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How To Be Humble

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1 Corinthians   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  50:13
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Two men arrived at a wedding at about the same time.
Both were dressed well, but one very obviously had a far more expensive suit on.
They sit together at the wedding and when it is over they naturally move to the reception together as well.
As they walked toward the reception, the better dressed man (let’s call him Freddy) is telling his companion (we’ll call him Donald) all about how well he knows this family.
Freddy is basically bragging about having had such an impact on them and how he brought the bride and groom together.
They get to the reception and there is a section near the head table with a sign saying “reserved for close family and friends.”
Freddy, in his fancy suit, says to his new friend Donald, “This is where we part ways, I’m sure I’m expected to sit in the reserved section.”
Donald nods and makes his way to the back.
He isn’t there long when the best man arrives and invites him to sit in the reserved section.
They walk up there together and all the seats are taken.
The best man approaches Freddy and has him move to the back so that Donald can sit there.
Ouch. Right?
You see it turned out, Freddy was actually just an acquaintance, he didn’t know them well at all!
Donald, on the other hand, went to school with the couple and new them quite well.
How awkward. How embarrassing to be moved from a position of honor.
How much better it would have been to sit in the more humble seat and be asked to move up.
If this story sounds familiar, its because I adapted it from a parable Jesus told. In Luke 14.
Jesus ends that parable with these words. Luke 14:11.
Luke 14:11
Luke 14:11 NKJV
11 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Pride is a problem we all face.
It may manifest in vastly different ways, yet in almost all our faults, failures, and sins; pride plays its part.
Because pride is such a presence in our lives, Scripture addresses it on a number of occasions.
As Paul continues to address the troubles in the Corinthian church, he deals with pride as a core issue.
Paul introduced one of the major issues in the Corinthian church all the way back in chapter 1.
Look with me at 1 Corinthians 1:10-13.
1 Corinthians 1:10-13
1 Corinthians 1:10–13 NKJV
10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
The issue in the Corinthian church was the elevation of leaders to unhealthy positions of honor.
In chapter 3 we learned that the Corinthian church was dealing with sectarianism.
That’s a big word that simply means they were separating themselves in to factions and groups based on what teacher they liked best.
This had created huge problems in the church.
In our passage today Paul is going to call out one of the attitudes behind their behavior.
To become humble there are two lessons we all must learn.
Only through a proper understanding of ourselves can we truly be humble.
When we are humble we are peaceful, useful, and wise.
Lesson #1…

1. Learn The Source Of Authority v. 6

Where does authority come from?
Does it come from power?
The one who has the biggest stick makes the rules.
The problem here is that power corrupts. Therefore, might cannot make right.
Does it come from knowledge?
If you know the most you make the rules.
The problem here is that sources of knowledge often disagree.
Does it come from experience?
Everyone must bow before the weight of your experience.
The problem here is that not everyone will have the same experience.
Does it come from influence?
The more followers you have the more authority you have.
The problem here is that followers can disappear overnight.
As believers in Jesus Christ it is essential to know where authority comes from and where it doesn’t.
In this passage Paul reveals two sources of authority.
Source #1…

