Humble Yourselves Therefore
September 11th, 1960 @ 7:30 PM
HUMBLE YOURSELVES THEREFORE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Peter 5:5-7
9-11-60 7:30 p.m.
It had been my thought, and in this bulletin it is so written, that the sermon would be in the tenth verse of the fifth chapter of 1 Peter. But because of this holy ordinance that we observe tonight, I cannot find it in my heart to go beyond these five, six, and seven verses; they are so in keeping with this breaking of bread, the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and they speak so eloquently to our souls, and of a thing that most of us so earnestly need. Simon Peter writes:
Be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon Him: for He careth for you.
[1 Peter 5:5-7]
That beautiful and meaningful text lives forever in my own heart.
I began preaching, as you know, when I was seventeen years old. I began out in the country, in rural churches. And as most of you who have ever shared in the membership and life of a rural congregation, they have a big revival in the summertime. And everybody comes. When the cotton crop is laid by and there’s a lull in the work on the farm, then without care and without burden and without tasks, they all come to the revival. When I was eighteen years old, after I began to preach, I was invited to hold a revival meeting at one of the finest rural churches in central Texas. I gladly accepted the invitation; I had no preparation for it, I had no experience, I had just begun to preach. And when the day came for the meeting to start, people began to pour into that churchyard from all over creation it seemed to me. They came by foot. They came by horseback. They came by wagon. They came by buggy. They came in groups. They came by families. They came by ones and twos. And as I saw them come, every time anybody drove up, my heart sank just a little lower and a little lower and a little lower. Bill, talk about being scared tonight; my heart just fell in me, and all of the strength of my life oozed out my fingertips. There they were from the ends of the earth for the revival, and to hear this young preacher preach. I just nearly died; my heart was in my throat, my tongue was dry like a potsherd. I couldn’t think of anything I was going to say, I was about to die. And my singer for the revival was a true man of God, a young fellow who was in the work before me. And when he found how I felt and how my heart was low within me, he said, "Listen, you come with me." There was a parsonage there that nobody lived in, and he took me back of that parsonage, and he and I sat down on the back doorstep. And he pulled out a little pocket New Testament, the singer did. And he read to me this verse: "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you" [1 Peter 5:6-7]. Then he put his arm around me, and said, "Now you kneel down here by my side." And I knelt down by his side; and he prayed for this boy of a preacher. Why, I couldn’t forget it. And that night when I stood up before that great throng in the tabernacle to preach, I don’t know where it comes from, I’ve never known, but there are times, there are times when God comes upon my soul. There are times when it seems to me there’s a baptism of the Holy Spirit from above. And the Holy Ghost of God came upon me that night, as a teenage youngster, and I preached.
People come around, especially these who have never heard me, and say, "What makes you yell so loud? And what makes you preach so loud? And what makes you talk so loud?" I say, "My soul, man! You think I’m talking loud? You think I’m preaching loud? You ought to have heard me when I was eighteen years old! You could hear me five miles on any clear evening." That’s a literal truth. And God blessed us, as He always blesses us, people saved, people converted, whole families coming to the Lord. This verse, and on account of the Lord’s Supper, I just couldn’t overlook it tonight.
You see Simon Peter writes out of the depth of his soul and out of the heart of his own moving experience. For this scene goes back – I know because of the word that he uses – "Be clothed with humility" [1 Peter 5:5] – I’ll tell you why in a moment – this goes back to that evening of the Passover night in the week of the passion of our Lord when He instituted this Holy Supper [Matthew 26:17-19]. Simon Peter had said, "All these others may disavow You, and deny You; I will never do it, not I. Lord, You can count on me; I will never let You down" [Matthew 26:33, 35]. That was when the Lord said to him, "Yes, Simon, before the cock crows in the morning, you shall have denied thrice that you ever knew Me" [Matthew 26:34]. And that was the evening when, as they gathered for the Lord’s Supper, the disciples began to dispute among themselves as to who would be chief in the kingdom of Jesus. And the altercation was precipitated because they had to make arrangements at the table; and who would sit at the head of the table with the Lord? They began to fall into disputation and into bitterness as to who would be greatest and who would have the chief honor [Luke 22:24-30]. While they were disputing and while they were vying as to who would have the chief seat, it was then that the Lord disrobed. There’s not a man in the earth, whether he’s a king or a slave that without his clothes is not somehow – I don’t know the word to use – shamed, humbled, humiliated; but it does something to a man, anytime, anywhere, to be unclothed.
