Christians want to be humble. It’s commanded all over Scripture, and it’s Christlike. We want it. But how do we get it? How do we pursue humility?
Well, first we pray, because we will not be any more like Christ tomorrow if the Holy Spirit doesn’t work in us. And then there’s another means: Paul writes,
6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.
7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? – 1 Corinthians 4:6-7
Paul here is alluding to the illustration that he just gave. Namely, that he planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. He and Apollos were nothing; God is everything.
And he’s saying that he gave that illustration to admonish them. That illustration was intended to cut to their hearts because they were thinking more highly of themselves than they ought.
And the remedy that Paul gives is not merely the example that he and Apollos had set in their own humility, but specifically that the Corinthians would learn from them not to go beyond what is written. Here, he might have all of Scripture in view, but it’s more likely that he’s alluding to the passages that he has so far quoted:
For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” – 1 Corinthians 1:19
so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:31
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”- – 1 Corinthians 2:9
“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2:16
For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” – 1 Corinthians 3:19
and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” – 1 Corinthians 3:20
Paul’s argument thus far, from the Scriptures, is that no one is wise but God. All men are fools apart from God. Therefore, Corinthians, and therefore, church today, if you hold Scripture as the supreme authority of truth, you will be humbled. You will read of the God who is infinitely great and awesome, and you will read of our human natures which are pitifully weak and awful. And you will conclude that but by the grace of God, we are nothing. And with that grace, He gives us gifts. So, who are we to boast?
If you want to be humbled, sheep, don’t go beyond what is written. The Bible is sufficient to teach us and train us in humility, and to rebuke and correct us when we’re prideful.