by Mike Ratliff
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-21 ESV)
William Carey (1761-1834) was a Baptist missionary to India. He was a pastor in England before going to the mission field where he served the Lord for 41 years translating the Scriptures. He never returned to England. When he became ill with the disease that would kill him, he was asked to select the Biblical text to be used at his funeral. He replied, “Oh, I feel that such a poor sinful creature is unworthy to have anything said about him; but if a funeral sermon must be preached, let it be from the words, ‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.’” He also directed the following epitaph to be engraved on his gravestone:
WILLIAM CAREY, BORN AUGUST 17th, 1761:
“A wretched, poor, and helpless worm
On Your kind arms I fall.”
The closer a Christian walks with their Lord the more aware he or she is of His Holiness and their lack thereof. Men such as John Bunyan who were persecuted for their faith were adamant to their persecutors that those bought with the price of their Lord’s blood were bound to two duties. The first being to obey Him in all things and the other to humbly submit to fires of tribulation. Therefore, when we read in Sacred Scripture to be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ, shouldn’t we obey this? To joyfully submit to one another out of reverence for Christ is an act of a humble heart. It is the heart of one who has clothed oneself in humility toward others.
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. (1 Peter 5:5-7 ESV)
The command to “clothe yourselves” is one Greek word, “ἐγκομβόομαι,” which is in Aorist tense, Impertive mood , and Middle voice. That means that this is a command requiring immediate action for one to do to self. It is pronounced as eng-kom-bo’-om-ahee. This word means to tie something on oneself with a knot or bow. It was used to describe a slave putting on an apron over his clothes in order to keep his clothes clean. The Greek word translated as “humility” is “ταπεινοφροσύνη.” It is pronounced as tap-i-nof-ros-oo’-nay. This word literally means “lowliness of mind.” It carries with it the idea of esteeming oneself small and knowing that it is the real estimate of self. Those who have clothed themselves with “ταπεινοφροσύνη” will confess their sin as their true condition. William Carey had clothed himself with “ταπεινοφροσύνη.”
What has this got to do with interactions with others? If we have this true view of ourselves in light of God’s Holiness and righteousness then we most certainly will not lord our own righteousness over anyone else. Therefore Peter commands us to submit to one another, which requires a humble mindset. Then Peter quotes from Proverbs 3:34, which says, “Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.” Of course, that is not how it is worded in this passage from 1 Peter. Peter is quoting from the Septuagint which renders this proverb as, “κυριος υπερηφανοις αντιτασσεται ταπεινοις δε διδωσιν χαριν.” A direct translation into English would be, “The Lord resists the proud; but he gives grace to the humble.” God shuns or accuses or resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Why does God shun or accuse or resist the proud? Isn’t it because they have not repented nor do they see any need to do so? The humble walk in repentance.
Peter’s message to all of us here is that we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt us, casting all our anxieties on him, because he cares for us. Humbling oneself under the mighty hand of God is an Old Testament symbol of the power of God working in the experience of men, always accomplishing His sovereign purpose even though the “experience” may indeed be a fiery trial. My friend Jon Cardwell has ALS. I am sure he would prefer to not be going through this test of His faith, but God is working in and through Jon to accomplish His sovereign purpose. I have been encouraged by Jon while attempting to encourage him. The joy exhibited by this man of God is supernatural.
We must first submit to God by clothing ourselves in “ταπεινοφροσύνη.” Then we are to submit to others. Does this mean we stop contending for the faith? No! It means that in all that we do, we do it from a motive of love with our eyes fixed on our Lord, not ourselves. As we walk in light of our devotion to God then we will naturally submit to others. We will be content and full of joy. This does not mean that we will not experience fiery trials, but that through them God will sustain us.
Soli Deo Gloria