Meekness, like faith, is a gift of God – and so not given to all

In this post, I examine the relationship between salvation is all of the Lord and the beatitude of meekness.

When Jonathan Edwards was just out of his teens, he made 70 resolutions, of which the first was: “Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory.” Edwards had great regard for the Westminister catechism:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

In Revelation 4:11, we read: Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

And Psalm 86:8-10: “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.”

The whole world – even though many deny it it – knows God as creator (Romans 1), but the Christian also knows God as recreator, for He has given the Christian a new heart and in so doing has reconciled him to Himself. Man’s greatest glory lies in his reconciliation to God Himself.

Salvation is a miracle but only if it is based on God’s decision. I’m not talking about potential salvation but actual salvation. If it is up to us, then that is not a miracle; it’s a human act, for which we should get the glory. God is not knocking at the door of whosoever’s Heart. “If you began in the flesh, says Charles Spurgeon,you have gone on in the flesh, and in the flesh you will die” (“God Promises you,” 1995, Whitaker House, p. 13). By “if you began in the flesh,” Spurgeon means that you believe that you were born of the will of the flesh, and therefore, not of God. Here is the relevant Bible passage:

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13 ESV). In other words, salvation is all the Lord’s doing, the Lord’s willing.

How does “salvation is all of the Lord” relate to the beatitude of meekness? The crucial point about the beatitudes is to understand the meaning of the term “blessed,” which begins each beatitude. It’s central meaning is not that if you are meek, you will be blessed. The core meaning is that you are fortunate to have been given the gift of meekness that came with the new heart that Christ gave you when you were born again.

In Psalm 149:4, we read, “For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation” (KJV). “For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” (ESV)

יְפָאֵר עֲנָוִים בִּישׁוּעָֽה׃ he will beautify the meek with salvation

יְפָאֵר yefa-eir (I will beautify) עֲנָוִים anaviym (the meek, humble, afflicted, lowly) בִּישׁוּעָֽה bee(y)shuah (with salvation). One will notice “Yeshua” (Jesus) in Bee(y)shuah “with salvation.”

Here is Charles Spurgeon’s commentary on Psalm 149:4:

“He will beautify the meek with salvation. They are humble, and feel their need of salvation; he is gracious, and bestows it upon them. They lament their deformity, and he puts a beauty upon them of the choicest sort. He saves them by sanctifying them, and thus they wear the beauty of holiness, and the beauty of a joy which springs out of full salvation.”

So far, Spurgeon is staying with Psalm 149. His next sentence is: “He makes his people meek, and then makes the meek beautiful.” The idea that meekness (humility) is a gift of God is not mentioned in the Psalm.

Blessed are the meek,” as Spurgeon explains, does not mean that if you are meek God will bless you. Rather, it means “fortunate” are the meek, because God’s indwelling Spirit has made meekness possible. Development in meekness is, in contrast, an act of will, but only after the will has been made free through the washing of regeneration (I don’t mean regenerative baptism), which cleanses the believer’s spirit of its sin nature.

The first step towards meekness is to recognise we are sinners. But the root of everything a Christian believes and does is that God enables him to 1. recognise that he is a sinner, 2. to repent, and 3. to have faith. These enablements are the effects of God raising the sinner from the dead. These four enablements are not a chronological progression; they happen simultaneously. What is important is that the raising of the sinner from the dead (regeneration – born again) is logically prior to 1,2, and 3. Meekness is a fruit of the previous three gifts. And meekness, being the fruit of faith, needs time and opportunity to grow. Meekness is often defined as “power under control.” The crucial point is that this power is a gift of God, which He distributes, as he does His other gifts, as He wills.

The world hates Christian meekness. Christians may hate even more that “He makes his people meek” (Spurgeon). They hate it because this implies “He makes them have faith.” Now, if God makes a person have faith,  such a God – they conclude – would be guilty of divine rape – raping their free will.

Let there be something of benevolence (good will) in all thatI speak”  (Jonathan Edwards’ 70th and last resolution, Aug. 17, 1723).

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