June 8, 2010 David Balzer

1 Peter 3:1-7: Inner Beauty

Our family’s loving Master Chef. We liked “Bondi Rescue” and “Australian Idol”. We didn’t really get into “So you think you can dance”, “Dancing with the stars”, “The Amazing Race” or “Survivor”. And we HATED “Big Brother”.

Reality TV. It’s everywhere you look.

Can you imagine people watching everything you do? Under the spotlight from the time you get up in the morning until you hit the pillow at night?

The Bondi lifeguards seem to LOVE it. But lots of others can’t handle the pressure.

Everyone seeing your tears and your failures, your successes and celebrations? Your weaknesses, your embarrassing moments? Your unguarded moments as well as the ones you WANT people to see?

That’s reality TV, but it’s also THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. 1 Peter says Christians are STRANGERS in the world. Immigrants. Foreigners. We’re ON SHOW to the world. They’re watching everything we say and do.

Have a look at ch 2 v9. A few verses before today’s chapter.

9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

That’s our IDENTITY. We’re different. Separate. Christians from every background now united into ONE PEOPLE. THE PEOPLE of GOD. Called for A PURPOSE. To declare his praises.

And that’s going to have consequences for HOW WE LIVE. Look at how Peter goes on. V11 of Ch 2.

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as ALIENS AND STRANGERS in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 LIVE SUCH GOOD LIVES among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

The non-Christians we spend our lives with are WATCHING US. Just WAITING for us to SLIP UP. To find some inconsistency, or hypocrisy that’ll undermine our declaration.

And so we’re to LIVE SUCH GOOD LIVES that they’ll be forced to recognise something attractive about our lifestyle. Something that SUPPORTS our testimony.

And THEN he gets a bit more specific. What do those good deeds LOOK LIKE? V13.

13 SUBMIT YOURSELVES for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men:

For Jesus’ sake, freely offer your humble submission to any authority God’s put in place. For example:

Kings and governors (v13-14)

Or slaves, submit to masters, (v18)

Or, jump down to ch 3 v1 (today’s passage). “Wives, IN THE SAME WAY, be submissive to your husbands.”

Do you see what the “in the same way” is talking about? A wife’s decision to submit is part of her obedience to Jesus. “For the Lord’s sake” (2:13). And the purpose is the same as all the other examples (2:12) to “live such good lives among the pagans, that they may see your good deeds, and glorify God.”

That’s the context for this passage about husbands and wives. In particular, Peter’s thinking about the situation of a woman who’s become a Christian after she’s married. But her husband isn’t. She’s been called out of darkness into light. HE’S still in the darkness. What’s it mean for HER to live as God’s woman in HER MARRIAGE?

And the main point he wants to make/ is that ACTIONS speak louder than WORDS. When it comes to leading your husband to become a Christian, BEING is more important than SAYING.

Which is important in EVERY area of your life. But it’s CRUCIAL when it comes to your HOME life. Because how you live is PERFECTLY CLEAR to those you live with. You can’t play a part for long at home. Living a consistent Christian life is HARDEST among your family. They know what you’re REALLY like.

It’s like being permanently on show. A 24-7 episode of Big Brother. Your every move watched and recorded.

And so Peter says, v1,

3:1 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

What submission ISN’T

We talked a little last week about submission. Submission in marriage has got a bad reputation for all sorts of reasons. But I want to suggest that, rather than disempowering women, it actually EMPOWERS them. That it’s part of God’s plan for the worldwide recognition of his power.

Peter says “Offer your submission deliberately, intentionally, purposefully. It’s REVOLUTIONARY submission because it’s purpose is to transform society. To change it from GODLESS/ to one that gives praise to God.

Let me show you 5 things that submission ISN’T/ from this passage.

  1. submitting to men in general.

First, biblical submission doesn’t mean submitting to MEN IN GENERAL. V1 says “Wives, offer your submission to ONE’S OWN husband.”

It’s not about a ist, oppressive rule for the whole society that ALL WOMEN must submit to ALL MEN. Just your husband.

  1. agreeing with everything your husband says

Second, submitting DOESN’T mean agreeing with EVERYTHING your husband says. It CAN’T mean that because the situation Peter’s thinking of is a wife who became a Christian after she was married. Her husband’s heard about Jesus TOO, and he’s not a believer. She is CHOOSING to disagree with her husband. And Peter’s ENCOURAGING that.

It’s actually STRONGER than what our English versions say. It literally says the husband is DISOBEDIENT to the word. He’s made the conscious decision NOT to trust Jesus. And the wife has chosen to go against what he thinks. That in itself was a very unusual situation in the culture.

Peter doesn’t mention the flip side. A believing husband and an unbelieving wife. Because if the HEAD of the house converted, the whole HOUSEHOLD converted.

