Humility

(Acts 3 : 12) 

THE spirit of Christianity, or the law of Christ, 
differs strikingly from that of the Mosaic law. 
The old covenant was the ministration of death, written 
and engraven upon tables of stone; while the new cov- 
enant is the ministration of life, written in the fleshly 
tables of the heart (2 Cor. 3:3-9). The law of Moses 
is known as the "law of sin and death"; but the gos- 
pel is known as the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ 
Jesus" (Eom. 8:2), or "the perfect law of liberty" 
(Jas. 1: 25). The essential difference between Judaism 
and Christianity is made manifest in contrasting the 
spirit of the Decalogue with that of the Beatitudes. 
The Ten Commandments have been called the "Thou 
shalt notV of God. The entire Mosaic law was nega- 
tive—a system of curses and blessings, all of which 
were temporal, as punishments for disobedience and 
rewards for obedience. The Beatitudes, on the other 
hand, as well as the entire gospel system, are positive: 
a system of positive enactments, positive institutions 
and positive promises. The old covenant, which was 
full of denunciations- — the spirit of the Decalogue — 
contrasts richly with the new covenant, which is prodi- 
gal of blessings — the spirit of the Sermon on the 
Mount. "The thunders of Sinai, proclaiming the Deca- 
logue, form a striking contrast to the gentle voice of 
the Son of man on the Mount of Beatitudes, proclaim- 
ing the religion of love." — Dummelow. 

Christianity alone, of all systems of religion, is 
positive. Jesus Christ alone, of all religious or philo- 
sophical teachers, makes humility a positive and essen- 
tial factor of righteousness. He alone makes humility 
the road to ultimate exaltation — not only by precept, 
but also by example. 

"What is humility? (Matt. v. 3). It is poverty of 
spirit. Poverty of spirit is the opposite of pride, self- 
righteousness and self-conceit; the spirit of the publi- 
can in contrast with that of the Pharisee (Luke 18 : 10- 
14) ; the spirit of the one who prefers to learn and 
obey, rather than to teach and command (Matt. 7 : 21 ; 
Acts 9:6; Gal. 2 : 20) ; the spirit of those who, as little 
children, trust implicitly in the Father's protection, 
and obey Him without question (Matt. 18:1-6). Hu- 
mility always implies unselfishness, obedience and con- 
secration. Humility is the complete crucifixion of 
self — the complete subjection of the individual will to 
the will of Christ. If self-discovered, humility becomes 
a calloused egoism that is displeasing alike to God and 
man. 

1. Humility is the fundamental principle of the 
teaching of Christ. Jesus Christ gave to the world a 
perfect system, whether viewed in the light of ethics, 
sociology or philosophy. His teachings, when applied 
to individual, community or nation, result in moral 
and spiritual uplift. An individual, community or 
nation is civilized or barbarian in the same proportion 
that His teachings are applied to the individual, com- 
munity or national existence. No other teacher ever 
approached the moral standard set in the teachings of 
Christ— a fact which goes to prove that He is indeed 
the Son of God. 

Humility is the keynote of His teaching. Other 
reformers had taught and practiced asceticism, as 
Buddha; some had taught that dignity and paternal 
reverence were the essentials to true happiness, as Con- 
fucius ; and some had found true happiness in military 
splendor and power, as Mohammed. The Stoics taught 
that the wise man was blessed; the Epicureans taught 
that blessedness consisted in the satisfaction of tem- 
poral desires. The cynic looked upon happiness as the 
dream of the idealist. But Jesus Christ taught that 
blessedness consists in standing in the right relation to 
God; and that humility, or poverty of spirit, is the 
road to true and lasting greatness. Since the establish- 
ment of such a principle, those only have really been 
great who have been the greatest servants (Matt. 26: 
28; Mark 10:28-31). 

The first blessing of the Sermon on the Mount was 
bestowed upon the ' ' poor in spirit. ' ' All the remain- 
ing blessings are incidental to the first. The one who 
is poor in spirit will naturally glory in tribulation, be 
meek as well as merciful, hunger and thirst after right- 
eousness, be pure in heart, a lover of peace, and able to 
endure all manner of persecution (Matt. 5 : 1-12 ; Rom. 
5:3-5; Heb. 12:11). 

From a material point of view, there is neither 
virtue in poverty nor vice in riches. Lazarus, though 
poor in this world's goods, went to a happy reward in 
Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:22). Abraham, though 
rich in cattle and land, was a friend of God. God ac- 
cepted the widow's mite with blessing, for it was the 
best she could do; but He expected the rich to cast in 
much "out of their abundance" (Mark 12:41-44). 
Eiches merely increase responsibility as stewards of 
God. Blessedness depends upon the condition of the 
heart. Those who are rich in spirit, proud, selfish, 
arrogant, can not be blessed ; but those who are poor in 
spirit, humble, unselfish, are blessed, and to them be- 
longs the kingdom of heaven. So, when the disciples 
asked Jesus who would be greatest in the kingdom, He 
selected a little child as the model of His greatest sub- 
ject; and showed them that they must become as hum- 
ble and obedient, as willing to learn and obey, as that 
little child, before they could ever enter the kingdom 
(Matt. 18:1-6). 

