How important is humility in the church? And how does it enhance our fellowship?

Source: Wegwijs. 3 pages. Translated by Sabrine Bosscha.

1 Peter 5:5-6 - Clothed With Humility

Today we see increasing differences among our churches, which gives rise to the question how to deal with this. We have built a tradition in which we are at risk by calling on the argument of principle (“for me this is a matter of principle”), of laying down our own opinion out of arrogant judgment of others. The attitude of principles is a reformed strength which is also our weakness: it brings strife, bluntness and grief.

In this meditation on humility in our mutual associations in the congregation, I use Peter’s first epistle as a starting point. In the notes the reader can find references to this Bible book as well as the epistles of Paul, who was often called to address pride in mutual associations.


In his first epistle, after having spoken about pastoral care by the elders, Peter writes:

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you…1

As a shepherd (pastor) of the congregation we must not rule but be an example.2How are elders an example to the congregation? They can be an example in the manner in which they carry out their office. When they do that with humility they are an example to others. Thus we can understand Peter saying to the young: “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.”3The Christian who lives out of grace, is humble before God4and before his brother and sister in the church.

When Peter writes about humility in the church, he is thinking of a moment in his life on which he looks back in shame. While he was reclining on the couch, Christ knelt before him. While he had a loud mouth, Christ put on the apron of a slave. Now he writes that in the church they should not remain lying on the couches he did then, but should put on the slave apron as Christ did: “clothe yourselves all of you(!!), with humility toward one another”5That entails getting down on your knees to “wash the feet”’ of the other. It is about setting yourself aside for the other.

Now this is not about seeing yourself as an inferior type of person. An inferiority complex is a psychological problem from which you can really suffer. It can stem from your childhood, in which you have perhaps learned to always be there for the other, while you yourself were not in the picture. That can damage you in that you cannot see yourself as you are. You think you are a nothing: others are everything — you are nothing. If you are not careful, you can even become depressed. Also where relations between people are concerned, humility in the Bible does not refer to an attitude from inferiority, but from our high position as child of God. Whoever is raised up by Christ to the level of grace, can get down on his knees before others without feeling inferior.6

Gifted Humility🔗

Whoever lives out of grace, is gifted because grace brings forth the gifts of the Spirit. Along the way, we can get carried away with our gift, as if he who speaks in tongues would stand above one who does not, as if your gift is more than that of the other.7That leads to an attitude in which you place yourself in the centre. You wish to hold your own at the expense of others.

In churches you can see this attitude of holding one’s own in many discussions, for example, on liturgical changes. Instead of listening to God’s Word, people fight for their own interests. One can also encounter this in church work. The church council establishes a committee of members who are gifted in a specific field. But if these members do not clothe themselves with humility,8such a committee can become a club looking after a common interest, wanting to force its — often good — ideas onto the church council or the church. That leads only to an unhealthy rise of temperature in the church. The union within the congregation is then at stake.9

How do we discern humility? An attitude in which you see the other — and his or her opinion — as more important than your own interest.10In short, that one has a serving attitude. When Peter speaks of gifts, he calls “serving”11the higher path of love, along which the other gifts reach their goal.12In the church it is about servitude, whereby I stand at the ready with what God gave me, to serve and to help. In this way humility gives the glory to whom it belongs, namely to the Holy Spirit and his work in our lives13.

Shining Humility🔗

Humility is, therefore, the right way in mutual associations within the church. Yet this attitude of faith is also important for the church in order to shine in the world. Now it is true that people do not rate humility very highly. Already in biblical times people looked down on humility and considered it to be an attitude of slavery. But God has a different view on this. Whoever adopts a humble attitude in a proud world becomes a “shining star in the world”14One stands out if one does not live for self interest but in servitude. We live in a society that is characterised by asserting yourself, economical interests being what it is all about. People are sacrificing themselves and their relationships to it. To be able to join in this “dance around the Golden Calf” you have to assert yourself, and whoever cannot keep up with the rat race, is parked in a home for the useless or with a social worker for the “losers”.

Those who refuse to take part in this will stand out, and that remarkable attitude soon leads to discussion.15In this way, God’s Word is able to come up in conversations. How then, do we do this? How can we explain why one does not take part in the elbowing in our society?

We can do this by speaking of our hope in Christ. We may explain that we are rich in grace. We already know that our future is secure. In this way, we point to the “Sun” of grace. And whoever receives and reflects those sunbeams becomes a shining star — a humble witness of grace.


  1. ^ 1 Peter 5:5 and 6 (English Standard Version)
  2. ^ 1 Peter 5:3
  3. ^ 1 Peter 5:5a
  4. ^ 1 Peter 5:6
  5. ^ 1 Peter 5:5
  6. ^ Compare Matthew 11:28 in that we learn humility from Christ
  7. ^ Paul contends this in 1 Corinthians 12-14
  8. ^ See Colossians 3:12
  9. ^ See Ephesians 4:2
  10. ^ See Philippians 2:3
  11. ^ 1 Peter 4:10
  12. ^ That is also the meaning of 1 Corinthians 13
  13. ^ From Jerry Bridges: Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God's Unfailing Love
  14. ^ Philippians 2:15
  15. ^ 1 Peter 3:15

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