a. Authority resides in leadership v. 6a

1 Corinthians 4:6 NKJV
6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.
We’re are going to focus on the first part of this verse.
Before we get into that, let’s talk about authority and leadership.
When we say that authority resides in leadership I want us to understand the distinction between leadership and power.
A leader is not simply someone who is in charge.
Biblically speaking, a leader is someone who is taking you closer and closer to Christ.
A leader is someone called and placed by God in a specific position.
A leader is someone whose character and lifestyle are worthy of imitation.
Paul called people to follow him on several occasions.
Let me give you one example in Philippians 3:17.
Philippians 3:17
Philippians 3:17 NKJV
17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.
Even though Paul told them to follow him, he was quick to clarify that there were conditions that a leader had to meet in order to be followed. Look at 1 Corinthians 11:1.
1 Corinthians 11:1
1 Corinthians 11:1 NKJV
1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
It is only as a leader is following Christ that we should follow that leader.
Go to 2 Thessalonians 3:6-9.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-9
2 Thessalonians 3:6–9 NKJV
6 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; 8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, 9 not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.
This speaks directly to what we are talking about.
Authority does not mean command, it means leadership.
In the church context God places people in positions of authority, not to command, but to lead.
What does this have to do with humility?
We’re getting there, bear with me.
Let’s work through our text.
Here in 1 Cor. 4:6, Paul first reminds his readers that they are brothers and sisters in Christ.
This is a pattern we see, when Paul has something hard to say, he reminds them of their unity in Christ.
He then speaks of figuratively transferring things to himself and Apollos.
What things ?
It seems best to understand this as a reference to the figurative examples he has used to describe leaders.
He described himself and Apollos as farmers in 3:5-8. As builders in 3:9-15. And as servants/stewards in 4:1-5.
Why is Paul making these comparisons?
Remember what was happening.
People in the Corinthian church were saying, I’m of Paul, I’m of Apollos, I’m of Peter, I’m of Christ.
Paul wanted them to understand that all these men were just that, men.
They were simply ministers through whom they believed (3:5)!
They were the farmers who sowed the seed, God made it grow.
They were the builders who gave structure to faith, but Christ was the foundation.
They were servants and stewards, but Christ is the master.
It is foolish to praise the servants for simply doing what the master commanded.
He has referred to himself and Apollos through these figurative examples so that the Corinthians would learn from them.
If Paul and Apollos thought of themselves in this way, how much more should the Corinthian believers.
They are not literal farmers, builders, or servants/stewards.
What they were is God-ordained leaders who shepherd the flock.
This is a source of authority.
Authority is not found in flashy, attention getting, people.
Even though they may look and act like the ones who should be in charge.
Authority is found in faithful servants of Christ.
Men and women who have been called and gifted, but who are servant leaders.
What made Paul and Apollos figures of authority was not there gifts or talents. It was their faithfulness.
Everything Paul has been saying since the beginning of chapter 3 has been to help the Corinthians realize the importance of faithfulness.
As we go on in this passage it will become clear that one of the issues in Corinth was pride.
Their sectarianism was fueled by their desire to one up one another through identification with a particular leader.
Humility comes from an awareness that we are not the authority.
Authority comes from God and He gives it to the leaders who follow Him.
God gives authority to leaders who are faithful.
There is no room for pride in a leader because they are only who God made them!
There is no room for pride in ourselves because God is the one who sets us up or takes us down.
It is all about God!
There is no room for pride!
The source of authority is not us, it is God and it is the leaders He has ordained.
That’s source #1.
Authority resides in leadership.
Source #2…

b. Authority resides in Scripture v. 6b

1 Corinthians 4:6 NKJV
6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.
We just dealt with the first part of the verse. Now we will tackle the end of it.
There is an interesting phrase here, “not to think beyond what is written.”
Paul says this is the goal he has been working toward.
But what does he mean?
The problem in Corinth was that groups of believers were elevating specific teachers beyond their Biblically defined position and role.
They were placing emphasis on these teachers as if they were the ones who saved them!
Remember 1:13?
1 Corinthians 1:13 NKJV
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
This is an unbiblical elevation.
They are taking things beyond the bounds and limitations of Scripture.
Paul used the illustrations of farmers, builders, and servants to stress the idea that he and Apollos are nothing special.
They are not men to be put on pedestals.
Only one person should be elevated to that position. Jesus Christ.
That is what Scripture reveals.
Paul wants to teach the Corinthian church that leaders are farmers, leaders are builders, leaders are servants.
This is how Scripture speaks of them.
It is when we go beyond Scripture that we get into trouble.
Have we experienced this? Have we seen this to be true?
We don’t think beyond what is written because Scripture is our authority.
This is a principle that has application to every area of the Christian life.
Every time we embrace something that is not clearly defined in Scripture, we set ourselves up for trouble.
Let me give you an example: Women should never wear pants. That is a statement that some have made. Yet it has no basis in Scripture. To dogmatically hold to a standard that is not clearly defined in Scripture is to make that the standard for spirituality. When we do that we are making an external issue more important than the heart issue! God wants your heart first!
The superior attitude of those who have embraced extra-biblical systems rises from their “secret knowledge.” They feel superior for knowing something we don’t.
In reality they don’t know anything new, they have created something outside of Scripture.
Pride had infected the Corinthian church.
They were puffed up because they followed their pet teachers.
Any doctrine or belief that leads us to pride and sets us against our fellow Christians is not a Biblical doctrine.
The more we know, the more humble we should become.
Here is Paul’s point.
When we submit ourselves to the authority of Scripture, we will not become puffed up.
That is the implication.
We get puffed up, we get divided, when we are focused on the wrong thing!
Scripture is our authority.
Within the Word of God resides everything we need for faith and godliness.
You cannot look in Scripture, see the truth about yourself and your sin nature, and be prideful.
Consider for a moment some of the things Scripture reveals about us.
Jeremiah 17:9
Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV
9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
That is not something that generates pride!
Hebrews 11:6
Hebrews 11:6 NKJV
6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
In our own strength we cannot please God.
Romans 7:18-19
Romans 7:18–19 NKJV
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
This is the war that rages in our lives. We want to do good, but so often we don’t.
We do what we shouldn’t and fail to do what we should.
This is what Scripture reveals.
I have nothing to be prideful about!
Scripture must be our ultimate source of authority.
Scripture is objective truth.
It informs everything else.
It is the standard by which all other areas of life are judged.
This is where humility comes from.
I am not the source of authority.
God’s Word is.
It is my responsibility both as a Christian and as a leader to submit myself to the authority of God’s Word.
Source #1. Authority resides in leadership.
Source #2. Authority resides in Scripture.
We can experience peace when we let go and submit to true authority.
There is peace in the body of Christ as we place ourselves under the authority of God’s Word and let go of pride.
We cannot be puffed up against one another if we are seeing ourselves through the lens of Scripture.
This was our first lesson. Learn the source of authority.
Lesson #2…

