Pride goes before destruction

by Mike Ratliff

18 Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling. Proverbs 16:18 (NASB) 

8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, Ephesians 3:8 (NASB) 

At the root of hypocrisy is, of course, pride. Pride is the antithesis of humility, which is exemplified for us by Paul’s attitude to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 3:8 (above). On the other hand, pride is absolutely never portrayed in the Bible in a positive way. Never is pride tolerated. Never is it praised as it is today. However, in the visible church in our time don’t we hear sermons and read teachings about “positive pride” and the building up of self or the searching inside to find that real “you” that God is deeply in love with and only wants you to find it so He can show you what a fantastic you that you really are? Well, I have a Greek word for that, σκύβαλον. In any case, let’s look at the Greek words in the New Testament translated as “pride,” “proud,” and “puffed up.” 

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 1 John 2:16 (NASB) 

The word translated above as “pride” is ἀλαζονεία or alazoneia, which is from the word ἀλαζον or alazon who was a wandering charlatan and was a favorite comedy character in Greek plays. An ἀλαζον was one full of empty, braggart talk or display; swagger; and hence an insolent and vain assurance in one’s own resources, or in the stability of earthy things, which issues in a contempt of divine laws. A good Old English word for this would be “vainglory.” The vainglory of life is the vainglory which belongs to the present life.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:28-32 (NKJV) 

The word in Romans 1:30 translated above as “proud” is the Greek word υπερηφανους the accusative, plural form of ὑπερήφανος or huperēphanos. This word pictures arrogance and haughtiness. Paul use in Romans 1:30 (above) characterizes man’s fall and resultant depravity. At the the very root of man’s fallen condition is pride. The rebellion that has decimated the visible church in our time is fueled by this pride.

As I stated earlier, the Bible nowhere portrays pride in a positive light. I put Proverbs 16:18 at the top of this post for that very reason. However, if you look at these “empire builders” out there with their “mega churches” who “minister” with a “look at me” attitude in everything they do then well, ya know, that doesn’t look very much like humility. In fact, we find out what is truly underneath all of that when we question them. When we ask and criticize using the Bible as our guide the truly godly minister will react in a truly godly way, that is, in repentance. But what do these fellows do? Since they can’t refute what the Bible says and we insist on exegesis only not eisegesis thank you very much, they resort to philosophy and all sorts of tactics that are most decidedly non-Christian. I would call that “puffed up.”

6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. 1 Corinthians 4:6 (NKJV)

The word Paul used here in v6 that is translated as “puffed up” is φυσιοῦσθε the present tense, subjective mood, active voice, plural form of φυσιόω or phusioō, which is derived from a word that means “a bellows.” Just as a bellows swells up as it fills with air, the Corinthians were swollen with pride. In the verse above (v6), they were prideful against Paul, that he would not return to Corinth and confront them with their attitudes. Paul told them they were “puffed up” in v18, v19; 5:2; and 13:4. In 13:4, their arrogance destroyed any possibility of love for another. Worst of all, in 5:2 they were even prideful of a case of incest that was going on in the church, no doubt thinking they were being open-minded and practicing “Christian liberty.”

We must all take special care to avoid these things for they are evil. The trap of confusing law and gospel is deadly. Those who do that either fall into license and arrogance or some form of perfectionism based on watered-down self-righteousness. In either case, this opens the door to all sorts of deception that easily take over the prideful heart. Don’t we see this running rampant all over the visible church in our time? The fact that our so-called Christian leaders are not calling men such as Rick Warren to repent of his false teaching is very disconcerting, however, we must not allow this to deter us. Our eyes must be fixed on Christ and the prize that awaits. This life is simply what prepares us for that. Come soon Lord Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria!