Fundamentalists readily tell people to seek God. They’re also quick to tell you that their IFB sect is a great place to find God. If you’re in a church rather than an IFB sect, fundamentalists are fairly sure you don’t know God. And yet fundamentalists inside IFB sects haven’t always convinced us that they are competent guides in these matters. Recently, SFL noted some common types of spiritually abusive practices. Then we suggested that God’s attributes can guide spiritual practices and biblical understanding.
Many attributes can [and should] be used in such an exercise. But God’s gentleness is used for this very limited study. Other studies go further, and still only scratch the surface. But our aim is not to be exhaustive.
The intent is to establish a point and learn a few lessons from it. It is, after all, one thing to say that God’s attributes can be a guide for us; it is another thing to demonstrate this.
Preparation for Work
Before beginning any study, it is helpful to formulate basic questions to guide us in our work.
Can God’s attributes guide us to spiritual understanding?
Do God’s attributes lead us in the imitation of Christ?
Do God’s attributes help us read Scripture with new eyes?
Some questions formulated, we search Scripture for answers.
Step One: we gather and survey data.
Gentleness and Biblical Interpretation
Not great wind, earthquake or fire — but in the gentle whisper that God met Elijah [1Ki 19:12].
In victory, David confessed that God’s gentleness made him great [Ps 18:35].
Gentleness is the answer that turns away fury [Pr 15:1].
Gentleness was the prophet’s demeanor when threatened with death [Je 11:19].
The blessed gentle will inherit the earth [eschatology yet!] [Mt 5:5].
Jesus promise to receive us rests on his gentleness [Mt 11:29].
Jesus entered Jerusalem to die clothed with gentleness [Mt 21:5].
Gentleness is the preferred method for admonition [1Co 4:21].
Gentleness is the fruit of the Spirit [Ga 5:23].
Gentleness necessary for spiritual restoration and health [Ga 6:1].
Gentleness seeks the unity that the Spirit gives [Ep 4:2-3].
Gentleness attests the Lord’s nearness [Phil 4:5].
Gentleness is normative for Christian living [Co 3:12].
Gentleness is commended for labor in ministry [1Th 2:7].
Gentleness is requisite for the office of overseers [1Ti 3:2].
Gentleness is contrasted to the dissolute life [1Ti 6:10-11].
Gentleness is required to work with opponents [2Ti 2:24-25].
Gentleness is mandated for dealings with others [Ti 3:2].
Gentleness belongs to the wisdom from above [Ja 3:13, 17].
A gentle, quiet spirit is imperishable and precious to God [1Pe 3:4].
Gentleness is requisite for Christian witness [1Pe 3:15].
Broadening the Study
Several texts pair God’s gentleness to other traits, making them relevant. Mt 11:29 uses ‘gentle and humble in heart.’ So does Ep. 4:2. Co 2:12 reads, ‘heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.’ Ps. 45:4 combines truth, humility and justice.
In Gal 5:23, gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit listed between faithfulness and self-control. So gentleness contrasts to the works of the flesh.
Any thorough study of the gentleness of God will reference texts using words that are similar in spirit to ‘gentleness.’ Together, these texts provide a backdrop against which to read Scriptures where such traits are referenced or are otherwise relevant.
While not massive, this is significant attestation. Our ‘gentleness’ texts relate to God’s presence and promise, to the strength and victory he gives, to the practice of prophets and apostles, to the coming and passion of the Savior, to our spiritual life, health and salvation. Also related are such themes as church office and discipline, Christian ministry, witness, apologetics, unity, normative Christian living and other divine attributes.
God’s gentleness is a significant, spiritual motif. With many other themes, this motif is necessary to frame our spiritual disposition, to order our life practices, and to direct our reading of Scripture in ways that honor God.
The more this approach to study is used, the more apparent it becomes that God IS his attributes. Such study indeed guides us into spiritual maturity, and leads us to imitate Christ and opens our understanding to read God’s word in new ways. Indeed, it is to seek God.
To be continued…