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Contemporary Applications of Humility from Teachings of the New Testament

A review essay of two books on biblical humility by Michelle Vondey.


Two books: both on humility, both using the Bible as a framework, both of interest to those who study humility academically and who take the need for humility seriously in their vocation. Though similar in topic, the books differ in intended audience and style. This review evaluates both Farley’s (2011) and Feldmeier’s (2014) work on humility.

Farley’s work [William P. Farley, Gospel-Powered Humility (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2011), 199 pages, ISBN 9781596382404] is aimed at those working in Christian ministry, in particular preachers, but also anyone wanting to share the gospel with others. Farley asserts in the preface that God designed the gospel to promote humility, and the gospel should be preached with the goal of humbling sinners. It is not just sinners who need humbling, however, but believers themselves must also allow the gospel to humble them before they can expect or hope to bear spiritual fruit. He argues that humility is the chief virtue, out of which all other virtues flow. Using church history and the first three chapters of Romans, Farley shows how humility is a necessary condition for sinners to come to repentance and for the gospel to bear fruit in people’s lives. The last chapters of the book apply Farley’s thesis to ministry specifically, and discusses why ministry workers fail to preach God’s wrath and judgment for sin and how they should model humility in their own lives in order to cultivate humility in others.

All believers are called to share the good news of Jesus’s sacrifice for all people. In word or in deed, believers must be committed to live out the virtue of humility to be effective.

Farley does not pull any punches, in that he criticizes the lack of sermons preached on God’s wrath and judgment on sin for the reason why believers do not bear fruit. Instead of preaching to convict people of sin, ministers often, he claims, preach to raise people’s self-esteem. Furthermore, Farley argues, the reason why believers lack intimacy with God is due to their lack of humility. Although they believe they are humble, arrogance and pride not only block their ability to find intimacy with God and with others, but also prevent them from bearing spiritual fruit.

William Farley

Farley explains where humility leads believers in their spiritual walk and maturity with God. He also shows where believers end up who do not embrace humility as a virtue. Examining the first three chapters of Romans, Farley argues that Paul starts with the “bad news” of God’s wrath for two and half chapters. It is only in the latter part of chapter 3, Farley says, that Paul shares the “good news” of the gospel. Emphasizing that Paul focused more on the bad news than he did on the good news, Farley concludes that it is imperative that believers start with the bad news of the gospel (judgment for sin) when evangelizing others, so that unbelievers understand why they must repent. Only with an understanding of their own sinfulness and the need for repentance will sinners be able to humble themselves to fully accept the good news of Jesus’s atoning sacrifice.

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Category: Ministry, Summer 2016

About the Author: Michelle Vondey, Ph.D. (Regent University) and M.Div. (Church of God Theological Seminary), has more than twenty years’ experience working in non-profit organizations. Her interests are focused mainly on developing followers in their roles in organizations. She teaches courses in leadership, critical reasoning, and Christian discipleship. 2012 dissertation LinkedIn

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