Gentleness [N]

Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.

The Old Testament. Gentleness is suggested by the waters of a stream ( Isa 8:6 ) or by wine flowing over lips and teeth ( So 7:9 ). It stands in contrast to baseness ( Deuteronomy 28:54 Deuteronomy 28:56 ), harshness ( 2 Sam 18:5 ), and wildness ( Job 41:3 ). Gentle words wield great power ( Prov 15:1 ; 25:15 ). Job's counsels were well received, because he spoke them gently ( Job 29:22 ). Gentleness evidences itself in a willingness to yield, reminiscent of a lamb being led to slaughter ( Jer 11:19 ; cf. Isa 53:7 ). The supreme exemplar of gentleness is Israel's God. He cares tenderly for the flock under his care, and "gently leads those that have young" ( Isa 40:11 ). He discloses himself not just in wind and earthquake and fire, but in "a gentle whisper" ( 1 Kings 19:11-13 ). His consolations are spoken gently ( Job 15:11 ). As Yahweh's representative, the messianic king comes in humility and gentleness ( Zec 9:9 ).

The New Testament. That king, now come in the flesh, is "gentle and humble in heart" ( Matt 11:29 ). In accord with the prophecy, he enters Jerusalem in gentleness and lowliness ( Matt 21:5 ). Paul appeals to believers "by the meekness and gentleness of Christ" ( 2 Cor 10:1 ). By his Spirit, Christ cultivates the same quality in his people ( Gal 5:23 ). Following Jesus' example, Paul treats his people gently, "like a mother caring for her little children" ( 1 Thess 2:7 ). He comes to them not "with a whip [but] in love and with a gentle spirit" ( 1 Cor 4:21 ). Church leaders are admonished to be "not violent but gentle" toward persons under their care ( 1 Tim 3:3 ); it is a quality they are avidly to pursue ( 1 Tim 6:11 ). Knowing themselves to be subject to weakness, they can more readily deal gently with the ignorant and the erring. Believers ensnared by sin must be restored gently ( Gal 6:1 ). A witness to Christian truth is the more effective for being made "with gentleness and respect, " especially toward a hostile or an unbelieving listener ( 2 Tim 2:25 ; 1 Peter 3:15 ). The qualities to which gentleness is joined elucidate its setting and character. Wives should seek "the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" ( 1 Peter 3:4 ). "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love, " exhorts Paul ( Eph 4:2 ). Let believers clothe themselves "with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" ( Col 3:12 ). "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" ( Gal 5:22-23 ), a cluster of qualities each of which reinforces and finds expression in the others.

J. Knox Chamblin

See also Fruit of the Spirit

Bibliography. W. Barclay, New Testament Words, pp. 94-96, 240-42; W. Bauder, NIDNTT, 2:256-64; H. Preisker, TDNT, 2:588-90; F. Hauck and S. Schulz, TDNT, 6:645-51.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible

Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Gentleness'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.