2. Humility was the principal characteristic of the 
life of Christ. Jesus of Nazareth is above all other 
teachers in that He gave a perfect example of what 
He taught. Other great religious and philosophical 
teachers have given the world moral systems, but have 
failed to live up to their teachings. Religious teachers 
of recent date have given the world new systems of re- 
ligious thought, but have destroyed the effect of their 
systems by impure lives. Jesus was divine in the fact 
that He not only gave a perfect teaching, but also gave 
a perfect example of what He taught. 

Humility was the fundamental characteristic of His 
life. He gave up riches and glory to suffer the humilia- 
tion of the cross, in order to redeem a lost and rebel- 
lious humanity (2 Cor. 8:9). He became even poorer 
than bird or beast (Matt. 8 : 20) . He washed His dis- 
ciples ' feet in order to teach them a lesson of humility 
(John 13: 1-17). The same poverty of spirit led Him 
to agonize in Gethsemane until His sweat became as 
drops of blood, yet the burden of His prayer was 
always, "Thy will be done'' (Matt. 26:36-46; Luke 
22: 39-46). The climax of His humiliation came in the 
agony and suffering of the cross. Yet, because He 
humbled Himself unto death, He was crowned Lord of 
all (Phil. 2:5-11). His whole life on earth was an 
exposition of His cardinal precept (Luke 14: 11) . 

3. Humility ivas the dominant characteristic of the 
ministry of the apostles. Previous to Pentecost, the 
apostles were selfish, unspiritual and cowardly. After 
the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost, they became the 
unselfish, obedient, courageous champions of the gospel. 
Note the power with which Peter preached on Pente- 
cost (Acts 2 : 14-37J^v 

The attitude of the apostles at the Beautiful Gate 
(Acts 3: 1-12). They gave all the glory to God. How 
different from the spirit of the Pope of Rome, who 
claims to be the legitimate successor of Peter, "the 
personal representative of Christ upon earth"! 

The attitude of the apostles in the presence of the 
high priest and the Jewish council (Acts 4:19, 20; 5: 
29). The courage and faith of Stephen, the first mar- 
tyr (Acts 7:51-60). 

The attitude of Paul after his conversion is ex- 
pressed in the one statement, "Lord, what wilt thou 
have me to do?" (Acts 9:6). The exhibition of faith 
on the part of Paul and Silas in the prison at Philippi 
(Acts 16: 25). The courage manifested by Paul in the 
presence of the Greek philosophers on Mars' Hill (Acts 
17:16-32) ; in the stinging rebuke administered to the 
high priest (Acts 23:1-4); in the defense before 
Agrippa (Acts 26). The keynote of Paul's ministry 
(Acts 26: 19). He was devoted whole-heartedly to the 
cause of Christ (Rom. 1 : 16 ; 1 Cor. 2 : 1-5 ; 9 : 16 ; Phil. 
1:21-24). 

The apostles had a definite message. To them, 
everything was secondary to the one great task of serv- 
ing the Master (1 Cor. 4:9-13). For this common 
cause they endured persecution and martyrdom (2 Cor. 
6 : 4-10 ; 11 : 23-33 ; 12 : 7-10) . Yet they looked forward 
to an eternal reward (Acts 7 : 55, 56 ; 1 Cor. 15 : 19 ; 2 
Cor. 4:16-18; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). The attitude of the 
apostles was that of humble allegiance to the will of 
Christ. 

4. Humility must be the fundamental trait in the 
character of the Christian (John 3:3). Selfishness is 
absolutely foreign to the kingdom of God. The man 
who is fundamentally selfish in his actions has not been 
"born again, " even if he has been baptized a dozen 
times. There is a spiritual side to the new birth, as 
well as a formal. Genuine repentance necessitates abso- 
lute surrender of the individual will to the will of 
Christ. 

Saul was a great man when he was little in his own 
sight. Then God could use him. But when he set up 
his own judgment in preference to the judgment of 
God, God could use him no longer; and his career 
ended in disaster and suicide. 

God justified the publican, but condemned the self- 
righteous Pharisee (Luke 18:10-14). A man does not 
have to advertise his goodness — all that he needs to do 
is to live the life, and the world will soon take notice 
(Matt. 7:20). Our eternal state will depend upon our 
doing or not doing the will of God in this earthly state 
(Matt. 7:21-27; John 5:28, 29; Heb. 5:9; Bev. 22: 
14). 

The rich young man had a character which the 
Master admired. Yet he failed in the crucial test. He 
was fundamentally selfish at heart. Because of this 
selfishness he failed to inherit eternal life. Although 
moral in character, and scrupulously strict in religious 
observances, his selfishness deprived him of eternal life 
(Mark 10:17-22). Many to-day are unconsciously 
proud and selfish at heart, and would fail in the cru- 
cial test, as did the young man. Let us all examine 
ourselves carefully to see if we have really been "born 
again."

The world to-day is looking for the "prints of the 
nails" in the life of the individual Christian. Christi- 
anity is pre-eminently a religion of sacrifice. Can we, 
as professed Christians, live up to the test ? Can we 
show, like Paul, that we have been crucified to the 
world? (Gal. 6:14). Can we show the world that we 
are willing to sacrifice everything for the Master? If 
so, the world will be convinced, and will cry out, as 
Thomas of old, "My Lord and my God,"