Love is Humble, Part 1

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

It’s been a while, but if you will recall, we’ve been slowly going through 1 Corinthians. Specifically, we had been working through chapter 13 of Paul’s letter to the struggling church in Corinth. The Corinthians were a young and gifted congregation, and they were positioned in a very influential and cosmopolitan city. They were surrounded by worldliness and idolatry. The temptations toward sensuality were abundant.

But the dangers were not ONLY outside the church. They were also fracturing within. They weren’t loving one another well in their differences. They had disagreements over the preaching and leadership, and disagreements over ethical concerns like eating meat sacrificed to idols.

And now in chapters 12-14, Paul is addressing their controversies over the spiritual gifts. Some people were being elevated as the truly mature Christians, the more important Christians, because they had the flashier gifts, those exercised more publicly, like the gifts of eloquence. And that meant that other spiritual gifts were demeaned, devalued, and underappreciated.

But Paul sandwiches between chapters 12 and 14, an entire chapter where the most important theological virtue is extolled: love. It doesn’t matter how gifted you are, if you don’t have love.

Tonight specifically, and next week also, Lord willing, we will continue Paul’s explanation of what love is by looking at the end of verse 4 and verse 5. These aspects of love all have to do with pride and humility, and so we will take two weeks to look at them in depth.

But first, let’s read our text. 1 Corinthians chapter 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.


As I mentioned above, we’re looking at the end of verse 4 this week, and I aim to cover verse 5 next week. And I want to keep them together because they are related.

From the end of verse 4: Love does not boast. We might translate that as love does not brag about itself. Or we could go back to the old King James language: love “vaunteth not itself.” How many of you are self-vaunters? That’s not the most helpful language for us.

The New King James puts it much more helpfully: love does not parade itself. That’s a much better picture, because we’ve all seen prideful people who’s favorite pastime is parading themselves and their accomplishments around for all to see.

Boasting in self, seeking their own glory, that’s what gets them out of bed in the morning. You can see this kind of boasting most crassly among the politicians, who seem to almost be rewarded these days for speaking only of themselves and their accomplishments. Likewise, professional athletes, who are the Corinthian gods of our day, often boast of their performances with almost comedic unawareness of their arrogance.

You can see it in the post-game interviews, where the worst offenders with speak of themselves with such grandness that they speak as if they are more than a mere mortal, as if they were god-like, and thus must speak in the plural of themselves. “Bo Jackson, how were you able to run for over 10,000 yards and score a bazillion touchdowns? We’ve been working out hard, and we’ve been able to dominate through perseverance and dedication.” We. He speaks of himself as a we. It would be comedic if it weren’t so tragic.

It’s the same spirit that was in the heart of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel chapter 4 when he said from the roof of his royal palace, ““Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”” Isn’t my work great, isn’t my performance glorious.

It just like Herod in Acts 12, when the text says he put: “on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them.22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!”23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” He would not give God the glory, but craved it for himself.

Man has had that desire for self-glory in his heart ever since Genesis. Do you remember when the people decided to build a tower at babel, what did they say to themselves? It wasn’t just, “hey, you know what would be fun, what would be a neat engineering project? To build a really tall building. That would test our construction abilities and really make us better.” No.

They had a much more wicked motive. They said: ““Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.” Let us make a name for ourselves. They wanted to be great. They wanted glory. They wanted to be able to boast and brag about how magnificent and powerful they were.

But lest we get too comfortable, we can see this boasting in ourselves too. When we like to talk about ourselves, or post on social media the accomplishments that we’ve achieve, just to make sure everybody knows how great we are. We’re certainly not as crass as Nebuchadnezzar or Herod, so we’re sure to include a #Blessed, to make sure people know we’re not bragging.

But in our hearts, we love the praise. We like the likes. We enjoy the spotlight. We crave the glory. We can all do this, whatever the stage. Boasting comes naturally to us because, as Jesus taught us, whatever is in the heart will necessarily overflow into our words. And ever since the entrance of sin into the world, we’ve all had a posture of pride. We’ve all got arrogant hearts.

That’s the connection between these two exhortations from Paul: Love does not boast, and it is not arrogant. Boasting is the fruit, but arrogance is the root. Bragging is the outside evidence, pride is the internal posture. And both of them need to be addressed.

Let me give us some of the things that pride does to a man or woman.

