Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Paul’s continues his catalogue of the bitter fruits that are produced by a debased mind with proud. Paul writes that rebellious peoples, peoples whom God has delivered over to their sin because of their rebellion, “are proud.”
So what is it to be proud? Webster defines proud as, “Having inordinate self-esteem; possessing a high or unreasonable conceit of one’s own excellence, either of body or mind… Arrogant; haughty.” Paul includes the term “proud” not only here in Romans 1 but also in 2 Timothy 3:2 where he writes that in latter times,“men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud…” And Jesus tells us that such pride emerges from a heart that is estranged from God: “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed [among other things] … pride… All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mk 7:20, 22).
Pride has reference, first and foremost, to our relationship with God. The sin of our first parents was motivated by pride, believing that they could be God’s equals, determining good and evil. Ever since the Fall, that impulse to be a law unto ourselves has characterized unbelieving man. We are proud.
However, we often strive to conceal our pride. So in our broader, unbelieving culture, we say that the “humble” man is the one who embraces relativism; who refuses to be dogmatic; who keeps a perpetually open mind on moral issues. Christians, therefore, are frequently accused of “pride” for maintaining a fixed moral standard. But the Scriptures maintain that this so-called “humility” is a sham. To stand before Almighty God and to hear His voice speaking truth in the Scriptures and then to say to Him, “Perhaps but perhaps not…” is the essence of pride. It is to repeat the sin of the devil, “Has God indeed said…” The truly humble man is he who hears the Word of God, who believes it in his heart, who obeys it in his life, and who articulates it with his lips. The humble man is willing to stand against a multitude in order to be on the side of God.
But pride not only twists our relationship with God, it also twists our relationships with one another. For instance, the proud man endeavors to avoid submitting to men, refusing to give honor to the lawful authorities God has put in his life. Peter writes, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble’” (1 Pet 5:5-6). The humble man willingly submits to his parents, his elders, his governors; he welcomes their rule, acknowledging them as God’s instrument in his own life.
Because the proud man stands against God and His word and often rebels against God’s lawful authorities, he incurs the wrath of God. So Mary sings in her Magnificat that God “has scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts” (Lk 1:51). They imagine themselves to be God’s equals, capable of determining good and evil for themselves. But God shall scatter them because, as James reminds us, “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6).
So what of you? Have you humbled yourself under the mighty hand of God? Determined that His Word shall be the lamp unto your feet and the light unto your path? Submitted to His lawful authorities in your life? Or are you kicking against Him? Pushing against His law and repudiating the authorities that He has put over you?
Reminded that God summons us to be clothed with humility, let us acknowledge that we often resist His law and indulge in pride. And, as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able. We will have a time of private confession, followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.