Humility: The Foundation of True Worship


“…Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”

1 Peter 5:5-6 (LSB)

In a world that celebrates self-promotion and personal achievements, humility is often viewed as a weakness hindering progress and success. While humility, to the world, is a weakness, it is foundational to the Christian faith. Humility can be defined as thinking of ourselves as lowlier than others. Jonathan Edwards put it this way, “Humility, or true lowliness of mind, disposes persons to think others better than themselves” (Religious Affections, 116). 1This should be the default character of the Christian, that we do not think of ourselves more highly than we ought (Romans 12:3), but that we regard one another as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). While this is a good and true definition for humility, lowliness before others is not all that humility leads the Christian to. In fact, in the greater context of Scripture, humility is deeply intertwined with the worship of God; it is foundational.

Here are four ways that we must see humility as the foundation of true worship:

Cultivating Corporate Worship through Humility

“Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another”

True worship is seen in every aspect of the Christian life. We are to daily present our bodies as a sacrifice—living, holy, and pleasing to God, which is our spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1). While it’s true that worship is not merely confined to the words we say and sing on Sunday morning, the corporate gathering of believers is the most important way in which we offer worship to God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,

“We would also begin to sense something of the joy that comes when night is past and brethren who dwell together in unity come together early in the morning for common praise of their God, common hearing of the Word, and common prayer. Morning does not belong to the individual, it belongs to the Church of the triune God, to the Christian family, to the brotherhood” (Life Together, 41).

This worship can only happen when Christians clothe themselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5). Humility becomes an integral part of our worship, extending beyond our individual relationship with God. It is an attitude that permeates our interactions with fellow believers, fostering unity and creating a Christ-centered community.

Gaining God’s Grace through Humility

“God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

God responds to our humility by pouring out his abundant grace upon us, transforming our lives and shaping us to reflect His love. In our fallen world, we often succumb to pride, walking proudly in our sin. Nonetheless, when we humbly position ourselves before the sovereign God, acknowledging our need for His mercy, our hearts align with His will. In this alignment, His grace freely flows into our lives, granting us the precious opportunity to wholeheartedly worship Him. Jerry Bridges expressed it as:

“An attitude of humility is completely contrary to the world’s values, but also contrary to our sinful nature. So, we need God’s grace—that is, His Spirit-supplied enablement—to clothe ourselves with an attitude of humility as we encounter different people and different situations throughout the day. And God promises us He will supply that grace, as we seek to walk in humility” (The Blessing of Humility, 5-6).

Surrendering to God’s Sovereignty through Humility

“[H]umble yourselves under the mighty hand of God”

Humility involves recognizing our dependence on God and acknowledging His greatness. It is an attitude of reverence and awe that directs our focus away from ourselves and toward the One deserving of our worship. When we embrace humility, we recognize our limitations and willingly submit ourselves to God’s sovereign rule. It allows us to release our grip on the illusion of control and surrender to God’s greater wisdom and purpose. It is humility that leads us to sing with Robert Grant in his famous hymn “O Worship the King!”:

“O worship the King, all glorious above!

O gratefully sing His power and His love;

Our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,

Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.”

Experiencing Exaltation through Humility

“[T]hat He may exalt you at the proper time.”

True exaltation comes not from self-promotion or personal achievements but through the humble surrender of our lives to God’s sovereign plan. Through humility, we experience the eternal glorification reserved for those who have been redeemed by God.

This glorification is not a temporal reward but a promise of an everlasting state of being in God’s presence. It is the joy of knowing that we will spend eternity in the fullness of God’s glory, basking in His love and experiencing His eternal blessings, all while joining the host of heaven in worshiping our King, Jesus Christ, through whom our exaltation and glorification have been secured.

Through the sacrificial humility of Jesus in which He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8), He made the way for our salvation, securing for us the gift of eternal life. As we follow His example of humility and trust in His finished work on the cross, we are assured of our eternal glorification, where we will forever be in perfect communion with our God.

For further reading
The Blessing of Humility: Walk Within Your Calling by Jerry Bridges
Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer`
Growing in Christ by J.I. Packer
Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper
Patrick Williams

Patrick Williams

Patrick Williams is married to Allison and together they have three daughters: Naomi Grace, Elizabeth Faith, and Lydia Christine. He is the Pastor of Redemption Fellowship, a new church plant in Ashland City, TN, and an author focusing on theology for children and family worship. Williams is currently pursuing a dual BA and M. Div in Global Engagement at Gateway Seminary in Los Angeles, California.

October 2, 2023

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