First, Arrogance blinds you with a false security. Arrogance blinds you with a false sense of security. We’ve all heard the proverb that “Pride comes before a fall,” and we’ve all certainly seen that cycle in others. But how many of us watch for it in ourselves?

Paul address such a prideful boaster just a few chapters ago in 1 Corinthians 10: “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” But let me give us an example of false security that is a little more obscure.

In the book of the minor prophet Obadiah, God speaks to the Edomites, who were the descendants of Esau, and warns them about their pride. It says in verse 3,

“The pride of your heart has deceived you,
you who live in the clefts of the rock,[b]
in your lofty dwelling,
who say in your heart,
“Who will bring me down to the ground?”

They thought they were safe. They thought nobody could touch them. But they were deceived. But it says just a few verses later that “every man from Mount Esau will be cut off by slaughter.”

How many of us have been deceived by pride into a false sense of security? We think that because we have a decent stockpile, because we have a good 401K, because we have success, or because we have our guy in office, or because we have the praise of men and people like us, we are now safe.

And we rest our security on the things of this world which could be dashed in an instant, rather than God. We trust in princes and men, who are but dust and earth, rather than the maker of heaven and earth itself. We trust in our strength and performance, rather than the one who grants us strength in the first place. And we think we’re safe, because of these fleeting things and fickle men.

Beware of trusting in man, or in your own strength, when both can be dashed in a moment.

But second, the bible teaches us a must more terrifying truth: that arrogance makes God your enemy. Arrogance makes God your enemy.

If God is holy, then it is fitting that he be the enemy of anything that would seek to rival his holiness, anything that would seek to contend with his own glory. And so in his perfection, he confronts the contentious, and opposes the over-confident.

God speaks to Babylon in Jeremiah 50: “

“Behold, I am against you, O proud one,
declares the Lord God of hosts,
for your day has come,
the time when I will punish you.
32 The proud one shall stumble and fall,
with none to raise him up,
and I will kindle a fire in his cities,
and it will devour all that is around him.”

God doesn’t merely say you will be punished. He says “I AM Against you.” He, personally, is coming for the proud. The sword of the infinitely powerful one is aimed at the heart of the arrogant. His bow is stretched, and the arrow is ready. Nothing is able to protect against the wrath of God, no shield can deflect his shots, and no castle can withstand his blows.

God himself is the enemy of the proud. And that leads to a third point about pride:

Pride brings a terrible judgment. Pride brings a terrible judgment.

In Malachi 4 God promises: “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” Notice the completeness, the thoroughness of God’s judgment. Nothing left but stubble. Nothing left, not even the roots in the ground are protected from his fiery wrath.

Do you think, in your pride, that you can hide from Him? Does your pride deceive you to think that he’s not concerned with your little, tiny sins? Be not so blind. He sees you. He knows your arrogance of heart. And He will find you out, and his judgment will be complete, thorough, and leave nothing untouched.

Do you remember Sodom and its judgment? Most people do. Sodom and Gomorrah were wicked cities, and God judged them by raining down fire and brimstone until nothing was left but scorched earth. But why was Sodom judged? What exactly was their sin? Most people think that the sin of sodomy, so named for the city itself, was their sin. And be sure, they were judged in part for their wicked homosexuality.

But their sin was deeper than that. In fact, in Ezekiel 16 we read God speaking: “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride.” They were boastful, self-interested, unconcerned with others or with God’s own glory, and so God justly burned them to the ground.

That’s the judgement that is earned for the wicked, and it is seen throughout scripture. Adam was expelled from the garden and plunged the world into sin, because in his pride he thought he could be like God.

Pride led Pharaoh to think he could defy God, and it ended up costing him a son, and his entire army in the Red Sea. Pride led Korah to rebel against God’s appointed leaders over him, and God made the earth swallow up him and his entire family.

Pride led Moses to be sinfully angry with God’s people, and he was unable to enter the promised land. Pride led Saul to sinfully take the role of a priest, and it was the beginning of his downfall as king.

Pride led David to snatch a woman that didn’t belong to him, costing him the life of his child. Pride led Solomon to be seduced by the idolatry of his many wives, eventually seeing the nation of Israel split in two, then later defeated, and carried off into exile.

And all of these are but small foretastes. These are the appetizers. All of them will be exceeded by the final judgment, when God promises to return and judge all the boastful.

Proverbs 16:5: “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured he will not go unpunished.”

