Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross


Neal Pollard

Think about what “self” does to some wonderful concepts:

  • Righteousness (“To cause someone to be in a proper or right relation with someone else,” Louw-Nida 451). Jesus despised self-righteousness, “And He also told (a) parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). We should be eager for God to declare us righteous, but slow to do so for ourselves. 
  • Service (“functioning in the interest of a larger public, rendering of specific assistance,” BDAG 230). Jesus proved that service centers around ministering to and helping others (John 13:12-17). Notice the tack which reveals one to be spiritually mature. “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves” (Rom. 15:1). 
  • Interest. While the word isn’t found in the New Testament, the idea is there and so translators include it in passages like Mark 8:33, 1 Corinthians 7:34, and Phllippians 2:4,21. Each of these passages urge us to focus on others rather than self. Meanwhile, Scripture warns against selfish ambition (Rom. 2:8; Phil. 1:17; 2:3; Jas. 3:14,16). 
  • Love. There’s a specific word for love in the New Testament that we’re encouraged to demonstrate, toward God (Mat. 10:37; 1 Cor. 16:22) and fellow Christians (Ti. 3:15). But, Paul warns about how dire the world becomes when men become lovers of self (2 Tim. 3:2).
  • Justification (“to take up a legal cause; to render a favorable verdict,” BDAG 249). Scripture often uses this word to speak of God doing this for us through Christ (Luke 18:14; Ac. 13:39; Rom. 2:13). But, it is an ugly thing when we manipulate and distort facts and truth to justify self (Luke 10:29; 16:15). 
  • Will. We are all equipped with a free will, with which we should serve the will of God (John 7:17). Yet, Scripture exposes as wicked those who are “self-willed” (2 Pet. 2:10). Paul warns against appointing a man an elder who is “self-willed” (Ti. 1:7). Such is arrogance. It comes from one who thinks he or she is better than anyone else, looking down on others (Louw-Nida 763).

But for all of these ways “self” can get in the way of God’s plans and desires, self is not always a qualifier of destructive behavior. Notice what else Scripture says. There is “self”:

  • Denial. It is indispensable to spiritual discipleship (Luke 9:23). 
  • Sacrifice. It is integral to spiritual transformation (Rom. 12:1). 
  • Discipline. It is imperative to spiritual survival and eternal reward (1 Cor. 9:27). 
  • Control. It is included in spiritual fruit-bearing (Gal. 5:23). 

Further investigation into God’s Word would no doubt reveal more examples like these, but here is the point. Our old self is to be crucified with Him (Rom. 6:6). It is to be laid aside (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9). When this truly occurs within us, we will not place self above God and others. We will devote ourselves to the kind of lives that reach the lost, strengthen the saved, glorify God, and ultimate save ourselves (Acts 2:40).

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