By Russell Mathews
(Russell Mathews is one of those humble, but great veterans of the cross. With the persistent support of his wife Hazel, he was tirelessly labored to support himself in secular work while preaching the gospel full time in Southern Florida. For more years then he wants to admit, he has sacrificed and fought for the cause of Christ in the state. Most of the time he would drive some distance after getting off work with the railroad on Sunday morning and preach without financial compensation. With Hazel driving, he often put his final touches on the sermons for the day en route to his preaching appointment. The sacrifices they each made during those years are too numerous to mention, but God, in his infinite mind, has kept a record of the years of labor without seeking recognition from his brethren. Now, at age 65 and retired from the railroad, he is still going strong “in trust with the gospel” [1 Thess. 2:4]. Having become a Christian at the early age of 12 1/2 years he has maintained a keen interest in the cause of Christ. He is a graduate of Florida Southern College. He and Hazel moved to Fort Myers in 1954. While working for the railroad he has preached at Orange River in Fort Myers [a work that began in the home of brother and sister Ray Simpson, faithful members in the area], LaBelle, Punta Gorda, etc. He continues to ‘!fill in” when the local preacher is away. He works unendingly around the building and is one of the best friends a gospel preacher can have supporting him. His wife shows an active interest in and concern for people, both Christian and non-Christian. She can be seen at any hour visiting from house to house, the hospitals, etc. We, in Southwest Florida, are grateful for the continued influence of Russell and Hazel Mathews. Without a doubt Russ has fulfilled his personal commitment: “be thou an example of the believers, in the word, in conversation, in charity. . . ” [I Tim. 4:12]. The outline that appears below shows the quality of his thinking, even at age 65. Ponder it well. Jimmy Tuten.)
1. The study of humility fits in with a study of the beatitudes (cf. Matt. 5:3-12). They are “double first cousins” to humility.
2. The text speaks to “all of you,” i.e., the whole church and its need (1:1-2,17; 2:11). Humility is required without respect of persons.
3. “Clothed with humility” is literally clothe yourself with it, so that you have a deep sense of littleness or lowliness of mind. It is like the apron that a slave would wear as an outer garment while performing his work. It is something that can be seen.
4. Throughout Scripture, pride and haughtiness are condemned (Prov. 6:17). It is number one on our list of sins today. Pride is number one on the devil’s list. It is his pride and joy! It is one of the three areas of temptation listed in 1 John 2:16 and the hardest to overcome.
1. Old Testament Examples:
A. Moses (Exod. 3-4). He hid his face from God (3:6), he asked “who am 1”? (3:11), he was humble enough to think that no one would listen (4:1), etc.
1. He was always humble before God and strong against sin.
2. The only exception was his striking of the rock (Num. 20).
B. Isaiah (Isa. 6). “Woe is me! for I am undone. His humble obedience is seen in “here am I, send me.”
II. New Testament Examples.
A. Woman of Canaan (Matt. 15).
1. Vv. 25, 27 – From beginning to end this is an example of beautiful, perfect humility that expresses recognition of the value of even the crumbs of teaching from the Lord. Freely she admits her uncleanness. Great faith is first humble, then it is victorious, as in the case of this woman. “Truth, Lord” tells the story of humility and faith.
2. The pity today is that those who now have the right to be at the Lord’s table are without even a token of the reverence, love, and thankfulness that this woman had for crumbs. “Great is thy faith” indeed is a worthy praise (v. 28).
B. The Centurion (Matt. 8; Lk. 7).
1. He was a Gentile officer in the proud Roman army. He not only had power over a hundred men, but had servants and slaves. He was a man of wealth, yet his lowly servant was dear to him (Matt. 8:6). His greatest quality was his humility (Matt. 8:8, “I am not worthy”).
2. By human standards he would have been proud, haughty, self-centered, selfish and maybe even cruel. He had the power and the temptation to follow indulgences with a domineering spirit. He would have naturally opposed everything that was Jewish (Matt. 8: 10). But his humility gave him victory over natural prejudices and created respect for one of low estate. This was very rare at this time.
3. He recognized the dignity and authority of Jesus, while at the same time feeling his own unworthiness (Matt. 8:8). If people today had the same spirit they would see the greatness of the Lord and just how great their needs are in life. “In counting himself unworthy that Christ should enter in through his door, he was counted worthy that Christ should enter his heart” (Augustine).
C. Compare this with the disposition of Diotrephes (3 Jn. 9). The text says only that he loveth preeminence. Whatever his position he would be first, or he would be nothing. “Pride goeth before destruction.” Note that his character is illustrated in that:
1. He rejected the highest commendation (v. 9)
2. He defamed the fairest reputation (v. 10, “prating. . .”).
3. He prohibited the exercise of a sacred privilege (v. 10).
4. Since it takes only one power-loving man in the church to work mischief, we need to guard against the presence of such a spirit and take heed that we afford no encouragement to such a spirit in others.
III. Examples of the Lord (Lk. 22:24; Jn. 13).
A. “All that Jesus began both to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). He taught by word of mouth and example (Matt. 5:19; Jn. 13).
B. Luke 22 records strife among the apostles over the “chief seats” and “chief places.” In John 13 Jesus taught that one becomes great by serving. They needed to know that the twelve thrones upon which they would judge were spiritual and not temporal.
1. Washing the disciples’ feet – an example (Jn. 13:4-9), but one of humility. Not a religious ritual, but an act of hospitality (1 Tim. 5:10).
2. “I have given you an example” (Jn. 13:15).
C. This was difficult for the disciples because they were looking for an temporal kingdom, not one that was spiritual. Our Lord’s example of humility in feet washing had spiritual application. They needed to know what it means to serve.
1. Have you ever seen a church problem over someone trying to seek the office of a servant?
2. If our Lord could serve, can we not do the same?
D. In blessing others we bless ourselves (Rom. 15:2). Note carefully the following passages and their relationship to humility: Romans 12:9-10,16. We need to practice the “golden rule.” This is truly an obligation for all men in all ages.
E. The greatest example of Jesus teaching humility is recorded in Phil. 2.
1 . Phil. 2:3 (vain glory) sets the stage for Paul’s teaching about Christ.
2. “Let his mind be in you” (v. 5)
(a) In God’s form, i.e., Deity (v. 6).
(b) He did not cling to this for the good of man (v. 6).
(c) He became a servant (took on another form) obedient unto death (v. 8).
3. We need to likewise work out our salvation (v. 12).
1. The humility of Jesus was voluntary (Jn. 10: 17-18). He submitted to all that was required of him and now he offers salvation to all who will obey in humbleness as a little child (Matt. 18:4).
2. The greatest is the most humble and the most obedient is Christ like.
3. “Put on . . . humbleness of mind” (Col. 3:12-13). The childish rule sketched on the walls of a crude club house captures the idea:
Nobody act big;
Nobody act small;
Everybody act medium!
4. “Though Jehovah is high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly” (Psa. 138:6).
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 2, pp. 55-57
January 21, 1988