God’s wrath will be poured out on any who would dare rob him of his glory. Death, eternal death, unending death in Hell, described in terms like the lake of fire, that’s what awaits the proud, those who boast in self, those who willfully refuse to listen to God’s word.

But you need to know this: God’s word doesn’t only speak judgment to the proud. It also offers a way of escape. You see God’s son has provided a solution, a remedy for our pride, which also averts for us the wrath that we earned.

And the solution to our haughtiness, is the Son of God’s humility. The remedy for our boasting and being puffed up, is the lowliness of Christ. You see, when all of mankind was unwilling to stay where we belonged, unwilling to submit to God, unwilling to honor God with the glory that was due him, Christ was different.

He emptied himself, rather than puffed himself up. He lowered himself, instead of clinging to glory. He came to serve, rather than seeking to be served. He came to seek and save the lost, which includes us prideful ones. He came to be a ransom, rather than seeking riches.

He came and was mocked, rather than worshiped. He was crowned with thorns, not glory. He was whipped and scourged. All because, in our pride, we refused to honor God.

But because he was faithful, because he was humble, we can be forgiven. He took the punishment of the prideful one, and instead offers us the reward for his humility. If you’re trusting in that good news, then you’ve been forgiven. God’s wrath no longer is aimed at you.

Your fate is no longer the same as Sodom’s. You’re promised the inheritance of the humble. You’re promised the kingdom of heaven, because, as Jesus taught us, that is what belongs to the meek.

If you’re not trusting in Christ and his atonement, if you’re not forgiven by faith in Him, then ask yourself “why won’t I?” You heard about the coming judgment that awaits you. And you’ve heard what scripture teaches about Christ. Don’t let your pride prevent you from bending the knee to the only savior. He stands as a willing king, ready to subdue your boastful heart, to wash you of your guilt, and to teach you what it means to be humble.

Trust in this Jesus, flee from the wrath to come, and come experience the joy and satisfaction which can only be tasted through humbly trusting in Christ as your king.

Now, in the remainder of our time tonight, I’d like to talk about the opposite of pride. If boasting and arrogance are the problem, the thing that love is not, then humility and lowliness are the way of love, the fruit of love. Humility is what Paul is encouraging of the Corinthian believers in our text.

What exactly is humility? I’ll define it this way, with two necessary components. Humility consists of a correct view of oneself, combined with an inclination to act accordingly. I’ll read that again. Humility consists of a correct view of oneself, combined with an inclination to act accordingly. Both of those components are important.

You can’t be truly humble without an accurate estimation of who you are relative to God and others. And you can’t be truly humble of heart, if you’re unwilling to act in accordance with your relation to God and others. You need both. It’s similar to earlier. If boasting is the fruit, arrogance is the root. And if humility of heart in relation to God is the root, then humble actions will necessarily be the fruit.

But let’s look at each of these two aspects. First, humility requires a correct view of oneself. This accurate self-understanding begins in relation to God. A humble person will see is lowliness in relation to God.[1]

This lowliness, or smallness, is true of mankind, even apart from any idea of sin. We might call this a natural humility, or humility according to our nature. Before Adam ever fell and he was completely upright and moral, he was still less than God.

Even the angels, who have no sin within them and are completely good and righteous, still cover their eyes around the throne of God in heaven, Isaiah 6.

That’s because the finite creature has an infinite gap between himself and the infinite creator. We are but dust, and he is life eternal. Abraham realized this in Genesis 18 when he said to God, “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which I am but dust and ashes.”

The proud man has no care for his relation to the creator, nor is he concerned to acknowledge it (Romans 1). But a humble man is very aware that he is not God, that he is contingent upon God, and that such contingency demands humility.

But not only does humility require an awareness of our status relative to God himself, a humble man is aware of his status, relative to other men. When a man is aware of his status relative to the creator, only then is able to rightly see his status relative to other creatures.

Or to put it another way, if you rightly see who God is, then you will be able to rightly see the image of God in others, and act accordingly. When you know you are but dust, and you know who made the dust, then you can begin to rightly treat others made of dust.

And all of this would be true apart from any sin in the world. But, now that sin has entered the world, we ought to possess another aspect of humility, a moral humility. Not only should I see my status as a creature, my human nature, relative to God’s status as creator, with his divine nature, and be humble because of the vast gulf between me and him.

