Christians Have No Reason to Boast
“Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.” (Proverbs 21:4)
“You are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:8-12)
I had a conversation with a friend the other day about the importance and enjoyment of learning biblical doctrine correctly from Scripture. We were lamenting over how many of our churches don’t do a lot of serious teaching on Sunday mornings during the sermons. It is possible to grow up in a Christian home, with believing parents and not know very much about the means of salvation, regeneration, substitutionary atonement, imputation of Christ’s righteousness, or justification. Most of us did not know the finer points of salvation when God called us to faith in Jesus Christ. But learning about what has happened to us helps us to appreciate God’s precious mercy extended to us undeserving sinners. Then, being humbled, we realize we have no cause to be proud of our status, acquired learning, or scholarly accomplishments. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Some have misunderstood our Lord’s comments in Matthew 23, but the Reformation Study Bible offers this clarification, “Jesus does not prohibit…the use of all titles in the church (Acts 20:17; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Timothy 3:1, 2, 8, 12; 2 Titus 1:5-7). His warning is against the temptation to claim for oneself authority and honor that belong uniquely to God and his Christ.” (1) Self-proclaimed “apostles” and “prophets” are rebuked along with the Pharisees and Rabbis in Jesus time. Today we have pastors, reverends, elders, deacons, and others in our churches, which is orderly and right. However, even our leaders are called to be servants, not dictatorial monarchs over us. A pastor who preaches to serve his members is encouraged, but one who is showing off his knowledge to make a name for himself is rebuked. “Service is the way to honor; he that would be most esteemed ought to do the most work; and the man that has the most grace, and the greatest gifts, ought to employ them for the use and benefit of others.” (2)
Today those of us who teach others should ask ourselves, “Do I have pride about being educated or more gifted than others?” Do I consider myself a servant, along with my brothers and sisters, who are bountifully gifted? As I worship today, will or did I appreciate those who are serving me with humility? “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26b-28)
(1) The Reformation Study Bible, (Matthew 23:8-10), Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.
(2) John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-23.html