And our Lord took off His clothes and wrapped Himself with a towel; and He did the menial task of a servant. There was no servant there for that assignment; and the Lord took the place of the Oriental slave and girded with a towel began to bathe the feet of the disciples [John 13:3-5]. That’s why I say this passage refers back to that night; for that word translated "be clothed," egkomboomai, it’s never used by anybody but Simon Peter, and the literal meaning of that Greek word is "to put on the garments of a slave, the badge of servitude and slavery" [1 Peter 5:5]. And our Lord, dressed like a slave, began to wash the feet of His disciples [John 13:4-5]. Simon Peter never forgot it; he wouldn’t. "Lord, You will never wash my feet, not mine, not mine." And the Lord says, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me, Simon" [John 13:6-8]. Then Simon says, "Lord, if it is that, not my feet alone, but my hands and my head and all over, Lord, all over" [John 13:9].
"No, he that is washed," he that is saved, "needeth not save but to wash his feet" [John 13:10], forgiveness of the sins of our daily walk. That’s what Simon Peter called to mind when he used that word "Egkomboomai; be clothed with the slave’s garment, in humility before the mighty hand of God" [1 Peter 5:5].
Ah, what a beautiful text for us! The man who is willing to accept the lowliest offices in the name of Christ,in those country churches where I began to preach, we didn’t have electric lights, we never had any lights at all in the first little churches; and the people brought lanterns, and they brought lights from home. And as I think upon those dear people, such a menial thing, such a lowly assignment, to light a lamp in God’s house, to bring a lantern to God’s house, but isn’t it great, isn’t it great for a man to do unto God the lowliest services? To be a doorkeeper, to be a sweeper of the floor, to be a lamplighter, to speak to a child, to do a humble and menial thing. So many of us are disappointed if we’re not elected to high office. And so many of us seek the praise and approval and approbation of men, and we become censorious and critical if it isn’t forthcoming. What a wonderful thing for a man not to leave the drudgery to others, not to seek honors for himself, but the menial tasks in the kingdom of God, "Here are my hands, and my feet, and my life, dear Lord." Remember what Jesus said of John the Baptist? "Of men born of woman, there is not a greater than he" [Matthew 11:11]. And it was John who said, "I am not worthy to unloosen the latchet of His shoes [Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16]. He must increase; I must decrease" [John 3:30].
I cannot refrain from pointing out to you the ideal of a servant of God in the Old Testament. Did you ever think upon it? It is always a shepherd, a keeper of sheep. Think of Abraham and Lot: Lot, sitting in the gate of the city of Sodom, and Abraham, keeping sheep up in the pastures of the hills; or Esau and Jacob: Esau, the cunning hunter and the great duke of Edom, and Jacob, tending the flocks. Or think of Moses and Pharaoh: Pharaoh, the king of the greatest empire of his day; and Moses, on the back side of the desert tending sheep. Or think of David and Saul: Saul, chosen and anointed of the house of Kish of Benjamin to be king over Israel; and David, tending his father’s sheep. That’s the ideal in the Old Testament of greatness: a king, keeping the flock; a prince, feeding lambs. And I don’t think God has changed. A big strong man in this church teaching little boys; a glorious consecrated woman in this church, guiding the little steps of precious children: great in God’s sight.
"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God" [1 Peter 5:6], and that speaks of the disciplines of our lives. As our Lord bowed in Gethsemane, "O Lord, the cup, O Lord, the cup; Thy will be done, Thy will be done" [Matthew 26:39-42].
"Humble yourselves under the mighty hands of God," not warring against the providences of heaven, or the elective purposes of the Almighty into which our little finite understanding can never enter; but leaving it in His hands, and bowing in His presence.
And lest I should be exalted above measure . . . there was given unto me a thorn in the flesh . . . For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And the Lord said, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, and in my sorrows, and in my disappointments, that the power of Christ may rest upon me . . . I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Jesus’ sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
[2 Corinthians 12:7-10]
"Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God," the disciplines of the Lord.
"Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God" [1 Peter 5:6], in coming to the Lord in His way of salvation. Not dictating to God, not arguing with the Lord; come amazed that you have the privilege of coming, astonished at the price paid for your salvation [1 Peter 1:18-19], overwhelmed at the grace and love of Jesus, weighted down with gratitude that God’s Holy Spirit should call you. Me, Lord? Why me, that the Lord’s grace should come down even to me?
"Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God" [1 Peter 5:6]. And oh, how God can use us. He can’t fill a cup that’s not empty. And He can’t fill our hearts when we’re full of ourselves. He can’t speak through a man who’s filled with his own words. But if we let God speak through us, ah, the infinite blessing, the rich, rich bestowment and endowment and enduement from the Holy Spirit of heaven! [1 Corinthians 2:4]. "Humble yourselves, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God," and see how God will use you [1 Peter 5:6].
I told you this morning, it was a different world that I’ve been in this last week, different people, different leaders. And their backgrounds were so different. I want to tell you a thing that one of those preachers, a great and worthy man, a thing that he said. Talking about this thing of humility and how God can use one who is humble, he said when he went to the Union Seminary – and that’s the reason the thing is so unusual to me, for Union Seminary to me is a sign of the name for the ultra, ultra, liberal, liberal; and I could never imagine any good thing coming out of Union Theological Seminary – well, he went to Union Theological Seminary, and there was an old professor there name Dr. James Moffat. And he had translated the Bible into the English modern tongue, the vernacular of our day. And in that time there were only about two: Weymouth’s and Moffat’s. And this old, old man, in the years of his life, had translated the Bible into the modern English language; Moffat’s translation, which I greatly dislike. But in that day, it was a new thing; and most people, especially people like that, greatly liked it. So this theologian had gone to Union, and was privileged to be in a class taught by Dr. James Moffat. And he described him: tall, angular, old, bent, stooped, the years of his life gone by. And he said, "When the class was over, only the Ph.D.s were privileged to go up there and talk to him face to face. But all those neophytes who were just come into the seminary, those novices never dared even to approach to say anything to him. But," this fellow said, "when he was there, got on the elevator to go down and who should come in the elevator but Dr. James Moffat himself." And he said, "He and his companion smiled and spoke to the great man"; he was a world famous scholar all right, and said to him, "Dr. Moffat, your translation of the Bible into modern speech has meant so much to us. It has made clearer to us the meaning of God’s Word." And he said, "The old gentleman smiled in appreciation and replied, ‘Young men, my whole heart’s desire and prayer to God has been this: that I could be a window cleaner for God, that His Word might shine more clearly through.’" And that just stayed with me; a window cleaner for God.
Do you know the name of any window cleaner in this city? I see them all the time on these big buildings washing windows. I know the names of a lot of presidents of banks in this town. I know the names of a lot of presidents of insurance companies in this town. I know the names of a lot of rich men in this town. I know the names of a whole lot of the leading citizens of this town. I don’t know the name of a single window cleaner in this town. And yet that man says, "My prayer to God is that I might be a window cleaner for God."
O Lord, take out of us, take away from us, personal pride. Take away from us, Lord, all of those things that fill us full of ourselves. And instead dear God, take our souls and our hearts and our lives and fill them full of Thee. O blessed Jesus, less of self, and more of Thee, until someday it could be none of self and all of Thee.
"Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God; be clothed with humility" [1 Peter 5:5-6]. Wash feet. Stoop to conquer. Bow in His mighty presence. Come, look up into His blessed face. While we sing this song of invitation tonight, somebody you coming to the Lord, would you make it now? A family you put your life with us in the church. One somebody you confess Jesus as Savior. As the Spirit of the Lord shall lead the way and open the door, would you make it tonight? I shall stand down here on that side of this communion table, and in that place, would you come and give me your hand? "Pastor, tonight, for Jesus, here I am." "Pastor, tonight, putting our lives in the fellowship of this precious church, here we come." Would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.