Humility, it would seem, is not one of those fruits which Paul enumerates as emanating from the Spirit, desirable and delightful though these are :--love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control. There is no mention of humility here. These are the evidences of the Spirits leading, and are set over as contrasts to the works of the flesh. These should be a natural flowering in a life which is disposed to the Spirit and opposed to the flesh--we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk.
Whether we write " Spirit" with a capital letter, denoting Holy Spirit, or without the capital denoting our own spirit, in this context is not vitally important, for our spirits, after believing, are no longer merely the" spirit of humanity." If they were, says Paul, we should not understand the things of God. Only those whose spirits have been affected by the operation of Holy Spirit can enjoy this privilege, and although we may not be aware of it in flesh, the change that comes upon the spirit of a man upon believing is radical--his salvation and his sealing, his blessings and his righteousness are all in spirit, the flesh is unchanged and still awaits the full completion of the Divine act which his initial belief guarantees. The guarantee rests upon the faithfulness of God. So if we walk in spirit this is evidence of the presence within us of Holy Spirit, "and every virtue we possess, and every victory won, and every thought of holiness are His alone."
Although it is to be hoped and expected that we shall make a constant and conscious endeavour to walk according to spirit, none of us consistently manage to do this, nor can we, so long as we remain in the flesh. The reasons for this are clearly set out for our instruction in the Galatian epistle, in Romans, and elsewhere. It is the unceasing supply of grace which God "lavishes" upon us which counteracts the consequences of our lapses from a truly spiritual walk, and it may well be true to say that in many cases a believer produces the fruit of the Spirit unconsciously, in the sense that without his own volition the very fact that he is baptised and sealed with Holy Spirit causes him to reveal the evidence of this, "the fruit," which comes into bearing because of the mighty operation of God within him. The disposition of the flesh is death, but the disposition of the spirit is life and peace.
Then what of Humility? Humility, after all, is the supreme feature in our Lords sacrifice, the reason "wherefore" God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name. We all know these words and appreciate the glory of them as they are recorded in Philippians 2. But do we read carefully enough to note that Paul says "HAVE THIS MIND IN YOU," or "Have this disposition, which was also in Christ Jesus?" The glory of His humility is instanced as an example to us, a model upon which to build our own disposition and outlook.
This is not a quality which springs naturally from possession of Holy Spirit, it is something over and above that. Many of Gods servants before Christ were endued with Holy Spirit, but the records reveal little evidence of their possession of this superlative divine humility. " He humbled Himself," but few of His servants ever truly did so before or since. Yet this is explicitly enjoined upon us!
Humility is difficult because it is contrary to the whole nature of man. We sometimes come upon "humble" persons, but often this is no more than a servility produced by a sense of inferiority. From the human aspect the designation of a son of God, with all the benefits which this confers, can easily produce a sense of superiority, but it must NOT. The only begotten Son of God, THE Son, Who is so superior in every way to every other being--so superior that He did not consider it "pillaging" to be equal with God--HUMBLED HIMSELF! Here is humility par excellence. The voluntary emptying, the place of a servant, the obedience to death, and death on a cross, at that, these are the crowning glories of Gods Christ, these are the "wherefore" God has highly exalted Him and has given Him a name that is above every name ; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
Listen ! " Let this disposition be in YOU." There is the clear command, instruction, advice, of the apostle who was once a proud Pharisee ! Or is it not perhaps rather an appeal? Would not Pauls words appear to say, in effect, " Please do your best to develop in yourselves this frame of mind, this disposition?" No one knew better than he the difficulty of any of us to be truly Christ-like, and he must have also been aware of the many erroneous methods by which men of good-will, enormously attracted by the record of our Lords earthly life, would make some attempt to use this as a pattern for the highest type of living. In his words to the Philippians he goes right to the heart of the matter, to the dominating distinguishing quality in the relationship of Christ both to God and mankind--the humility of His disposition.
At a casual reading this may seem a simple truth, but on reflection it is one which is terribly hard for us to take. The person who is humble by inclination is very rare indeed, and to cultivate a mind disposed to humility is extremely difficult. Especially is this so in the believer, because the degree of special knowledge which he has been given so often tends to give him a feeling of superiority over those who do not have it. Paul knew this very well, "knowledge puffs up" he said, and it has always been true. Admittedly, he applies the corrective, for if any man thinks he has knowledge "he knows nothing yet as he should know," but it is so easy to read these phrases and not take them to heart. They do not appear to have the weight and importance which attaches to matters of basic doctrine, nor do they get the same degree of attention. In fact, however, they are more vital than anything else, and the essential thing in the believer (to invert a phrase used by Peter) is that his heart should be "right in the sight of God."
Look again at the delightful phrases with which Paul prefaces his appeal :--
"If there is any comfort in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any mercies and compassions--"
Well, let us ask ourselves that IF. Comfort, consolation, mercies and compassions indeed? What is there but a supply of these full to overflowing? And if this be the case, says Paul :--
"fulfill ye my joy, that ye be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind, doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself."
Does the reader feel as self-condemned as the writer as he reflects on these words? If these are the distinguishing marks of those saints who have reached out to the maturity of which Paul constantly speaks and which is the theme of his so-called perfection epistles, how many of us can qualify?
On the contrary, experience shows that an increase in knowledge, so much to be desired, the gift of greater light on the Scriptures, for which we constantly seek, so often has the contrary effect upon our deportment, making us contentious and fractious. In the light of the passage which we are considering some of the most "advanced" among us must be further away from the essential Christ-spirit than the "plain man" who has no more than "Godliness with contentment, which is great gain."
How essential, then, it becomes to heed the Apostle in his plea that we should let this disposition be in us, which was also in Christ Jesus. He is still speaking to us, as he did to his converts of Philippi, saying :--" So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, put your salvation into effect with fear and trembling, for it is God Who worketh in you, both to will and to work, for His delight."
Would it not be a grand thing if we could, individually, delight God by having the same disposition which was also in Christ Jesus, His beloved Son, in Whom He constantly delights?
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