And yet here, whatever Christian submission means, it DOESN’T mean that the wife will agree with her husband in his unbelief. Her husband has said ONE THING, Jesus has said ANOTHER. And the Christian wife puts Jesus FIRST.

  1. avoiding trying to convince your husband

Third, submission DOESN’T mean you should avoid trying to CONVINCE your husband. That’s two negatives, so let me put it in the positive. Whatever submission is/ it still tries to convince the husband he’s wrong.

Peter’s whole strategy in the wife’s quiet, reverent submission is that the husband might be WON OVER (end of v1). Convicted. Converted. His mind changed. So, whatever submission is, it can’t mean never trying to change your husband in things that matter.

  1. getting your personal spiritual strength primarily from your husband

Fourth, submission doesn’t mean a wife gets her spiritual strength primarily from her husband. A godly husband SHOULD strengthen and build up and nurture his wife. But if he’s NOT providing that, it doesn’t mean a submitting Christian wife is without hope.

Peter’s assumption is that the wife will develop strength and character and hope not FROM her husband, but FOR her husband. Independent of him. Like Sarah (v5), that she might put her HOPE IN GOD, trusting that her husband will JOIN HER in that. Lean on GOD for spiritual strength if your husband won’t help.

  1. acting out of fear

And fifthly, submission doesn’t mean a wife acts OUT OF FEAR. The last part of v6 says that wives who follow the example of Sarah are her daughters if they do what’s right, and DON’T GIVE WAY TO FEAR.

In other words, submission is FREE. Not forced by fear. Fear of physical harm from their husband, or ridicule, or fear of the future, or some other consequence. Submission that God wants is freely given, not forcibly tasken.

The opposite of FEAR , at least in THIS context, is HOPE. The Christian woman HOPES in God (v5). Trusts that his plans are being worked out as she’s obedient. When she does THAT, she’s able to move beyond fear, to freedom. The Christian women is FREE. Free to submit to her husband.

What submission is

So, if we’ve seen what submission ISN’T. What IS it?

The first point is one we’ve already made. A wife’s submission is simply part of the LARGER submission that ALL Christians are to give to those in authority.

Remember back in 2:13. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority. And then we get in 3:1 Wives, IN THE SAME WAY, submit to your husbands.

He’s a good definition I found for what a wife’s submission is.

Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts. It’s the disposition to follow a husband’s authority and an inclination to yield to his leadership. It is an attitude that says, “I DELIGHT for you to take the initiative in our family. I am glad when you take responsibility for things and lead with love. I don’t flourish in the relationship when you are passive and I have to make sure the family works.”

Trusting yourself in God’s care is to recognise that families work best when they run according to God’s design. Wives FLOURISH when the marriage is operating according to God’s principles. When they yield to their husband’s leadership, and experience the care and support and concern of his protection and guidance.

And HUSBANDS flourish when they live out the extent of their God-given dominion over creation by actively, sacrificially, intentionally, lovingly and seriously lead their families like Jesus.

Beauty tips – the wife before God

(pause) But what about when your husband DOESN’T believe? What then? Is it all bets off?

Not at all says Peter. Submission still applies. And then he goes on to show what it LOOKS LIKE. And what godly submission can ACHIEVE. He gives the wife in that situation a number of BEAUTY TIPS.

V2 he talks about a life that’s pure and reverent and respectful. That’s the sort of person that’s MOST attractive. V3.

3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your INNER SELF, the unfading beauty of A GENTLE AND QUIET SPIRIT, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

And this is great advice for ALL OF US. Male or female. Single or married. With a Christian husband or a NON-Christian husband.

It’s the INNER SELF. Your CHARACTER. Your patience, your purity, your goodness, your compassion, your gentleness, your joy, your humility. Your LOVE.

That’s REAL beauty. You can’t jazz it up with a curling iron, or sparkling jewels, or elegantly cut clothes. You can’t disguise any blemishes in your character under layers of makeup.

There’s an ATTRACTIVENESS. An engaging and appealing quality in people like that. That’s the way to REALLY make your husband sit up and take notice.

And what’s more, it’s beauty that LASTS. The ten visible signs of aging have no effect on the INNER person.

Another of Peter’s beauty tips is there in v5. The gentle and quiet spirit in v4 shows their HOPE IN GOD. V5.

5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who PUT THEIR HOPE IN GOD used to make themselves beautiful.

When you trust God to work out his plans in your marriage, you can let go of scheming and plotting. Let go of nagging and pushing. Let go of subtle and not so subtle digs at your husband’s expense.

The gentle and quiet spirit is AN EXPRESSION. A concrete outworking. Of the extent to which you’re placing your hope in God to work in your situation.

Wives, how gentle and quiet are YOU? How much are you trusting your situation to God?

Is your first instinct to speak to YOUR HUSBAND about the problems, or to speak to GOD?

