationship.” Fourth, forgiveness includes forgetting—in a sense, of course, such forgetting is impossible, because we cannot blot out such sins from our minds. Nevertheless, we must refuse to dwell upon another’s sin, to dredge it up, and to nurse anger, bitterness, and resentment in our hearts. Fifth, when we forgive someone, and he does the same thing again, we do not require him to apologize and repent repeatedly for the same sin. We require repentance for the new sin, but since we have forgiven the old sin (even if it resurfaces) we must not require repentance for the old sin. Let’s say you snap at your wife today: you ask her forgiveness and she forgives you. She must not say, “You did that last week, last month, and last year, and I have kept a list. I know I forgave you last week, last month, and last year, but since you did it again today, you must apologize for those sins again.” That is wrong. You do not have to keep on apologizing for past sins if they have been forgiven. You must apologize for your new sins! If there is a pattern of sin, recognize that too, but it is cruel to expect someone to keep on apologizing for sins for which they repented and for which they received forgiveness weeks, months, and even years ago. To do that is to imprison that person in their sins forever. You said that you forgave them but you continually bring up their past transgressions! Moreover, you imprison yourself in bitterness and resentment. You claim to have forgiven that person, but you have never really let the sin go.

To hold on to resentment or to imprison someone in his past sins is the opposite of the virtues enjoined in verse 12. It is cruelty, not bowels of mercies. It is harshness, not kindness. It is pride, not humbleness of mind or meekness. It is impatience, not longsuffering. It is bitterness and anger, not forbearance and forgiveness.

Worst of all, it is not what God has done: “even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (v. 13). Christ forgives us freely, graciously, abundantly, entirely, without hesitation, without reservation, and forever. When Christ forgave us, he did so at great cost. He bled on the cross in order to secure our forgiveness. When Christ forgives us, he sends our sins away (that’s the meaning of the word); he separates us from our sins as far as the east is from the west; he casts our sins into the depths of the sea; our sins and our iniquities he remembers no more; and he lets go of his anger. Christ does not say, “I forgive you, but I am going to keep a record of your sin so that one day I can hold it against you.” Christ does not say, “I forgive you, but our relationship has been permanently damaged because of your sin. I know that you have repented, but I will hold you at arm’s length. I won’t allow you into my fellowship because I cannot—and I will not—forget what you did.” Christ says, “Neither do I condemn you: go and sin no more.” And when we sin again, and when we repent again, Christ forgives again, and again, and again. And he taught us to forgive seventy times seven, which does not mean that on the 491st offence we stop forgiving. We always forgive because we do not keep a record of one another’s sins.

Where would we be if Christ kept quarrels against us? We would be in hell, that’s where!

The Christian’s Identity

Briefly, the admonition to put on the clothes in the Christian’s “spiritual wardrobe” is rooted in the Christian’s identity. Simply put, we wear these clothes, and not the clothes that pertain to the old man or old nature, because we are Christians. We do not become Christians because we put on these things. We put on these things because we are already Christians.

Four things are included in our identity.

First, we are the elect of God. God has chosen us in Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world. That choice of God was unconditional. God commands us to be adorned with a certain kind of life, that is, with the graces (virtues) provided for us. It is a beautiful life. Second, we are holy: a holy person or a saint is one set apart in consecration to God and separated from defilement. Only these graces (virtues) are suitable for a holy person. Third, we are beloved: God has set his love upon us not because we are holy, but in order to make us so. As God’s beloved children we have been granted clothing, namely, the items in this “spiritual wardrobe.” And finally, fourth, there is the “therefore” in verse 12: “Put on therefore.” We have the image of Christ, who is the image of God. We are “risen with Christ” (v. 1). We belong to Christ.  These clothes are fitting for us.

Spend some time examining the beautiful garments that Christ has prepared for us: the garments of compassion (bowels of mercies and kindness), the garments of humility (humbleness of mind and meekness), the garment of patience (longsuffering), and the crown to top it all (charity/love). Admire them, rejoice in them, and be thankful for them—and above all wear them to the glory of God and for the benefit of your neighbor.