2. Learn The Source Of Ability v. 7

Have you ever watched any type of awards show?
What about a graduation?
Practically anytime an acceptance speech is given, four words can be found over and over again.
“I’d like to thank.”
Whether or not we realize it, this is a recognition that none of us are really “self made.”
We thank others because we understand that we would not be where we are doing what we are doing were not for the involvement of other people.
On a purely practical level, we would not be alive without the involvement of parents!
If I have a skill, gift, or talent, it is extremely likely that someone either taught it to me or instructed me to help me get better.
For example: I play both guitar and trumpet. Both of those instruments were taught to me by my Dad.
He showed me the basics.
I learned homiletics (that’s the technical term for preaching) from Dr. Dan Bohannon at Frontier School of the Bible.
All the gifts and talents I have were developed, shaped, and sharpened by others.
There is no such thing as self-made man.
This idea lies at the heart of what Paul discusses next.
In verse 7 we find two thoughts on ability.
Thought #1…

a. Ability comes from the trinity v. 7a

1 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV
7 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
This verse reveals something very important about each and every one of us.
We are different by design.
Paul asks three questions in this verse.
Lets look at them a little closer.
Question #1.
“Who makes you differ from another?”
Here is a list of verses that make it clear that God created everything through Jesus Christ.
John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:1-2.
Let’s just look at two of them.
John 1:3 NKJV
3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
Colossians 1:16–17 NKJV
16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
Within the trinity there are different roles and functions.
God the Son, the second person of the trinity, is the one who created.
He is the one who made us.
However, within this question Paul asks are two parts.
Who made us, and who made us differ.
Jesus made us. Who designed us?
Go to Psalm 139:13-16.
Psalm 139:13-16
Psalm 139:13–16 NKJV
13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.
God the Father, the first person of the trinity, designed what you and I would be.
He tells Jeremiah this in Jeremiah 1:5.
Jeremiah 1:5
Jeremiah 1:5 NKJV
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
God has designed us in every way.
In our passage, when Paul asks who made us, the answer is Jesus!
When Paul asks who made us different, the answer is God the Father!
We are different by design!
Question #2.
“What do you have that you did not receive?”
There is an expected answer to this that is obvious. Nothing.
Everything we have we received.
But who did we receive it from?
James 1:17 says this.
James 1:17
James 1:17 NKJV
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
Everything we have comes from God.
Specifically, it comes through the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 deals with what we call the fruit of the… ? Spirit.
Go to 1 Corinthians 12:7-11.
1 Corinthians 12:7-11
1 Corinthians 12:7–11 NKJV
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
These verse reveal that we are gifted specifically and intentionally by the third person of the trinity, God the Holy Spirit.
All three persons of the trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have their part in making us who we are.
Any ability that we have has its source in the trinity!
We have nothing to be proud of!
This is what Paul is trying to get across to the Corinthian believers.
They are not self-made. Everything they have was given to them by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Everything.
This includes the teachers they were dividing over!
Ephesians 4 makes it clear that the men God places in leadership of the church are placed there by Him as gifts to the church.
Everything the Corinthian believers had, from their lives, their personal gifts and talents, to the teachers they loved and revered, all of these things came from God.
There was nothing they had that was not given to them.
God is the source of ability and leadership.
This is vital to recognize.
We are not products of our own greatness.
Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord.
Everything we have, every teacher we enjoy, is a gift from God.
So what?
What does that mean for us?
The first thought in verse 7 is that ability comes from the trinity.
Thought #2…