GOD is the one who changes hearts. Who opens eyes. Who unblocks ears. Who breathes life into hearts. Put your hope in God. Not in your words. And God’s METHOD is there in v1. A method that SHOWS that it’s God who saves and convinces.

If any of your husbands do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

And it CAN HAPPEN. It DOES happen.

(pause) We live before the world. On display. But the ironic thing is the best way to be on display to THE WORLD is to remember you’re on display BEFORE GOD. To perform for an audience of ONE.

Let me show you what I mean. Both husband and wife, in this passage, are said to be ON DISPLAY BEFORE GOD. Did you notice?

Have a look at the end of v4. At the end of Peter’s beauty tips he says, “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, WHICH IS OF GREAT WORTH IN GOD’S SIGHT.”

God looks at THE INSIDE. That’s the beauty that counts. All sorts of things we can DO. Activity and energy. Dressing up and looking impressive. Stuff that gets us NOTICED.

But what turns GOD’S head is beauty of the INNER person. A gentle and quiet spirit is worth more to God than the largest diamond.

Humanly speaking, no one notices wall flowers. The people who take a back seat. Who prefer the sidelines, rather than the limelight. But God finds people like that IRRESISTIBLE. So work on THAT beauty routine.

The Husband before God

But it’s not just WIVES who are on display before God. Husbands are TOO. Peter turns his attention to THEM in v7. And notice the familiar phrase?

7 Husbands, IN THE SAME WAY be considerate as you live with your wives.

That goes back to 2:13. Submit yourselves to EVERY AUTHORITY. Just as Christian WIVES are to submit to their husbands, SO TOO Christian husbands are to submit to their wives. It’s a DIFFERENT sort of submission. They’re to be considerate. Thoughtful.

treat them with RESPECT as the WEAKER PARTNER

It’s probably PHYSICAL weakness. And the point is, “Just because you CAN impose your will on your wife physically… DON’T!” Treat her with thoughtfulness and respect.

That would be a HUGELY counter-cultural concept in Greek society of the time. Women had no power, and men ABUSED that powerlessness. But that’s not the submission husbands are to offer.

Peter goes on to give two reasons why husbands should treat their wives this way.

First, even though they’re called to LEAD the family, there’s no question that there’s A PRIORITY OF IMPORTANCE before God. No thought that it’s men first, and women SECOND. It says “Treat them with respect as the weaker partner and “HEIRS TOGETHER WITH YOU OF THE GRACIOUS GIFT OF LIFE”.

Before God, male and female are EQUAL. Different, but EQUAL. Co-heirs.

And the second reason is there right at the end of v7. Treat your wives with consideration and respect, as co-heirs, SO THAT NOTHING WILL HINDER YOUR PRAYERS.

GOD’S WATCHING.

If you take advantage of the weakness of your wife. If you refuse to lead as you should. If you don’t respect them as co-heirs with you of the gracious gift of life. How can you expect God to hear your prayers? You’re pleading for mercy and help and support from GOD, but you’re not willing to SHOW ANY TO YOUR WIFE!

No wonder there’s a blockage in the communication with God.

You switch off when your wife talks, but expect God to listen. You’re impatient, but expect God to be patient.

You keep a record of wrongs, but expect God to forget yours.

God is watching your behaviour towards your wife. And what he THINKS about it/ is reflected in how your prayers are answered.

So, whether husband or wife, your most important spectator is GOD. It’s HIS opinion that matters most. And being concerned with THAT is what will make you effective in impacting the non-Christians around you.

Conclusion

(pause) I said before that God’s method for bringing non-believing husbands to faith DOES WORK. That the quiet, gentle faithful behaviour of a Christian wife is effective.

Let me tell you about Jill Birkmyre. She was a struggling young mum in Cairns in 1976. I was 8. Dad had just been appointed to Cairns Pressie as the assistant minister. And Mum be-friended Jill, who lived across the road, and gave her some practical help coping with a new baby. And Dad helped out with some Bible studies. And Jill ended up looked after by the whole church.

Jill recently wrote to Dad to thank him for how much they’d influenced her life. Dad couldn’t remember any of it! But let me read you some of the letter.

The following year the Lord bought me out from my miry pit and set me upon the solid Rock of Christ.

To this day, I have sought to follow the example that you and Leah set. I have sought to always open my heart and my home to those in need that some may be won to Christ. I have tried to give people sound answers to their questions be they Christian or otherwise.

My Husband, Ken, a Scotsman came to the Lord 17 years later.

That wasn’t a major part of the letter. But it struck me. 17 years! I don’t know the specifics about how Jill dealt with her husband. But that’s not really the point. Because it was God who did it. And God’s timing was 17 years.

God’s method DOES work. So keep working on your INNER beauty. Keep putting your hope in God that those you love (husband, children, parents) will be WON OVER WITHOUT WORDS. By the pure and reverent behaviour of your lives.

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