Yesterday, we looked at one major way that God has given us to put down pride in our hearts. A number of implicaitons were gleaned to help in this endeavor as well. Today we offer a few more ways to deal with the root of most of our problems.
Second, we can put down pride in our hearts with an understanding of God's grace. In v. 7, Paul broadens the application. Not only does he refer to the way in which we are to judge others, but he refers to the way in which we are to judge ourselves. Moreover, he refers to the fact that all we are and that all we have is by grace. "For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" Paul’s point, by way of question, is simply this: "how can we judge anyone, including ourselves, better than another in light of the fact that all we are has been given to us by the grace of God?" An understanding of our depraved condition and the grace of God as the only means of transforming that depravity is the great equalizer. We as human beings are prone to compare ourselves to one another. The more we understand grace, the less apt we will be to make these false and sinful comparisons.
Paul asks three questions to make his point. First, "for who makes you different from anyone else?" The obvious answer here is "God." He is the One who makes us to differ from another. He has determined where and when we were born. He determined the influences upon our lives. He is the One who worked His providence in our lives. He is the One who decided to save us and gift us as He pleased. He is the One who works in us to will and to do His good pleasure. Thus, an understanding of God's grace causes us to understand that God is the One who makes us to differ from others.
Second, Paul asks, "what do you have that you did not receive?" This question is an expansion of the first question. If God is the One who makes you to differ, what do you have that you did not receive from God? The answer is "nothing." Everything we are and everything we have is of God and from God. Nothing we have and nothing we have done has come from our own hand or our own ingenuity. Certainly, we are responsible for our actions, yet, the good that we do and the achievements to which we attain are part of God's providential work of grace in our lives. Therefore, an understanding of God's grace causes us to understand that God is the One who has given us all we have.
Third, we have a final expansion: "and if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" This question is the natural concluding question to the preceding succession. If all that we are is by the grace of God, how can we boast in ourselves or in others? Should not we rather boast in the Lord of grace? An understanding of this truth will cause us not to boast in men and indeed will cause us to humble ourselves underneath the mighty hand of God that He might lift us up.
Thus, an understanding of God's grace, an understanding of the fact that He is the One who makes us to differ from others, and an understanding of the fact that He is the One who has given us all we have, makes boasting in ourselves ridiculous and sinful. This understanding will cause our pride to recede.
Third, we can put down pride in our hearts with an acknowledgment of God's abundance. In v. 8, Paul levels his rebuke. "Already you are full! Already you have become rich! You have become kings-- and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you!" The flow of Paul's thought is thus: "you are already full of the grace of God and His giftedness in abundance. You are rich in these things! Yet, you have forgotten that these things have been given to you by grace and you have exalted yourselves as kings! You count yourselves royalty, and, you do so without us, the very ones who brought you the gospel. You have elevated yourselves above us, and indeed everyone, with your prideful attitude. How I wish that you really had become kings in the Christian sense, that is, kingly in humility before God and man. How I wish that you lived in humble submission to the only King and Lord that we might then come and humbly rule with you in His service!"
Paul makes several points. The Corinthians had been abundantly filled with the grace of God. We may glean our application here. We too may affirm the bounty God has given us. In the first place, we are rich with salvation in Christ. In the second place, we are rich with giftedness from Christ. In the third place, we are rich with royalty by Christ. In a sense, we are kings by grace. Thus, we may not be kings by pride. With so much from Christ, why should we have occasion to covet others? Moreover, knowing that what we have in Christ, though abundant, is from Christ by grace, how can we be prideful as if we supplied the abundance?
Additionally, God's grace had given the Corinthians occasion to boast in themselves so that they lorded themselves over others (in thought and in deed). Again, an understanding of God's abundance toward us will cause us not to do such things.
Fourth, we can put down pride in our hearts with a recognition of God's servants. The Corinthians were in effect discounting and discarding Paul and Apollos, the very men God had used to influence their lives. We must understand that God places different people in the body for our benefit. (He also places men and women in the world for our benefit including doctors, law enforcement officers, basketball stars, artists, musicians, etc. Rather than be jealous, we should praise God for the enrichment they bring to our lives). God uses others to influence our lives, thus, we thank God for His servants. God uses others to influence our lives, thus, we do not shun God's servants. Paul would have gladly ministered with the Corinthians. As it was, he was unable to do so because of their pride. How dangerous a dynamic is pride!
Fifth, we can put down pride in our hearts with a contentment in God's service. As we recognize that we are kings in Christ, that is, that we already rule with him positionally speaking, we can be content. We are content to be Christian kings. We may affirm that Christian kings serve the Lord. Further, Christian kings serve with others. In so doing, Christian kings serve with humility. If they serve with humility, Christian kings will serve with joy.
By way of summary, pride is put down when we have an unwavering commitment to the authority of God's word in our lives. His word tells us that pride is sin. Christians repent of sin. Further, when we recognize that all that we are is by grace, and that ultimately we deserve death and Hell, we will be apt to be less prideful. We must keep that truth in the forefront of our minds continually. In addition, if we acknowledge that we have already been given an abundant supply of everything we need, we can put down pride. How rich we are compared with lost sinners! (In our American context, even materially speaking, how rich we are compared to most of the world!) At the same time, if we appreciate the goodness of God in giving us skilled and artistic people for our benefit and pleasure (to the praise of the glory of His grace), we will enjoy rather than covet their skill or talent. How I love to watch Michael Jordan soar through the air and dunk the basketball; or listen to Beethoven make the piano come to life! Thank you Lord! Finally, when we are content with God's providence in our lives, especially regarding His call upon our lives, we will humbly serve Him with joy.
May God grant His people the grace of humility that they might be effective in His service for His glory and the advancement of the gospel. May we deal with pride in our hearts that we might find joy in Christ rather than discontentment in our circumstances.
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