Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 6, 1958
NUMBER 43, PAGE 9a,15b


Jesse M. Kelley, Blytheville, Arkansas

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Gal. 5:22,23.)

The ancient meaning of meekness is "Mild, gentle." In pre-Christian times this was the only definition. It was an attribute applied to outward conduct only, and contemplated relations to men only; it implied condescension. However, with the advent of Christianity the teaching of our Lord gave it a much broader sense and meaning. Jesus lifted it out of the realm of moral relations only and applied it to the heart of man, as he did many other things such as adultery, etc., so that now it has a much deeper meaning than simply an attribute having to do with outward conduct. Vincent's Word Studies says, "The Christian word, (meekness) describes an inward quality, and that as related primarily to God. The Christian meekness is based on humility, which is not a natural quality but an outgrowth of a renewed nature. To the pagan the word often implied condescension, to the Christian it implies submission." So then this fruit of the Spirit has a two-fold meaning to the Christian. First and foremost it has to do with one's relation to God, his submissiveness to Him, and second, it relates to ones conduct toward men. The first is spiritual conduct and relationship, and second is moral.

That meekness is to characterize the Christian in all his life relationships is recognized by all who have even a little knowledge of the teaching of the Lord. It is an evident fact, however, that not all who give a nod of recognition to this well established truth acknowledge it. It is one thing to recognize the teaching of the Word upon this but it is quite another to acknowledge it. To illustrate — A sign on the boat at the fishing dock informs all that John Doe is the owner of the boat and that he will rent it for so many dollars a day, paid in advance at his office. A sportsman reads the sign and recognizes that John Doe is the owner, but John Doe wants more than this mere recognition. He wants an acknowledgment of so many dollars paid in advance for the use of the boat. In this acknowledgment is the value of the boat appreciated, not only by the owner but by the user as well. And so it is with meekness. God wants more than a mere recognition of this virtue, he wants an acknowledgment of it in our relationship with him and our fellow man. It is only in such acknowledgment that meekness is of any value to the building up of character and the preparation of the soul for heaven. In the Bible Christians are exhorted to "seek," "follow after," and "put on" meekness. Paul exhorts, "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering." (Col. 3:12.)

Meekness in its application to outward conduct simply means mildness and gentleness toward men. It requires a mind that has been disciplined in the virtue of giving over to others. It is impossible for meekness to thrive in the arrogant and undisciplined mind. It does not delight in a quarrel with one's neighbor but will take steps to avoid it even at the expense of personal inconvenience. "Doing good unto all men" is its end result as it flourishes in the life of the Christian; "especially unto these of the household of faith" as it bows to the preferences of others in matters of expediency for the sake of peace; "in honor preferring one another" as it puts down personal feelings and perhaps pride, for the good of the whole. This is the acknowledgment of meekness in contemplation of outward conduct, it is the final fruition of a "meek and quiet spirit."

All of this, however, does not mean that meekness will make of one a "tool to be used" simply at the discretion and for the convenience and selfishness of others. Meekness does not make a "mouse" of a man. A meek man will have sense enough to know when he is being used, and spirit enough to resent it. His meekness will not drive him into a corner nor will it permit him a display of aloofness and independence in his relations with his fellowman. He will be patient and longsuffering with those who would provoke him, but he will have spirit enough to resist being crushed under the heel of an overbearing personality that would take advantage of his gentleness. In contrast to "meekness toward God," meekness toward men does not assume inferiority of the meek; on the contrary, it may indicate superiority. But basically all men are equal, and because one may cultivate a spirit of meekness does not make him inferior nor does it obligate him to become a "door-mat" of his fellow beings.

In contemplation of "meekness toward God" the word takes on that broader sense and meaning that Jesus gave to it in his teaching and life. Its fruit is humility, and its end result is complete submissiveness under God. Meekness begets submissiveness, it is the tree upon which it grows and flourishes. One who is meek toward God will concern himself with a "thus saith the Lord" in all his work and service to God, and his dealings with man. He will not assume that sincerity and good intentions smell as sweet to God as "the oracles of God." Whatever his work, or service, he will go to the Word of God and there his conduct will be determined. He will be submissive to God in all that he says. He will not hide behind the cloak of "tolerance" as an excuse for a failure to reprove sin and error, but being "meek toward God" he will "contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered unto the saints." In the application of meekness toward God it may be helpful just here to point out some things that meekness is NOT, which some who have a misconception of the word think it IS.

First, we would say that meekness is not weakness. As we have already said, meekness will not make a coward of a man. Our Lord was meek, but he was not weak by anybody's standards. Meekness did not keep him from meeting face to face the issues of his day nor in taking an unwavering stand for truth, and it will not do that today. Indeed! true meekness will make one just the opposite. To fail to oppose sin and religious error is not a manifestation of meekness, but rather of weakness; further, it is to disobey the Divine injunction "Contend earnestly for the faith." When one fails to obey the Lord in this he is not meek toward God — weakness is his sin, not "meekness his virtue." Jesus was "the Lion of Judah" as he opposed the false religions and the traditions of the Jew, but though his rebukes were scathing, he was meek toward all men and toward God. At his torturous trial, his composure and dignity were the result of his meekness for this was the will of God and he bowed in humble submission to him. He did not strike back as they did him personal injury, for one cannot fight error with staves and clubs and guns, it must be done with Truth and in meekness. As his tormentors injured and broke his matchless spirit and body, they could not touch his exquisite character, for it was deeply rooted in a "meek and quite spirit." The Christian who is unwilling to "suffer for righteousness" and do it in meekness while opposing error needs to learn the lesson of meekness and submissiveness.

Again, the spirit of meekness is not the spirit of appeasement and compromise. Nathan's "Thou art the man" needs to ring from every pulpit in the land today. Sin and sinners who bring reproach upon the church of the Lord need to be singled out and pinpointed. Boldness for truth and right is rooted in meekness and submissiveness. The spirit of meekness which begets this boldness has almost vanished in some places as once faithful gospel preachers appease sinful and immoral church members and compromise with error. "Tolerance" is used as an excuse for compromise as shallow and professionalized masters of the pulpit feed a diet of milk to a church already dangerously bloated with the ideas and "language of Ashdod." If the Lord condemned king Saul for listening to the "voice of the people" what will he do when he comes back again to find the virtue of "meekness toward God" obliterated by tolerance and compromise.

I believe it was Webster who said, "Heaven's gates are not so highly arched as men's palaces, they who enter there must go upon their knees." We need to humble ourselves under God, forget our own wisdom and "sanctified common sense" so called, and pray with David when he said, "Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression." (Ps. 19:13)