Printed in the June/July Issue of The Northeast Texan
By Thomas H. Duke
The “new man” in Christ is wonderfully different from the “old man” in Adam. Indeed, in becoming what God has made him in Christ, the new man forcibly removes the old man, as one sheds filthy clothing. Paul tells us to “…put off the old man, which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts…” Eph. 4:22 – 24. The first three Beatitudes are about “putting off” the old man. The new man, who is poor in spirit, puts off the old man’s God-hating, arrogant pride. The new man, who mourns over sin’s vast ruin with godly sorrow, puts off the old man’s addiction to the superficial, soul-killing strategies of worldly sorrow. The third Beatitude completes this divinely-enabled “putting off” process.
Jesus declares, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” Mt. 5:5. “Gentleness” is often negatively associated with having an unassertive, compliant, withdrawn, passive, “shy” personality. But, this is wrong for two reasons. First, Jesus is not talking about “personality,” which is a natural trait of all men. Gentleness is a supernatural attribute of the new man. Second, since Jesus described Himself as “gentle” [Mt. 11:28], gentleness cannot be the pathetic opposite of a “John Wayne” – strong, self-assured, self-assertive, stop-at-nothing, take-no-prisoners – attitude, so admired in the world. Jesus Christ, though gentle, was anything but weak, fearful, retreating, cowardly or lacking conviction. Nor are those who belong to Him.
Gentleness is mainly about authority. The old man’s authority is himself and he acts from his own resources. The new man puts off this rebellious self-sovereignty of the old man. His authority is God and he acts from the resources God supplies. The whole Bible attests that gentleness, in essence, is living under God’s authority in glad submission to His word, delighting to do His will See, e.g., Ps. 37:1 – 11; Jn. 5:19 – 20. Other definitions of gentleness, like “power under control,” are too generic to be helpful and may be accurately applied to unsaved people, e.g., athletes and Navy Seals. Against those who malign gentleness as “weakness,” the new “gentle” man has greater reason and greater resources for being stronger, more courageous, more convinced and more heroic than is possible for the old “John Wayne” man.
The Fall of Man was the shattering of man’s gentleness. God created Adam and Eve “gentle.” But, they rebelled against Him, making themselves their own authority, losing fellowship with God and subjecting themselves and their posterity to God’s wrath and condemnation Gen. 3:8 – 19. Christ, the second Adam, reverses this. He makes His people gentle with His gentleness. He says, “Come to Me…Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…” Mt. 11:28 – 29. Christ redeemed His people to live to God as He does – under God’s authority in glad submission to His word, delighting to do His will Tit. 2:11 – 14. The Triune God saves His children and works all things together for their good in order to conform them to the image of the “gentle” Christ Rom. 8:28 – 30.
Two examples illustrate Christ’s gentleness. Satan’s temptations of Christ in the wilderness, as his temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden, sought to undermine Christ’s gentleness. The “stones into bread,” the “temple leap” and “worldly power” enticed Christ to act on His own authority independent of God’s will. Christ’s responses magnificently demonstrate His perfect gentleness. First, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that
proceeds from the mouth of God.” Then, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Finally, “You shall worship the LORD your God and serve Him only.” Christ was a man under God’s authority. His gentleness was His glad submission to God – His word and will – rooted in His love for the incomparable beauty and worth of God over everything else in the world: physical cravings, momentary fame, worldly greatness. Paul teaches us that Christ’s gentleness, His glad submission to God’s word and delight in doing God’s will, climaxed in the cross: “…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross….” It is this conquering, heroic, sacrificial, God-glorifying gentleness that Christ has in view when He says of the new man, “Blessed are the gentle….”
Next time, we will consider the promise given to the gentle: “…for they shall inherit the earth.” God’s promise relates to the future glory reserved for His children, “who are kept by His power through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” 1 Pet. 1:5. But, the promise also radically redirects their lives now, motivating them to “lose their lives for Christ’s sake and for the gospel” Mk. 8:35.
Tom and Suzanne, his wife of 31 years, have two children and live in Canton, Texas. Tom is a lawyer with The Law Offices of Robert M. Fitzgerald in Van, Texas. He is also a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and an ordained minister. For the past 13 years, he has ministered to the homeless, the elderly and prisoners.