Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another

by Mike Ratliff

15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:15-21 (NASB) 

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:

DIED–

“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, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of 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.

5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:5-7 (NASB) 

5 Ὁμοίως, νεώτεροι, ὑποτάγητε πρεσβυτέροις· πάντες δὲ ἀλλήλοις τὴν ταπεινοφροσύνην ἐγκομβώσασθε, ὅτι [ὁ] θεὸς ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται, ταπεινοῖς δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν.
6 Ταπεινώθητε οὖν ὑπὸ τὴν κραταιὰν χεῖρα τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα ὑμᾶς ὑψώσῃ ἐν καιρῷ, 7 πᾶσαν τὴν μέριμναν ὑμῶν ἐπιρίψαντες ἐπʼ αὐτόν, ὅτι αὐτῷ μέλει περὶ ὑμῶν. 1 Peter 5:5-7 (NA28)

The command to “clothe yourselves” is one Greek word, ἐγκομβώσασθε (enkombōsasthe) the aorist, imperative, middle voice case of ἐγκομβόομαι (enkomboomai). That means that this is a command requiring immediate action for one to do to self.  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 work humility in v5 translates the Greek noun ταπεινοφροσύνην (tapeinophrosynēn) the accusative, singular, feminine case of ταπεινοφροσύνη (tapeinophrosynē). 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, “Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet He gives grace to the afflicted.” 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.

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 and continue to transform us unto the image of Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria