The Humility the Gospel Demands (Revised in Modern English)

Friday, August 12, 2005

(Revised in Modern English)

After reading through this passage many times yesterday to meditate on the deeply valuable insights, I determined that perhaps it may be more helpful if it were revised in modern English. Thus, the post was issued again today.
I'm finishing up my last sermons on Philemon this week. As I was working through the homilies of the famous 4th century pastor John Chrysostom, I was struck by the 'rabbit trail' he took regarding the issue of humility that slaves and masters must work diligently at showing to one another. Evidently, this was a continued substructure within the church body at this time, and it is this issue that provides the context for the specific remarks I give below, for these are deeply penetrating words. Here, then, is how Chrysostom sees the
humility which the gospel demands.


But as I said before, and on which account I have said all that I have said, let us be as humble-minded as we should, and let us be as moderate as we should. But for us it shouldn't be an occasion of being puffed up. Are you humble, and humbler than all others? Do not be high-minded because of that, and do not look down on others, lest you lose the very thing in which you boast.

For this very cause you are humble, that you may be delivered from the insanity of pride. If therefore through your humility yhou fallest into that insanity, it would be better for you not to be humble at all! For hear Paul saying, "Sin works death in me by that which is good, that sin by the commandment might become exceedingly sinful." (Rom. vii. 13.)

When it enters your mind to admire yourself because thou are humble, consider your Master - to what He descended - and you will no longer admire yourself, or praise yourself. But you will deride yourself as having done nothing. Consider yourself altogether to be a debtor. Whatever you have done, remember that parable,

"Suppose one of you had a servant...Would he say to that servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'?" (From Luke 17:7, 8)

Do we return thanks to our servants just because they wait upon us? Of course not. Yet God is thankful to us, even though we don't serve Him, but do that which is necessary to meet our own needs.

But we shouldn't be so affected in a backwards way, as if He owed us any thanks, or that He owes more. But be affected in the right way, seeing yourself as only discharging a debt, doing your duty. For the matter at hand here truly is a matter of debt, and everything we do is about paying back that debt.

For if when we purchase slaves with our money, we wish them to do everything they do for us, and whatever they possess personally to use it for us, should it be any less with Him? After all, He brought us into being out of nothing. And if that wasn't enough, He bought us with His precious Blood. He paid such a price for us that no one would endure to pay for his own son. He shed His own Blood for us.

If therefore we had ten thousand souls, and should lay them all down for Him, would that really be considered an equal return for His purchase? Of course not! And why? Because He did this, owing us nothing, but the entire thing was a matter of grace.

But from this point forward we are debtors. And being God Himself, He became a servant, and not being subject to death, subjected Himself to death in the flesh. Now, if we do not lay down our lives for Him, the law of nature tells us that we must certainly lay them down at some point. And a little later we will be separated from our lives, however unwillingly.

So also in the case of riches, if we do not spend them for His sake, we will give them up out of necessity when we die. So it is also with humility. Although we are not humble for His sake, we will be humbled by tribulations, by calamities, by over-ruling powers. Don't you see, therefore, just how great is the grace! ...

For this also is the glory of a Master: to have grateful slaves; to love His slaves; to claim for His own what belongs to them. And this is also the glory of a Master: not to be ashamed to confess before all that he owns them. We should, therefore, be struck to the core with awe at this love of Christ which is so great. Let us be inflamed with this love-potion.

Though a man be of a lower class in society and own little if anything, yet if we hear that He loves us, we are above all things warmed with love towards him, and honor him exceedingly. And then do we love? And when our Master loves us so much, are we then not excited?

Let us not, I beg of you, let us not be so apathetic about the salvation of our souls. But let us love Him according with all our might, and let us spend everything we have upon His love - our life, our riches, our glory, everything! - with delight, with joy, with alacrity, not as rendering anything to Him, but to ourselves. For such is the law of those who love: They think that they are receiving favors, when they are suffering wrong for the sake of their beloved! Therefore let us be so moved and affected towards our Lord, that we also may partake of the good things to come in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Have you ever read such moving words from a 'crusty old' church father? Chrysostom moves me because Christ moved him. This kind of humility is a magnet. May we be that magnet as Christ lives in us and through us, thereby drawing all men to him, even irresistibly so!

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