Now I should also see the vast chasm between me and God in terms of morality. I am defiled and sinful, yet he is perfectly pure and holy. I am born in darkness and crave the dark, he dwells in inapproachable light.

That’s why Isaiah would say to God “woe is me! For I am undone; I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Isaiah was aware of his sinfulness, his moral impurity.

The proud man always thinks he innocent. Thinks he clean. And even when his impurity is shown to him, he will either deny it, or blame shift it, or minimize it. He’ll be like Satan, contradicting God’s word to Adam, “you’ll surely not die.”

Or he’ll be like Adam, blame-shifting, “it was this woman you gave me God. It was her fault.”

Or he’ll say, “well, maybe I shouldn’t have done this or that, but at least I’m not as bad as him or her. They are way worse.” As if God grades on a curve, and as long as I’m above the curve, God must let me off the hook. Like the proud Pharisee in Luke 18, “God I thank you that I’m not like other men.”

Humility requires that we see ourselves as creatures, made of dust, corrupted by sin, and only able to counter that corruption through God’s proactive grace, which has chosen us, and redeemed us, not because we were so special, but according to grace. And if that’s the case, we should recall Paul’s words from chapter 4, “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

So, humility requires a proper view of oneself in relation to God and to others. But it also requires the inclination to act accordingly.

Here is how we get to the How? How can I be more humble? How do I get this inclination?

And the answer is the good news of Jesus. The gospel isn’t just for us to use in order to avoid wrath. The gospel is also the answer for us to grow in grace.

How can I grow in humility and willingly serve others that I don’t like? By remembering that Jesus served those who hated him.

How can I forgive someone who has been so mean and abusive to me? By remembering that Jesus offered to forgiveness to those that hated him.

How can I stop being so frustrated when people don’t do what I tell them? By remembering that Jesus came to redeem me, who never did as I was told.

How can I grow in humble patience toward others that seem only to exist in order to annoy me? By remembering the longsuffering patience that Christ has shown to you.

How can I humbly honor those above me, whether my parents or my boss or my leaders? By remembering that Christ perfectly cared for and honored those above him, including his heavenly father, in order to forgive rebellious souls like me and you.

How can I quit being dominated by what others think about me, and stop being afraid of what they’ll say behind my back? By remembering that Christ has absorbed every drop of God’s wrath for you, and you’re now instead adopted into God’s household, with an eternal inheritance and divine favor.

If that’s the case, what can the frown of a man do, when we already possess the smile of God?

Next week I will spend much more time in the practical realm, talking about more fruit of humility and meekness. But for now, Let me close with one final application.

Since this past week was our missions conference, I thought it fitting to relate humility to missions and evangelism. And I will apply it this way: if you want to grow in your evangelism, if you want to see more fruit, my primary suggestion, other than earnest prayer, is to seek humility.

Those who want to see more souls saved, don’t usually need to read another book, or attend another training, or learn some nifty evangelistic tool, as helpful as all those might be. Rather, prayerful humility is often the greatest tool for evangelistic effectiveness.

And why do I say that?

Think about the most prideful people you know. Maybe it’s a family member, or a coworker, or a politician, or whoever. The most braggadocious, arrogant, puffed-up, boastful jerk you know. Now answer this: what effect does that person have on others? Are they not repulsive? Don’t they just make you want to be anywhere on earth other than around them?

Now if that is the case, wouldn’t the opposite be true? Aren’t humble people a joy to be around? They aren’t always talking about themselves, but are always wanting to learn more about you, to listen to you, to care for you. The proud are repulsive, but the humble are magnetic.

I think that’s part of the reason why Jesus always seems to have a crowd of people around him. Read through the gospels. How many times does it say that Jesus drew a crowd? Why did everybody want to come to see Jesus? Some of them just wanted a miracle, and some of them just wanted bread. But for many, they were drawn to Jesus because of his humility.

And if we share in the humility of Christ, how many people will be drawn to us, will want to spend time with us, and will want to hear the message we have for them.

If you want to repel people, boast about yourself. If you want to run people off, brag of yourself.

But if you want to attract people, if you want open ears and soft hearts, prayerfully seek humility, and see your evangelistic efforts transformed.

Boast in Christ, and not in yourself. That’s the key to evangelistic success, and lasting growth in the Christian pursuit of humility.

Let’s pray.



Benediction- Ephesians 4:1-3: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ”

[1] See: Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Light of God’s Love (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 142ff.


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