b. Ability should result in praise v. 7

1 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV
7 For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
We dealt with the first two questions.
Now we need to deal with Paul’s third and final question.
Question #3.
“Why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
As we consider what Paul has asked of the Corinthian church, let me ask all of us a question.
Does Paul know the answer to these questions?
So why is he asking them?
To get the Corinthian church to think!
What do they need to think about?
The source of their conflict.
The source of the Corinthian conflict is pride!
Their problem was disunity, the source of that problem was pride.
Pride destroys churches.
If God is the one who made us different, if every talent, gift, and ability we posses comes from God; we have absolutely nothing to boast about!
That is the point Paul is making.
James told us that every good and perfect gift is from above.
Paul tells us in Ephesians that we have every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Everything comes from God. We have nothing to boast about.
Instead, We praise God for the abilities He has given.
Every time God uses a talent to bring Himself glory, every time our ability results in someone being drawn to or drawn closer to Christ, every time we do anything in the service of the Lord, we should praise the one who gave us the ability to serve.
Does contemplation of our ability inspire us to praise?
Or does it puff up our deceitful hearts with pride?
There are two New Testament passages of Scripture in which a powerful truth is repeated.
First, look with me at James 4:6-7.
James 4:6-7
James 4:6 NKJV
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
This is a powerful verse.
God actively opposes the proud.
The Greek word picture is of God setting up a battle line against the proud.
In contrast, He gives grace to the humble.
Do you want God to oppose you, or give you grace?
In verse 7 we learn why we need His grace so much.
James 4:7 NKJV
7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
We have an enemy!
We will be unable to fight our enemy when God is standing against us!
We must first submit to God, then we can resist the devil.
Peter gives us a very similar picture.
Go to 1 Peter 5:5-9.
1 Peter 5:5-9
1 Peter 5:5–9 NKJV
5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
Again, God actively opposes the proud.
What do we do? We must humble ourselves before the Lord.
He will exalt in His time.
We cast our care on Him because He cares for us.
The implication here is that if we do not humble ourselves enough to cast our care on Him, we will not have peace!
More than that, we will be unable to resist the devil!
Pride leaves us open to attack!
Do you want to resist the devil? Humble yourself.
We cannot resist the devil if we are being resisted by God.
How do we be humble?
We praise God for everything.
We praise Him for our gifts, talents, and abilities.
We praise Him for the leaders He has given.
We praise Him for His Word.
We praise Him no matter what.
Praise is the automatic response of humble heart.
This is how we are made useful and wise, by being humble.
Those who are puffed up with pride are unable to serve.
When we get puffed up, all we can see is ourselves.
May we be humble.


Each week we walk through four areas of application.
Each week we write down a commitment.
How did you do with your commitment last week?
As we think about humility, let’s work through our areas of application.
Personal: The word submit is a very difficult word. I don’t like it. Anyone else? However, this is what we are called to do. We are called to submit to authority. We are also called to submit to God’s Word. I can never be humble if I am unwilling to submit. Is there an area in which we are unwilling to submit? Commitment: Submit to the Word of God. I don’t know what exactly that might be for you. What I do know is that if we stop and think about it, there is probably something in God’s Word we have been fighting against. Stop fighting.
Relationships: Pride damages relationships. There are many subtle ways this can happen. An obvious way is the unwillingness to admit when we are wrong. When we dig in our heels and stubbornly refuse to see things any way but our own, things get ugly. I wish that I could say I only know this from hearsay, but I actually know it from experience. The only solution for this is to humble ourselves and ask forgiveness. Commitment: Submit to God, be humble, and ask forgiveness.
Parenting: Pride is never a problem in parenting, right? Good. I guess we don’t need to talk about it then… Just kidding. I do not like being wrong. I also don’t like being defied. Both of those are evidences of pride. In parenting, if I am unwilling to admit when I am wrong, I set a horrible example for my children. When they defy my authority, as all children will do, pride wants me to force their submission instead of getting to the heart issue. Forced submission in the present breeds rebellion in the future. Commitment: Set aside pride and admit wrong. Set aside pride and listen to your child's heart.
Marriage: Here we go. Ready? Biblically speaking, a husband and wife are one. This means that neither person is to run over the other. Decisions are to be made mutually and both are to work for the success of both the marriage and the other spouse. This means that the marriage comes before my rights, desires, or goals. It isn’t about me, it is about us. Therefore, I am willing to set aside my pride to work through issues. I am willing to yield my “rights” to pursue peace. Commitment: Lay aside self and pursue unity.
COMMITMENT: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Humility is born out of an awareness that everything comes from God.
He sets up leaders as authorities over us.
He gives us His Word and expects us to obey.
Knowing the source of authority we submit.
Every gift, talent, and ability we have comes from God.
He made us, He designed us, He has equipped us and called us.
Knowing the source of ability we serve.
God has given us all things.
We have every blessing in Christ.
Let’s not ruin it with pride.
May the blessings of God inspire us to praise.
Other passages that deal with pride: Proverbs 25:6-7; Luke 14:8-11; Romans 12:3, 10; Philippians 2:3-4; Ephesians 4:2; 5:21.
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