by Mike Ratliff
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 ESV)
καὶ ὃς ἂν θέλῃ ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι πρῶτος ἔσται ὑμῶν δοῦλος (Matthew 20:27 from the NA27 Greek text)
There are a group of men who I do not allow to comment on my blog, but who attempt to do so anyway. Their comments go immediately into the SPAM folder. I usually just dump it once a day without reading them. However, once in a while when I know that, through the discernment ministry God has given me, I have hit a precious target of our enemy, certain men in that group start commenting in direct, vicious attacks meant to do one thing alone. That one thing is to discourage me and thwart me from continuing obeying my Lord as His δοῦλος in exposing false teachers and their doctrines to the Body of Christ. It is an interesting way to gauge whether I am on target or not at times. I also find it very interesting that the accusations in those attacks are always meant to rouse me to some sort of self-defense or rebuttal type of response meant to “put them in their place.” When my anger reaches that point I know that my flesh has taken over and it is time to spend some time in humble repentance with my Lord before the Throne of Grace. What is my response to the attacks after that? I simply erase the SPAM and move on.
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:1-11 ESV)
The word “elder” translates the Greek word πρεσβύτερος or presbuteros. In this context, Peter is referring to the leadership in the Church. In this passage Peter refers to himself as a συμπρεσβύτερος or sumpresbuteros, which the ESV translates as “fellow elder.” The point of this passage was Peter’s instruction of how these elders are to conduct themselves in their office. They are to shepherd the flock, but not as domineering dictators forcing people to obey under compulsion, but willingly as examples to the flock. How are they to do that?
About halfway through v5 Peter says, “…ταπεινοφροσύνην ἐγκομβώσασθε, ὅτι [ὁ] θεὸς ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται, ταπεινοῖς δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν…” (from the NA27 Greek text)
Here is the ESV’s rendering of that section of v5, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Here is my translation from the NA27 Greek text, “Clothe yourselves with humility because God opposes proud men, but to humble men He gives grace.”
The word translated here as “humility” is ταπεινοφροσύνην which is the Accusative, Singular of ταπεινοφροσύνη or tapeinophrosunē, which is, “a lowliness of mind, the esteeming of ourselves small inasmuch as we are so; the real estimate of ourselves. For the sinner ταπεινοφροσύνη involves the confession of sin as his true condition.” For the Christian, this is our state of full realization of the magnitude of our fallenness and redemption in Christ. He is Lord and we are his δοῦλος or slave. Therefore, what Peter is saying to all of us, not just elders, is that we must clothe ourselves with this ταπεινοφροσύνη.
The word that is translated above as “Clothe yourselves” is the verb ἐγκομβώσασθε, the Aorist, Imperative, Middle form of ἐγκομβόομαι or egkomboomai. In other words, this is a command. This word literally means to “clothe oneself.” Peter is saying that we are to interact with everyone with humility. Why? God does not give grace to those who are proud, but only to those who are humble. That means that if we walk through our lives, interacting with others with pride then we are not living in recognition of own fallenness, our own sinfulness and how much we do not deserve this salvation any more than any one else. Therefore, when we treat others from a basis of self-orientation in all things then we are being prideful and God will not give us the grace to grow more Christlike. He will not give us more wisdom or discernment. He will not grace us with His grace. No, He will resist us. This is when we will find ourselves in situations when everything is against us and God seems far away and our prayers seem to go nowhere.
I am sure all of you know what I’m talking about. Your enemies seem to be able to overwhelm you during times like this. What is the solution? Humble yourselves before God and everyone else. Confess your sins as you turn from self to God. Walk as Christ’s slave in all things instead yourself as Lord. If you will do this then you will be watchful and the roaring Lion will not be able to harm you. You will be able to resist all of his attacks. You may indeed still suffer much, but you will have joy and peace through it all, not bitterness and defeat.
Soli Deo Gloria!